QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
by Heinz Frank
As a Czechoslovakian, I am lucky that my parents sent me to the Prague English Grammar School for 13 years. All subjects were taught by English speaking teachers, and with the exception of Czech class and German class, all classes were taught in English. The influence English speaking teachers had on me was important: They considered cheating a very serious offense. This attitude led most of my colleagues to honest learning—except in Latin, where I admit we had to cheat a little to succeed.
During World War II, Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germans, who closed all the universities. I worked as an electrician. Near the end of the war, the Germans sent me to a concentration camp because my father was Jewish. I managed to survive my imprisonment because it didn’t last long. After the war ended, I began to study electronic techniques at Prague Technical University and graduated as an engineer. I then worked in a laboratory of a research institute in Prague. For several years I was a technician in the aerial department, and I later managed the institute’s planning department.
In 1958 I was transferred to a company called Tesla. Because I refused to join the Communist Party in the early 1950s, I had to work as a manual laborer for several months. After a successful appeal I became head of a department that developed and installed radio and television transmitting and microwave aerials. I had to deliver the aerials to Czech and foreign customers, mostly organizations owned by state post offices, as there were no private radio or television stations in socialist states. Good relations with customers depended on honesty and mutual respect. When I was not able to fulfill all requirements for a product, I admitted it and tried to find a solution acceptable for the customer.
After several years of this work, I was appointed manager of the quality department at Tesla. This was a big responsibility—at the time, the company had four factories and almost 3,000 employees. But by then I had put in two years of postgraduate work in quality management at Prague Technical University, so I was ready for it.
My former boss, the manager of the production department, was very disappointed by my refusal to accept products that had faults, even if those faults were hidden. After some time, when he registered favorable reactions of our customers and learned it was possible, if not always easy, to satisfy quality requirements, he admitted my policy was correct.
I left this position when I reached my retirement age. For some time, I worked as member of the quality department of the Ministry of Electro Techniques, a government body. I later became a quality consultant to the Minister of Control of the Czechoslovak Republic, which ceased to exist in 1992, when the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic became independent.
I am one of the founders of the Czech Society for Quality. I joined in 1989, and my membership card is number 008. I later became a full member of the European Organization for Quality and ASQ. Today, at the age of 82, I work as a member of Czech Society for Quality’s senior council and am on the board of editors of its magazine. I also translate interesting articles about quality from English and German into Czech.
My whole professional career taught me that quality pays. This is true of quality of work and quality of products, as well as the quality of relations between producer and customer—in other words, people in general.
HEINZ FRANK is a retired quality manager who most recently worked for Czechoslovakia’s Ministry of Control. He has a degree in engineering from Prague Technical University in the Czech Republic.