Book Reviews

Who Has Inspired You About Quality?

eisensteinIn his January post, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks, “Have you met someone whose teachings on quality influenced you or inspired you? What were these lessons?” Although he acknowledges the “quality gurus” he encouraged us to think about people from beyond the domain of the quality profession. When I think about quality, I always start with my favorite definition to provide an anchor. According to this definition, quality is:

“The totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” — ISO 9001 (para 3.1.5)

Even though they do not specifically teach about quality, I’d like to share two of my sources of inspiration: philosopher and activist Charles Eisenstein, and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson.

In Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein encourages us to look beyond the subtle assumptions and limitations imposed upon us by being embedded in a market economy. What is quality in the absence of a commercial environment to exchange products and services?? How can we more effectively relate to ourselves and to one another, so that we can better satisfy our stated and implied needs? Eisenstein’s work inspires me because it encourages me to reflect on the unspoken assumptions of the quality profession, and how those assumptions might be holding us back from evolving our skill sets to meet the changing needs of society. (Sacred Economics is also available in print from Amazon.)

In Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson provides a simple, data-driven path (the “positivity ratio”) for improving our psychological health; in Love 2.0, she helps uncover ways for us to create substantive, authentic connections with one another. Her work can help us cultivate greater quality consciousness – because we are best able to satisfy others’ stated and implied needs when 1) we understand them, and 2) we are mentally and emotionally equipped to help deliver them! Although aspects of the positivity ratio have been criticized by researchers studying dynamical systems, I still find the concept (and measurement tool) very useful for raising the awareness of individuals and teams.

Postscript: Bill’s post made me think about another related question: “Who ARE the quality gurus?” I mean, everyone in the quality profession can call on Deming, Juran, or Crosby, but I’d toss luminaries like Csikszentmihalyi and Prahalad (plus others) in the mix as well. I searched online and found a nice “List of Gurus” that someone put together that includes my extra picks! But!! There’s a problem with it. WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? The one woman in this list is someone I’ve never heard of, which is odd, since I’ve read papers by (or about!) all of the other people referenced in the list. Which brings me back to my original point: WHERE ARE THE WOMEN QUALITY GURUS? It’s time to start celebrating their emerging legacy. If you are a woman who has made significant contributions to our understanding and/or practice of quality and improvement, PLEASE CONTACT ME. I’d like to write an article soon.

3 replies »

  1. Joyce Orsini and Gipsie Ranney have done lots of good stuff. So has Clare Crawford Mason.

    Gertrude Mary Cox isn’t known so much for “quality” as statistics but she was an impressive person and a generation or two ahead of others (and it really is related to quality).

    Mary Poppendieck has really good stuff with the intersection of quality and software development.

    Meg Wheatley was really popular in the 1990s in the system area of quality. I thought here stuff was good, but wasn’t as impressed with it as many people – I haven’t seen her stuff in a long time.

    There are a couple recent podcasts from the Deming Institute with Paula Marshall http://blog.deming.org/2014/11/baking-apple-pies-using-the-deming-management-system/ and Monta Akin (as well as others listed above).

    Most, or all, of those could be good articles.

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