Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quality is Expectation, not Ambition

This month’s ASQ Influential Voices blog post has made my head ache.  I had a difficult time in linking the source of the original author’s discussion to Mr. Troy’s questions and back to blog title.  With that in mind, I am going to try to make my own sense of where all this is going. 

I have come to believe that quality in the general sense is a series of expectations based on capabilities and an organization’s desire for success.  The execution of those expectations drives an organization’s success.  Expectations are derived from a series of enforced standards.  The discipline in keeping to those standards drives execution. 
To me this explains how the quality profession has grown from just standards development and enforcement to also include performance improvement methodologies and tools as part of the umbrella.  Innovation and industry specific application is a natural offshoot of the desire to be always looking forward towards new challenges and applications of these concepts. 
To stretch things a bit, the field of accounting was developed as the first metric system of a success of an organization.  It had a simple premise:  success was based on how much money you made because the assumption was that if a customer was willing to continue to give your organization money for your product or service you were successful.   As someone whose first degree was in accounting I can safely say that the current field has pretty much strayed away from the original concept.   With the rise of taxing systems, the “pureness” of the accounting profession has developed into more a politicization exercise rather than good record keeping of an organization’s success.   Successful organizations always realized that money is not a driver but a by-product of a successful organization.   Successful organizations execute to standards that match customers’ expectations.   World class organizations were very good at execution; the challenge was keeping up with customer’s changing expectations. 
In 1970, economist Milton Friedman created the germ that developed into the concept that large corporations could be successful by maximizing shareholder value since shareholders were considered customers of corporations.  The metric used for public traded companies was stock value. This immediately took hold in Wall Street since stock price was their currency.   MBA programs naturally picked up on this concept and became personnel feeders into this system.   For the past 40 years we have seen good, well run, quality (by our definition) organizations be pushed to the sideline as a result of this immersive concept. 
Why now the change in perspective? Besides organizational performance plateaus, we are realizing that stockholders represent a smaller and smaller number of actual consumers of a product or service.  Today, the majority of holders of corporate stock are actually suppliers (of capital) and not customers of an organization’s product or service.  Stockholders are on the wrong side of the SIPOC map. 
The quality community that have had their “conversion” truly know in their hearts what is right about quality and understand  the value they provide to the organization.  Unfortunately, they are tired of fighting against the past 40 years of stupidity.  Quality is not attractive to the upcoming generation because it is seen as a dead end road requiring a lot of energy and no documented paths to future leadership, as reinforced by the current curricula norms.
Having a quality professional converse with the C-level about the goodness of quality is akin to asking a Christian layman to perform mission work in the Middle East.  You will get some success but it will be few and far between and you are liable to be faced with (career) death.  So, again, I call on the church (ASQ) to lay the groundwork.  Interact more with MBA academia to change their curriculum.  Show how maximizing shareholder value does significant damage in both a business and a community partner sense.  The members can’t preach the good word of quality without resources such that business will respect the message and not dismiss it.
 Below are some links that have been impactful in this blog post.