Monday, December 15, 2014

Quality Is NOT Ambitious Enough – And that’s fine

I read a recent post by ASQ CEO Bill Troy with interest. It talks about an interesting position many people take on quality – That it’s not ambitious enough to change the world. Or something similar. Bill has shared an article by Brooks Carder about quality not being ambitious enough. Read it here.

I find Brook’s argument interesting but a bit academic. Now I am not a pessimist of cynic. I am often accused of being optimistic when everything is falling apart and hoping for a yes when everyone is saying No! I am more a realist and like seeing things done that worry about vision and mission statements too much. Brook has picked ASQ’s mission statement as an argument that we aren't ambitious enough.

Frankly ASQ isn't all quality is about. It wants to be and should be but there are 1000s of quality professionals who are doing very well but aren't associated with ASQ. When we talk of quality in general, these professionals count. And to them and many in ASQ, I don’t think ASQ’s mission matters – what matters is what is it doing about it. Now, I am not saying ASQ’s mission doesn't matter. Of course it does. But I wouldn't fret on every word as long as we take some good action on it.

So – Is quality ambitious? No. Should it be? The answer is relative. Compared to leadership, production, and marketing, quality should be less ambitious. But compared to human resource management and compliance it should be more ambitious.

How do we define being ambitious? When we challenge the status-quo and reach out for much more than what most people expect us to – we are being ambitious.

Much of quality is also ensuring sure our organizations meet the minimum standards that they set for goods and services. I won’t want people challenging status-quo when in inspection and quality control. Just follow the guideline and keep the customer in mind. That’s it. Don’t be creative and ambitious every day. I know this sounds harsh but every role has a purpose and on most days the purpose must be followed.

The process improvement part of quality should be ambitious. We should not settle for 10% improvement – aim for 10 fold improvement. If Bob Galvin had not set an ambitious goal for Motorola in mid 1980s we would not have seen Six Sigma around.

But again, very lofty and high ambition can sometimes paralyze people. We must be able to break the problem into pieced. Cut the elephant into sizes (apologies to my vegetarian friends). You don’t run a marathon when you decide you will run one. You work towards and it could take many smaller goals to finally get there.


Finally, I think its fine for Quality to be moderately ambitious. Leadership should be ambitious about what quality can achieve. If people in the quality team can only follow what leadership expects, I am in general fine. Now again, I don’t mean to say that quality should not think beyond. It should. Just not daily. 

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