For Quality to find its voice in the future it must chart a new path in business and society. It must not only redefine itself but it must help to redefine excellence, performance and satisfaction. The power of Quality lies in its ambiguous nature. The uncertain response one finds when asking “what is Quality?” belies the underlying power of the concept. Quality is, in a very literal sense, what anyone thinks that it is. This ambiguity allows Quality to not only continue to flourish as trends change but also allow it to adapt readily when a change is needed. That time to adapt is now.
I believe that in business, government and society in general there is too much focus on the quantitative. The quantitative is important but it must be considered in the context of all of the factors of the organization. It should be a part of a balanced evaluation of performance and not in the sense of a “balanced scorecard”. It should be included with other qualitative factors to understand the current and potential situation and drive improvements. For example, see this article about how Ford develops the audio chimes that act as warning signals in their cars. It was a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis. I rented a 2010 Fusion recently and I was pleasantly surprised by the chimes in the car. I even brought my kids out and had them listen to them. If we can use such combination analysis in engineering then why not use more of the same analysis in management?
Anyone who has worked in automotive Quality has found the situation, in their own or other organizations, where the data spoke louder than reality. For example, the pressure to reach 1.67 Ppk in order to avoid 100% inspection can lead to falsifying data or misinterpreting results to save money. The target number is more important than the reality. This reliance on the quantitative actually leads to poor results in the future for everyone.
Who can help to change the direction of business toward more qualitative analysis? Who has extensive experience in improvement? Who have the innovative ideas for problem solving and improving customer satisfaction? Look in the mirror. We can do it. How do we do it? That’s the question I pose to you. Let’s discuss our ideas together.