Quality Today: Questions and Challenges

Today I’m thinking strategically and globally. Last month I wrote about the early findings from the ASQ’s Global State of Quality Research.  The first report was released last month at the World Conference for Quality and Improvement.  I think you’ll find a lot to ponder here. I did. And there’s much more to come from the Global State of Quality in July and November. I’ll make sure you know when new findings are released.

The reason I’m thinking strategically and globally is because we’re refreshing ASQ’s strategy for the coming year and looking at feedback that we gather throughout the year.  We work to make sure we capture insights from a variety of stakeholder point of views.  Whose view is more important than yours? You are, after all,  the global quality community.

And since we’re thinking strategically, I’ll point your attention again to ASQ’s Future of Quality study that we undertake every three years.  The latest version was released in 2011. The study always prompts me to think about the dynamic nature of quality.  While the study reminds me that the world is changing at an ever faster rate, readers sometimes reflect that little in practice has changed.  I wonder if that is true.

So, with that as context–new research, a glimpse of the future, and with your strategic hat on–I pose two questions for your consideration.

  • What is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society? (I could write a book on that question.)
  • And, what question does the quality community most need answered in order to advance the state of quality practice in the world?

I realize these are big questions, but then you are big thinkers.  Thanks in advance for your thoughtful response.  And welcome to our new Influential Voices: Chad Walters, Guy Bigwood, Babette Ten Haken, James Lawther, Edwin Garro, Shon Isenhour, and Jeffrey Phillips.

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7 Responses to Quality Today: Questions and Challenges

  1. In response to: “What is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?”:
    Local, national and global economic considerations need to be addressed and leveraged to understand and continually improve the quality of life for the benefit of all societies. Barriers to achieving that understanding need to be challenged and overcome. Those barriers will persist until the definitions for “Quality of Life” between differing societies throughout the human experience have become aligned. In the United States, we have defined our “Quality of Life” in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our democracy empowers us to continually challenge, refine and improve that definition. Others throughout the world have not yet achieved that definition… nor a means by which to sustain it. Some, elsewhere in the world, may be doing a better job than those in the U.S., but we may not yet have sought to understand, recognize or leverage that global “best practice”. Still others, within the United States itself, have lost their connection to that definition… and we may need help one another to reconnect.

    In response to: “And, what question does the quality community most need answered in order to advance the state of quality practice in the world?”:
    How can quality practitioners best work toward bridging the gaps between quality technology and political, spiritual, economic or educational requirements or belief systems…. within differing societies… until the definitions for “quality of life” have become aligned and we can endeavor to continually improve “quality of life” in harmony?

  2. jeanne yudin says:

    We have come a long way since I first stood with my heels literall against the shipping dock and screamed at the Production Manager that he would ship that____ over my dead body. So where have we come to? Most Production Managers and Senior Executives would not think of overiding a Qualtiy decision regarding the product. In fact most even have at least heard of and recognize words like Lean, Six Sigma, etc. This is good right? Partly.

    Since so many “other than Quality Professionals” have been exposed to Quality tools and even embraced some, they think they now know everything they need to know about Quality. Afterall, they realize it is important, right? Unfortunately, this can lead to a lack of listening to and understanding of the finer points of our Profession. Just as I, as a Metallurgical Engineer and Quality Professional, might know a little about querying a database, this does not mean that I can write the code for a complex computer program.

    I am not sure what the answer is, but I think I know what it is not! When I first “discovered” SPC and wanted to share this huge potential with my production colleagues, the answer was “yeah, yeah, they told us MBO was great too and now that is gone.” Well SPC is not gone but it is no longer viewed as the greatest and best and only tool in the world as it once was. Those of you who went through Boeing’s D1-9000 will know what I mean. Instead, the Quality Profession invented TQM, then TM, then re-engineeing. Lean, Six Sigma and 5S came along as well and although each has its place, each in turn was touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread (forgive the use of an outdated phrase).

    No wonder, the rest of the organization latched onto a few tools or programs which they thought they could understand and don’t want to hear anymore. We have confused the heck out of them and they can’t keep up. I have trouble keeping up!

    The move to focus on Quality Management Systems (or just Management Systems – whatever happened to the hype about Malcolm Baldridge?) with these other “programs” being used as tools to support such systems will help. But please, we need to halt the introduction of “new” programs for management to latch onto and hire consultants to implement. Our plant has hired a safety consultant to implement a program called “R3″ which is nothing other than FMEA. Dr. Deming has probably rolled over in his grave so many times that he is dizzy.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Despite my criticisms, I still believe that ASQ is the best hope we have. But we Quality Professionals need to stick with the basics in order to be taken seriously by the rest of the company organization.

  3. Mark Klugiewicz says:

    Challenge-Correlating waste of resources – materials, scrap, rework, utilities, labor, packaging, shipping, etc., to quality defects to get everyone to understand the true value of quality. Think of how carefully and deliberately people treat diamonds and pearls as a precious commodity and how much could be saved if they took a similar view to preserve what they consider to be otherwise unlimited resources.
    Question-How to get people to understand how to and be motivated to measure the true cost of quality defects to their bottom line, both effectivity and efficiency factors.

  4. The challenge in realizing the full value of quality is in changing the management paradigms that exist today. Everything from business school professors to executive management has to embrace modern quality. Until concepts like: do it right the first time, zero defects, and designing in quality are fully accepted at the top, the quality profession will always be reacting to the newest management leader that thinks they already know how to run the company.

    As long as management thinks that a Quality Management System is a management system for the quality department then quality will never have the kind of impact you are looking for in realizing the full value of quality. The lack of real management commitment is what is holding back the entire quality profession. Unfortunately, executives that have embraced quality are the exception.

    We need more quality professionals in top management posts. We need more quality teachings in business schools. More thought leaders like Deming. And more examples of quality companies like Toyota. Once we have a critical mass of quality thinking in key posts, then the tide will change. Quality cannot be the exception, it must be the norm in order to realize the full value of quality. For it to be the norm then it must be held as the commonly accepted practice as GAAP is in accounting. We need quality to become Generally Accepted as Management Practices. Quality at the source and top management is the true source of all quality.

  5. Thought provoking questions Paul, here are my views on this:

    First question is about challenges faced by quality community and second one is about advancing state of quality.

    I will try to answer by linking these to some of the irreversible trends happening in the business world today.

    - Today’s big innovation & high quality becomes must have to survive in the market place of tomorrow. Pace of innovation has accelerated.
    - Quality levels in general have been continuously improving no doubt due to contribution of quality Gurus such as Juran & Deming but also due to contribution of ordinary quality community. Consequently, it is almost impossible for a single company to hold on to quality edge for too long.
    - Prof Noriaki Kano’s famous model is more relevant as ever. Quality attribute which delighted customer yesterday becomes the must have attribute of today, otherwise it could lead to customer dissatisfaction.
    - Due to rapid advances in technology, speed of processes have increased great deal and level of manning required is coming down rapidly. At the same time, skill levels required to run the show is constantly going up.
    - Though there is some talk about reversal of the trend, global supply chains have come here to stay. Work goes to the most efficient and economical.
    To survive and thrive in this challenging environment everyone has to change his behaviour adapt. Quality professionals are no exception to this rule.
    Though number of available quality tools / methodologies have not increased much in the recent years, amount, sources & speed of availability of data ( which can be used for improvement projects) has increased exponentially. This data deluge is the called big data.
    To facilitate improvements projects under these circumstances, use different types of techniques have to used to extract this data.
    Some examples of new technologies –
    - use of NoSQL instead of SQL to query unstructured data which is not in the traditional data table format.
    - Data mining techniques like Machine learning which relay on computer programs themselves to find patterns in data.
    - New software frameworks such as Hadoop which can be used for processing enormous amounts of data quickly and cheaply.
    - Use of data from social media (such as Twitter & Facebook) for understanding customer satisfaction and company reputation.
    - Another emerging trend particularly in manufacturing is – internet of things whereby machines, products exchange information in real time.
    Running improvement projects using data from techniques such as these can lead to significant advancement of quality. Of course, quality tools and methodologies can be used for improvement projects.

    In summary, changing the behaviour to the rapidly changing business environment one can face the challenges head on and succeed. Using modern technologies can lead to advancing state of quality.

  6. Shper Vladimir says:

    All told by Chris Anderson is right and was told many many times …but it’s obvious that “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe” (H. G. Wells) and on the other hand “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”. So we need to change the system…Briefly the world should refuse from (1) Pursuit for profits, (2) Manipulation of people and (3) Pursuit for numbers and indices… and change all those for (i) Pursuit for something valuable for people (ii) Understanding of people (iii) Understanding of system and variability. As a first preliminary step I suggest to refuse from such non-value-adding activity as ISO 9001 certification. It seems to me that if the world quality community showed such an example of responsible behavior it would facilitate quality movement all over the world (in the long-term period).

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