Reap What You Sow

To flourish, quality requires careful attention

Most would agree that common sense, as the saying goes, isn’t all that common. But what about quality?

Is quality a given? Jack and Suzy Welch said it was in a recent BusinessWeek magazine column (“The Importance of Being Sticky,” Sept. 22).


I concur that quality might be a widely held expectation when it comes to products and services today, but that doesn’t mean companies always hold up their end of the bargain. And it doesn’t mean quality is in any way the status quo. It will never be possible to “achieve” quality, then sit back, fold your arms and expect it to take care of itself.

That’s exactly the message of John Dew’s article, “Dig It.” Dew draws parallels between a garden and a quality culture—both must be cultivated, tended to and nurtured in order to thrive. Simply put, you only get out what you put in.

Quality took center stage in September, when one of the fathers of quality, Armand V. Feigenbaum, was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation—the top U.S. honor for innovation. The citation on the medal commended Feigenbaum for his “leadership in the development of the economic relationship of quality costs, productivity improvement and profitability, and for his pioneering application of economics, general systems theory and technology, statistical methods and management principles that define the Total Quality Management approach for achieving performance excellence and global competitiveness.” Read the full article—and learn why this is an important affirmation of quality’s link to innovation—in “Total Quality, Total Commitment.”

In response to receiving the honor, Feigenbaum said: “the award is also for the entire global quality community. This is an important recognition of the significance of total quality as a way of life for business and industry.”

Given the dire state of the global economy, Feigenbaum’s theories carry just as much weight today as they did when he published Total Quality Control in 1961. In fact, in the wake of slashed budgets and skyrocketing operating costs, quality can serve as a life raft for struggling companies, not only allowing them to keep their heads above water, but also providing tools and solutions to help them survive, even prosper, in troubled times.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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