Future Shock: Are Quality Managers
Asleep at the Wheel?
Everyone knows how the railroads fought the trucking and airlines industries rather than becoming their allies. Had railroad owners realized that they were part of the transportation business, their empires would be in great shape today. The same can be said for admirals who ignored air power, telephone companies that insisted power lines were the only way, or colleges that want people to sit in classes rather than take advantage of the Internet. General Motors' leaders haven't given much thought to the "Beam me up, Scotty" mode of transportation, but it will happen one day, and then autos will be used only for carrying packages from the store. If history is any indication, many auto industry execs will be surprised.
Likewise, the quality management/assurance/control profession has not changed its business philosophy in the 45 years I know about. They have placed their trust and effort into one magic bullet after another with little success. From inspection to test to Mil-Q-144461 to Mil-Q-5923 to Mil-Q-9858 to quality circles to TQM to ISO 9000, the profession has waged war against those who employ them.
"Just install this system, and quality will not be a problem anymore." If any of these systems had achieved its desired effect, we would not need to seek others -- we'd still be using the first one. Quality isn't produced because of a system; it exists thanks to sound management policy and practice. Hopefully, such policies would be explained practices led by the quality professional.
All of these "systems" share the same terminal blocks: They don't require management direction, and they don't propose perfection. They give the impression that management can turn its job over to a set of procedures, and they permit what is considered a reasonable amount of nonconformances. For this reason, people don't take the systems seriously.
As I wander around the world chatting with different organizations and colleges, I find more and more that eyes are opening. People no longer ask me, "How can you expect zero defects from humans?" Rather, they ask how they can help people at all levels, including management, learn to work that way. This is progress. The only time I don't often hear that question is when I talk with quality professionals. And that is why I mention the future in this column.
As quality professionals, we are employed by organizations to help them succeed in their businesses. Our role is to create a culture within an organization that leads people to do things right the first time. This increases productivity and customer loyalty, a prosperous result for everyone.
We are not there to explain why quality initiatives are impractical or impossible. No one cares about that. This means that quality professionals must work harder, examine each detail of an organization and eradicate those details that contribute to nonconformances. They must concentrate on prevention, not procedures. A merit badge earned by fulfilling a system specification does not show up on the bottom line.
E-mail Philip Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com