Can quality become free (again)

When I started my career in the quality space, I was mentored and trained on the powerful message from Phil Crosby that ‘Quality is Free’. Initially, this seemed to be an ambitious goal, but over time I realized that it is very doable. To realize this vision, it is critical for leaders to be committed towards creating and nurturing a culture that encourages and rewards incremental success stories tied to improving product or service quality.

So if quality can continue to be free, why don’t we hear that from individuals and teams in most organizations. Here’s my take and I’m open to comments from readers.

  1. Quality principles and practices are rarely integrated into K12 curriculum and its very selectively available post K12. The simplicity associated with quality is better understood if it is introduced early and continuously reinforced through the education journey
  2. While some might make an argument that quality practices can vary by industry, its a fact that the basic principles still apply
  3. Early introduction of even simple techniques and terminology (e.g. root cause analysis, PDCA, fishbone diagram, kaizen, affinity diagrams) in K12 and continuously integrating into students’ curriculum can potentially prevent the perception that quality is a set of activities that one does over regular work
  4. The struggle that quality practitioners face in addressing the frequent concerns from teams that quality takes time or requires additional effort or that it slows progress can be reasonably mitigated by teams beginning to view quality as a mindset that is integrated into every action, interaction and decisions. Not merely a tactical layer of activities
  5. If quality practices and techniques are integrated and presented as simple yet effective methods for decision making then we also potentially reduce the excessive reliance on (often pricey) tools to drive quality. In some organizations these tools have become a mandatory crutch without which quality cannot be at an acceptable level — at least that is the perception
  6. I see no reason why the effort and cost associated with unwanted layers of waste and rework cannot be instilled early on. I’m not against the ‘fail early, learn fast’ principles to product development, but I’m sure all of us see opportunities everyday to improve efficiency and reliability in product development and delivery. I’m sure even a Lean Startup advocate would not encourage waste and rework that has the potential to hurt the bottom-line
  7. While the term ‘technical debt’ can sound daunting in K12, I see no reason why the key message here cannot be introduced early so that the importance of managing technical debt (or potentially avoiding) and its impact on quality would not seem too challenging to understanding or practice.

Do you think education has a role to play here?

Note: These are my views only and do not represent those of my organization or any practitioner group that I’m associated with.

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