Can Quality Professionals Help Others Get Happier?

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of

In his April post, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks “Are Quality Professionals Happy on the Job?” His question was motivated by a recent Forbes article that rated software quality professionals among the ten happiest in their careers.

However, I’d like to make his question a call to action for the quality community!

As improvement specialists, I suggest that as quality professionals, we are perfectly situated to use our skills to help everyone in an organization become happier… and thus more productive! Anecdotally, I’m sure few will argue that on the days you feel secure, balanced, and on top of the world – it’s easy to fly through tasks, collaborate effectively, and make amazing progress on pretty much anything.

The notion has already entered the quality community – and my position is that this topic needs more exploration, both in research and in practice. For example, in the February 2012 issue of Quality Progress, Johnston & Beck’s article on “The Power of Positive” takes a first step towards proposing how the relatively new discipline of positive psychology can be leveraged by the quality profession to catalyze breakthrough improvement.

I strongly support this new direction in thinking, and here’s why. ISO 9000 p. 3.1.5 (formerly ISO 8402:1994) defines quality as “the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” In industry, we usually think of a product or a process as the entity, and then we work on improving the product’s quality or improving the effectiveness or efficiency of the process. So why don’t we turn it inside out and think of our SELVES as the entities?

The question I’ve posed is… what if that ENTITY is YOU? That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish by proposing the notion of quality consciousness, which asks the question: “What are the totality of characteristics of YOU that bear upon your ability to satisfy the stated and implied needs of yourself, your communities, and the organizations where you contribute your talent?”

The three aspects of quality consciousness are AWARENESS of what quality means in a particular context, ALIGNMENT of you and your talents with the problem to be solved and the environment in which the problem and its solution are embedded, and the ability to focus your ATTENTION on the problem or situation that needs to be improved.

In Garvin’s 1988 book Managing Quality, he characterizes five dimensions of quality: 1) quality as defined by the customer, 2) as conformance to manufacturing requirements, 3) as the presence or absence of product characteristics, 4) as the degree of excellence delivered compared to the cost (value-based), and 5) the transcendent dimension which says you “know quality when you see it.”

I also believe that you know quality when you can FEEL it – within yourself, and within your teams and organizations.

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