Why Manage Better?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Future of Quality – a realistic view and key concerns

Quality is a profession for most of us in ASQ and hopefully passion for some. Our future depends on Quality’s future. Our livelihood depends on how quality fares today and in the future. While we all would like to see quality progress and benefit from its progress we would be more concerned with quality’s progress in the medium term. Medium term (five to ten years) impacts our careers most. It is here that studies such as ‘Future of Quality’ make a difference. They offer us a window into the future.

ASQ’s CEO, Bill Troy has written about the recently released study – Future of Quality on his blog. Bill offers a summary of the study and then invites readers to study the report.

For me the future of quality has at least three scenarios – Optimistic, Pessimistic, and Realistic. The optimistic one is what we would like to see happening; pessimistic is when our worst fears come true; and realistic is what is most likely to happen.

Now I am no clairvoyant but then not being something has never stopped me from having an opinion.

Optimistic version of Future of Quality
  • Quality principles and application will spread across Healthcare, Education, Agriculture/Food, Non-Government, and most importantly Government sector
  • Quality will be at the center of growth strategy. Companies will sell and profit on quality and could even demand a reasonable premium
  • Quality projects will span the enterprise and be run as a companywide program (including human resources, finance, marketing etc)
  • Quality of quality professionals will improve significantly and the best performing students will choose quality as a profession
  • Quality professionals will sit on Boards and be candidates for CXO roles.

Pessimistic version of Future of Quality
  • Quality principles and application will shrink across manufacturing and service. Services will become more automated and quality improvement will not be a priority.
  • Quality will reduce to its earlier avatar of ‘quality inspection and control’
  • Quality projects will become only cost cutting projects with a narrow and sub-optimal focus  
  • Quality of quality professionals will continue to drop – my no. 1 concern
  • Quality managers/leaders will at best be placed three or four layers down to a CEO.

Realistic version of Future of Quality
  • Quality principles and application will move deeper into Education and Healthcare but will struggle to have an impact on Agriculture, Government, and non-government sectors
  • Quality will remain efficiency and cost strategy. Companies will use it to improve performance and reduce cost
  • Quality projects will span the enterprise in several leading organizations
  • Quality will continue to attract professionals who are middle of the class, have good social quotient and investigative skills
  • Quality managers/leaders will remain two layers lower to CEOs.

Further, I would like to see two more areas being addressed in the future of quality.

Quality as a subject has not reached out to a younger audience. In the future, I would like to see quality principles, tools, practices, and methods to travel to schools. In India, ASQ India is trying to take its Right to Quality program to grade 11 and 12 in schools. I have developed a 2 hour talk which I have now delivered to about 400 students at three institutions. We are reaching out to more and hoping to take the message of quality to more students.

Quality as a function has often failed to deliver ‘on time’. Almost all work we do is a project and in my view quality and project management are two sides of the same coin. I would like to see a set of practices evolve where quality projects are managed the project management way. This is already happening in large organizations but I would like to see more of this in the future. ASQ would also do well to increase the emphasis on project management in its certifications.

In summary, the future of quality is reasonably bright. However, it is for us as the quality community to act. Act NOW.