Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Head of Quality and...?

I just watched with interest the interview between Ford's Group VP of Quality and New Product Launch, Bennie Fowler, and ASQ's CEO, Paul Borawski here.

While the questions and answers were interesting in themselves I was more curious about Mr. Fowler's role at Ford, and similar roles at other companies. I noted above that Mr. Fowler was the Group VP of Quality and blah blah blah. Why, oh why, do so many companies feel that if they have a high-level person in Quality (and many don't even have an executive or higher level position with "Quality" in the title at all) that they have to make them in charge of Quality and something else? Isn't Quality enough of a job to have an executive level position responsible for it and only it? In my experience the highest "Quality only" role that I've seen is some kind of regional role. Anything higher (Director, Executive Director, Senior Executive Director, VP, Group VP, etc.) is always Quality AND New Product Launch or Quality AND Program Management or Quality AND Health, Safety, and Environment (!!!). WHY? Why is Quality always delegated to share a seat with some other function in a company? How can Quality remain relevant in this way?

I propose that companies that are serious about Quality create a C-level position dedicated to Quality in their organization. A Chief Quality Officer, responsible only for Quality, would be a strong message in any industry but in particular in the automotive industry. Toyota comes close (of course) with their regional Chief Quality Officers but I would like to see someone sitting at a table of a major, global company (preferably automotive) who has the title and responsibility and authority of Chief Quality Officer for the company. Until that happens, how can Quality ever rise above the status of "Head of Quality and....."?