For professionals in the business of quality, inspiration can be found in all sorts of ways, from studying other industries to browsing the patent office or even taking a different route to work. A simple but often motivating approach is to look to words of wisdom from others in their fields.
Below are a few quality quotes for industry professionals to mull over. They may not be specifically quality assurance (QA) quotes or quality management quotes, but these quotations carry quite a bit of truth for professionals in the pursuit of quality excellence and quality improvement.
One of the many nuggets of insight attributed to Peter Drucker1, considered the founder of modern management, this one gets to the heart of adding value. Just because you’re really efficient at something, doesn’t mean that thing is worth doing the way you’re doing it. For example, you may be really efficient at generating product data. But is all of the data accurate, relevant, and usable? If the data is efficiently generated but isn’t meaningful in ways that foster improvement, why generate that data?
One lesson to take away from this quote is that a company’s quality culture shouldn’t prioritize timeliness over improvement. Timeliness is still important, of course, and for life sciences companies providing life-saving products, the speed of getting products to market is critical. Organizations should balance streamlining processes with enhancing overall product and service quality.
As with most notable quotes found online, this one is often misattributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. In fact, it originated with writer and historian Will Durant, when discussing Aristotle and Greek science, in his 1926 book “The Story of Philosophy.”2,3 If quality excellence is a habit, and a habit is repetitive action, then quality excellence is not a one-time project. It isn’t a single, quick change and then moving on to other work. It’s continuous.
As straightforward as this concept may seem, many organizations fail to carry out quality initiatives either after they've addressed and resolved the immediate concern or because they aren’t realizing results fast enough. One of the habits that commonly stymie industry leaders in their quality journey is not approaching quality excellence as a long-term commitment. When a company creates a culture of quality that focuses on continuous improvement, balancing short-term results with long-term objectives becomes a little easier and a lot more rewarding.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that this quote originated with someone in quality control or quality assurance. Typically attributed to a William Foster or Willa Foster, Victorian art critic and writer John Ruskin, or – once again – Aristotle, the earliest observation appears to come from a 1930s print ad by advertising firm Bermingham, Castleman & Pierce Inc.4,5,6 The source of the quote being an advertising firm – rather than, say, a world-renowned thinker on quality, manufacturing, or management – shouldn’t undercut the perceptivity of the quote.
Generally speaking, achieving quality in anything doesn’t just happen. It requires purposeful decisions and deliberate actions. It requires a commitment to putting in the work and improving every day. Even then, continuous improvement doesn’t end – industry practices evolve, consumers’ needs and expectations change, and quality excellence requires the ability to adapt to these changes in ways that improve quality and add value.
This quote comes from Taiichi Ohno 7, considered the father of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Even in life sciences organizations, where regulatory requirements and standards can require strictly enforced rules, processes, and procedures, there are ways for individual team members to make improvements in meaningful ways. To do this requires not assuming things are OK the way they are and, instead, always looking for ways to “re-improve what was improved for further improvement.”8
The concept of Kaizen can be applied here. The Kaizen approach is to make small, continuous changes over a period of time to create productivity improvements. These changes can involve quality control, standardized work, and the elimination of waste, among other things. Another distinguishable feature of Kaizen is its companywide involvement, encouraging all employees to regularly contribute to the continuous improvement of processes. Continuous improvement practices with companywide buy-in reliably demonstrate that small, incremental changes, rather than immediate, large-scale paradigm shifts, ensure quality.
One way to look at this quote by Charles Eames 9, who together with his wife Ray were pioneers in industrial design, is that every detail or interaction is important to the whole. Connections are a foundational necessity in life and in work, whether it’s about bringing people, ideas, or objects closer together. This holds true in many different situations and industries.
Taken as a quality management quote in life sciences, it can apply to organizations prioritizing connectivity and moving beyond silos. Quality should not be departmentalized – solely the responsibility of the QA department – but should be the responsibility of everyone in the organization. That requires an approach to quality that brings together all applicable people, processes, and technologies, which makes it possible to share information across the organization. Every connection will contribute to the final outcome. By shifting to a more interconnected, holistic view of quality across operations and functions, organizations will be better positioned to achieve quality excellence.
Just as this list of quality quotes for industry professionals offers applicable insights from surprising sources – such as philosophy, advertising, and design – when quality professionals look at things from a different angle to find inspiration, they may be surprised to find some unique ways to improve their quality practices.
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