Find a Quality System And Stick With It
I want to add an "amen" to Debbie Phillips-Donaldson's July 2003 "Not the Program du Jour" editorial (p. 6) and comment that "striving for continuous improvement and performance excellence requires more than just announcing 'we're going to do Six Sigma.'"

With all due respect to the gurus, we, as the users of their studies, latch onto each new idea as the universal approach. When a newer, hotter idea is presented, we jump to that. The result is a hodgepodge of management philosophies guiding our companies in different directions.

Management should adopt continuous improvement and performance excellence as its raison d'être and then use the philosophies as tools for business process improvement, as Charles C. Cobb points out in his book, From Quality to Business Excellence: A Systems Approach to Management (ASQ Quality Press, 2003).

My mission and passion in my position with Allen, Gibbs & Houlik LC, an independent accounting and consulting firm, is to convince the middle market companies, not-for-profit organizations and governmental entities we serve that they can be world-class performers--companies that have embedded the continuous improvement and performance excellence philosophy into their own cultures.

As I point out in presentations to these companies, the first caveman who manufactured and sold flint tipped spears to his neighbors was focused on continuously improving his product and being the best spear producer in the world. This really is nothing new; we've just lost sight of it.

Allen, Gibbs & Houlik LC
Wichita, KS

Legal Hurdles Contribute To Dearth of Articles
Navigating the legal minefield can be a daunting task for quality professionals ("Not the Program du Jour"). Consider some of these obstacles to getting an article approved internally prior to submission to an external publication:

1. Nondisclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements may contain broad definitions of "proprietary information," including not only intellectual property but also ideas, formulas, processes and know-how.

2. Insider trading policies that warn about tipping--the act of an insider disclosing nonpublic information regarding the company that might be used by another to profit in the trading of securities of companies (to which such information relates). The Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed large penalties even when the disclosing person did not profit from the trading.

3. Lawsuits in litigation or under appeal. Ahem ... no comment.

Is it any wonder there is a scarcity of articles from quality professionals in the trenches?

MDSI Mobile Data Solutions
Richmond, British Columbia

Hula-Hoops and Hype
I had a ball with the lead article in the July 2003 issue ("Multiple Choice," p. 25). Each contribution was filled with hype concerning how good a particular system is. But there is another side of the coin--the negative side that usually blames top management for the reasons the advertised system didn't work--that is often subtle and is palpable in this article.

Carl Keller wrote, "There are many quality initiatives floating around, and a lot of hype surrounds some of them. Some initiatives border on being fads and gimmicks, while some have a bit more impact." I've personally used the term "Hula-Hoops" to describe the miracle solutions that have come down to us through the years. I've been reading QP since 1949, and I believe I would be hard pressed not to find some hype and management bashing in every issue.

Steven S. Prevette's piece, "Systems Thinking--An Uncommon Answer," is the only one that speaks to a sound theory. It's old, but it's basic. The concepts of W. Edwards Deming and Russell Ackoff have been forgotten and trampled on. I'm cheering for Prevette.

I believe systems thinking needs to be pursued further to include living systems, the work of James Grier Miller. I was attracted to Miller's work in 1972 and have used his living systems as a mental model and basis for my work in quality control, operations research, sales and the ministry ever since.

Las Vegas, NV

Knowledge of the Basics Leads to Success
I don't believe the articles in "Multiple Choice" will help those wanting to start a quality program. In fact, I sometimes feel quality literature has lost its way because, while much diversity is preached, there is not enough foundational information out there.

Sports and quality have one key element in common: Participants must be grounded in the fundamentals to succeed. Someone trying to establish a quality system must know all the basics, and in sports, many teams play under the same rules. The perennial winners seem to have a high level of discipline for learning the fundamentals, enduring physical training and practice, and making the fewest errors.

My title contains the words "quality assurance," which means I'm responsible for assuring quality. In years past I had to assure the quality of the product through the establishment of good quality practices. My job has now expanded to assuring the quality of the systems, including those outside of quality. To do that I need a thorough understanding of the various processes and systems.

Most of us are in business to deliver products and services while consultants and educators deliver theory. Theory is an excellent catalyst for change, but you must also have the basics down. Did you ever think about the meaning of the phrase, "The more I learn, the less I know"? I believe it tells us to keep going back to the basics, just as in sports, because that's where the winning tradition comes from.

Briggs and Stratton
Murray, KY

Most Important Part Of Equation = People
During my 30 years of pharmaceutical quality control experience, I have been part of two ISO 9000 implementations and several continuous improvement programs. I have come to prefer an eclectic quality system, not only because I like to say "eclectic," but because I am pragmatic in choosing what systems will work for the specific needs of an organization ("Multiple Choice"). My overall goal has been to implement a continuous improvement quality program using several quality and statistical methodologies.

No matter what system is chosen, however, people are the ones who implement and execute the process. The soft or people part of a quality system equation can make or break any quality effort. People have an impact on at least 50% of the system.

To be successful you need upper management's support. Management needs to demonstrate its support not only with words but with money and action.

Training is another critical requirement. People should be trained not only in the methodologies of the chosen quality system, but in group dynamics and how to work in a team environment.

Everyone must understand the benefits to the company as well as themselves. It should be easy to communicate to the participants that, if the company cannot compete in the marketplace, it will not be able to sell its product. No product, no company, no job. If the company can compete successfully, and even excel based on its quality improvements, its employees will have job security with the possibility of personal advancement.

Novus Fine Chemicals
Carlstadt, NJ

Cartoon Trivialized Zero Defects Day
Everyone at Philip Crosby Associates II got a good chuckle over the July 2003 "Mr. Pareto Head" (p. 11). But it's disconcerting to see Mike Crossen trivialize this useful management concept.

When Philip Crosby invented the concept of zero defects day, he clearly stated it was not expected to be a day where no defects or errors occurred. Rather, it was to be a day when the organization's management pledged its commitment to quality improvement and the vision of delivering defect free products and services to customers and associates.

We routinely work with companies that celebrate 200-plus days with no lost time accidents, but could not conceive of a single day without a missed shipment or a scrapped assembly. The difference is not the company's inability to achieve zero defects, but its lack of commitment and vision. For that reason, Philip Crosby Associates II rededicated the concept of zero defects day in 2000 and renamed it "celebration of commitment."

President and CEO
Philip Crosby Associates II
Winter Park, FL

NQI Not Main Quality Organization in Canada
I just read the article "ASQ's WorldPartners" (Kristen Johnson, June 2003, p. 42) and was surprised to learn the National Quality Institute (NQI), not ASQ Region 4-Canada, is the main quality related association in Canada. I thought Region 4 held this distinction, not only at a local and regional level, but nationally and internationally as well.

The National Research Council of Canada recognizes ASQ as a nonprofit organization in Canada and has been an affiliate of the Canadian Technology Network (CTN) since its involvement with the CTN web program in 1996. Please recognize the unique distinction and privilege our organization has. (Go to http://ctn-rct.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca, and click on Members, then National Members for more information.)

Some of our supporters, members and sections had a considerable history with the Canadian Awards for Business Excellence--long before the inception of NQI. And many of them, in one form or another, participated in founding NQI. I think it is rather unjust not to recognize the historical contributions and the hiccups along the way. What an organization can accomplish cannot be understood without an understanding of its history.

CQCC chair and regional councilor
Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Metro Para Pledge, as presented in the July 2003 issue (David Shipley, "ISO 9000 Makes Integrated Systems User Friendly," p. 27), was incorrect. Instead of "We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing," the article said, "We the unwilling ... " Thanks to Senior Member Jed Hayes for bringing this error to our attention. We should have known better--quality professionals are always willing to work for improvement.

Contact 'QP'
We welcome your letters. Send them to EDITOR, ASQ/QUALITY PROGRESS, 600 N. PLANKINTON AVE., MILWAUKEE, WI 53203-3005; or e-mail them to editor@asq.org. Please include address, daytime phone number and e-mail address. All letters will be published on the QP Discussion Board, or you can post your comment on the QP Discussion Board directly at www.asq.org. We reserve the right to edit letters for space and clarity. Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily of ASQ or Quality Progress.

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