I enjoy insightful prose...I enjoy reading it, thinking about it and sharing it with others. I think memorialized words of wisdom from others not only define the originator, but they also contribute to our individualism.
A few months ago, I was curious to know more about the words of wisdom that define the quality community. I reached out in the American Society for Quality's LinkedIn Group asking for personal favorites and have since enjoyed reading over 700 posts!
I often revisit the posts in the LinkedIn discussion and wasn't surprised to note that a handful of quotations surfaced the most frequently. Interestingly, they are the same nuggets of insight that I see tweeted the most often as well. And when you segregate the top trending occurrences, you gain a great deal of insight into the quality industry, from within the quality industry.
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The top trending quality quotations include:
1) "Quality is not an act. It is a habit." - Aristotle
Aristotle's fourth century insight into quality is certainly among the most frequently cited. And if a habit is considered no more than repetitive action, it's obvious why so many quality professionals connect with this idea and seek to educate others with it. As straightforward and intuitive as it may seem, many companies fail to carry out perfectly good quality initiatives either once they've resolved the immediate concern(s) or because results aren't happening quickly enough. Balancing short-term results with long-term objectives is certainly no easy task. Aristotle is quite progressive for the time if you consider his focus on redundancy. And if you incorporate the significance of metrics, you've got a successful paradigm.
2) "Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives" - William A. Foster
I recall this as one of the first quality inspired quotations I came across after entering the industry. Seeing it so often, I started to get curious about who William A. Foster is/was. It turns out there's quite an air of mystery surrounding who can actually be attributed to this beautifully expressed declaration.
When an initial Google search didn't turn up anything significant except for a wiki on a military-related William A. Foster, I got really dedicated and clicked over to page two of the search results. I found a Google research thread looking for the same information, with conclusions drawn that indicated the first noted observation came from an advertisement in the June 10th, 1939 edition of the New York Times. Since no other source can be found, the conclusion is that the advertising agency came up with it, which makes sense to me considering the quality of the content itself. As profound as the statement is, a solid assumption would be that someone in QA came up with it!As for the context, I can't argue with this choice as a favorite. Whoever William A. Foster was, if it even was William A. Foster, the idea that quality requires high intention is inarguable. As a general misconception, I've noted only those within the quality profession know of the true level of "sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution" that those committed to the industry put into their work each day.
3) "Quality is doing the right thing when no one is looking." - Henry Ford
Henry Ford probably knew better than anyone else at the time that success on the production line depends on individual accountability resulting in a quality product. With so many individuals working on assembly components, it wasn't possible to oversee everyone and check 100 percent prior to shipment. The cost in resources alone would likely askew any savings from the production design. Ford knew that quality was the key to making everything work and he knew that he had to instill that thinking into everyone contributing within the organization. Across the board, everyone must feel ownership and overall accountability for the organization's ability to meet its goals and objectives.
Doing the right thing when no is looking comes from an organization that instills quality into the fabric of corporate culture. It's the organization that creates a culture where people understand and respect their significance to the overall objectives of the organizations. Working together and being accountable to something larger than us is a strong motivator.
4) "Don't find fault, find a remedy." - Henry Ford
This little nugget of insight is one of my personal favorites. It's no surprise that Henry Ford has multiple significant contextual contributions in the quality industry.
I think it's in our nature to focus on the source of the issue at hand rather than trying to find a resolution... flight or fight, I suppose. Looking backwards for a source could reveal the remedy through association, but I agree with Ford that it's likely going to take considerably less time and resources to focus on the remedy to start with rather than taking the time to find fault.
It's often no more than our instinct to avoid blame and "save face"...pass the potato. In my experience, it's the quality professionals that carry a target of responsibility regarding quality. But, as Deming noted, "quality is everyone's responsibility."
5) "Quality is everyone's responsibility." - W. Edwards Deming
The idea of quality being frequently and consistently distributed throughout the organization is one that those in the industry see as problem number one. It's that part of corporate culture that has nestled the perception of QA as being solely the responsibility of the QA Manager, QA Department, or whatever person or small group of people identify themselves directly and officially where management is concerned.
It is perfectly logical to departmentalize quality. If you think about it, merchandizing doesn't expect other departments to do its job, operations doesn't expect other departments to do its job, etc. But, the essence of quality is that you're only "controlling" it if there's not total buy-in. You can't "assure" it until everyone is on board. True quality is that which is assured, in a perfect world of course.
6) "Quality is free. It's not a gift, but it's free. The 'unquality' things are what cost money."- Philip B. Crosby
While I agree that Philip's Crosby's insight into quality is unparalleled in the industry, I also can't accept that quality is free. To me, "free" indicates a "zero" sum. It tells me that there's no weight towards either side of the cost equation. And, I'm thinking that the costs associated with ensuring quality, such as audits, inspections, etc. are inputs that add value and profit. Profit indicates greater than zero so I wouldn't say it's free.
As for "unquality things," I wouldn't disagree that activities such as rework and warranty costs affect the bottom line. But, the activities involved in assurance and control contribute directly to the value in a much more proactive and positive way. I'm drawn to another quote, where in fact "it takes money to make money."
About ten years ago, I purchased a book written by Helio Gomes that is simply titled Quality Quotes. I find it to be an excellent source of inspiration and even motivation. Quotes act like public relations too, in that using them adds a certain amount of credibility. I'll continue to see what's new in the LinkedIn thread and look forward to seeing how perceptions within the industry change through time.
Jennifer Stepniowski has worked with Pro QC International, a third-party quality control and engineering firm, for over ten years. In that time, she has helped lead the marketing and operations initiatives that developed Pro QC into the global success it is today. As a community leader, blogger, industry content contributor, marketing specialist and college instructor, Jennifer is passionate about sharing successful strategies and ideas with others in a hands-on and interactive way. Jennifer lives in sunny Florida where she can be reached via email at email@example.com or 813-428-3277.
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