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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quick Quality



Question:  What do you think about "Quick Quality"?  Should we create the "Quality Olympics"; higher-faster-stronger?  Maybe we should require a new version of ISO standards every year.  How how about the 20 minute assessment?

I like to read Wikipedia.  I know that smart writers are not supposed to say that, because Wikipedia may be accessible and popular and quick and biased more towards opinions than irrefutable fact, but I like it for all those same reasons.  When I read through their articles I am not so sure of the verification of all the information, but it gives a sense of the scope of people’s thinking on a subject.

Take for example the word oxymoron.  It has nothing to do with stupid bovines (moronic oxen?)  

Wikipedia tells me that it is derived from an example of a Greek oxymoron basically interpreted as “sharply-dull”, and means a phrase of two juxtaposed that appear to constitute  an internal conflict, but which most commonly is seemingly accurate.  Examples include “bitter sweet” or “deafening silence”.  Relevant to this discussion, Wikipedia talks about “false oxymora” in which two words are put together in a way that expresses no inherent contradiction, but at the same time implies a condition that cannot occur.  This can be done for example as a way to express humor or an ideological conviction (“government worker”), or cynicism (“honest broker”).

It is within this context that I raise the term “Quick Quality”. 
From the discussion above, it seems to me that this is a phrase that the authors of the Wikipedia discussion would call a false oxymoron.  It may not be ideological and cynical; it is just a good example of alliterative and false language construct and a really bad idea.   

You can put the two words together but it generates a nonsense term.  Quick Quality may be something quickly but, for certain it does not derive from Quality, nor does it lead to Quality.  

You can look at the impact of Quickness at virtually every step along the way.
At the international and national standards development level quick decisions result in clauses like measurement uncertainty being put into standards like 17025 or 15189.  Here we are 10-15 years later and most of the laboratories of which I am aware (food and water laboratories) being accredited to the standards still don’t know or understand or support measurement uncertainty.  Clearly the inclusion of the clause was not given the time to be properly reflected upon.  Quick output of standards development inhibits the discussion and dialogue that is essential to ensure that the standards are actually recognizing and representing the key and core principles.  

It may be acceptable in consumer marketing to just get the thing out today.  Whatever is wrong, we can fix it with the next version.  That is not acceptable in standards development.

How about speeding up the implementation of Quality in the organization?  That seems like a good idea.  Why takes so long, we should be able to do it in 6 months, maybe less.  The implementation of Quality by management dictate is easy to say and easy to force.  But there is lots of experience and information on how not well that works out.  Quick in …Quick out.  

On a number of times I have referred to Boiral and Amara and their article on the high rate of certification failure  [see Boiral,O and Amara,N.  2009. Paradoxes of ISO 9000 Performance: A Configurational Approach.  QMJ VOL. 16, 36-60.]
Large internal barriers lead to failure, either as ineffective certification (when implementation never got started) or as ceremonial (when implementation occurred but actions were blocked).  I have seen both.

Those working in laboratories know and understand our accreditation cycle, fortunately now becoming a construct much in the past tense:



And wouldn't we all be happy if we could get those external assessments done in 20-30 minutes, maybe over coffee and lunch.  Quick and confident.  Right?

The reality is that Quality relies on the presence of leadership and planning and culture.  And it  takes time to be done right.  Rushing to get the quick Quality infusion gives the message that the organization is not really serious about this.  More likely this is more about a quarterly report or a requirement for an upcoming project or a decision to lead the charge to the next flavor-of-the-month.  Whatever it is, it is not about learning or improving or being engaged over the long haul.

So there may be areas where quick action is good action, but implementing Quick Quality is not one of them.

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