Perspectives: Perfection Is Possible

Abstract:Few people embodied the idea of a quality advocate more than Robert Galvin, who passed away in October 2011. It would have been easy to keep to himself the strategies he implemented as head of Motorola to help the organization pursue perfection. But, as A. Blanton Godfrey points out in this Perspectives column, Galvin instead chose to share his knowledge with anyone truly interested in listening and helped spread the quality mantra to all …

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I am grateful to Robert Galvin, who was an advocate for the Baldrige program and the importance of reducing the total cost of quality through approaches that include Six Sigma.

But I respectively disagree with the belief that "perfection is possible." In the context of the article, perfection was associated with a defect-free product. Does perfection also apply to defect-free products that have no market?

The U.S. Founding Fathers, many of whom were students of the great philosophers, accepted a broader and generally accepted context for the term perfection. In the preamble to the Constitution, they included the phrase: to form a "more perfect" (as opposed to perfect) Union. They designed a system of government that could be continually improved through laws and amendments.

W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran had their differences, the core of which I believe were differences on the relationship between quality, perfection and variation.

Walter Shewhart discovered the new paradigm to address the timeless challenge of managing variability. Deming remarked, "If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I'd say it all had to do with reducing variation."

I would nominate the importance of "reducing variation" as opposed to "perfection is possible" as the significant turning point in the history of quality management.

The relationship between perfection, quality and variation provided at the following: http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/variation/overview/overview.html

For more information, I have authored a series of articles at FedSmith.com to raise awareness and reinforce the importance of reducing variation: http://www.fedsmith.com/article/authors/38.html
--Tim Clark, 12-06-2011


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