Role of Quality and Teams in the 21st
all acutely aware that the world around us is changing
and that the pace of change is escalating. For some of
us, this reality is exciting; we can’t wait to move
into new territory. For others, we face the changing
world with some degree of trepidation. Regardless of how
we feel about change, we all realize that being
successful in the future requires some foresight and
About 10 years ago, Frank M. Gryna, noted author and
researcher, published a two-part article on “The
Quality Director of the ‘90s” (Quality
Progress, April and May, 1991). News for a Change
has asked Gryna to look back at his views in that
article and to share his perspectives on what actually
happened and where he thinks quality and teams are going
in the 21st century. We believe that Gryna’s
insights can help all of us prepare to embrace the
future—no matter what it holds for each of
NFC: In your article, you predicted that the
quality director of the future would likely have two
primary roles: administering the quality department and
assisting upper managers with strategic quality
management. Do you see these two roles continuing to be
the focus for 21st century quality directions?
Gryna: Yes, the primary roles of the quality
director will continue to be administering the quality
department and assisting upper managers with strategic
quality management (SQM).
also need to face a reality in small and medium-size
organizations—they don’t do formal strategic
quality management; thus, the quality director spends
most of the time on the technical activities of the
quality department. The elements of SQM definitely apply,
and the quality director should be steadfast and
introduce these elements on a timely basis.
NFC: One key role change that you mentioned
in 1991 involved transferring activities from the quality
department to line departments. You wrote, “In
recent decades, it has become clear that by far the best
way to implement quality methods is through line
organizations rather than through a staff quality
department. (Isn’t it a shame that it took us so
long to understand this point?)” Now that 10 years
have passed, how successful has this transition been? Do
you believe that most organizations now hold line
managers and operators accountable for quality? If
that’s the case, how have results been
Gryna: Yes, organizations do hold line
managers and operators accountable for
For those organizations that made the investment to
train the line in quality methods (and provide time and
technical support to implement the methods), the results
have been excellent.
Other organizations made little or no investment but
instead announced that quality has been integrated into
the line organization and used this as a reason for
reducing the size of the quality department. But,
“talk doesn’t cook rice.” In these
organizations, the results have been marginal, sometimes
NFC: Let’s take this one step further.
Has transitioning the day-to-day quality assurance
activities to line departments undermined the job
security of quality practitioners? If not, how do they
maintain their value to the organization when they have
transferred control to the line departments?
Gryna: Jobs in quality departments have been
lost. Poor consolation. Historically, in lean times,
staff departments feel the bite first.
Some thoughts for practioners to maintain value to
- Assist upper management on SQM
- Provide an independent evaluation of outgoing
product quality. If detailed inspection has been
transferred to line operators, history tells us that
upper management needs an independent
evaluation—and this can be done on a sampling
basis. Analogy: financial audit.
- 3. Provide independent audits of critical
quality-related activities conducted by the line. The
line must be sold on this—no “gotcha”
mentality by the auditors.
- Develop new quality methods for the line, but the
line must dictate priorities on its problems, and the
new methods must address these priorities. No
developing a pet technique and then going on a search
for a problem that needs that technique.
- Particularly for items “3” and
“4,” the quality department should take
responsibility for success of their activities. How?
Charge the line departments for conducting the
activities—just like a consultant. Yes, this is
risky, but it will make for a better quality
NFC: You also forecast that quality planning
would become a more important part of the quality
practitioner’s role. You noted that quality
planning would be focused not only on preventing defects
but also on understanding customer needs and translating
them into product and process specifications. As you look
at today’s workplace, do you see quality
practitioners working comfortably beside marketing,
market research, and sales personnel? Is quality truly
part of the “design team”? Or does the
age-old tension persist between “design” and
Gryna: I see quality practitioners working
comfortably beside marketing, market research, and sales
personnel. But a “design team” develops a new
or revised product. In service industries, this often
involves marketing and associated personnel.
Manufacturing industries have a separate development
function with dedicated design engineers who are fiercely
proud and protective of their designs. Quality
practitioners must prove to design engineers that quality
concepts can contribute to the effectiveness of the
design. Respect must be earned before quality people will
be truly accepted as part of the design team.
NFC: Your first article explored the use of
metrics, process capability, and quality control in
nonmanufacturing arenas. You described ways that the
service sector and software developers could use
measurement to improve customer satisfaction. What
progress have you seen since that time? Are facts, data,
and analysis being used as a primary means to improve
quality outside of manufacturing? Are they still being
used effectively in manufacturing?
Gryna: The service sector and software
developers both have made great progress in using
measurements—particularly to report status on final
But, there is the continuing need (in both service
and manufacturing) to provide line people with resources
to diagnose the causes of problems revealed by the
product quality measurements. This usually requires
additional measurements at a more detailed level.
Reporting poor performance is clearly not
NFC: You wrote, “One of the most
important roles for the quality director of the future is
to help upper management set up the structure for
improvement, including setting up the quality council,
forming project teams, and assisting with training and
facilitation.” You also wrote, “Experience
suggests that the easy part is teaching problem-solving
tools. The hard part is getting the members to work
effectively as a team. The quality department will likely
be called on to train project teams in team-building
skills and managing change. But for many quality
departments this will be a startling departure from their
traditional technical role.” So, what’s
really happened? What role do you see for quality
improvement teams in the future?
Gryna: Quality improvement teams will
continue to play a pivotal role in the future. Experience
has finally made us realize that it’s hard work to
get teams to be really effective. Now we know that team
membership should not be an “add on” to
regular work, we know that trained facilitators are
essential, and on and on.
Teams must compete with other important
quality-related activities, e.g., ISO 9000 certification
and recertification. But, don’t let ISO activities
crowd out the work of improvement teams and planning
teams. These teams get tangible results that spark an
NFC: In the second part of the article, you
commented, “The time has come for a colossal change
in the quality director’s role,” and you
suggested that “the quality director will have to
help develop goals and strategy and bring that strategy
to life throughout the company’s business
cycle.” Your focus was on “strategic quality
management.” In 1991, the Baldrige Award criteria
still had a category for “Strategic Quality
Planning.” Now that category is called
“Strategic Planning.” How do you view the
situation today compared to your previous perspective?
How should the quality practitioner participate in
organizationwide strategic planning efforts?
Gryna: The quality parameter is of sufficient
complexity to justify strategic planning just for
quality. Of course, companywide strategic planning for
all parameters is even more important. The building
blocks of strategic planning (for any or all parameters)
are great, and these should be applied to do strategic
quality planning. Strategic quality planning should be
developed and then integrated as a subset of strategic
Notice how the term “quality excellence”
is now sometimes replaced by performance excellence. The
implications are enormous. It will be fascinating to see
what’s at the end of that rainbow.
NFC: “A chief quality
officer—really?” That’s what you
predicted in 1991. Are we there? Should our readers
aspire to that role? Or where else would you recommend
they aim their efforts?
Gryna: The title CQO implies a broad-scope
role. Such a role has been achieved in some
organizations. But, the reality is that in many
organizations the role of the quality director is more
limited. A quality director must decide what role to
aspire to and then draw up a road map on how to achieve
“quality” becomes “performance,”
the scope will really be blown off the map.
NFC: And last, but certainly not least,
we’d like you to give some advice to our readers.
What three things should they start to learn or do
tomorrow to prepare for the future?
Gryna: The trio:
- Get full-time experience (at least a year) in a
line activity, such as product development or
operations. Live their lives and understand their
priorities. Trust me, it will change your perspective
on the role of the quality department.
- If you aspire to a broad role, including assisting
upper management on strategic planning, acquire the
knowledge on how this is done. If you really want to
have a broader role (even going beyond quality), get an
- Don’t dance the jig to any guru. Gather the
best ideas from all sources, and then create your own
FRANK GRYNA has more than 50 years’ experience
in the managerial, technological, and statistical aspects
of quality activities. He has been an active author on
quality, as associate editor of three editions of
Juran’s Quality Handbook, and author of the
textbook Quality Planning and Analysis.
Gryna has degrees in industrial engineering, and his
experience in quality has included university teaching,
industry, and consulting. He is Distinguished Professor
of Industrial Engineering Emeritus at Bradley University.
He also held positions as senior vice president of Juran
Institute, manager of reliability and quality assurance
at the Space Systems Division of Martin-Marietta, and
Distinguished University Professor of Management at the
University of Tampa.
July 2002 News for a