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Under the spell of the quality gurus.

Everybody is obsessively talking about quality today. But what does it really mean? How can we Canadians achieve quality in our companies and in our own departments?

Quality is not just another passing fad like so many other things in the past few years. In part, it is the cause why so many North American companies cannot compete in the international market, or continue to lose their market share every year.

In an effort to incorporate quality principles into their products or services, many North American executives have turned to experts on the topic - so-called quality gurus. Some have been virtually ignored in Canada and the U.S., while they were making a name for themselves helping offshore competitors we are struggling with now. Among these gurus are W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, Phillip B. Crosby, and Genichi Taguchi.


When Deming talks about the success that results from quality improvement it sounds as simple as falling off a log. All you need to do is define quality for your organization, train your employees accordingly and voila! Your company is quality-conscious, productive and competitive.

Deming, the one time government statistician, might well be considered the most notable of the four because he first preached the gospel of quality to the Japanese after World War II when no North American manager would give him the time of day. Deming has gone far beyond the statistical methods that he propounded decades ago, but they remain the heart of his practice. Essentially he first shows companies how to measure the variations in a process in order to pinpoint the causes of poor quality and then how to gradually reduce those variations. Deming advocates SPC, the use of complex statistical charts to plot variations from the ideal in a production process and to determine the right cause to correct those variations. His basic philosophy is that quality improves as variability decreases. Deming believes in on-line quality control rather than end-line control.

To achieve on-line quality control, individuals sample products during the process to determine if the product deviated from an acceptable range. As Deming sees it, any deviation is the result of one of two kinds of variables, either a "special cause" stemming from fleeting random events, or a "common cause" arising from faults in the system. He cites special causes account for only 6 percent of all variations, while 94 percent of all deviations can be traced to common causes. In Deming's view, as it is mine, most companies spend too much time trying to determine the nature of special causes rather than examining the system to find out what's behind the common causes.

Deming lays the blame for these system-related problems squarely on management, not the workers. In his courses and seminars he usually tells managers they are a pack of idiots for letting systems problems get out of hand. In Deming's opinion, if a company is having problems, it's the fault of management for not having created the right system.


Joseph Juran, like Deming, was also invited to Japan after World War II where his ideas were warmly received.

For Juran, quality means fitness to serve and it has two basic attributes. First, quality consists of those product or service features that meet customers' needs. Second, quality means freedom from deficiencies.

Juran is a strong advocate of employee involvement and places the responsibility for leading the quality-improvement effort with management. To assist management with change, Juran has developed three managerial processes known as the "Juran Trilogy". These processes are planning, control, and improvement. During the planning phase, the company must identify customers and their needs. In the language of quality, the term customer means more than just the consumer of a product or service. On a production line, it can be the next person down the line. Therefore, Juran looks at quality improvement in a project-by-project, step-by-step manner. Every step in a process affects the next step in that process. When work is passed on from one employee to the next, the recipient of that work is the customer, and the process becomes one of meeting the needs of that customer. Deming calls it "breaking down the barriers between departments." Juran calls it "identifying your customer". Another equally important thrust of Juran's improvement philosophy calls for upper management to make quality a strategic cornerstone of its business plan.


Phillip B. Crosby, the former vice president and director of quality at ITT, shouts the battle cry of "Zero Defects".

Crosby promotes the idea that quality is conformance to requirements. In other words, quality can be achieved by not having to redo things that weren't done right the first time. To accomplish that directive, management first must set the requirements, then supply the wherewithal for employees to meet them, and finally encourage and help employees in that pursuit.

Crosby's nontechnical but structured 14 step approach stresses prevention. His performance standard is "zero defects" - meaning no variations from the requirements. He believes the key of doing things right the first time is getting employees to understand the requirements and then keeping management from placing obstacles in their way to meeting those requirements. A benefit of Crosby's approach is that he works on the mind and focuses on behavior among people. His methods help to adjust peoples attitudes toward quality.

Like the others, Crosby believes that quality improvement is a process not a program. It must remain a constant priority. Management must show determination about it, educate its employees, and then implement the quality standards.


Genichi Taguchi takes issue with the concept of zero defects. If the product is poorly designed, he states, it will have quality problems regardless of whether the factory produces the object without defects.

Taguchi suggests that managers concentrating on the goal of zero defects have grown accustomed to viewing quality in terms of acceptable deviations from a target - rather than the effort to hit the target. He argues that the more a company deviates from targets, the greater its losses will be.

Taguchi's approach centers on a statistical method of zeroing in rapidly on the variations in a product that distinguish the bad parts from the good. The point is to avoid endlessly testing for all the possible defects. He uses an assortments of graphs and tables to find the key variables.


Most quality professionals suggest that Taguchi's ideas are most applicable to manufacturing environments and groups that are more technically oriented, while Crosby's has much appeal for top management. Juran's concept advocates collecting data that demonstrates the extent of a problem and therefore, also has appeal for senior management, while Deming's approach is utilized by functional and line managers.

All too often people make the mistake of attaching themselves to one guru, becoming a disciple of him and isolating themselves from the others. You need to learn from all four and realize that they all basically are saying the same thing but in a different way.

Because of the complexity of most environments, managers should select methods and recommendations from all four. This will ultimately deliver the most advantages to the organization while respecting its existing culture. In my view, no one philosophy can be considered any better than the others. Each one offers something for every environment in your pursuit of quality improvement.

Larry A. Heinzlmeir has had numerous articles published in the areas of leadership, management and quality improvement. He is author of Strategic Career Marketing and is currently completing another book on Automous Work Teams. Mr. Heinzlmeir has help many of Canada's leading organizations achieve greater quality leadership. Based in Calgary, The Centre for Training and Development is one of Alberta's largest independent training and consulting organizations. CTD has received widespread recognition and is considered one of the acknowledged leaders in the field of leadership development, quality and productivity improvement and organizational effectiveness.
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Title Annotation:experts on product and services quality
Author:Heinzlmeir, Larry A.
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 22, 1991
Previous Article:The research decision: in-house or contract out?
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