Where Does ISO Fit In?
I had the pleasure of speaking at Yale's business school recently, where students learn about quality management and other subjects useful in making a living. They asked me to spell out the difference between quality control, quality assurance and quality management and also asked where ISO 9000 fit into this group of definitions. While I was thinking about my answers, one of the students asked that I use an analogy to make it clear to them. I suggested they think of an organization as an automobile, with drivers as management. Quality control would be the car's measurement features, the dials on the dashboard tell how much fuel they have, how fast they are going and the oil pressure or engine temperature status. Upscale autos have computer packages that offer drivers all kinds of data, including trip, range and miles per gallon. They can use this data to see if everything is operating well and if they are going in the right direction.
Quality assurance is the car's owners manual. It describes all the vehicle's components, discusses maintenance, gives direction on how to turn the lights on and has many useful procedures for keeping the car running well. Similarly, ISO 9000 does this for an organization.
Quality management is the vehicle's operating philosophy. Driving style relates to an organization's operating procedures. If a driver chooses to meet telephone poles or icebergs straight on, that has nothing to do with quality control or quality assurance. Both serve only as information; they do not operate the vehicle.
A philosophy for managing a company, or driving a car, comes from education and experience. We learn to place our machine where it cannot be harmed, to drive defensively, and manage the financial aspects of ownership and the techniques of getting from one spot to another. Some drivers are reckless, some conservative. Either type could drive similar cars, which would have identical manuals and measurement readouts. Success or failure come from the management philosophy, not from procedures and indicators.
The same holds true in an organization's--or an individual's--management. Owning a Bible doesn't make someone religious; possessing encyclopedias doesn't prove intelligence. We have to deal with reality. The only time people get the manual out of the trunk is to obtain specific information or settle an argument.
A pragmatic management philosophy can be developed by individuals in charge, or it can be taught to them. But, philosophy is active. Manuals are passive.
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.