Six Sigma
Last Word


Phil's Journal
Philip Crosby

What Goes Around…

There are two kinds of people when it comes to doing something about quality. (Robert Benchley used to say, "There are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people and the other kind.")

 The kinds I'm thinking of are those who want to examine and correct something while it's in-process or has completed the process, and those who want to make certain that the process will be conducted correctly before it all begins.

 We can all agree that the second approach makes the most sense and is a lot less expensive. After all, we check road maps before setting out a trips rather than just reading signs as we hurl along the wrong roads. We vaccinate ourselves to prevent disease, and we cook meat prior to eating it. This is just sensible behavior, and most folks tend to think that way.

 But every few years, the urge to appraise and correct overcomes us, and the next thing we know, the emphasis is on body count. Finding problems and fixing them becomes the way to career success; never mind that the price of nonconformance rises or schedules become harder to meet. "Find and fix" is the battle cry. Special training for individuals and teams produces experts who can grab a problem by the throat and kill it. It's fun and exciting; every management meeting can have a session where the body bags are opened and examined. It also makes the CEO feel that something is going on, at last. Most of them have never been near where the work is actually done, so they have no way of knowing.

 But how about all of the other people in the organization? How do they feel about this "911" style of management? Are they supposed to stop identifying and resolving problems they encounter in the course of their work? What does this do for morale? I'll tell you what it does; it makes people think they're not trusted to understand their own situations. This is driven home harder when the experts spend their time interviewing those who are living through the problem.

 Everyone in the organization can learn basic problem identification and resolution. Then they can look at each problem as a chance to improve the process and prevent similar bumps in the future.

 Correction is only for today. Prevention lasts a lot longer.


About the author

 Philip B. Crosby, a popular speaker and the founder of Philip Crosby Associates--now PCA II--is also the author of several books, including Quality and Me: Lessons from an Evolving Life (Jossey-Bass, 1999). To order a number of products, visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com  or call (800) 223-3932. .

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