Everybody “Does Quality”

(Image Credit: Lucy Glover of Lucy Glover Photography, San Francisco, CA)

In the October ASQ Influential Voices topic, CEO Paul Borawski asks how pervasive the quality function is in organizations, and asks how its value can be increased:

My question is, how well understood and embraced are the contributions of the quality professional beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function?  My hope is that use of quality is widespread; my fear is that it is not.

I welcome your insights, your experience, and your thoughts on how to increase the value of quality in organizations beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function.

Everybody “does quality”. That’s part of the problem, AND part of the solution.

Part of the problem: About 10 years ago, I was in an organization where people found out I was the “quality person” – and immediately, I was kind of marginalized by my peers. After all, THEY were all about quality too, and they were very vocal about it! They were all esteemed scientists, engineers, and professionals, and they had spent their whole lives studying and working hard to ensure that EVERYTHING they thought and produced was of the utmost quality. Me coming in as the person who “knows a lot about quality” was tantamount to a put-down… because, of course, they had been doing very well as “quality professionals” long before I arrived on the scene. So who was I to come in and say that my unique specialty was quality?

Part of the solution: As quality professionals, we need to recognize that we’re not a closed society. I think we should actively work to recruit the “non-quality” people who have a strong personal conviction about high quality operations and products into our community. Furthermore, we should strive to look beyond the Lean and Six Sigma and Baldrige and ISO standards and continually remind ourselves – and one another – that we simultaneously work with the conditions that give rise to quality, the quality of processes, the quality of products, the consequences of quality, and innovation – or quality for tomorrowWe can facilitate explorations of issues like these:

To increase the value of quality philosophy and practice in organizations, we should recognize that everyone is (to some extent or another) committed to quality. If they are not, should they really be a part of the organization in the first place? Are they practically and emotionally aligned with the organization? We can provide them with technical support and moral support to expand their understanding of quality and innovation, and help them leverage their unique skills and perspectives to advance themselves as individuals and as members of a collective.

One comment

  • Nicole,
    Interesting post and thank you for kicking off the conversation on a very timely topic.

    Quality is an attitude and therefore needs to be part of the ‘thinking’ and ‘being’. Merely following a checklist and ‘doing’ will require people to constantly demonstrate the value proposition of quality. A ‘doing’ mindset can lead to people focus on tools and ceremonies and applying a reactive approach to quality that is based on corrective action rather than an approach that weaves quality across the product/service delivery lifecycle. I’m not against the use of tools, but when I ask someone about how they go about preventing defects and if I hear mostly about the mechanics of using FMEA or 5-Why analysis, then I’m almost certain that the focus is on ‘doing’ quality.

    The world of quality is also rapidly changing from being a specialty area that is focused on defects and requirements, into being an attitude and responsibility that enables people to focus on customer experience, innovation and delivering business value. Several companies have begun to accept (much awaited change ) that quality is no longer the responsibility of a few select folks and that quality is a shared objective irrespective of role or title.

    Driving this mindset across an organization and supporting the learning and adoption will be an area where quality professionals (those with specialized skills & experience) will have a lot to offer. As part of this adoption, it is important to coach people on what a ‘thinking’ and ‘being’ approach to quality means.
    Individuals and teams need to understand how quality initiatives and practices,
    – are aligned towards achieving business objectives
    – can be designed to mitigate business, technical, regulatory risks
    – can drive efficiency and innovation in product development and delivery
    – be prepared and willing to tell compelling stories how quality practices enabled the delivery of business value (risks, costs, cycle time) and supported innovation.

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