Not the Program du Jour

Don't cringe. When you look at the cover of this issue or the articles it represents, don't fret that QP is advocating a "flavor of the day" approach to quality.

Many quality professionals rightly argue that a given quality methodology or initiative too often doesn't take hold or help an organization improve because management just sees it as a quick fix, adopting a "let's throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" philosophy. Or a high-profile CEO will get tons of press for using something like Six Sigma, or a well-known company will win the Baldrige Award, and like lemmings to the sea, other organizations rush to try what seems to quickly become the latest fad.

As you well know, striving for continuous improvement and performance excellence requires much more than just announcing "we're going to 'do' Six Sigma" (or ISO 9001 or Baldrige--fill in the blanks.). You have to truly learn the methodology and adapt it to work throughout your organization.

"Many of these standards [and methodologies] have been poorly implemented because few companies take the time to fully understand how to use them as tools for business process improvement and really make them an integral part of their business management system," writes Charles G. Cobb in his book, From Quality to Business Excellence: A Systems Approach to Management (ASQ Quality Press, 2003).

I would add that companies must also find and use the tools that make the most sense for them, which is the premise behind this month's cover article. Actually a collection of short articles by several quality practitioners, its point is that there is no one right way to achieve improvement and excellence. There are myriad options, and the trick is to figure out which one is right for your organization--or if perhaps a combination of two or more is best.

The ones presented in this issue are by no means all that exist. If you advocate others, please write to us at editor@asq.org. The QP editors often hear from readers that not enough articles in the magazine come from quality professionals working in the "trenches" every day. I can't refute that complaint; it's true many of the articles are submitted by academicians and consultants. So I challenge all of you to take to your keyboards and share your knowledge and expertise. (For how-to information, see our author guidelines at www.asq.org/pub/qualityprogress/editorial).

Some of your fellow readers took this challenge recently. As the introduction on p. 25 explains, this collection of articles came about because of their willingness to offer their thoughts on quality systems that have worked best in their organizations or adaptations to current systems they see on the horizon. Whether you agree with them, I hope their efforts will inspire you to follow their lead to your own keyboards.

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson

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