Quality and the Individual

by Dr. Gordon D. Booth

Those of us who have worked in the quality field for a number of years have witnessed an evolution. When ASQC was first organized, there was a great emphasis on "control." This gave rise to the inclusion of the "C" in ASQC. In fact, for many who worked in the struggling quality movement, quality meant control charts. Not that control charts were (or are) to be avoided. It is just that many other important aspects of quality have surfaced and have left us with a much more complete picture of what it takes to make true quality.

Many tools have been proposed for use in the advancement of quality, but none is more important than the people upon whom quality rests. I refer not just to the quality professionals but to the millions of workers who must build quality into the products if quality is to be there at all. I think it is significant that both Juran and Deming placed great emphasis on the worth of the worker and on the importance of showing respect to the workers in all actions taken by a company.

Deming condemned the practice of blaming the worker for problems in the process over which the worker had no control. In recent years, emphasis has shifted toward process improvement, which should have the effect of causing us to look to the process to solve problems. Unfortunately, even companies that have boasted about their emphasis on process improvement are guilty of looking to the worker for many of the problems. Too often, the stated goal of process improvement becomes the justification for downsizing.

Of course, downsizing is important in many cases, but to be consistent with the goal of process improvement, the downsizing should be selective and should produce true improvement of the process. Downsizing by asking each department to reduce the workforce by some percentage is not likely to produce the desired result.

We should always encourage our managers to look closely at the process and determine whether reducing the workforce will really create what is wanted. Respect for the individual always has been a key element of producing high morale and things have not changed in that regard.