This month, Paul Borawski selected the topic of going beyond the traditional quality function for discussion by ASQ’s Influential Voices.
I don’t pay much attention to the tradition role for quality. Dr. Deming’s ideas, for well over half a century, have emphasized the importance of improving the entire management system and the entire enterprise. That systems view is the way I think and act.
When a quality office exists that office has a role to play within the system. So, the quality department might be responsible for things like helping keeping track of internal process measures (control charts etc.), responding to whatever some executive decides to focus on (they don’t like the rate of warranty expenses, or bugs in the software, or something), etc.
I have no problem with a quality department providing expertise on process management, helping people use quality tools, providing guidance on modern management methods etc. But limiting a quality department to whatever is considered traditional quality (maybe reducing defects, quality assurance, and the like) is an idea that is over half a century out of date, in my opinion. I was part of a quality office at the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office. The role of such offices is to support and increase the speed of adoption of better management practices to improve results.
There is no “box” that should limit a quality department’s scope. Often that office has to be at the forefront of creating a systems view in the organization and breaking down the “stovepipe” ideas that may still exist. An outdated stovepipe view might marginalize the quality department, but it also destroys effective performance for many processes. To the extent a quality department is still boxed in by decades old organizational thinking that is something they should have been addressing over the last few decades. The strategy for the quality department to address it is the same as building your personal circle of influence. They need to create a system view of management and then play their role which is not limited to some set of traditional quality roles.
Those involved in quality, lean thinking, six sigma… need to be focused on growing the capability of the enterprise (which is the subtitle of my new book). This focus in not some new thing to do in 2012. This is what has been the proper focus for decades. I can’t really imagine thinking of quality in some isolated box. I can’t imagine any lean or six sigma effort, that isn’t an embarrassment, that is constrained to fit some traditional idea on what quality should be limited to.
I have discussed what quality professionals should be doing on this blog for years. There are no traditional limits that I see: Increasing the Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization – Moving Beyond Product Quality – Long Term Thinking with Respect for People – Good Process Improvement Practices – Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes
I agree, once you put boundaries on quality you have lost the battle against your competition. The closer employees get to the finish line the less effort they give. By trying to continiously improve your employees stay engaged and your success continues to multiply.