Quality Has Always Been Global

In his February post, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks “Why Should Quality ‘Go Global’?” ASQ has, over the past several years, expanded its reach as a member organization… “going global” to expand awareness of quality tools and techniques. This is being done to more deeply realize ASQ’s mission to “increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world”.

But this approach forgets that quality can’t go global… it already is global! The notion (and pursuit) of quality is evident in the history of water quality and sanitation dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome, the creation (over centuries) of the measuring instruments and standards that have made way for modern methods of industrial production, cave paintings discovered in Egypt that show quality assurance inspectors presiding over work, and other stories. Deming’s groundbreaking work took place in Japan, in the midst of a vastly different culture than Deming’s own. In 1990, Quality Progress ran a series of articles called “China’s Ancient History of Managing for Quality” that provides a very rich examination of quality practices in that region.

Sure, Frederick Winslow Taylor was an American manufacturer, meaning that the principles of scientific management were first tested and implemented here… but the chemist, Le Chatelier, very quickly translated Taylor’s work to French and introduced the principles to manufacturing plans during World War I. At the same time, Henri Fayol was conceptualizing similar techniques for assessing and managing quality in that country. The journal Quality Engineering ran a piece in 1999 that described the history of quality management in France in the 20th century, along with practices and trends from several other European countries.

Quality systems provide mechanisms for us to achieve and accomplish whatever it is that we value. Every culture has a long and vibrant history of using tools, techniques, and standards to make these things happen. Perhaps instead of aiming to simply push the message of quality beyond the United States, ASQ could also seek the message of quality that artisans, engineers, and citizens in vastly different environments and cultures have developed over the past several centuries to offer quality professionals everywhere.

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