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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Quality Conversion and ZAMM
Bill, and Brooks Carder set out an interesting and challenging thesis that Qualitologists have gone through some form of epiphany and conversion that “we know in our hearts we can help make this world work better.” As I read this I was intrigued, but with a nagging feeling that this was not the first time I had heard of Quality expressed in near-religious terms.
One gets the sense that many people of my generation who moved towards a career in Quality were influenced by Pirsig and ZAMM. For example when Persig writes of Quality in it greater context it is always capitalized. When discussed in a more prosaic smaller sense, it is in lower case. I thought this was a style of my own invention. Probably not.
Further in support, in the commentary of Brooks Calder that Bill includes in his entry, he says: “After all, … quality is responsible for many of the things that make life better.” And his proposal for a new ASQ mission statement includes: “To improve the function and value of goods and services worldwide, and to facilitate the development of new products and services that improve the quality of life.”
Parallel that with Pirsig who wrote: “A person who connects with Quality … is filled with gumption, or enthusiasm, which literally means filled with God”. A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around and stewing about things. He is at the front of the train of his own awareness and watching to see what is up the track” and further, and perhaps more importantly, “when a person loses sight of Quality they lose enthusiasm for what they are doing”.
Not to get too far down the road or too much off the deep end, Pirsig’s philosophical view of quality had a sense dualism: that it was perhaps, in part subjective, a part of the mind, and at the same time was in part, objective, a part of the material world. Or it was neither and was a third entity and independent of both.
As a side note, Brooks uses the term “a bunch of nerd engineers” to describe the quality community. Perhaps a bit too self-diminishing. Pirsig saw Quality a little differently. Said Pirsig’s in his immediate post-sixties era phraseology “When you subtract Quality, you get squareness. Absence of Quality is the essence of squareness. We are not the nerds, indeed we are the hip.
And as a final note, Robert Pirsig, is 84 years old. He was interviewed by the BBC in 2012 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8zdT5jYlro) It is well worth watching. Should ASQ recognize him for his contributions to the study and recognition of Quality.