Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Quality Is The Problem

Last month I asked “How are you, as a Quality professional, perceived?” in several LinkedIn discussion groups. I hoped to understand what we thought others thought of us. I wanted a qualitative measure of our awareness.

I parsed 108 comments from 55 people. Of them, 30 felt they were perceived poorly, 17 were ambivalent, and 8 felt that others viewed them favorably. The comments fell into one of the following categories:

(+) Consultant/Improvers
(-) Fear/Loathe
(-) Cops/Surveillance
(-) Barriers/Bottlenecks
(-) Necessary Evil/Imposed Cost
(-) Hard to Understand

It appears we, Quality professionals, are very aware. We are sensitive to what others think of us. That is the good news. The bad news, however, and it is really bad news, is that we seem to think others consider us a serious drag on business.

I wondered if such harsh self-criticism was just an issue of poor self-esteem, but I don’t think it is. Based on my observations and experience, I find it to be a fair assessment of how others view us. Even we hold such views of other fellow Quality professionals.

But hold on second. That is not what our profession is about. We are not supposed to be drags on business. We are supposed to be the people that help the makers make things better, faster, stronger.

So where are we going wrong?

If the definition of quality has to do with meeting or exceeding the expectations of the consumer, first we need to understand who is the consumer of the services that Quality professionals offer. Isn’t it our employer? The end user isn’t paying for what we do. Next we need to understand what are the consumer’s expectations. How many of us really understand our employer’s wants? (Try not to substitute in what you think the employer should want with what the employer actually wants. Also, let’s get real, most companies’ Quality Policy is just a set of platitudes.) Finally, we need to evaluate our efforts in the context of what our employer wants.

In this light, do the results our actions as Quality professionals conform to the requirements of our employer? If not, aren’t we imposing a loss on our employer, to use Taguchi’s term? And, from the looks of the categories above, it is not an insignificant loss. Contrary to our purpose, we are generating suffering through our actions!

It is not the role of the Quality professional to set the objectives for the company. It is our role in the service of our employer to provide options on how best to meet those objectives. It is not the role of the Quality professional to choose the ‘best’ option. It is our role to help execute our employer’s choice in the most effective way. I think it would serve us well to get off of our high horses and stop thinking of ourselves as saviors. The sooner we start cooperating with others – being of service to them instead of demanding actions from them – the better we will all be.

References

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How We Look For A New Law

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we…Now don’t laugh. That’s really true.

Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what…if this is right…if this law that we guessed is right we see what it would imply.

And then we compare those computation results to Nature. Or we say compare to experiment or experience; compared directly with observation to see if it works.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to Science. It doesn’t make a difference how beautiful your guess is; it doesn’t make a difference how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.

— Richard Feynman