Steve Jobs on Quality, Business and Joseph Juran

This webcast shows an interesting interview with Steve Jobs when he was with NeXT computer. He discusses quality, business and the experience of working with Dr. Juran at NeXT computer. The video is likely from around 1991.

America’s in a tough spot right now, I think. I think we have forgotten the basics. We were so prosperous for so long that we took so many things for granted. And we forgot how much work it took to build and sustain those basic things that were supporting out prosperity. Things like a great education system. Things like great industry.

We are being out-planned, we are being out-strategized, we are being out-manufactured. It there is nothing that can’t be fixed but we are not going to fix it up here, we are going to fix it by getting back to the basics.

I agree with this thought, and while we have made some progress over the decades since this was recorded there is a long way to go (related: complacency about our contribution the USA has received from science and engineering excellencewhen you were as rich as the USA was in the 1950s and 1960s more and more people felt they deserved to be favored with economic gifts without effort (forgetting the basics as Jobs mentioned)Silicon Valley Shows Power of Global Science and Technology Workforce). After World War II the USA was able to coast on an economic bubble of extreme wealth compared to the rest of the world for several decades (and the economic success built during that period even still provides great advantages to the USA). That allowed wealthy living conditions even without very good management practices in our businesses.

Where we have to start is with our products and our services, not with our marketing department.

Quality isn’t just the product or service. Its having the right product. Knowing where the market is going and having the most innovative products is just as much a part of quality as the quality of the construction of the product. And I think what we are seeing the quality leaders of today have integrated that quality technology well beyond their manufacturing.

Now going well into their sales and marketing and out as far as they can to touch the customer. And trying to create super efficient processes back from the customer all the way through the delivery of the end product. So they can have the most innovative products, understand the customer needs fastest, etc..

The importance of customer focus is obvious at the companies Jobs led. It wasn’t a weak, mere claim of concern for the customer, it was a deep passionate drive to delight customers.

In my opinion the largest contribution of much of this quality thinking is to approach these ways of doing things, these processes, scientifically – where there is a theory behind why we do them, there is a description of what we do and most importantly there is an opportunity to always question what we do.

This shift [a continual improvement focus] is a tremendous optimistic point of view about the people that work in a company. It says these people are very smart. They are not pawns. They are very smart and if given the opportunity to change and improve they will. They will improve the processes if there is a mechanism for it. That optimistic humanism I find very appealing.

Very good thoughts and note “if there is a mechanism for it.” A management system can be designed to encourage continual improvement by those doing the work. But if not, and most are not, still today, the continual improvement won’t happen. The “optimistic humanism” is directly “respect for people” principles I advocate in this blog. Which ties directly back to the first point – that the management system needs to have mechanisms for respect for people. Empty words about how we value people is of no use, and sadly the most common situation. What is beneficial is a management system that demonstrates how the organization maximizes the ability of people to contribute to continually improving the success of the organization.

People shouldn’t have to ask management permission to do something that needs to be approved. Authority should be vested in the people doing the work to improve their own processes, to teach them how to measure them, to understand them and improve them.

Related: Steve Jobs Discussing Customer Focus at NeXTYou’ve Got to Find What You Love (Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement addressRespect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in WorkScience, Engineering and the Future of the American Economy

This entry was posted in Customer focus, Management, Process improvement, Psychology, Respect and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.