Quality Leaders
 ISO 14000
 CQA Exam
 Effortless QS-9000
 News Digest
 Quality Mgmt.
 One Minute Mgr.
 Quality Standards
 Gage Guide
 SPC Toolkit
 Book Reviews
 April 1997 Issue

Quality Leaders Predict the Future

by Marion Harmon

As we enter the 21st century, many quality professionals have serious questions about what the future will hold. Who will lead the next quality revolution? How will ISO 9000 affect the quality profession? What will affect quality the most in the next millennium? Seven quality leaders offer their predictions on the shape of things to come.

This article is not about gurus. We've learned our lesson. After we ran our March 1995 cover story, "The New Gurus: The Next Leaders of the Quality Revolution," we vowed never again to call anyone a quality guru.

Instead, this article is a careful selection of opinions on the future of quality by a select few leaders from different segments of the quality field. Even though we are making no claims about their stature as "quality gurus," all seven of the people profiled in this article are widely known in the quality field.

We also can't make any claims as to the accuracy of their predictions. However, because they have created or will create processes and systems we will use for years to come, they can at least make intelligent predictions.

Of course, we couldn't do an in-depth profile of each of the seven people interviewed for this article. We will try to profile each of them in future issues. However, their answers to a few basic questions can give you some sense of their outlook.

We asked each person four questions:

1. As we approach the 21st century, what will be the upcoming trends in quality? Our leaders seem to be fairly consistent in their prediction that the revolutionary phase of quality (1980s to early 1990s) is over. The principles learned during the quality revolution will become a part of the way work is done in the future. Some predict fewer "quality" jobs and more sharing of responsibility for quality throughout the organization.

2. Who will lead the next quality revolution? Our quality leaders unanimously declined to name individuals as leaders of the next quality revolution. Instead they focused on organizations such as NIST, ISO Technical Committee 176, the Automotive Industry Action Group, etc. To quote H. James Harrington, "The biggest impact on the quality process will not be a who, but a what."

3. How do you feel about the increased emphasis on standards such as ISO 9000? This was, perhaps, our most controversial question. Even the most politically savvy leader has to choose a side on this issue. Most of the leaders quoted in this article are disdainful of ISO 9000, although most admit that it forms a good foundation upon which to build a quality system.

4. What will have the greatest impact on the quality field in the near future?  This question produced the most diverse answers. Perhaps Peter R. Scholtes summed it up best when he said, "Whatever and whoever can reawaken thoughtfulness in American executives and managers."

Answers to our questions ranged from a few sentences to a few pages. We selected answers on how interesting we thought they would be to Quality Digest readers.

And, before you send your letters, we know that we didn't include every quality leader. We simply couldn't. In addition, a number of people declined our invitation. Our apologies in advance if your favorite quality leader wasn't included.

Our thanks to Philip B. Crosby, H. James Harrington, Deborah Hopen, Harry S. Hertz, Robert W. Peach, Thomas Pyzdek and Peter R. Scholtes for participating in this article. It was a brave and probably unrewarding gesture. "The subject of commenting on the future is not very rewarding because hardly anyone takes someone else's viewpoint to heart by actually doing something different," remarks Crosby.

If you would like to respond to any of the predictions made or make some of your own, e-mail your comments to predictions@qualitydigest.com. We'll make sure your comments get to the leader or leaders of your choice.


"Quality Is Free" Leader



Career IV

Philip B. Crosby sees quality as two separate areas: quality management and quality control. He believes that management will lead us into the 21st century, not quality practitioners.

He doesn't mince words when he describes his view of the quality revolution. "The [quality] revolution ended in 1985 when companies were convinced that it was easier and cheaper to learn how to do their jobs right the first time," he says.

He has little tolerance for ISO 9000. "The ISO 9000 emphasis is exactly what happened with Mil Q 9858 back in the 1960s," he says. "It is a delusion that sound management can be replaced by an information format. It is like putting a Bible in every hotel room with the thought that the occupants will act according to its content."

Crosby offers a warning for ISO 9000 advocates. He cautions that as management realizes that all this furor does not improve processes, products, services or customer opinion, they will turn against those who propose it. "No management team would ever consider an ISO-type format for financial management, so it is hard for them to take it seriously for quality," he warns.

As for what will affect the quality field the most, Crosby believes that software and the Internet will have the greatest impact. He sees software that will do all the things quality professionals talk about, such as measurement and reporting done in real time and shared across the organization.

The education implications of the Internet also pique Crosby's interest. "I see universities with millions of students taking courses in quality management and discovering that it is part of their personal philosophy, not a series of activities and procedures," he predicts.


Baldrige Award Leader


Director of the Office of Quality Programs


Harry S. Hertz foresees a movement away from quality as a discipline and toward quality as a way of doing business. "Quality will be embedded within all business processes and will be everyone's job, not just the job of a quality manager or quality department," he observes. "Quality will be viewed from a systems' perspective, with tight linkages between strategic direction, identification of key processes, process management and a focus on results."

Hertz believes the next quality revolution will be led by leaders from organizations thriving in the global marketplace. "Those who succeed will be those who shift from a focus on being quality-driven to a focus on being strategy-driven, with a significant emphasis not only on today's customers but tomorrow's customers, and, equally importantly, tomorrow's markets," he says.

Hertz views the increased emphasis on ISO 9000 as an indication that many organizations have not even achieved conformance quality. "They are still dealing with issues of compliance with specifications and corrective actions, and not the prevention-based, proactive quality systems of the 1980s and 1990s," he observes. "As an increasing number of companies are registered to the ISO 9001 and 9002 standards, this registration will be seen as a cost of doing business and not as a sign of quality. The value of registration as an indicator of quality will diminish; growing emphasis will be placed on true differentiators of quality businesses and providers of quality products and services."


Quality Standards Leader



Robert Peach and Associates

Robert W. Peach sees the incorporation of good quality management practice as part of other tasks as a continuing trend in quality. "Professionals in related fields, such as production, design and purchasing, will increasingly follow good quality practice as a normal procedure in their professional work," he predicts.

Like Hertz, Peach foresees broader and wider applications of quality management tools, but fewer definable quality positions in industry. Those that are left will be primarily in technical areas such as calibration, metrology and statistical sampling.

One of the developers of ISO 9000, Peach emphasizes that quality system standards should be addressed as foundational, not as the ultimate in total quality management practice. Where that distinction is understood, application of good quality system practice will be beneficial, he adds.

Peach claims that we have passed the era of gurus, so we shouldn't expect others to take the place of figures such as Deming, Juran and Ishikawa. While he refrains from predicting where leadership will come from in the future, he observes that in recent years, there has been more impact from organizations, such as the NIST Quality Award Office, the Automotive Industry Action Group and ISO Technical Committee 176.


Radical Leader


President and CEO

Quality Publishing

Thomas Pyzdek believes that, in order to survive and thrive in the 21st century, the quality profession must be prepared to accept "radically new guiding principles." He suggests that traditional methods of quality management may be harmful to smaller and younger organizations, and to those organizations trying to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing business environment. "In particular, I believe the profession should drop its emphasis on control through procedures and top-down management, and its one-size-fits-all approach to quality," he remarks.

What guiding principle does Pyzdek recommend for the next century? Freedom. "Abandon management as we know it," he says. "Management doesn't work anyway. As Nucor's CEO Ken Iverson says, ╬You can't manage a free mind.' "

Pyzdek doesn't believe that we've undergone a quality revolution. "ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 look a lot like the QA movement of the late 1940s," he observes. "And what's new in the area of quality engineering? Our statistical methods look pretty much the same as they did in the days of Shewhart and Fisher. Even Taguchi's methods are now nearly 50 years old. At best, the ╬revolution' was an attempt in the 1980s and 1990s to apply lessons that were known in 1950. One could even argue that we have failed to learn from our mistakes.

     "A true quality revolution would be to develop systems that allow people to create quality on their own. An approach that brings the vast service sector into the fold. An approach that business of all sizes enthusiastically embrace. I believe that only a system based on freedom and autonomy, rather than regulation and control, can succeed in appealing to such diverse groups."

      Pyzdek also suggests that it may be a mistake to look for a leader for the quality revolution. "It may be best," he says, "to simply develop the guiding principles of the organization, then get out of the way and let the stakeholders pursue the mission. A good example of such an approach is America. America isn't great because it has had great leaders; it's great because its constitutional form of limited government guarantees the rights of its citizens. Otherwise, it leaves them alone."

The increased emphasis on standards such as ISO 9000 strikes Pyzdek as unfortunate. "We must move beyond ╬standard' quality, which offers no competitive advantage," he says. "Standard quality was appropriate, even a major accomplishment, in the early stages of the industrial revolution, when firms were moving from individually crafted products to mass production. But today there is a need to move beyond that. Quality in services, more customized products, small businesses and many other situations all cry out for a new model of quality."


ASQC Leader


Chairwoman of the Board

American Society for Quality Control

When asked who would lead the next quality revolution, Deborah Hopen found inspiration from a truly odd couple: telecommunications mogul Ted Turner and Russian leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. She notes: "Turner expressed his vision of leadership in the now-famous sign on his desk that reads, ╬Lead, follow, or get out of the way!' Lenin said he didn't start the revolutionit had already begun. He claimed he just realized what was going on before anyone else did and then simply stepped out in front of the parade."

Hopen thinks we may be surprised by  who the next quality leaders will be: "The people in the best position to lead are those who will have not only a strong grasp of the quality fundamentals and quality theory, but who also possess clarity of vision to sense developing trends and the ability to use information technology to bridge the gap between disciplines that have much to learn from each other."

Hopen characterizes the new leaders as being both visionaries and integrators who may come from the unlikeliest of places. The urgent task for the current generation of quality leaders is to provide the new leaders with an environment in which they can thrive.

Hopen welcomes the increased emphasis on quality standards, but cautions us not to forget that these standards are a stepping stone. She sees them as a beginning point, not the end of the process. "Your challenge as an owner or manager of a business is to find ways in which you can exceed standards and thereby carve out for yourself a unique niche, a special advantage," remarks Hopen. "Standards will tell you -- and everyone else -- what are the fundamentals for getting into the game. You still have to figure out your own way to win the game."

Three factors stand out as affecting the future of quality, says Hopen. They are: technology, empowerment and the changing work force. She particularly singles out information technology as being a powerful force: "In addition to empowering and driving fundamental organizational change, the information revolution empowers individuals within the organizational setting. It is well-accepted that information is the key to empowerment, and withholding it disempowers. The exciting change we see happening now is the ease with which information is being distributed, particularly into the hands of those who can use it to improve customer satisfaction."

Hopen believes that the changing work force will affect us in several ways: through the rise of the contingent worker, evolving relationships between workers and companies, and the need to rethink our approach to our own professional development. "We'll expand our horizons by managing an increasingly diverse portfolio of projects that demonstrate a wide range of thinking and application abilities," she explains. "The need for life-long learning will be more critical than ever. And the need for good mentors who can guide us through this process will be greater than ever. Who knows -- the person you mentor today might turn out to be one of tomorrow's quality leaders."


Evolutionary Leader



Ernst & Young

H. James Harrington foresees a trend that will lead to a greater emphasis on teamwork and, eventually, to self-managed individuals. In our information-based society, an organization's success and customer satisfaction will rely on individual excellence, he explains. In effect, quality assurance organizations will disappear, only to be replaced by systems assurance organizations.

Harrington also believes that we have had our last quality revolution. "The future will be more evolutionary than revolutionary," he states. "The biggest impact on the quality process will not be a who, but a what."

On the question of ISO 9000, Harrington says, "As good as the ISO 9000 concepts are, to date, management has not seen an acceptable return-on-investment. Although the vice president of quality loves ISO 9000, top management looks at it as needless bureaucracy that doesn't provide a positive impact upon the organization's performance.

"In truth, the ISO 9000 standards have resulted in the formation of a whole new, no-value-added industry of auditors and consultants. The basic ISO 9000 concept is good, but the implementation approach that we have used is one that is self-serving to the quality professional. Instead of making quality part of everybody's job, we are setting up many independent organizations that live to audit other organizations' quality systems. The result has been a separation of the quality system from the management system, as demonstrated by the many separate quality manuals that are now being prepared.

"This was not the intent of the basic quality concept. We will make a major step forward when we take the position that the quality management system should be imbedded into the total management system, not a standalone quality manual and set of procedures."

Two major concepts that Harrington points out as having the potential to bring about major improvements in the way organizations approach quality are: best practices giving way to best-value solutions, and the realization that all stakeholders are key to the organization's future.

"Once the quality professional accepts the concept that the quality system should provide value-added content to all of the stakeholders (customer, supplier, management, investors, employees, community and employees' family) and meet their requirements, the quality system will take on new dimensions," predicts Harrington. "External customer requirements and investor requirements or employee requirements are often in direct conflict. It is often impossible to satisfy these conflicting requirements without bending some of the quality principles that the quality professional holds so dear. Considering all of the stakeholders' requirements is going to have a major impact upon the way quality systems are changed."


A Thoughtful, Literate Leader



Scholtes Seminars & Consulting

Peter R. Scholtes sees us living in an age of "managerial pathology." He sees Albert "Chainsaw" Dunlap as contemporary management's poster child, with Dilbert as the lone dissenting voice -- the "prophet of our time." "We are in the midst of a fast-spreading virus called ╬downsizing' in which management has proclaimed to the work force ╬we will not be loyal to you' and, by implication, workers must reciprocate," explains Scholtes. "To paraphrase a cold war cliché, we have achieved ╬mutually assured disloyalty.' "

He sees quality as stuck in a "holding pattern." "The fad phase of quality (about 1985 to 1992) is over," he notes. "The fad people moved on to other fads such as reeningeering and ISO 9000. The quality movement is sustained by a smaller but slowly growing core group of people who maintain the undiluted principles developed by the ╬giants' -- Deming, Juran, Ishikawa."

While Scholtes argues that we need business leaders to manage the quality revolution, people like Robert Galvin of Motorola or Donald Petersen of Ford, he sees the most exciting progress in quality being made in nonbusiness areas. "I expect the leadership of the next quality revolution to come from such cities as Tacoma, Washington; Greenwood, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; and other local hotbeds of quality," he predicts. "Leadership will also come from such national organizations as the Deming Institute, the Association for Quality and Participation and the American Society for Quality Control."

Don't look for ISO 9000 to lead us into the 21st century; Scholtes believes that ISO 9000 represents a lot of what is wrong with today's business management. "ISO [9000] is a simplistic approach to an important and complex need," he says. "ISO [9000] seeks to use external motivation -- carrots and sticks -- to get organizations to comply to its definition of a ╬good job.' "

Scholtes doesn't have a treasure map to guide us into the 21st century. His choice for what will have the greatest impact on quality isn't even directly related to quality: the return of the thoughtful, literate leader. "To be a leader of improvement requires thoughtful, reflective study," he explains. "To be a manager of change (e.g., downsizing) may require chutzpah, but needs no profound knowledge.

"What will be the greatest impact on the quality field in the near future? Whatever and whoever can reawaken thoughtfulness in American executives and managers."

back to top

Picture Picture


[Current Issue]

[ISO 9000]

[Daily News]

[Past Issues]

[Quality Links]

[About Us]

[Media Kit]

[To Subscribe]


Copyright 1997 QCI International. All rights reserved. Quality Digest can be reached by phone at (916) 893-4095.


e-mail Quality Digest


Please contact our Webmaster with questions or comments.