Quality Improvement from the Quality College
In 1987, I had the privilege to attend the Quality College in Winter Park, FL. It was a highly informative week and I have kept the binder and used it as a reference ever since, although I haven’t gone back to it for a few years.
When I started to develop a page for the teachings of Philip Crosby I pulled out the binder and reviewed the material. Near the back I found a letter from Philip Crosby titled “How come hardly anything ever gets better?” A similar question was posted on LinkedIn so it seemed a good place to start.
Mr. Crosby’s first point was that no one, not the powerful or the powerless were against quality improvement. All of his books, speeches and educational material showed the financial fact that doing things right the first time cost less than doing things wrong and fixing them. Products, services, prisons, morals, the judiciary, Congress, movies, taxis – just about everything needs improvement.
Since everyone was in favor of improvement and opportunities abound, there should be an epidemic of things getting better. That begged the question; why is hardly anything getting better?
Who is Responsible for Quality Improvement?
Mr. Crosby came up with 3 basic reasons:
- The highest paid and most talented people in a company do not work on improvement. They produce strategy books, planning manuals, marketing reports, five year plans etc that are shown like merit badges but are not used or implemented. Everyone is working hard on things that make little difference.
- People who understand a subject do not get help in determining a policy for improvement. Nationally known consumer advocate groups have no experience in quality management. Most business media experts talk about quality and yet their experience is limited. Getting a common definition of “quality” would be difficult and it has been overlaid with emotion.
- 3. Management and labor do not understand each other. There are very few members of management that have ever actually done the work they supervise. Motivation of the workers is the most popular theme for quality improvement programs. Yet it is management that needs to realize they are the cause of the problems by the way they manage. Union management falls into the same boat as company executives.
The Results of Quality Improvement
Companies that create a renaissance in terms of changing management operating attitudes have drastically improved their products and services and reaped the reward to the bottom line. Companies have already paid for quality, isn’t it time they should get what is coming to them?
Has There Been Quality Improvement?
As I read the letter in many ways I agreed with Mr. Crosby. However looking back over the past 25 years, I also realized that we have come a very long way in large part thanks to Mr. Crosby, Dr. Deming, Dr Juran and Dr. Shewhart. So I invite you to comment. What improvements have you seen? Are things getting better or is hardly anything getting better?
I see that things are getting better all the time, but the rate of their getting better is too slow, and the efforts required are too high. This is partially because people do not take ownership of their products, and though most people know what is required, there is very little drive to actually achieve it.