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QUALITY IN AMERICA IS IMPROVING...BUT NOT FAST ENOUGH!

 QUALITY IN AMERICA IS IMPROVING...BUT NOT FAST ENOUGH!
 FAIRFAX STATION, Va., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- According to V. Daniel


Hunt, author of "Quality in America," the quality of debate is mistakenly focused on the hand full of large auto and high technology manufacturing firms that began to adopt quality management practices in the late 1980s. A time bomb ticks silently away in thousands of medium and small size manufacturing and service firms that have not adopted "quality first" practices.
 In the 1990s the central question facing the American business community will be the readiness of these medium- and small-size companies -- with tons of millions of American jobs at stake -- to join the quality revolution. It is here that the international competitiveness war will be won or lost.
 The shift to quality among large, high technology firms was, in effect, an easy first step. Once Xerox, Motorola, and Ford's top management made up their minds to adopt "quality first" management practices, both the resources and talent to innovate and dramatically improve their quality followed. But what about the less sophisticated, financially strapped, medium and small size firms? Can they shift to a quality approach in time, before they are driven out of business?
 The fact is, time is running out. Hunt estimates the number of firms changing from the traditional to the "quality first" management paradigm will continue to grow in the 1990s until a crucial point- somewhere around the year 2000 -- when more than 50 percent of American businesses will have made the shift to "quality first" practices. Firms that have not adopted "quality first" management practices by then will probably not survive in the global marketplace.
 After year 2000 pros and cons of "quality first" management will no longer be widely debated, as they still are today. By then, "quality first" management will become the operative belief system of the entire business community and the shift from a "bottom line" mentality to a "quality first" way of corporate life will be complete.
 Quality is not an end in itself to being competitive in the global market, but a foundation upon which to build. Having reached a world class level of quality, firms must then turn their attention to other competitiveness factors, such as faster new-product development, higher quality -- lower price products and services, and flexible production. For this reason, medium and small size firms planning on remaining in business into the next century must act today.
 A three-part challenge faces these firms in the 1990s.
 -- It Takes Time. Experience shows that it takes an existing business 3-5 years to completely shift from a traditional to a "quality first" business culture. Businesses that wait too long to start the change process may never catch up with the competition.
 -- Perception is Reality. Learning how to get close to the customer -- an axiom of "quality first" management -- is often more difficult when customers personally must "try out" the firm's product or service. As in the auto industry, where quality has significantly improved, the lingering perception of poorer quality is reality in the customers buying attitude.
 -- Cultural Change is Hard. A firm operating under traditional business practices cannot adopt "quality first" management practices without first replacing its old belief system with a new one. A company shifting its belief system is said to be undergoing a corporate cultural change, and that can be a long, slow, rocky road under the best of circumstances.
 Under traditional corporate beliefs, it is the job of top management to find answers to company problems, and that workers must be closely monitored if they are to be productive. In a "quality first" firm, on the other hand, it has been demonstrated that workers are capable of managing themselves and that solutions to most problems faced in the work place can be best found within the work force itself, not in the president's office.
 For most American firms, the 1980s was a period of talk. The 1990s must become the decade of action. Talking quality is one thing, putting it to work, one firm at a time, is another. We cannot take shortcuts and we cannot pretend that buzzwords, slogans and posturing are enough to meet the competitive challenges facing America. The sooner each corporate leader stops talking quality and starts doing it, the better.
 V. Daniel Hunt, an internationally known consultant and author of "Quality in America" (Business One Irwin, 1992). He is president of Technology Research Corporation, located at 5716 Jonathan Mitchell Road, Fairfax Station, Va. 22039.
 -0- 1/10/92
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Graph charting percentage of American business adopting "Quality First" principles by the year 2000 is available by fax or mail. To request a copy of the graph, arrange an interview regarding this topic or review copies of "Quality in America" please call contact./
 /CONTACT: V. Daniel Hunt, 703-451-8830, or Rick Reddering of Business One Irwin, 708-206-2709/ CO: Business One Irwin ST: IN: PUB SU: PDT PS -- NY072 -- 8822 01/10/92 18:04 EST
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Date:Jan 10, 1992
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