Is Quality Ambitious Enough?

This month Bill Troy, ASQ CEO, asked ASQ Influential Voices bloggers to explore the question – Is Quality Ambitious Enough?

Bill Troy suggests a vision for ASQ of

To improve the function and value of goods and services worldwide, and to facilitate the development of new products and services that improve the quality of life.

He also discusses the ideas of W. Edwards Deming and the value he found in attending 6 4-day Deming seminars.

I find the aim Deming used to drive his actions to be ambitious and worthwhile: “to advance commerce, prosperity and peace.” I discusses my thoughts on this aim in my post launching the W. Edwards Deming Institute blog:

To many of us today that aim may seem lofty and disconnected from our day to day lives. Dr. Deming was born in 1900 in Sioux City, Iowa. He lived through World War I. He lived through the depression. He lived through World War II. He was asked to go to Japan to aid in the recovery efforts. In my, opinion, if you live through those conditions and are a systems thinker it is very easy to understand the enormous hardship people face when commerce fails to provide prosperity and the devastating tragedy of war is made so real. It may be hard for people with indoor plumbing, heating, air conditioning, safety, security and a fairly strong economy to appreciate how difficult life can be without prosperity. But I think it is much easier for someone who has lived through 2 world wars, a depression and then spends a great deal of time in post war Japan to understand this importance.

I didn’t live through those events, but I also can see that importance. I lived in Singapore and Nigeria as a child. And I traveled quite a bit and was able to see that there were billions of people on the earth that more than anything struggle to get food, clean water and electricity. To me the importance of advancing commerce, prosperity and peace was easy to see and when I first saw his aim it struck me. It took a few more years to appreciate how the aim is made real and moved forward by his ideas.

Most of the posts will be on much more focused management ideas. But I think this is an appropriate beginning to the exploration of these ideas. He had many specific thoughts on topics managers face everyday. Those ideas were part of a system. And that system had, at the core, making the world a better place for us to live in.

My father shared a similar vision. We lived in Singapore and Nigeria for a year as he taught at Universities. He went to China for a summer (before it was really open – they brought in some experts to help learn about ideas in engineering, science, statistics etc.). In these efforts he was largely focused on helping create systems that let people benefit from prosperity. My father had also lived in Japan for several years as a kid and saw Japan trying to recovery from the devastation caused by World War II.

And in the USA he saw the tremendous waste in our organizations and our lives created by bad management practices and sought to help create organization that let people take pride in their work. Also see my first ASQ Influential Voices post where I discussed more of these ideas.

I think expansive visions are hard for many people to appreciate. While grand aims don’t amount to much without systems that direct the effort to turn those ideas into practical action such aims are extremely valuable when they are part of a system that acts to consistently strive in that direction. I think a focus on execution is much more needed today but once organizations and individuals are better at operationalizing aims well we would benefit from more ambitious views of the system on which quality efforts are put to work.

W. Edwards Deming, my father, and some others we able to do that decades ago, at some point more of us will catch up to there were back then.

Related: Aligning Marketing Vision and Management PracticesTwo resources, largely untapped in American organizations, are potential information and employee creativityVision can be a Powerful Driver but Most Often It is Just a Few Pretty WordsPositivity and Joy in Work

2 thoughts on “Is Quality Ambitious Enough?

  1. Would that it were so, John, that more of us would catch up to where they were back then.
    There’s a continuum in which people who, having entered this field, find themselves studying, learning, practicing, contributing, growing. (I’ve been walking the path for 35 years now, and am grateful for having met your father and those like him, by the way.)
    How can the learning curve be hastened or shortened? With each wave of entrants, we start all over again developing competence, capability, context, emotional maturity, and honing integrity. Methinks that’s what life’s about, in part anyway–experiencing that journey–because that’s what common to all. Certainly, better outcomes, improved quality of life, more reliable and useful products, efficient services,…all these are important. Yet the journey of achieving these seems foundational. Can life, can that journey as now constituted, produce another Bill Hunter, Ed Deming, George Box, Ellis Ott, etc…?
    I wonder.

  2. It is very often that I hear from the managers from different organizations that their budgets are tight or have been cut. Very rare they mention possiblity or think about how to do or change something with their own skills, knowledge or ideas. Quality is not even discussed, change of the process is done only when higher ranks are insisting. Growth is mantra everywhere, quality is forgotten. Excellent point John!


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