Is Quality Ambitious Enough?

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of

“We must reject the idea — well intentioned, but dead wrong- that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become “more like a business.” — Jim Collins in Good to Great

In December, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asked “Is Quality Ambitious Enough?” He cites a recent article by Brooks Carder, who (after reflecting on the changing nature of the global economy) wonders whether ASQ’s mission is sufficiently ambitious enough. (I completely disagree with Brooks’ position… but more on that later.) Here’s what he has to say:

When I read this, it reinforced my belief that quality is critical to the function of the economy that is described here. But many of us do not appear to realize that. Consider ASQ’s mission: To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.

In my opinion this is not sufficiently ambitious. After all, quality is responsible for many of the things that make life better. Just the change in automobiles would represent major improvement in the quality of life, an improvement that was enabled by quality.

My own version of a mission would be: To improve the function and value of goods and services worldwide, and to facilitate the development of new products and services that improve the quality of life.”

In a sense, Brooks and I agree: I also feel that the theory and practice of promoting quality and improvement are not sufficiently ambitious. Everyone feels like they “do quality”… even if they don’t have the slightest idea what it means, or that there are structured approaches to identifying what constitutes quality in a particular environment and how to go about making it happen (and making sure it happened). And even if they don’t offer quality products and services, they probably think that they do (for example, in the airline industry).

To implore a true professional that he or she needs to pay attention to quality is, under many circumstances, an accusation that they aren’t doing it already. When these encouragements come from someone who does not share the same level of domain expertise – it can be the kind of insult that damages credibility and reputation. We need to position ourselves as partners whose roles are only significant in the context of the quality others already provide (or think they provide).

However, Brooks and I disagree about ASQ’s mission statement, which I feel is far broader and vastly more ambitious than the revised version he proposes. Why just improve the function and value of goods and services? Why not improve your self, your relationships, or your communities? Why just facilitate the development of new products and services, when you can facilitate the development of complete and meaningful experiences?

In my opinion, we need to broaden our view more comprehensively, and not focus solely on the economic benefits that quality can provide – but also the psychological, relational, and experiential benefits.

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