The Cause and Effect Of My Quality Journey

by Amine Ayad

My first encounter with quality occurred when I was a teenager and read in the newspaper that a human error resulted in a patient’s death at a hospital. That incident created a shift in my life. It matured my natural tendency to ask why as I began to understand a cause and effect relationship in events happening around me. I noticed children naturally ask why, and I wanted to grow beyond curiosity to develop a rational understanding to create sound actions and tangible results.

After graduating from Oklahoma State University years later, I worked as an engineer. In the office, I designed structural elements ranging from simple beams and cantilevers to complex foundations and structures.

As a young engineer, I argued the price of measurement, verification and auditing is cheaper than the price of failures and defects. I always cited the hospital example until my work shifted to supervision at construction sites. At that point, I became responsible for quality assurance and compliance as they related to safety and construction practices.

More than ever, I felt exposed to the risk of failure that could result in personal injury due to process shortcomings, human errors and negligence. I was amazed how people took quality for granted. I learned when professionals trust without verification, they open the door for increasing risks and exposing inadequacies. And when they manage without data and measurements, they allow events, circumstances and emotions to control their decisions and reactions to determine their behaviors.

Then my career took me from the design and supervision side of the business to the management and development aspects. My job was to expand business into new markets, negotiate contracts, and recruit and manage sales teams. At first, quality appeared less relevant.

When I lost my first deal to a competitor, the why and cause and effect inside me initiated a process to determine the root cause of losing the deal. It didn’t take long to realize the quality of my product was inferior to the quality of the competitor’s product. On a Pareto chart, I found two other main factors to losing the deal—lack of a consistent negotiation strategy and lack of a measurement and verification system to assess progress.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, my career took me to Russia. My mission was to work with chemicals and color photographic paper, assessing import/export opportunities and the feasibility of launching a retail chain. At the time, I had not been exposed to manufacturing, but as I searched for photographic paper and started looking for business opportunities, I visited numerous factories in Russia and contacted and visited manufacturers in the United States and Canada.

This journey made me aware of quality from a manufacturing perspective. More importantly, it made me aware of quality as it relates to philosophy, ideology and society.

I was amazed that the standards used during the Soviet era were not up to par with what other countries were using. Especially at the civil and consumer levels, the products and services were of less quality. I learned fascinating lessons: The society that managed to excel in military manufacturing and scientific research and sent the first man to space couldn’t incorporate quality into other aspects of life. I believed the ideology of a society could hurt quality while trying to improve it by losing focus on what matters most—quality of life, individual happiness and customer satisfaction.

I was also exposed to change. As the people of Russia were trying to shift from socialism to capitalism, I noticed how entrenched old practices were and how difficult and slow the process of change could be.

My first serious encounter with ASQ came as I read about Six Sigma. During a Web search, I came across the ASQ site. Until recently, I didn’t define myself with the quality profession. I ensured quality by practicing what I now call common sense, using the technical tools my education provided me and polishing these tools with life experience.

Last year, I decided to join ASQ. A few months later, I decided to participate in the executive activities of my local section in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where I was working and living. It was a wonderful and rewarding experience.

The journey of my career has taught me quality, though sometimes misunderstood and under appreciated, is vital to business success. Quality tools are as relevant to the manufacturing industry as they are to construction, healthcare, retail, education and general business. In its business domain, quality contributes to the top line as well as the bottom line.

My life journey has taught me quality is a philosophy. So I dare to think as a philosopher and say the best of actions are the consistent ones. Now I invite you to think about process stability and sustainability and to say if your today is not improved over your yesterday, then your tomorrow is in jeopardy. Again, I invite you to think, but this time about change and continuous improvement.

Does anyone still doubt quality is more than data analysis, surveys, methodologies, systems, quality models, organizational structures, strategy development and deployment, standards, audits and certifications?

AMINE AYAD is a district manager for The Home Depot in Cincinnati. Ayad has a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University-Stillwater and is a Senior Member of ASQ.

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