This is a quite pertinent question to ask. As we are celebrating 25th anniversary of quite a few models, standards and philosophies those have shaped modern day Quality profession and professionals, it is necessary for us to look at history and learn from our evolution.
Initiation of Quality profession can be traced to ‘guilds’ in 13th century. Those were the days of individual craftsman and individual’s competence played significant role in determining Quality. During industrial revolution period, the relationship between quality, productivity and cost was established. Impact of Quality was observed not only on customer experience but also on operational performance. The early 20th century has taken quality from localized improvements to across the value chain thru ‘process’. In the post world war II era, Quality Gurus’ have shared multiple philosophies and principles. Majority of them were focusing on role of leaders and management in promoting Quality and continuous improvement in the processes in order to improve Quality and operational performance.
1987 is a tipping point for Quality. During that year, we saw emergence of multiple models and standards like MBNQA for business excellence, ISO 9000 series as standards for Quality Management Systems, Six Sigma improvement paradigm at Motorola and Process Capability Maturity Model at Carnegie Mellon University.
Based on this historical perspective, I observe 5 phases in the Quality evolution.
1. Quality as individual’s competence
2. Quality control
3. Quality assurance
4. Quality to improve business performance through process management
5. Quality for business excellence and sustainability
Though, it is difficult for me to say which phase should be termed as traditional quality.
It is essential for Quality professionals to bring all the stakeholders of Quality profession on common ground. If leader’s vision for Quality, management’s commitment to Quality, expectations of organization stakeholders from Quality and competence of Quality professionals are not aligned, that it may lead to confusion and chaos in the operations. In my understanding, Organization needs to go through all the phases of evolution till it reaches to 5th phase. 5th phase is a journey that should become integral part of culture / DNA of the organization.
Stakeholders’ expectations may vary from Quality function based on their immediate need, understanding and exposure to different phases of Quality evolution and perception of Quality professional’s competence. Quality professionals need to identify the appropriate phase for the organization based on industry maturity, competitive land-scape and leader’s vision for organization. They should understand the different competencies required for each of these five phases and invest into self-development. Quality professionals are change agents. They help organization eco-system to transition from one phase of quality to another. This transition brings prosperity and development for organization, its stakeholders and society at large.