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Friday, July 5, 2013

Transparency in Quality Results – Learn from GoodGuide.com

Transparency is a vague virtue. It might not even be a virtue. What could be being transparent for the supplier could quite easily be inadequate information for the consumer. This is something we all face in our personal lives as well. But let’s not get there. J

In his most recent post, Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, talks about sharing quality results with customers. Paul has quoted Influential Voices blogger John Priebe who has blogged about releasing quality metrics to the public. Do we agree with John? Of course we do. It is the right thing to do. But, as is often the case what is right for consumers is not necessarily acceptable to organizations.

Transparency of quality results is an intriguing question. In several supplier/vendor relationships it is mandatory to share quality results. Most notable is the QS 9000 (TS 16949) standard for automotive component suppliers. However, sharing information with consumers is something new and unusual. I have known of companies where departments don’t share their quality results with downstream departments. They would probably faint at John’s suggestion.

Let’s look at how information is currently shared.

The JD Power customer survey for quality of cars does a good job of sharing. If you are thinking of buying a new car, it would help to study JD Power reports. But when you finally buy your car, the manufacturer is not going to tell you how many times was the assembly line stopped during the assembling of this car, or what were the quality results at each inspection levels, or even tougher – quality results of supplier.

Does anyone do this? No.

But there is one example that comes to mind. In his book Ecological Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, has talked extensively about GoodGuide – a group that uses life cycle assessment to assess the damage a product is causing to the environment during it’s production. Across cateogories such as personal care, food, household, baby care, apparel, pet food, and more – the website digs deep into research and gives you a rating you can use to buy or not to buy.

The GoodGuide website describes itself as – Led by Professor Dara O'Rourke of UC Berkeley, GoodGuide's science team – chemists, toxicologists, nutritionists, sociologists, and lifecycle analysis experts – rates products and companies on their health, environmental and social performance.  GoodGuide's 0 to 10 rating system helps consumers quickly evaluate and compare products. Our mission is to help you shop your values wherever you shop.”

Interesting isn’t it. Now imagine a research on process quality results of products that we consume.

Unfortunately, unlike GoodGuide, it will be very difficult to assess internal quality results from research conducted on finished goods. It will be upto companies to share these results.

Will it matter to me if a Home Loan lender releases the % of timeliness and accuracy at each stage of loan processing? Or will it help to know how much rework was carried out on the shiny new phone you are holding?

Think of it, some Airlines do publish on-time departure % when it suits them. Indigo Airlines in India has gained some rapid market share by just focusing on timely departures. They offer no frills but you get where you are going, on time.

Returning to Paul’s question – am I in favor of companies releasing quality results? I don’t think it will happen till there is legislation around it. However, companies that are doing well will release and that should a good outcome for consumers. Just don’t buy from companies that don’t publish such data. Not yet, in the future.

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