5 Ways to Assure to the Success of a Quality Improvement Process


Assuring the success of a Quality Improvement process

Mr. Philip Crosby did a lot of work with various companies and he came up with the following 5 points from his experience. While my experience is not as world-renowned as his, it has demonstrated the accuracy of these points.

Make Sure  Management’s Commitment to Quality Improvement is Genuine and Evident

 This is the #1 reason a quality improvement process fails. If management is saying the words but does not mean them, employees will know and will only give a cursor level of investment in the quality improvement process. If a middle manager is trying to do this knowing their management is not on board, they will have very limited, short-term success.

Keep the Quality Improvement Process Serious, but Fun

This is people’s livelihoods on the line. Do this wrong and jobs are going away, most likely yours will be one of the first to go. Select serious issues but be willing to let team members be spontaneous and open. Sometimes the only way to create that spark in a quality improvement process is with a little humor.

Make Sure Everything in the Quality Improvement Process is Positive and Handled with Respect.

The team must be equal. This means no one person’s opinion is more valued than the other team members and no one’s opinion is less valuable than the other team members. There is a reason people are on the quality improvement process team. Have a non-judgmental way to capture ideas and evaluate them.

Make Sure All Managers Are Involved in the Quality Improvement Process,

Understand the Concepts and Steps of the Quality Improvement Process, and Are Able to Effectively Communicate Them with Subordinates.

Hold a discussion with the managers about the quality improvement process. Encourage them to speak about their concerns and then address those concerns. It takes only one manager saying all the right things but quietly placing roadblocks to the process to bring the quality improvement process to a grinding halt. Watch for the team member that has not had the time to complete an assignment and consider what action needs to be taken with their manager. That should include identifying a non-supportive manager and turning that problem over to the next level up.

Adapt the Quality Improvement Process to the Company and/or Location’s Personality

This is a process and depending on the company culture it can take many forms. If everyone has a 4 year degree and works in a paperless system, the process will be much different than for a company where the majority of employees cannot read or write in any language and communications is through pictures and colored tags. One is not better than the other. The quality Improvement process must fit the culture.

14 Steps to Establish Process Improvement

This article is presented as part of an overview of the quality guru’s of the 1980’s. The 14 steps were develop by Mr. Philip Crosby and presented by Philip Crosby Associates. Reading “Quality Is Free”, “Quality Without Tears”, and “Quality Without Pain” are helpful in understanding how Mr. Crosby developed his philosophy and encouraged others to use it. For more information about Philip Crosby Associates, go to http://www.philipcrosby.com/pca/index.html.

Quality Councils guide the quality Improvement Process

Step 1 of the 14 Steps – Management Commitment for Process Improvement

Management must make clear where it stands on quality. Without top management commitment the process is doomed to failure (see “Four Ways a Quality Improvement Process Can Fail” and “Five Ways to Assure the Success of a Quality Improvement Process”).Top management must communicate it has a zero defect strategy if it wants a quality improvment process. The primary action to accomplish this is to write and communicate a Quality Policy. In ISO 9001 all documentation comes from the philosophy in the quality policy. This is the reason why that is so important.

Step 2 of the 14 Steps – Quality Improvement Team to Create Process Improvement

A framework is needed to coordinate the quality improvement process which is driven by the quality improvement team. This is the vehicle to remove roadblocks to progress and provides a formal communications medium to ensure the quality improvement efforts are coordinated throughout the company. Each department should have a representative on the team and a charter is needed. The team members take responsibility for one or more of the 14 steps. This team is not the problem solving team but manages the various activities associated with quality improvement throughout the company.

Step 3 of the 14 Steps – Measurement of Process Improvement

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Measurement is the determination of the result. Teams measure the difference their changes have made. Measurement is done in simple terms of things (part XYZ) or events (shutdowns or recalls) and compared to past performance to see if it is a process improvement, no change or a deterioration.

Step 4 of the 14 Steps – Cost of Quality and Process Improvement

The Cost of Quality takes “things” and “events” and converts them to a common language – money. The group charged with making the change does not monetize their efforts this is done at a central level providing for consistency of costing. (see “The Cost of Quality”) Speaking in terms of money allows managment to justify the costs to create process improvement.

Step 5 of the 14 Steps – Quality Awareness as it Relates to Process Improvement

The purpose of Quality Awareness is to raise the personal concern felt by all employees toward the conformance of the product or service and the quality reputation of the company.[1] As Dr. Deming also said in his 14 points, we are all dependent on each other. Process improvment can not occur unless the entire team agrees it is needed.

Step 6 of the 14 Steps – Corrective Action for Process Improvement

Corrective Action Systems respond to 3 sets of rules – Input rules, Administrative rules, and output rules. Corrective action looks for systematic rather than anecdotal solutions. The process should have steps and be formalized throughout a company. They should be designed to eliminate compromising on conformance to requirements. Implement “Do It Right the First Time” to create process improvement.

Step 7 and 9 of 14 Steps – Zero Defects Planning and Zero Defects Day impact on Process Improvement

Zero Defects day is designed to be an event to create a personal experience for all employees so they know a permanent change, a process improvement, has been made. Management is committed and this is a process not a project. It will not go away.

Step 8 of 14 Steps – Employee Education Creates Process Improvement

All employees must understand the Absolutes of Quality so they can competently carry out their role in the quality improvement process. This means an education plan as well as reference documentation such as procedures and work instructions. Treat Suppliers as if they were employees when it comes to education.

Step 10 of 14 Steps – Goal Setting for Process Improvement

Total quality is achieved incrementally over time but in order to keep focused on process improvement it is important to establish realistic goals. Employees must participate in the goal setting and have a say in what can be accomplished in a defined timeframe.

Step 11 of 14 Steps – Error Cause Removal in Process Improvement

Employees have to be able to communicate roadblocks to accomplishing quality improvement process. Communication must flow in both directions; management must make expectations clear and employees must define issues and concerns that they believe will prevent them from being successful. The process to do so should be simple and formal with procedures  and assigned responsibilities to address employee concerns.

Step 12 of 14 Steps – Recognition of Process Improvement Efforts

Everyone needs to know their hard work was recognized. A quality improvement process must include a formal program to recognize both individuals and groups for their actions which create quality improvement.

Step 13 of 14 Steps – Quality Councils for Process Improvement

The purpose of this step is to bring together the appropriate people to share information that may benefit other areas of the company. In a large company with multiple divisions it could be a periodic meeting of the quality managers. They must also audit the quality improvement process for effectiveness and be will to go to management if the system is not functioning as planned.

Step 14 of 14 Steps – Do It All Over Again for Continuous Process Improvement

A quality improvement process never ends. It must be a permanent management responsibility. The focus must be to always satisfy the customer. At this time the Quality Improvement team changes although at least one member of the old team must stay on to provide information and continuity in the quality improvment process.



[1] “Quality Improvement Process Management College Manual” @1987 pg 4-6-1 “Purpose”

Do It Right The First Time – DIRTFT

DITRTFT or “Dirt foot” generally brought giggles but it served the purpose of grabbing people’s attention. The anachronism stood for “Do It Right the First Time”. The statement seems almost ludicrous in today’s business environment, but is it?

DIRTFT means Do It Right the First Time where "It" is the customer requirements.

What is the “It” in Do It Right the First Time?

“It” quite simply is the customer requirements. However, simple is not so simple. The customer requirements must be clearly defined and communicated. This is done with drawings and specifications but also must be considered when developing procedures and training programs, performing Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, and reviewing process capabilities.

At one plant where I worked, the customers were getting consistently non-conforming material. They were furious and they had a right to be. The problem had been going on for more than a year. The problem was not that the employees were making non-conforming product, or the tooling had not been maintained of the process capabilities were poor. The problem came when a dimension was transferred from a customer drawing to a working drawing and was reversed. As soon as we corrected the drawings, modified the tooling to manufacture to the drawings and gave the information to the operator to check the product, we went from 100% non-conformance to 100% conformance to requirements. Not following Do It Right the First Time can be caused anywhere in the process, not just at the operator level.

The Attitude of Do It Right the First Time

Have you ever had an employee say something along the lines of “Hey, I just do what I’m told and keep my head down and my mouth shut.” Do It Right the First Time does not even enter this picture. Creating an atmosphere where employees feel free to speak up when they see a problem or have a question is the first step in creating an atmosphere that supports “Do It Right the First Time.” In today’s economy with high unemployment, management must work overtime to make sure the negative attitude does not invade their facility. What are you doing to make sure your company employees have an attitude to “Do It Right the First Time”?

Four Ways a Quality Improvement Process Can Fail


Is your Quality Improvement Process destined for success or failure?

While reading through the binder I received in 1987 from the Philip Crosby Quality College in Winter Park, FL I came across a section titled ‘Four Ways a Quality Improvement Process Can Fail’. I was expecting something that quality professionals had created fail-safes to prevent. What I found instead was four conditions  that are just as valid today as they were in 1987.

Failure #1 – Lack of Management Attention to the Quality Improvement Process

That’s it. Either management is on-board with a Quality Improvement Process or they are not. It is the reason the Management Review is so critical to the success of ISO 9001 companies. If management is involved in providing resources and determining which projects have what priority than the company is on the right road for a successful Quality Improvement Process.

Failure #2 –  Allowing the Quality Improvement Process to Become a Motivational Program

When the Quality Improvement Process goes from creating real and lasting preventive measures and becomes a method to “get the employees involve” or create “caring” in the employees it will fail. Employees will see through the rhetoric and realize management is not serious or interested. The expectation is the employees will change in some way rather than the system.

Failure #3 -Focusing the Quality Improvement Process Only on Operations

Operations makes the widgets that get sold but the cause of non-conformances can occur in order entry, purchasing, engineering, logistics – any area of the company. That is why ISO 9001 is a quality management system. The whole system must be controlled to be effective. The entire process must be looked at, not just the area where they manufacture a saleable product.

Failure #4 – Allowing the Quality Improvement Process to Become A Problem-Solving Committee

There is a saying, “When you are up to your ears in alligators, it is difficult to remember your original objective was to drain the swamp.” Solving problems is critically important but the problems won’t go away until a systematic review of the entire process occurs. Corrective measures are different from preventive measures.

Thank you to Mr. Crosby for this tool to analyze the Quality Improvement Process. It is just as valid in 2012 as it was 1987.

The Absolutes of Quality

Mr. Philip Crosby created a chart titled “The Absolutes of Quality”.

1980’s Conventional Wisdom




Definition of quality

Conformance to requirements

System to create quality


Quality levels 

Performance Standard

Zero defects

Indexes or process levels 


Price of Non-conformance


Definition of Quality

In the 1980’s “quality” was more of a feeling then a measureable element. Quality was a superior product as far as features. It might be a nicer finish to a piece of furniture or an accessory on a car. The idea that quality was conformance to requirements was a radical change. With the advent of ISO 9001, meeting the customer requirements became a “given” as the definition for quality.

Sorting bad product from good

System to Create Quality

Prevention is the current system prosperous companies use to produce a product the conforms to customer requirements. The majority of executives and managers understand the concept that the system must create 100% conforming product. Not that long ago, the method of producing a quality product was t o make a bunch of widgets and sort out the defective parts. Yes there was an army of inspectors at every plant. There was even a television ad for a brand of underwear that told people it wasn’t a quality product until inspector 12 said it was.

Quality Performance Standard

Of course 100% inspection was cost prohibitive so companies used inspection tables. The most well known was MIL-STD 105. First the manufacturer and the customer agreed as to the acceptable percentage of defects in the shipment. They would use the MIL STD 105 to determine a samples size and how many defects they could find and still ship the product. Now if current companies found a single defect in a sample, the product would be quarantined, a root cause analysis started, and a corrective and preventive action implemented.

Measurement of Quality

Measuring the Cost of Quality was unheard of in the 1980’s. Inspection and scrap were a cost of doing business and were built into the price of the product. Today, most companies track both the cost of conformance and the cost of non-conformance. If they are following ISO 9001 they also have a system to generation projects to reduce the total cost of quality.

Quality Today

So here is a question: Does your company track the cost of quality?

The Cost Of Quality

The Cost of Quality Report let's everyone see where money is being thrown away

The Cost of Quality Changes the Perceptions

Mr. Philip Crosby’s Cost of Quality report made a fundamental difference in the way Quality Managers spoke to upper management. Prior to the Cost of Quality report, Quality Managers were the keepers of “goodness”. They spoke in terms of reputation and subjective measures that frequently detracted, or appeared to detract from bottom line profitability. It caused much of upper management to “tune out” when the Quality Manager spoke.

The Cost of Quality Report quantifies the impact of both the cost of poor quality and the cost of preventive measures. With this report, Quality Managers were now able to speak upper management’s language of money. Decisions could be made on facts not emotions or corporate politics. It tied in well with Deming’s philosophies of resource allocation and the use of statistical process control.

In 1987, the price of conformance was about 5% of the total Cost of Quality; The price of non-conformance was about 25% of the Cost of Quality; and the cost of doing things right the first time was 70% of the Cost of Quality.

The Parts of the Cost of Quality report

 The Price of Non-conformance in the Cost of Quality Report

The Price of Non-conformance portion of the Cost of Quality report was fairly straight forward. Quite simply “what it cost to do things wrong.” It included:

  • reprocessing,
  • expediting,
  • unplanned service,
  • computer re-runs (remember this is the days of big mainframes and computer reports were requested during the day and run at night),
  • inventory,
  • customer complaints,
  • service after service,
  • downtime,
  • reconciliation,
  • and warranty.

This opened management’s eyes to profit opportunities. They were already spending this money, what if they could eliminate these costs and shift these dollars to the bottom line?

The Price of Conformance in the Cost of Quality

Measuring what was spent to make things correctly was a new concept. It was the cost to get things done right the first time. Inspection, engineering, preventive maintenance were just a cost of doing business. The idea that these needed to be looked at and justified opened the door to a revolution in the way management viewed costs.  The Price of Conformance included:

  • Review
  • Checking (Inspection)
  • Audit
  • Quality education
  • Test
  • Process proving
  • Procedure verification
  • Prevention
  • Inspection

The concept that collecting, reviewing and acting on these cost would lower them over time was revolutionary. By drawing attention to and reviewing these costs, corrective action could be defined and implemented.

How Much the Cost of Quality Report Identified

The first phase of the Cost of Quality would identify 60-70% of the actual costs and be driven from top management down. Once Quality Improvement Processes were implemented 90% of the actual costs would be identified with improvements in accuracy from that point forward. This information would come from the bottom up.The initial proposal had the Finance department issuing the Cost of Quality report. The course work gave detailed lists of data for each department to track and report.

Steps to implementing the Cost of Quality Report

In order to implement the Cost of Quality Report the first step was to educate managers and employees. The second step was to identify the elements by department. The third step was to give complete individual descriptions to the elements so everyone was using the same point of view. The fourth step was to determine a measurement base. The fifth step was to design the report including format, frequency and distribution. The sixth and last step was to develop and implement a strategy to utilize the Cost of Quality Report effectively.

The Purpose of the Cost of Quality Report.

The purpose of the Cost of Quality Report was not to account for every loss but rather to be a management tool that was used to determine areas that needed corrective action and to measure quality improvement. It was a basic communication tool that had everyone speaking the same language – money. So what could a Cost of Quality Report do for your company?

The Six Stage of Change or the 6 C’s

This article is presented as part of an overview of the quality guru’s of the 1980’s. The Six stages of change also known as the 6 C’s was develop by Mr. Philip Crosby and presented by Philip Crosby Associates. Reading “Quality Is Free”, “Quality Without Tears”, and “Quality Without Pain” are helpful in understanding how Mr. Crosby developed his philosophy and encouraged others to use it. For more information about Philip Crosby Associates, go to http://www.philipcrosby.com/pca/index.html.

As quality improves cost and delivery time decreases

The Six Stages or 6 C’s of Implementing a Quality Improvement Process

According to Mr. Philip Crosby, there are six stages of change that every company goes through if it is to have a real and viable quality improvement process. Mr. Crosby taught the six C’s must be met if managers, particularly senior level managers, are going to deal with the changing attitudes toward quality. The six C’s are comprehension, commitment, competence, communication, correction, continuance.

6 C’s Stage 1 – Comprehension

Comprehension is the understanding of the four Absolutes of Quality:

1980’s   Conventional Wisdom




Definition   of quality

Conformance to requirements


System   to create quality


Quality levels

Performance   Standard

Zero defects

Indexes or process levels


Price of Non-conformance


Initially comprehension must begin at the management level and then as the quality improvement process is implemented, all employees must learn that quality is definable, measurable and manageable.


6 C’s Stage 2 – Commitment

Once comprehension occurs management must define a quality policy and quality teams must be initiated. Once top management displays their commitment all employees will join in. Everyone must accept zero defects as their personal performance standard.

6 C’s Stage 3 – Competence

Competence means management has learned to apply the four absolutes in a routine manner. There is a method and a plan for quality improvement and this is understood by and participated in by everyone.

6 C’s Stage 4 – Communication

Communications is not only the most important of the 6 C’s but the most neglected. If a close look is taken at ISO 9001 its ability to be used as a communication tool becomes clear. Management must clearly communicate successes and tools used to create quality improvement and recognize those who contributed to the change.

6 C’s Stage 5 – Correction

As Dr. Deming also said, a culture of change must occur. Most attempts at correction fail because they focus on symptoms or are limited to specific situations. This leads to repetitive failures (non-conformances). Correction is the implementation of permanent preventive measures.

6 C’s Stage 6 – Continuance

Quality must be the first among equals of cost and schedule and quality. Improving quality will reduce costs and improve on-time delivery. Therefore the quality improvement process must become part of the context and systems of the company. Do It Right the First Time must become a tenet of every employee.

Zero Defects

Zero Defects means no inspectionsThis article is presented as part of an overview of the quality guru’s of the 1980’s. Zero Defects was a key phrase develop by Mr. Philip Crosby and presented by Philip Crosby Associates. Reading “Quality Is Free”, “Quality Without Tears”, and “Quality Without Pain” are helpful in understanding how Mr. Crosby developed his philosophy and encouraged others to use it. For more information about Philip Crosby Associates, go to http://www.philipcrosby.com/pca/index.html.

How does Zero Defects Relate to Conformance to Customer Requirements?

Much of the negative comments applied to the philosophy of Mr. Philip Crosby was a result of taking the term “Zero Defects” out of context. To understand Zero Defects a person must first accept that “conformance to customer requirements” constitutes an acceptable quality level. Therefore the goal is to meet the customer requirements 100% of the time.

Zero Defects is a Goal

It must also be noted that the goal is 100% conformance to customer requirements. To achieve that goal it may first be necessary to meet three sigma and then four sigma and then six sigma. Goals must be set using the cost of quality to determine how to apply resources. If one process is at a 6 sigma performance relative to meeting customer requirements and another equally utilized process is at 2 sigma performance, then scarce resources must be applied to the poorer performing process first.

The Effort to Reach Zero Defect Must Be Continuous

A basic tenet of Mr. Crosby’s philosophy was that improvement is a never ending cycle. This idea is also promoted by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Dr. Joseph Juran and ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The effort is continuous and never ending in order to stay in business, provide jobs and make a profit. So simple.