The World Economy and Quality
I recently returned from a trip around the world. The journey took me to India, where my wife and I spent a week working with the India Quality Foundation and the Institute for Quality Ltd. The foundation conducts quality management education seminars for several hundred schools and a dozen colleges.
I was very encouraged talking to high school students who understand quality issues as well as, or better than, most professionals I meet. The institute, a licensee of Philip Crosby Associates II Inc., has taught Quality College material to clients throughout India for four years and is growing steadily. Next year, participation in the program will triple.
From there, we continued on to Malaysia and Singapore, conducting seminars and meeting clients. All of this took place while the Southeast Asian economy was being severely tested. While there, I had the opportunity to speak with business leaders firsthand to gain a better understanding of what was happening.
Most of the leaders I talked with stressed the same thing U.S. top management is talking about: the ominous reality of overproduction worldwide -- too much stuff made for too small a market. Asian business leaders are thinking, "Cut back." Struggling for survival, they must focus on their own organizations, so their concerns revolve around their own inventory reports and input/output concepts. They are not, at the moment, in a position to consider a worldwide view.
A senior Indian official asked me what goals I would set for their government. I told him the answer could be summed up in one word: jobs. India needs to embrace foreign investment and partnerships in order to put its people to work. The country could create 20 million jobs by doing this, and those 20 million would create countless more.
The problem with business worldwide is not overcapacity but underemployment. The European job market is sluggish; millions of people stand idle in Asia. In the meantime, businesses and governments concentrate on meeting current demands, overlooking the fact that unemployed people would create demand if they could work. The United States creates 200,000 jobs a month -- decent jobs averaging $25,000 a year. Creating jobs helps the country continue to grow.
Recessions and depressions occur when organizations persist in curtailing growth and capacity, refusing to reach out to new opportunities. Africa abounds with natural resources and people capable of becoming skilled laborers. Put them together, and the results are consumer goods and services for potential customers. India's millions of employable people likewise could produce goods and services. China represents millions of potential customers more or less in the same neighborhood as Africa and India.
What does all this have to do with a column for a quality magazine Web site?
The world's economic situation represents a wonderful opportunity for quality professionals to be useful. If job creation for these underdeveloped areas is to succeed, the work must be done correctly or customers won't return. Quality concepts, introduced at the outset, can ensure that these new jobs will benefit the workers, their countries and the world economy. The newly employed must receive training that challenges old-fashioned ideas of inevitable errors, untrainable people and unmeasurable quality. These workers need education, not systems.
As quality professionals, we could become the economic generators of the 21st century, rather than simply those who keep careful accountings of nonconformances and other problems.
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.