Saturday, November 23, 2013

5 Core Principles of Quality

What are the core principles of Quality? This is a difficult but necessary question. 

Core principles form the soul of any subject.  There are a lot of texts on quality that attempt to define quality and the tools and techniques required to deliver quality. Core principles develop over a period of time. Sometimes decades. They are reinforced by practice and wide-spread adoption. 

During my career as a Baldrige consultant, Six Sigma trainer and practitioner, and change manager I have tried to articulate quality principles as follows: 

Quality helps deliver what customers want: The first principle is about quality helping to deliver what the customer wants. Quality and customer are intertwined and inseparable. Quality exits because customers have expectations from the product or service they buy.   

Quality functions in organizations essentially apply tools and techniques to help the organization deliver what the customer wants. Be it inspection, control, assurance, or design, quality helps deliver. Both GE and Toyota use a wide range or practices but all that these companies want is to keep their promise to the customer. 

Prevention is better than cure: Next core principle is of prevention. A key quality discipline of Assurance is devoted to prevention. In several industries it is just too expensive to wait for an un-quality event. Defect prevention is always more economical than controlling it later. 

Most quality methods help in prevention. Quality Assurance and Six Sigma both work to avoid defects happening in future. The earlier these prevention methods are applied the higher their impact on costs. Quality audits and compliance are a large part of the quality toolkit and help us prevent process non-compliance. 

Continual improvement: An obsession for improvement is what sets the quality procession apart. If an output is a result of a process (especially repetitive) and the process can be measured, it can be improved. It should be improved. If we don’t then we will be left behind. 

Continual Improvement is the most popular aspect of quality for the last two decades. Six Sigma is now an established business method and if you don’t know something about it you don’t really exist. Before Six Sigma came around, Juran’s universal improvement method was around for decades. 

All work is a process: Quality has to be enterprise wide – across all processes and done by all people for it to make a difference in this age of competition. From order taking to payment collections all processes are open to improvement. 

All work is accomplished as a result of a process. A sequence of activities. Quality can be applied to inputs, process, and outputs. And the more enterprise wide we think the better. 

Quality must make money: In my previous post I argued for a quality to make money to be of interest to the CEO. While money making is important it should be done along with employee and customer satisfaction. 

If the profession doesn't help the CEO make (or save) more money we won’t be around for long.  Wherever we exist we do so because we help make or save money. 

Before you pounce on me, I know there can be various objections or modifications to this list. I respect all your variations.