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Nicole Radziwill

Quality Insider

The Three A’s of Quality Consciousness

Without conscience, we lack the ability to act on our information in a meaningful and ethical way

Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2022 - 12:03

The 2022 theme for World Quality Week, an annual campaign presented by the U.K.’s Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) and International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA), was “Quality Conscience: Doing the Right Thing.” Working in quality often requires us to make tough calls and stand up for safety and integrity—even when it has a financial impact or when others disagree.

Collectively, we’re in an accelerated space of personal and collective transformation, one where our contributions to quality matter even more. Our work patterns and habits have shifted dramatically since 2020, world economies are being affected by conflicts and wars, and entire industries are being disrupted by layoffs and changes in ownership. Meanwhile, the climate is still changing, and extreme events are increasing in frequency and intensity. What can you do?

This year’s theme reminded me that there is a synergistic relationship between conscience and consciousness, and that to build a quality conscience, we must first cultivate the habits and practices of quality consciousness. “Consciousness” is the mind’s information-processing function that incorporates sensory input, reasoning ability, imagination, and emotion, and decides if and when to commit things to memory. Conscience is activated when the common good is prioritized over self-interest.1

Without consciousness, we’re uninformed; without conscience, we lack the ability to act on our information in a meaningful and ethical way. Just as without courage, we might choose not to act.

I first started thinking about quality consciousness about 20 years ago while reflecting on an older definition of quality. According to ISO 8402:1994, quality is the “totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” But what if that entity is you? What are the totality of characteristics of you that bear upon your ability to satisfy the stated and implied needs of your stakeholders? Because quality addresses the intersection of people, processes, technology, and data, I wondered how developing greater self-awareness could translate to improving quality and performance across each of those dimensions.

From what I can find, the term quality consciousness was first used in a 1947 keynote by C. R. Sheaffer to the first convention of the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), the predecessor to ASQ. To answer the question, “What does top management expect from quality control [people and organizations]?” he notes that a change in quality consciousness is expected. Attitudes must shift from pursuing and accepting “good enough” quality to the constant pursuit of making outcomes better. People must be able to take pride in high-quality work.2

You can develop a consciousness around quality that will help you do the right thing by focusing on these three things:

Awareness. Traditional quality tools like benchmarking and value stream mapping (VSM) help us build awareness around products, processes, customers, and techniques. But how can we become more aware of our own purpose and motivations? How can we become aware of what motivates someone else to achieve their purpose? Awareness is the key to unlocking inspiration to power collaboration and relationships.
Alignment. Identifying and pursuing a shared purpose are focal outcomes in quality management. Approaches like supplier qualification seek to achieve alignment between the expectations one party has for delivery, and another for acceptance. In any effort, more progress is made when contributors avoid working at cross purposes. For each project or initiative you participate in, ask yourself: Do I feel this? Do I believe in it? Does it trigger my confidence or my fear? True alignment leads to vigor and enthusiasm.
Attention. Your most valuable—and scarce—resource is your attention, and you’re mostly in control of where you focus that attention. Time management techniques, quality circles, kaizen events, retreats, and off-site functions are all designed to help people focus their attention. Enhancing positive emotions can also help you better focus your attention, and even recognize more opportunities.3 Similarly, limiting access to social media even temporarily can improve mood and attention.

Each of these three elements is related to one another. You’ll need to direct your attention to get and maintain awareness of anything; you need to be self-aware and aware of external influences to achieve alignment with your organization’s goals. You need to be aligned with the goals of your organization and the unique perspectives of your co-workers, and choose to focus your attention on achieving those goals. This can lead to enhanced engagement in your work.

“Creating a philosophy of quality is not easy. It takes thought, creativity, self-knowledge, and, most of all, spirit. Although [this] may seem strange... each of us holds the desire to create and express our best... lack of experience can easily be replaced with spirit and commitment to a higher ideal.”4
—R. J. Holder

How are you advancing your quality consciousness and strengthening your conscience as a practitioner? This year’s World Quality Week asked you to reflect, build self-awareness, and find ways to become a leader with purpose in this time of global need.

1. Vithoulkas, G.; Muresanu, D. F. “Conscience and Consciousness: a definition.” Journal of Medicine and Life, pp. 104–108. March 15, 2014.
2. Borawski, P. “The State of Quality: 1947 and 2006.” The Journal for Quality and Participation (JQP). Vol. 29, issue 4, pp. 19–24. Winter 2006.
3. Fredrickson, B. L.; Branigan, C. “Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought‐action repertoires.” Cognition and Emotion, vol. 19, issue 3, pp. 313–332. 2005.
4. Holder, R. J. “Creating a Quality lifestyle.” The Journal for Quality and Participation (JQP), vol. 16, issue 2, p. 16. 1993.

This article is based on a seminar presented to ASQ Lynchburg Section 1120 in June 2011, titled “What Is Quality Consciousness?” 


About The Author

Nicole Radziwill’s picture

Nicole Radziwill

Nicole Radziwill is senior VP and chief data scientist at Ultranauts, and an internationally recognized expert in digital transformation and next generation quality. Formerly VP of the Global Quality and Supply Chain Practice at Intelex Technologies in Toronto, and a tenured associate professor of Data Science and Production Systems, she is an elected academician with the International Academy of Quality (IAQ), a Fellow of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and a past chair of the ASQ Software Division. She has a Ph.D. in Quality Systems and is the author of data science and statistics textbooks used in more than 30 universities, as well as “Connected, Intelligent, Automated: The Definitive Guide to Digital Transformation and Quality 4.0,” from Quality Press (2020).


Quality Consicousness


Fantastic awakening !  Congratulations to the author in bringing out suttleties of consciousness and conscience in relation to Quality.  Ultimately everything boils down to both the suttle elements without which our work will be meaningless.

Would like to thank CQI for framing the tagline for Quality month "Quality Conscience : Doing the right thing".


Sriram (Head Quality, Ace Designers Ltd., Bangalore, India)