1998: Turmoil in Quality
In the financial world, those who want to invest their assets hire experts who advise them on the proper steps to take. The future is divined and a long-range plan laid out. The plan is based upon investment vehicles that will provide the desired return while being safe enough to ward off financial loss. The selected portfolio is prudently distributed so that an unexpected reversal in one area will not affect the investment's stronger parts.
Financial advisors whose programs don't live up to the promised expectations quickly find themselves in deep trouble with their clients. People don't like to be disappointed, particularly when they have been led to believe they can count on achieving certain results. They blame those who have advised them incorrectly and caused problems where none existed. Those who give bad advice or bring their client into a faulty system don't remain in business for long.
As we begin 1998, those companies whose quality professionals advised them to get into the ISO 9000 quality management system will be evaluated. The managers of many of those companies believe that becoming certified to ISO 9000 makes quality a certainty. But once the development of procedures and other documents is complete, the evaluation is accomplished and the ceremony is over, management begins looking for results, and it finds very few. People don't respond to a system they don't understand, so they watch management to see what it's doing differently. Meanwhile, quality experts are observing it all and continuing to issue notebooks and rework procedures.
Unfortunately, the quality effort often is assumed complete when the certification is accomplished and the hands are shaken. When the people receive this documentation and direction, so the thinking goes, a wave of knowledge will wash over the organization, and suddenly everything will begin to run efficiently. This has never happened in management, where there are systems for everything. In the past 50 years, quality professionals have gone through dozens of such systems with little effect.
Those who would improve must be given a policy, an example and, most of all, education. Everyone, from management to the customer, must learn what quality is all about.
I found this out years ago when Mil-Q-9858 was first handed to Defense Department suppliers. Only a few people understood what was required and who was supposed to do what. It wasn't until we began explaining exactly what was required of people at all levels that quality became part of the routine. Prevention began to be normal.
To educate people about quality, I developed the Quality Education System for the Quality College. This is a 10-session video-based education program that quality professionals facilitate for everyone in their organization. Each two-hour session can be adapted to a company's culture and business. The system doesn't cost much because we teach the teachers and supply the materials. QES has been used by hundreds of companies in 14 different languages, and it produces consistent results every time. When each individual in an organization shares a common understanding of quality and what his or her personal role is in making it happen, then positive results occur. ISO 9000 and similar systems contain useful information but by themselves can accomplish little.
Quality professionals who haven't provided this implementing education soon may be found wanting. But if they have conducted the proper education to go along with the documentation, then they will be recognized for having made a valuable contribution to the company. Customers will be happy with the product or service they receive, the price of nonconformance will be reduced dramatically, and the whole operation will be calmer.
Those who have brought this about will achieve respect and will be asked to participate in more management thought and strategy. Their personal assets will increase as a result of this valuable contribution, and they will need to seek out investment advice. We can be certain that they will expect this advice to be well thought out. They won't be interested in an advisor with a packaged plan written by people they don't even know.
About the author
Philip B. Crosby, a popular speaker and founder of Philip Crosby Associates -- now PCA II -- is also the author of several books, including Quality Is Still Free (McGraw-Hill, 1995) and The Absolutes of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1996). Visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com.