About This Blog

A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Future of Quality - Return to Artisan Craftsmanship

The recent View from the Q poses several questions.  I would like to address the area concerning the Future of Quality.

The future trend is to reject the present mode of standardization and industrialization, in favor of customized solutions from individualistic artisans, providing value with their craftsmanship and expertise.

The most prominent example is the approach taken by Steve Jobs to distinguish his devices and solutions from the commodity alternatives through artistry and extended functionality.  Before embarking on a business career, Jobs was famous for two principles which he applied.
- Calligraphy enables artistic communication
- Carpentry should be attentive to details which are not immediately viewable by the user.

The benefit of this approach is that it rewards both the artisan and the consumer.  The artisan is fulfilled by the production and provision of a solution that delights and excites the users, leading to an uplifting experience.

Consider the difference between a budget hotel, and a resort suite with additional features including a personal concierge, customized menu selections provided throughout the day, and a tailored experience adapted the the preferences of the guest.  For the additional cost of the second option, the value and memorable experience could potentially be life-changing.  As well, the individuals providing the extended service would do so with a flair and panache that exudes energy and enthusiasm.  In contrast, those at the budget hotel would offer service that is slightly better than the government department of internal revenue during tax season.

To answer the future of quality we need to ask ourselves, "What do we treasure and hold dear?"  Consumables can be replaced and substituted, but essential items are fondly embraced and cherished.  Quality will shift to emphasize those memorable encounters and experiences.

The fact is that our consumption-driven economy is proving unsustainable and contradictory to a socially responsible perspective.  If we are imposed upon to give up all but our most essential items and services, how do we prioritize what has to be retained?  It is in that space that quality must reside.  Once quality is seen as discretionary, it will be the first element to be abandoned and relinquished.

The future of quality lies in the rediscovery of the successful craftsmanship of the past.  Consider the Roman-built bridges which outlasted its modern equivalents.  By adhering to the advantages of arches, the bridge not only fulfilled its purpose and function, but withstood the ravages of nature and war, retaining its elegant design and durability.


  1. Dan, I keep telling folks that there is more economic potential in people that pursue technical skill paths than those that go to college and earn a technical degree. A lot of people think I am nuts but I offer the following: How come those that own their own HVAC or plumbing companies live in neighborhoods nicer than most engineers?

    1. Hi Scott, I live in a suburban neighborhood which is a 50/50 split of IT sector and blue collar employees and proprietors. Tradespeople are paid for their time (unlike the managerial echelon members who get suckered into free overtime for their employer) and can deduct their vehicles and equipment (as work-related expenses), which is why they can have $60K 4WD trucks while the IT workers travel in more economical minivans and sedans. To answer your question, it comes back to defining essential vs. discretionary work. When your furnace dies in mid-December, the negotiation favors the HVAC provider. When determining the best design 18 months in advance of the project completion date, it is harder to persuade acceptance of premium solutions or approaches. The flip-side is that quality deficiencies in HVAC, plumbing, food safety, healthcare, are immediately known with unpleasant consequences. In contrast, administrative or software QA failures can be easily rectified with minimal impact other than slight delay or redundant paperwork steps.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I really enjoyed your post! Why hasn't quality moved to more of an artisan approach?

    How do we "get" there?

  3. Hi Kurt,
    You can credit Frederick W. Taylor for the nearly successful eradication of the artisan in our industrial society. I would like to think that with increased technology, our individual capabilities are stronger. In our post-modern age, we are rediscovering the values and practices of our grandparents which were abandoned in favor of "progress", but are now being embraced for their merits.