How much do quality failures cost your company?
Quality defects have significant costs associated with them – some of the most obvious being money, time, resources, and lost reputation. And programs to eliminate quality defects can be expensive and time consuming.
So, do you insist on eliminating defects entirely no matter the cost? Or, do you accept that a certain, albeit very small, percentage of defects is acceptable, and just accept the costs and learn to live with them?
One of the most influential ideas about this was the notion of "zero defects." This phrase was coined by Philip Crosby in his 1979 book titled, "Quality is Free."
His position was that where there are zero defects, there are no costs associated with issues of poor quality; and hence, quality becomes free.
Zero defects is a way of thinking and doing that reinforces the notion that defects are not acceptable, and that everyone should "do things right the first time". The idea here is that with a philosophy of zero defects, you can increase profits both by eliminating the cost of failure and increasing revenues through increased customer satisfaction.
While this will probably be true, it may not be true in every case!
"Zero defects" is referred to as a philosophy, a mentality or a movement. It's not a program, nor does it have distinct steps to follow or rules to abide by. This is perhaps why zero defects can be so effective, because it means it's adaptable to any situation, business, profession or industry.
The question that often comes up when zero defects is discussed, is whether or not zero defects is ever attainable. Essentially, does adopting a zero defect environment only set users up for failure?
Zero defects is NOT about being perfect. Zero defects is about changing your perspective. It does this by demanding that you:
Zero defects is a standard. It is a measure against which any system, process, action, or outcome can be analyzed. When zero defects is the goal, every aspect of the business is subject to scrutiny in terms of whether it measures up.
The quality manager must be clear, right from the start, that zero defects is not a motivation program. Its purpose is to communicate to all employees the literal meaning of the words 'zero defects' and the thought that everyone should do things right the first time. "Quality Is Free" by Philip B. Crosby (McGraw-Hill Books, 1979)
When you think about it, we expect zero defects when we are talking about items or services that we use. If you buy a fancy new plasma TV and your pixels start burning by the thousands, you demand satisfaction. When you take the car in for brake service, you expect that the mechanic will install the parts exactly as the manufacturer prescribes. No defect is an acceptable defect when it affects you personally.
So why then, is it so easy to accept that "defects happen" when you are the one producing the product or providing the service? This is the interesting dichotomy that presents itself. Zero defects is one of the best ways to resolve the discord between what we expect for ourselves and what we can accept for others.
Be very careful about where you apply zero defects. If what you're doing contributes towards a mission critical or complex goal, you'd better adopt a zero defects approach, or things could quickly unravel.
However, if you fanatically follow a zero defects approach in areas which don't need it, you'll most likely be wasting resources. One of the most important of these resources is time, and this is where people are accused of time-destroying "perfectionism."
There are no step-by-step instructions for achieving zero defects, and there is no magic combination of elements that will result in them. There are, however, some guidelines and techniques to use when you decide you are ready to embrace the zero defects concept.
Management must commit to zero defects. Zero defects requires a top down approach: The best-intentioned employees cannot provide zero defects if they are not given the tools to do so.
Things have moved on since 1979. Since then, there have been several waves of quality improvement which have taken things further, most recently resulting in Six Sigma .
While zero defects is a useful idea, be aware that you may have to go much further nowadays if you want to lead your market in terms of quality of delivery.
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