Six Sigma
Last Word


Phil's Journal
Philip Crosby



A few days ago I spoke to a gathering of students, faculty and local business leaders at a university. They asked a lot of interesting questions, and we had a good discussion. After the talk, many of us gathered for a luncheon in an adjoining room. At my table were the dean, the chair of the student American Society for Quality group and three businesspeople.

 The representative of a large aerospace company commented that he thought my remarks were very practical. However, he said he had a hard time with all the buzzwords used in management. He cited "lean manufacturing," "zero defects," and several more. I said that I thought he was painting with too broad of a brush and that a few phrases were actually policies rather than just buzz.

 He asked me to be specific.

 "OK," I said, "how about the word 'profit'? Is that a buzzword?"

 "Of course not," he replied. "Everyone knows that if there's no profit, there's no company."

 "How about 'on-time delivery'? Is that a buzzword?"

 "No, if we don't deliver on time, the customer will be particularly upset."

 "OK, then we have cost and schedule; that just leaves quality. Profit and on-time delivery are very specific. 'Quality' is vague and not specific. What words should we use to tell everyone what management wants?"

 "Our company uses 'commitment to excellence,' " he replied. "That seems to do the job."

 "But it doesn't mean anything unless you define 'excellence,' " I said. "And you know as well as I do that your company hardly ever delivers anything that doesn't have a pack of nonconformances along with it."

 "So what do you suggest? Zero defects?"

 "Yes," I said. "It's very specific. It means 'do it right the first time.' However, we can put all of these together and move them to 'policy' rather than just 'objectives.' "

 "How would you do that?"

 I took a piece of paper out of my pocket and wrote "ZD," "ZD" and "ZD." He waved to indicate that I should continue, and the rest of the people at the table gathered around. Here is what I wrote:

 Zero Deficit = profit as planned

 Zero Delinquency = on time delivery, as promised

 Zero Defects = conformance to requirements

 "All of this is very specific and understandable," I noted. "ZD3 covers the bases. They aren't buzzwords; they are backed up by managerial action and employee involvement. Everyone knows what's necessary."

 "I think you have something there," he said. "We'd like to talk to your organization about teaching that to our people."

 "Our ice cream is melting," I noted, "but we love to talk about ZD3."


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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