The 15 Quality Books You Should Be Reading

See what books our readers found the most valuable.

To celebrate the beginning of a new decade, we’ve picked our most popular books, chosen by quality professionals from around the world and put together this guide. Organized by topic, this mix of new releases and timeless classics offers something for every quality professional. Review this list and grab the books that are missing from your quality library.

Culture

The Journey

Charles A. Clanfrani et al.

To sustain success in today’s competitive environment, organizations must meet the needs and expectations of all relevant parties. This book covers both the “what” and “how” aspects of achieving sustained success and is a guide for top managers ready to embark on this journey.

Unleash Quality

Arron S. Angle

The power of quality comes from actions that stem from behaviors—behaviors that apply to every department within a company. In other words, a company’s culture. This is where most organizations fail in their deployment of quality—by not treating quality as a cultural imperative.

The Joy of Lean

Dodd Starbird

As it attracts more attention as a philosophy, lean is still sometimes misunderstood as a method for just cutting expenses. That doesn’t sound very joyful. This book will show leaders how to cultivate a positive Lean Culture of Excellence that creates value for customers and employees.

Problem Solving

Root Cause Analysis, 2nd Edition

Duke Okes

This best-seller can help anyone who needs to find specific causes for failures. It provides detailed steps for solving problems, and it focuses on the deep analytical process involved in finding the true causes of problems. The book accomplishes this through visuals, figures, diagrams, and tools to make the reader see what is truly significant.

Handbook of Investigation and Effective CAPA Systems, 2nd Edition

José Rodriguez-Pérez, Ph.D.

The second edition of this handbook dealing exclusively with CAPA systems emphasizes root cause analysis as the necessary preceding step of any effective corrective and preventive action system. These concepts apply to many sectors, including automotive, aerospace, service, and more.

The ASQ Pocket Guide to Root Cause Analysis

Bjørn Andersen and Tom Natland Fagerhaug

When organizations experience unintended variation, it can cause a range of problems, from minor nuisances to the loss of customers and revenue. This pocket guide provides accessible knowledge about problem-solving, with a specific focus on identifying and eliminating the root causes of a problem.

Quality Management

The Art of Integrating Strategic Planning, Process Metrics, Risk Mitigation, and Auditing

J.B. Smith

This book promotes auditing beyond compliance to identify additional improvement opportunities, such as the discovery of hidden factories and risks. The scope also extends to an organization’s vision and strategy, which must align with the audit. Concepts and models are clearly illustrated using real-life examples.

Performance Metrics

Duke Okes

Which performance measures should you use? How do you sort through a variety of possible metrics and decide which are best? Performance Metrics provides a clarifying perspective for those who know that metrics need to be developed but are unsure as to the steps to follow in developing and deploying them.

Senior Management and Quality

Fin Rooney

Fin Rooney dives into quality concepts and how to apply them strategically to your organization. In his thorough approach, he begins by revisiting the question, “What is quality?” Full of helpful questions and thought-provoking ideas, this book will ensure interesting conversations with managers about how they view quality.

Quality Tools

The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition

Nancy R. Tague

The Quality Toolbox is a comprehensive reference for a variety of methods and techniques. It includes tools for brainstorming, evaluating ideas, analyzing processes, determining root causes, planning, and basic statistics. The book is thoughtfully designed both for self-learning and for teaching others.

Business Process Improvement Toolbox, Second Edition

Bjørn Andersen

Filled with quality tools and applications, this book provides readers with practical insight into how they can create a coherent business process improvement system. Consistently improving various aspects of how things are done, large and small, is the key to success for any organization.

Mapping Work Processes, Second Edition

Bjørn Andersen et al.

This best-seller is a hands-on, step-by-step workbook of instructions on how to create flowcharts and document work processes. This edition also includes organizational examples and case studies from many different industries to help readers understand real-life applications of the material presented.

Technology

Data Quality: Dimensions, Measurement, Strategy, Management, and Governance

Rupa Mahanti, Ph.D.

Good data is a source of myriad opportunities, while bad data is a tremendous burden. This book provides guidance on strategies and tactics for data quality. It balances technical details and higher-level qualitative discussions with case studies, illustrations, and real-world examples throughout.

Quality Experience Telemetry

Alka Jarvis et al.

Telemetry is an automated way to collect and transmit data from remote sites to receiving sites for monitoring, analyzing, and driving improvement. This book explains the telemetry infrastructure and associated details. It will enable readers to implement a telemetry program that improves the customer experience.

Data Integrity and Compliance

José Rodriguez-Pérez, Ph.D.

This book consolidates data integrity expectations from several regulatory sources and provides implementation guidance. It applies data management principles and procedures to the manufacturing of medical products throughout the whole supply chain.

Is your favorite book missing from this list? Let us know! Comment below, or tweet us @ASQ. To find more books on everything to do with quality, visit the ASQ bookstore.

Does Mission Matter?

This is a guest post by Pat La Londe, ASQ Fellow and incoming ASQ board chair. La Londe is a retired executive in supply chain management with expertise leading teams in all areas of procurement including supplier quality.  She recently retired as an executive from CareFusion, a large medical device company.

How often do you consider a company’s mission when choosing a retailer or a business partner? As it turns out, probably more often than you think. At ASQ, we recently conducted a global brand and reputation study.

One of the most surprising findings of the study is that respondents rated organizational mission as highly important in their consideration of an organization that provides training, certification, membership or books/publications related to quality, continuous improvement or performance excellence.

These results are encouraging us to reflect on the value of ASQ’s mission, and how we’re bringing it to our audience—whether members, customers, or the quality community at large.

First, the ASQ mission is: To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.

As stewards of the global quality movement, ASQ is advancing ideas, tools, techniques, and systems that will help the world meet tomorrow’s critical challenges.  Yet there remain significant opportunities to dramatically and positively impact public thinking around the role of quality.

What are we doing about these opportunities? We have identified the following themes that underscore our mission and developed plans to address them.

•   ASQ is aligned and united to grow and advance the Global Quality Community.

We’re continuing to expand our global footprint with offices in the United States, Mexico, India, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil. Our aim worldwide is to enhance and sustain the role of quality, help those who need quality concepts and tools for professional and organizational success, and to demonstrate the value of quality. This is, of course, in addition to our established geographic, topical, and industry-specific communities that foster career development and facilitate professional networking.

ASQ is committed to and investing in member value, this year and beyond.

In the next several years, we’re making significant technological improvements to our technology infrastructure to improve the customer experience with ASQ. For example, we will be addressing our website experience, expanding offerings available in multiple formats (i.e. hard copy, mobile, Kindle), and optimizing the volume of emails sent from the entire Society.

•   ASQ in 2015 has its challenges, yet is responding, evolving and adapting, to ensure our members’ and customers’ success in a rapidly changing, competitive, global environment.

It’s critical to the future of quality that ASQ continues to evolve and grow with its members and customers to provide them with the up-to-date knowledge and tools. By systematically studying emerging topics and monitoring the future of quality, we’re working to ensure that we respond to the global needs of today and tomorrow.

For example, ASQ will be testing new membership and engagement models and programs, locally and globally, for individuals and organizations over the next year as well as increasing the Society’s attention to leadership and professional development programs. ASQ is also cultivating the next generation of leaders through programs designed for young professionals.

What is your organization’s mission? Do you update and refer to it on a regular basis? All too often, leaders tend to “shelve” the mission after developing it or we take it for granted. Through our research on Culture of Quality, strong leadership is essential to developing and sustaining a culture of quality.

If an organization is seeking to improve its culture of quality, a closer look at the three areas —vision, values and leadership—is likely a good place to begin. I encourage you to take a fresh look.

Creating a Performance Culture: What Not To Do

This is a guest post by James Lawther, who describes himself as a middle-aged middle-manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for multiple organizations, from supermarkets to tax collectors in a host of operational roles, including running the night shift for a frozen pea packing factory and doing operational research for a credit card company.

Based in the U.K., James is also an ASQ Influential Voice blogger and writes about quality issues at www.squawkpoint.com.


There is a lot of talk about culture.
No doubt you have heard it before but Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Management gurus fling the word “culture” around with abandon, proclaiming that if you fix your culture it will fix your business.

If they are right, then your culture is worth worrying about.  So what is culture? As a concept it is a little nebulous and vague. I flipped open my laptop and Googled it. Here is the most relevant definition I found:

Culture (noun):  The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society.

All of which leads to a question:

How can we manage ideas, customs, and behaviors to improve business performance?  How can we create a “Performance Culture?”
How do you create a performance culture?

Is it possible to manage behaviors and influence performance?

Of course it is.  Children are taught how to manage behavior from an early age.  Toddlers get chocolates if they are good and the “naughty step” or worse if they are bad.  At school the same approach is used.  Teachers give their pupils certificates for being good and detention for being bad.

Business schools reinforce the logic. They teach us that effective management is all about getting people to perform at their best.  The recommended approach involves SMART goals, targets, 360 degree feedback, and incentive systems.  The naughty step has morphed into “spending more time with the family.”

For all the management science it boils down to the same thing; the academics teach us to manage business performance with carrots and sticks.  Targets, bonuses, and performance ranking drive behavior and behavior drives performance.

What sort of behavior do they drive?
They drive a desire to hit the target, an overwhelming desire which manifests itself in a whole host of ways:

1. Jumping up and down on poor performance.
The minute something goes wrong it is corrected.  If a target-driven manager sees any adverse variation in the data (the enlightened call this common cause variation) he wants it explained and removed.  An inordinate amount of time is spent chasing data points that look bad.

Unsurprisingly, data points that look good are celebrated.

2. Challenging management information.
When it becomes clear that it isn’t so easy to explain the cause of poor performance, the logical next step is to challenge the data.  If there isn’t an obvious reason why performance is going the wrong way then the data must be wrong.

Any manager with a bonus (a.k.a. college fees or mortgage repayments) riding on the data will tell you that it needs to be right.

3. Changing the calculations.
Unfortunately challenging the measurement system rarely improves performance. The next approach is to change the calculations instead.  Many targets are ratios: customers served per man-hour or sales made per lead.  So denominators are pushed down and numerators forced up. This approach is guaranteed to improve performance (at least optically).

All it takes is a little brow beating of the measurement improvement team, who will in turn – when performance appears to improve – be applauded for their accuracy.

4. Blaming and shaming.
Sometimes the man in charge of measures is unwilling to be brow beaten.  If he refuses to yield he will be blamed for poor performance (how can you improve performance if you can’t rely on the numbers?) If the man from M.I. is big enough to shrug it off then somebody else is found to blame.  Blame a supplier, blame a customer, blame the person in recruitment, or the purchasing team.

Blame doesn’t improve performance, but it does create an excuse.  It is well-known that poor performance plus excuses equals good performance.

5. Emphasizing the positive.
Managers utilize bullet points to emphasize the positive.  With all the noise in the system there is always something on the up.
•    This week saw a 5 percent rise in sales.
•    Last week customer satisfaction reached an all-time high.
•    Retention rates (month-to-date) exceed last year’s performance (year-on-year) by a full three basis points (allowing for inflation).
If managers can’t find something that looks good they can always create more metrics until they identify something positive.

6. Minimizing the negative.
Nothing is ever reported voluntarily that looks below target or “Red.”  Anybody foolish enough to declare a “Red” level of performance will receive a real grilling about the situation.  This approach ensures that the “Reds” disappear…  Well, they certainly won’t be talked about or shown.

If there is no “Red” to be seen, then performance must have improved.

Does culture drive behavior and performance?
Of course it does. Though perversely “performance management” doesn’t create a culture of high performance. It creates one of low performance and fear.

Maybe Mr. Drucker was right, but his quote needs some context from his peers:

Culture Eats strategy for breakfast ~ Peter Drucker
Drive out fear ~ W. Edwards Deming

The way to create a high performance culture is to seek out poor performance, embrace it and fix it, not punish it.

What are your “dos” and “don’ts” of creating a performance culture?

July Roundup: What's the Purpose of Vision?

Everyone agrees that a clear organizational focus is important, but how is it best achieved? In July, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers responded to a prompt about the clarity of focus at Volvo and Ikea, and offered their thoughts on how to achieve and articulate an organizational purpose.

What is vision and why is it important? Tim McMahon writes about the role of PDCA in finding organizational True North. Manu Vora says vision is an organization’s dream of the future. Jimena Calfa defines the differences between vision and mission. Babette Ten Haken writes about developing foresight as a leader. And John Priebe writes about the importance figuring out your direction before putting together the road map.

Is a vision really important? John Hunter writes that vision can be meaningful, but is often just pretty words. Guy Wallace is also wary of a formal vision statement—define one, but stay quiet about it, he says.

Which organizations have a clear vision? Dr. Lotto Lai writes about the vision and mission of two organizations in Hong Kong. Nicole Radziwill unexpectedly discovered a quality ethic during a trip to Japan. Bob Mitchell writes about 3M’s vision. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about vision and clarity at Apple.

Jennifer Stepniowski writes about the success of Subaru’s vision. Dan Zrymiak ponders whether there is such a thing as a Scandinavian model of quality. Anshuman Tiwari gives three examples of companies in which he has worked that have a clear vision and what it accomplished.

On that note, both Scott Rutherford and Edwin Garro examine ASQ’s own mission and vision.

And finally, James Lawther suggests that vision is simply something you’re good at and that also helps people.