The irony about quality is that while most people feel they know a 'good quality' product from a 'bad quality' product, there's no agreed-upon definition of the word. If it were possible to come up with a standard definition of quality that would satisfy everyone's expectations, then defining "optimal quality" would be easy. But identifying a single practical definition of quality is a nightmare-even though entire organizations are dedicated to that purpose. The result is what we call "quality chaos."
To avoid quality chaos, each organization must formulate its own definition of quality and create an accountable, quantifiable process to achieve it. If quality is only given lip service; if it is not a critical performance driver; and if it's not measured, then quality won't occur. Quality should never be the sole responsibility of a "quality department" or cost center. Instead, it needs to be everyone's responsibility-from production workers to office clerks to management.
What tools can be used to improve quality throughout the organization? Obviously, there's no single fix-all quality tool; but a combination of several tools, appropriately applied, can match the need. So the questions are "Which quality tool should I use? When should I use it? How can I avoid the quality chaos that has tangled up so many companies?"
Part of the answer is that you need a Quality Manager-someone who understands the options that are available for quality improvement. The Quality Manager should not be an inspector. Instead, he should be someone who can offers guidelines for a quality system and quality tool selection and implementation. In short, someone who can apply the right tools at the right time and drive the organization toward a world-class environment.
You can read more in my Quality magazine article, 'Avoiding Quality Chaos: Knowing Which Tools to Use and When to Use Them.'
How have you avoided quality chaos in your organization? What tools have you used, and how did you use them? We'd like to hear your thoughts.