Quality is no-longer optional. When was the last time you bought a bad product? And have you noticed how service-sector companies which aren’t very good at customer service, don’t stay in business for long?
But it didn’t used to be this way. Back in the ‘bad old days’, simply having ‘Made in England / USA / The Empire’ was enough to sell your products to a willing queue of customers. Customers who could buy from you, or from really second-rate alternatives, or just plain go without.
Through painstaking analysis of defects, errors and mistakes, quality has moved forward more than any other measure of companies’ effectiveness.
The problem is that even though quality is taken as a ‘given’ by customers and consumers, many companies just take it for granted. They’ve improved their performance on a rising tide, rather than pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.
And then you get a quality issue, just when the CEO attends a seminar on something called Six Sigma. This is a system that was designed in semiconductor plants, where one defect in a million is enough to stop all production. It uses advanced statistics and some great change management methods, all wrapped up in karate-style language (Black / Green Belts etc).
Six Sigma is NOT appropriate for most companies! If they’re not doing the basics to improve quality and control their business processes (this applies to service-sector firms too), Six Sigma is just too much, too fast, and far, far too expensive!
Most companies should use the seven basic quality improvement tools to exhaustion before they go anywhere near Six Sigma. Used properly, they’ll solve 90% of all problems.
And seeing as they’re ‘basic’, once you’ve learnt how to use them, you don’t need expensive consultants to apply them again, and again, and again.
Next: The Seven Tools Described.