Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Value of Quality

Paul Borawski recently blogged about the economic value of the Malcolm Baldridge quality award. He laments that people do not embrace more quality philosophies when faced with the stark data of how much money is wasted in business due to poor quality. From my experience, I have one theory why more people do not actively pursue quality in business: people do not understand the relationship between the investment in quality and the benefits.

As a context of my theory one can review the ongoing and colorful discussion in the ASQ LinkedIn group titled "Quality is Expensive! Do you agree?". The discussion has been ongoing for two months and at the time of this writing there are 179 comments (including one humble contribution from this author). It is obvious from that discussion and much that goes on in the business world that many people feel that quality is expensive, that quality requires an unacceptable investment in training, people or equipment. Is there a connection between reducing training, people and capital and the reduction of quality performance? Intuitively it seems like there should be a connection. In that case, it's our jobs as Quality professionals to educate our management about the benefits of investment in quality. It might be hard to pin down some of the benefits, especially qualitative ones (which cannot be accurately measured) but it is our responsibility to find those benefits and discuss them with the decision-makers in our companies. The key is to first understand the benefits and then to connect those benefits (outputs) with the inputs into the processes. You may not be able to make a strong mathematical model but it's important to understand the relationship. This relationship is the starting point and it is something that your management would be interested to know. In fact, understanding that relationship in your company would be a great competitive advantage. And that's the value of quality: increasing competitiveness. The sooner that you can understand that relationship and have that discussion with your management, the sooner investment (and quality) could increase.