Sunday, August 17, 2014

Growth of Quality: Revolutionary or Evolutionary?


We all love to feel important and usually have a heightened sense of our importance in the larger scheme of things.  We can see this all around – people thinking ‘they’ were the reason for the team’s success. We also see successful managers who join a different setup but fail. This usually happens because much of the success is that of the eco-system around the individual. Everything works in synch, together. Just as the eco-system is important of success of individuals, it is also important for the success of disciplines such as quality.

Bill Troy, CEO of ASQ has asked an important question in his post – How will the future of quality unfold?

In my view most progress is evolutionary if we see it in context of some history. Also, important is to have a justified sense of importance. How important is quality to the CEO? Very important is what we would like to believe. But more important than Finance and Human Resources? Maybe not.  Finance and Human Resources need direct attention from a CEO whereas quality departments have to be a bit self-driven as well.

Now, I am not saying this to discourage you or to push you to change your profession. I am only saying this for all of us to have a clearer picture of where the ‘quality’ function usually belongs in a company.  The growth of quality will only be revolutionary in companies where the CEO/Board think it is more important than Quality. All others have to be happy with evolutionary progress.  Evolutionary progress is not bad. No progress can be bad. It just sounds less ‘sexy’ when compared to revolutionary progress.

Let’s look at quality as a function or profession. How many revolutionary turns have there been in this journey?
  1. Attention to detail during the artisan centric age
  2. Development of procedures and inspection
  3. Modern inspection and sampling methods
  4. Statistical quality control during world wars
  5. Deming and his PDCA principle
  6. Japanese quality revolution
  7. Juran’s improvement methods
  8. General Electric and its Six Sigma focus
  9. Re-discovery of Lean
  10. Waiting for this one…

There haven’t been too many revolutionary improvements in quality. Most of these revolutions happened. No one planned them. The real service we can offer to our profession is to keep working on evolutionary change.  We have to keep doing the right thing, be on the path, and keep the faith in quality.

The evolutionary changes I expect in the next 3-5-10 years include:
  1. Quality professionals getting involved in big ticket revenue improvement projects
  2. Quality becoming a part of the design process
  3. Quality of quality professionals getting better (this one is more hope than expectation)
  4. Quality getting deeper in education and healthcare
  5. Quality has a seat in the boardroom.

While I have the above expectations, my hope and prayer is that quality remains ‘relevant’ to the management. It is ok if we don’t get a revolution. Evolution is fine as long as we get good people to join the profession.


7 comments:

Mike Adams said...

For your consideration- I would say the "quality" movement in the United States in the 1980 was quite revolutionary, striving for the success of Japan during that time. CEO's across the U.S. had a strong appetite to learn the quality tenets and practices. Much was learned and shared worldwide.
The word "quality" has taken on many definitions since then and means many things, good and bad for the C-suite today. Those that position quality as the overall business model, success with its strategies, customers, employees, and profits, will likely evolve their quality efforts as routine. Those that have interpreted quality as just tools and techniques may have some good capabilities but will likely need a revolution to apply them adequately to realize the company's potential. I observe organizations today embarking on quality journeys akin to the efforts in the 1980's and have taken a good lesson learned of positioning the "quality" function with the CEO and/or chair to define its contribution at the highest level.

Anshuman Tiwari said...

Thanks Mike Adams. I liked your Small Q - Big Q angle.

Suresh Lulla said...

Anshuman, Keep it simple. The CEO needs only two Directors reporting to him: Finance (for silo performance) and Quality (for process performance). All Managers should know how to manage the only appreciating resource..People! SSL

CyrilSunil said...

In future, will companies think about poor quality products. Today in India, high end chines made products with good quality competing with brands are evolving.
Future Quality will be imbibed as a culture...

Tanmoy Mukhopadhyay said...

Thanks Anshuman. I love this perspective what you have presented. I think, all quality revolutions essentially emphasised on one single point : how to increase the rate of ROI with "thought innovation". The next quality revolution must answer a question : "how would the process look like minimising the eighth waste - Unused human potential?"
In order to achieve that, emphasis on psychology and basic human values like "trust" have to be closely integrated.

John Hunter said...

I agree with the idea that most change is evolutionary. The accumulation of evolutionary gains can result in revolutionary results over time. We still have quite a way to go to achieve revolutionary results in the practice of management, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

To evolve quality and to get a seat at boardroom with Finance and HR ,one need to bridge the gap

let me share an property casualty Insurance example Quality tools is a function of Data science aka Predictive model development

Consumer churn prediction in Annuities ,models can tell us which customers can churn but why ? using QFD can identify what is going wrong

this requires good amount of knowledge sharing to be done ,Ultimately this could help raise quality to an evolutionary level