The Shortcomings of QA

Taylor’s approach to quality has been widely criticized for several good reasons. One criticism is the time, effort, and subsequent cost associated with developing these work standards. More specifically, resources are devoted to closely monitoring standardized methods in many different aspects of production, and calculating fair rates of pay for completing these tasks as prescribed. The costs of doing all this may offset the benefits gained from the practice.

Another problem arising from the scientific management of quality is the predictably strong resistance from those doing the work this way. This resistance is largely due to the attempts by management to closely measure effort and productivity; what we might now refer to as “micromanagement.” Employee autonomy and freedom of choice about how to do the job at hand gave way to control and restriction by management. This process model of performance we raised in Chap. 1, doubtlessly leads to eroding individual initiative and reducing motivation with the repetitious doing of rudimentary tasks in the one best way.

The counter argument to these shortcomings is this: By following a set of well thought out systems and processes, the customer is virtually guaranteed of receiving a quality product or service. As an illustration, if you buy a “Big Mac” in any restaurant in the world, you get a burger that pretty much tastes the same, has the same packaging, the same ingredients, and even at a similar comparative price. Briefly, QA promises that the customer gets what they pay for.

Despite the emphasis on the customer, quality is assessed, ironically not by the end-user, but by whether or not the organization has met certain internal criteria. If they have, they get the literal seal of approval by a regulatory body for meeting industry standards. And if not, the organization forfeits its QA certification. The customer isn’t consulted. Under the QA regime, the customer is relegated to a secondary consider?ation. So it’s somewhat paradoxical, isn’t it, that meeting the customer’s expectation was the original driver behind Deming and Juran’s concept of quality and specifically, TQM?

Speaking of customer expectations, these have been influenced by technological advancements and the intensification of competition. What’s more, the consumer’s idea of quality has changed too as a result of these factors. In the food industry, for example, people’s concerns about food safety, health, animal welfare, and environmental factors are more prevalent now than at any time in history. So safety, health, animal welfare, and environmental protection are issues affecting quality in food quality. Putting it another way: Food quality is being evaluated on factors other than taste, availability, service, and price.

Rather than getting the proverbial “tick in the box” for meeting industry standards, performance also hinges on understanding the business’s customers and their evolving expectations.

Let me be clear about this: QA is—and will probably continue to be— an important dimension of producing quality products and services. I’m not suggesting we do away with QA. The main thrust of my argument is that we need to balance QA considerations with a focus on the customer. QA and customer-focus aren’t necessarily the same thing. QA isn’t the complete solution to meeting the customer’s perception of quality. It’s part of the answer, albeit an important part; but not the only part.

It ought to be said that QA practices now extend beyond the physical gates of the business. QA includes supply chains and how stakeholders are communicated with, for instance. All facets of the business, both internally and externally, have a QA system attached to it. Although, the concentration of activity is still very much around in-house operations. Smart, responsive, common sense, adaptive behavior can get overlooked in the quest for across-the-board standardization.

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