Determination

Excerpted from Crosby, Philip B., "Quality Without Tears - The art of hassle-free management", Plume (Penguin Books), New York, 1985, pp.53-54.

Companies don't do well with quality because they are just not determined enough. I realize this statement sounds as profound as, "It is better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick." However, it is true.

Earlier in the book we discussed the profile of a company that always has problems with quality. Nothing changes until a company breaks that lock.

Quality improvement also has a profile. The companies that don't get much improvement, even though they appear to be determined, have common characteristics:

  1. The effort is called a program rather than a success. This reflects the idea management holds in its secret heart -- that this quality business is one of finding the proper set of techniques to apply to the proper people. A "program" lets people know that if they wait and go through the motions, it will soon be replaced by something else. Governments call everything programs. A "process" is never finished and requires constant attention.

  2. All effort is aimed at the lower level of the organization. It is easy to identify this situation. Just try to find something that senior management has to do differently: all the schooling is for something else. The Productivity (with a capital P) efforts all are for lower levels. Quality circles never begin in the boardroom. Statistical quality control is not applied in white-collar areas.

  3. The quality control people are cynical. "Zero Defects is Eastern mechanical thinking." "We have to satisfy the customer's perception of quality." "It just isn't possible for people to do things right the first time." "The economics of quality require errors; you have to consider the trade-offs." All the above are part of the conventional and cynical wisdom that has kept nonconformance an integral part of business. Fortunately, the swing in the quality control profession is toward the reality contained in the Absolutes of Quality Management.

  4. Training material is created by the training function. The concepts of quality improvement and the actions required to cause it are very subtle and require a comprehension that comes from experience. However they sound so simple that people get right into training without realizing that they are actually teaching the ideas that caused the problem in the first place.

  5. Management is impatient for results. As soon as it learns about the cost of quality, management notifies everyone that it expects an immediate reduction. This results in a lot of short-range actions, like shrinking the quality department.

    We have learnt that there is a 25 percent reduction in non-conformance costs in the first year if the process is properly applied. There is usually an increase if it is not properly understood.

    Impatience also leads to centralization of the program. This means that the individual managers lay back and wait for the word to come down. That brings everything to a slowdown since it increases the hassle.

These characteristics, and a few more, show up in the poorly run quality improvement process. They occur because the entire event has not been properly thought out and taken seriously enough.

In establishing its determination, management has decided, perhaps without knowing that it has done so, that everyone else needs to do something different. It is not until management decides to clean up its act that real determination sets in.

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