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by Norman Bodek

"What is central to business is the joy of creating."
--Peter Robinson


On a warm August day in 1979, a dynamic shift took place in my life. For the previous 18 years, I'd been involved with computers and had almost no contact with factories and the issues of quality and productivity. For most of that period, I was converting telephone companies from manual systems to data processing in facilities as far-flung as Barbados, Grenada and Greenwich, Connecticut. It wasn't bad work at all.

But something drastic happened that summer when I picked up The New York Times and saw that U.S. productivity had declined for the first time in 33 quarters. Even though I didn't really understand what productivity meant, it sounded ominous and piqued my interest enough to send me to the library to research the term. Soon I was deeply hooked by the world of productivity and quality.

During the next 20 years I met almost every genius in the field.

The first great master I found in my studies was Philip B. Crosby. I was introduced to his work when I visited International Telephone and Telegraph, where Crosby served as quality guru. A short while later his book Quality Is Free was published. It wasn't the content of the book that initially ex-cited me, but the title. Up to that moment, the industrial world believed that if you wan-ted to improve the quality of your products, you needed greater investment and more inspections. Crosby was telling us the reverse. His book hinted at the secret behind Japan's manufacturing success: The greater the quality, the lower the cost to produce your products and services. As a consequence, you end up with happier and more loyal customers.

In 1979, Crosby founded Philip Crosby Associates Inc., with headquarters in Winter Park, Florida. Within 10 years it grew into a publicly traded corporation with 300 employees and $75 million dollars in revenue. Crosby eventually sold his company, then bought it back in 1997.

My goal in the 1980s was to meet and learn from every productivity and quality guru in the world. I invited these great people to come and speak at my "Productivity the American Way" conferences that were held every six months. At one of the first of these, in Washington, D.C., I invited Crosby to be one of the keynote speakers. Each conference featured 40 to 50 speakers, including industry leaders, consultants and authors. Miraculously, I only had to pay a speaking fee to the politicians. The legal limit at the time was $2,000 to get a leading political person to speak. Crosby's representative, however, insisted that I pay Crosby $7,000. I didn't want to do it, but I felt that his name would attract many attendees, so I relented. When I met Crosby a few years ago in Portland, Oregon, I told him this story. He laughed and said, "Norman, you didn't try hard enough. I would have spoken for free."

Crosby was noted for saying, "Doing things right the first time adds nothing to the cost of a product or service." He presented four absolutes of quality management, as follows:

Quality is defined as conformance to requirements, not as "goodness."

The system for causing quality is prevention, not appraisal.

The performance standard must be zero defects, not "that's close enough."

The measurement of quality is the price of nonconformance, not indexes.


Prior to Crosby and the Japanese quality movement, quality was the sole responsibility of the quality manager.

During the early 1980s, AVCO Corp. had a severe quality problem in its Connecticut plant, where it manufactured engines for the M1 tank. These tanks were breaking down in Germany during war games, giving AVCO a bad reputation in the U.S. Congress. In fact, a group of senators wanted to take away this sole-source contract from AVCO and give the job to another manufacturer, or at least have half the engines made somewhere else. This could have meant the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.

To solve the problem (and to show the U.S. Army it meant business), AVCO fired the quality manager. It's obvious, isn't it, that when something goes wrong it must be someone else's fault?

Once, en route to one of my study missions in Japan, I sat next to Don Ferrar, president of AVCO. During the flight he turned to me and asked, "Norman, why can't my people solve the quality problem?"

We spent the next two weeks visiting a number of Japanese manufacturing plants, and on the flight back I again sat next to Ferrar. After reviewing the highlights of the trip, he turned to me and said, "After these two weeks, I now realize that I'm responsible for quality in my company. I must lead the effort to get it done." It was an amazing revelation and was the beginning of a great transformation for AVCO.

Crosby was one of the first to recognize that quality is everyone's responsibility and must be led by the CEO.

Crosby's 14 steps to quality improvement are as follows:

1. Management commitment

2. Develop a quality improvement team

3. Quality measurement

4. Cost of quality evaluation

5. Quality awareness

6. Corrective action

7. Zero defects planning

8. Employee education

9. Zero defects day

10. Goal setting

11. Error-cause removal

12. Recognition

13. Quality councils

14. Do it over again


His management style checklist includes the following actions:












Notice from the above that Crosby recognized that zero defects must be the goal of all activities. It is attainable. We're indebted to the legacy given us by Crosby's work and dedication.

About the author
Norman Bodek is president of PCS Press and the author of The Idea Generator: Quick and Easy Kaizen, written with Bunji Tozawa (2001), Kaikaku: The Power and Magic of Lean (2004), winner of this year's Shingo Prize, and most recently, All You Gotta Do Is Ask, written with Chuck Yorke (2005), all published by PCS Press.