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Philip Crosby

Handling Other Viewpoints

The whole concept of science is that those involved should be curious and have the freedom to satisfy that curiosity. Once they have developed a theory or practice it should be received with respect and then subjected to unbiased proofing. There should be no "unacceptable--not invented here" thoughts, or thinking that's locked in the past. We need to put learning first.

 Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of all, not only produced unique inventions but also developed direct current (DC) to run his machines. Then a man named Nikola Tesla came along and developed alternating current (AC). This system was easier to produce, control and deliver; DC couldn't even come close. Yet Edison, maintaining that nothing could be better than what he had created, not only refused to use AC but campaigned against its use. All this delayed the inevitable--the widespread acceptance of AC--for some time.

 When I put forth the idea of doing work right the first time zero defects back in 1961, the established authorities pounced on it, calling it an impractical, highly expensive joke. Yet not a single one of them asked me for my evidence or even did experiments or analysis themselves. They just rejected and perhaps delayed the use of an idea that has proven to increase productivity and profit worldwide.

 When ISO 9000 came out, it was immediately accepted without any proof as a wonderful asset to companies. Even today, those who promote and support it have little evidence that it changes the way an organization works. To its credit, ISO keeps working on its standards to find a way to make them useful. The latest version includes requirements for education, which should have been there all along. We will see if that makes much difference. The Quality College is offering courses to that effect worldwide.

 In these courses, managers will learn a philosophy that lets ISO 9000:2000 be useful. It will also help the companies be recertified. By treating this philosophy with respect and then letting it be tested for real results, we will be making judgments based on science rather than on emotion.

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 and Me: Lessons from an Evolving Life (Jossey-Bass, 1999). Visit his Web site at

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