a history of quality: the prequel

A History of Quality: A Prequel

In Quality Management by Frances DonnellyLeave a Comment

a history of quality: the prequel

In our past four articles we have delivered quite an extensive story of quality. We identified that quality is both a journey and a destination, tips on how to get on the quality path and know you have arrived at great quality outcomes.

List of articles:

  1. The Return of “What is Quality?”
  2. What is Quality? The Sequel
  3. Quality as a Destination: The Story Continues
  4. Quality as a Journey: Committed to Seeing it Through

But to truly appreciate the story of quality, we must also appreciate the history.

For many, the history of modern quality programs begins in the 1950s when Deming and Juran became engaged with Japanese post-war manufacturing in an effort to eradicate the opinion that ‘made in Japan’ really meant ‘junk’.

In delivering their knowledge about the use of statistical models to control manufacturing outputs, they demonstrated that adherence to specifications for output could be consistently and cost-effectively achieved. In effect, they demonstrated that quality was not some abstract adjective that was randomly achieved. It was a destination that could be reliably achieved through a well-executed journey.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the supremacy of the Japanese automotive and electronics manufacturers caused American producers, and others, who had long held sway in those industries to recognize the need to address their own shortcomings. So they too began their own quality journeys. This made them well aware that it was possible to build quality into any product if the effort to define the quality destination and methods for the journey were defined.

Today, we see expanded impacts of the quality destination and journey that are driven by initiatives and commitments to safety and reliability — in everything from the food we eat to the machines that help surgeons accurately select and place orthopedic implants.

Many of these initiatives came out of recognition that if the life of an astronaut or the well being of a child eating a school lunch was at stake, then there was no justification for not having defined processes that could accurately and repeatedly produce required outcomes.

Our story began by asking, “What is Quality?” The answer is that this is defined differently for every organization. But without doubt, the answer includes following a map with guideposts along the way and staying committed to both the journey and destination.

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