Gains and Pains

A check on quality progress in the 21st century

Poor quality in the form of unsanitary conditions, careless maintenance—and questionable contingency planning—even the mishandling of a customer complaint can result in anything from the bruising of a customer’s loyalty to heart sickness to maybe just plain sickness.

An unprecedented oil spill, tainted lettuce and recalled children’s medicine were among the quality-related headlines last month. Ten years in, has what Joseph M. Juran predicted would be "the Century of Quality" lived up to this lofty title? What would Juran say about today’s state of affairs?

"In the 1990s—and it will extend well into the next century—we’re going to see the West scaling up its quality revolution," Juran predicted in a February 1999 Quality Digest interview. "My belief is that historians in later decades will look back on the 21st century as the Century of Quality, much as the 20th century has been the Century of Productivity, largely following Frederick Taylor’s model."

It’s easy to question our progress when quality-related lapses and missteps seem so prevalent. Yet, there are many places where quality flourishes. Many of those stories are featured in QP each month, and June is no exception. This month’s cover story, "Bull’s-eye," showcases the supply chain efficiencies achieved by retail giant Target via its well-executed quality plans and systems. High standards for its supply chain partners lead to high-quality products arriving on Target’s store shelves quickly and efficiently.

You’ll also find articles that offer insights and ideas that can help you build, refine and maximize your own quality projects and plans. "What’s the Big Idea?" explains how companies can cultivate innovative thinking among employees—it doesn’t need to be something someone either has, or they don’t.

"Now What?" discusses replicating quality successes throughout a system. Presbyterian Healthcare System is the basis for this case study on a "dissemination project." The teachings can be applied to just about any industry.

I feel lucky to be able to hear and read about quality triumphs every day as part of my job. Even better, you get to play a role in many of these stories. QP is here to help you in your charge—to grow, learn, and do your job better, smarter and quicker. If you have a success or story to share, consider writing for QP. 

Now, I pose this question to you: Where do you think we stand in relation to Juran’s vision for the Century of Quality? Do you think it’s achievable? Are we there yet? Will we ever be? Write to me at editor@asq.org.

There are only 90 more years to make Juran’s vision a reality. We best get to work.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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