A Question of Timing

This month and next Quality Progress will be paying special attention to the future as we publish our final issue of 1999 and our first one of 2000.

Notice that I didn't refer to the final issue of the 20th century or the first one of the 21st. Also notice that I am already into my third sentence without using the word millennium. (Whoops! Oh well, nothing lasts forever.)

The reason I was being so careful in choosing my words is that several readers have cautioned me about millennial correctness. Since so many quality professionals have a quantitative turn of mind as well as a predilection for precision, I have been warned not to say that Jan. 1 will be the first day of a new century, much less the start of a new millennium.

I did a little research and found that these new-millennium naysayers are right, although the whole problem may be traced to a lack of quality control in a sixth century monastery.

That was where a man named Dionysius Exiguus (Denis the Short) developed a new calendar based on counting the years from the birth of Jesus Christ. Denis decided to call the first year 0001, instead of starting at year 0000. When none of his co-monks or superiors caught his calibration error, the mistake became embedded in centuries of subsequent calendars.

This means we have another year to go before we round out the 20th century. So you can save your party hats and champagne for another year--or just keep the millennial festivities that will begin this New Year's Eve going for 12 more months.

When we get to the end of the great date debate, however, the exact moment when we mark the millennium isn't nearly so important as how we do so. Its coming gives us a chance to look backward and learn. What's more important is that it gives us a chance to look forward in anticipation of future challenges and opportunities.

This month Quality Progress features insights about the future practice of quality from four eminent quality leaders: Armand V. Feigenbaum, Donald S. Feigenbaum, Thomas Pyzdek and Gregory Watson.

If there's one constant theme in all of their articles, it is that quality is in a process of redefinition and renewal as we move toward the 21st century. No  matter when we think that new millennium is starting, we all need to get ready for the changes it will most surely bring. 

26073PG6 MAGUIRE, M. tiff
Miles Maguire

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