Monday, January 2, 2017

Reflections on some Crosby Reflections

Happy 2017 to all.  

Recently I found a small book entitled Philip Crosby’s Reflections on Quality written by Philip Crosby himself.  It is not a standard Crosby quality book, like Quality is Free.  To put this book in context, when Crosby wrote “Reflections” he was 70 years old; he had long established his Quality bona-fides.  This was an opportunity for him to reflect on what was the essence of his message.  Most of his reflections are in the form of aphorisms (short, pithy observations of a general Quality truth), less than 140 characters.   These days this book could have been a series of tweets. 

I have been working on putting the final changes into our certificate course on laboratory quality management so I am drawn to Crosby’s The problem of Quality Management is not what people don’t know about it. It was what the think they do know (108 characters).  And I link that to another “The Quality Improvement process is progressive.  One doesn’t just go from awful to wonderful in a single bound.” (111 characters)

Over time we have seen a lot of laboratories and laboratorians that view Quality Management as the creation and maintenance of a quality manual.  They see Quality as the creation of an standard operating procedure (SOP) or the creation of rules around revising documents.  Worse, they view Quality Management as the creation of a “lots of good words” Mission Statement (for a example of nice words with NO action, see:  

It is not really their fault.  Indeed, many workshops both done here and abroad were done as “I will teach you how to write SOPs” or “How to maintain your documents” or “How to write a Mission Statement” without any quality context.  They were done as “cart before the horse” because they were easy to put together and easy to present; a lot easier than instilling a workable culture of Quality or a framework of Quality purpose.  All the workshops could be counted as could all the participants (over the last 3 years we put on 12 workshops and trained 168 people); but to what point?   

That was the way quality was taught in the “olden days”.  

Today we know better, and the horse comes first or at least beside.  In our course, and I expect we are NOT unique, we put a lot of time and energy into the why and context and culture.  Today we spend time and energy promoting replacing old habits with new and better ones.

And that brings me to my second (maybe my first) favorite Crosby Reflection about the progressive nature of improvement.  Juran and Deming started going to Japan in the ‘50s but didn’t see tangible evidence of success until the ‘70s and ‘80s.   The PEPFAR program and the ASLM (see: started early near 2000, but it took to 2014 to see the first international accreditations.  At some point, when the concept of culture kicks in and if the mentoring is patient, it will all come together.

Success can follow when everyone is both persistent and patient, the true nature and purpose of Quality can shine through.


UBC Certificate Course for Laboratory Quality Management
starts January 11, 2017

Save the Date:  October 1-3, 2017
POLQM Fall Conference – Vancouver BC Canada

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