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, June 25, 2013

Making the "Quality Sausage" - Transparency and Disclosure

The last two posts from ASQ's View From The Q have posed two challenges to Quality practitioners:
- What do you disclose as an organization?
- How do you describe your role in quality to others?

There is a colloquial expression: Don't Ask How The Sausage Gets Made

I found this image which provides an ideal method of crafting meat and spices into a palatable sausage product.  However since meat is butchered prior to being incorporated into the sausage mix, the actual preparation is less appealing.  

As a poster expresses, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.

So to respond back to the questions of how we describe our role and internal quality metrics, we need to first understand the effects and impacts of communicating this information to the general public, who may not be acquainted with the intricacies or peculiarities of our particular industries.

While governments are bound by Freedom of Information acts which require disclosure of all communications and relevant information, private organizations can be more discreet about their internal practices.  It is in the interest of all organizations to craft their message in a way that instills confidence and assurance about their particular product or service.

In our information age, there are third-party organizations which exist as safeguards against abuse and manipulation.   The Better Business Bureau addresses specific complaints of fraud or poor business practices.  Several websites (i.e. TripAdvisor) collect and display testimonials and ratings of customers which provide visibility to the overall quality of the product or service.

Communications should emphasize how the various practices and processes ensure a consistently satisfactory end result, leading to a desirable outcome.  By emphasizing "how the sausage is made" at the expense of the final product, the general public can be confused and misled into incorrect and damaging conclusions.

An example of this is the use of Urea Formaldehyde as an adhesive for inexpensive composite wood products used in furniture.

Early in my career, I worked at a manufacturing operation which would cut composite wood from large slabs into custom-designed shapes for furniture.  When these slabs were cut, the formaldehyde would be released into the factory with the following side effects characteristic of formaldehyde exposure:
- irritation in throat
- watery eyes
- skin rash and inflammation

However when these items were painted and sealed, the coating would cover the urea formaldehyde adhesive, and the risk to public safety would be effectively mitigated.

For this scenario, how should the company disclose this fact?  This could be incorporated into an ISO 14001 Environmental Management system, and addressed as part of the efforts needed to comply with the standard.  However, without the contextual information or the risk mitigation approach, informing the general public that their shelves and furniture contain poisonous formaldehyde would create alarm disproportionate to the risk.

The role of the Quality practitioner is to identify and follow up on these "unsavory" items to ensure that the purpose, function, and customer delight with the final outcome is not threatened nor compromised by these internal challenges or shortcomings.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Executive Summary of ISO 9001:2015 draft version

I was able to obtain a draft copy of the ISO 9001 2015 version at this location

This copy provides an overview of the Quality Management function, and is intentionally generic to enable application across different locations and industries.

Below is an executive summary which I have posted to highlight the high-level principles and sections of this standard.

Quality Management Principles
QMP 1 – Customer Focus
The primary focus of quality management is to meet customer requirements and to strive to exceed customer expectations.

QMP 2 – Leadership
Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the quality objectives of the organization.

QMP 3 – Engagement of People
It is essential for the organization that all people are competent, empowered and engaged in delivering value. Competent, empowered and engaged people throughout the organization enhance its capability to create value.

QMP 4 – Process Approach
Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system.

QMP 5 – Improvement
Successful organizations have an ongoing focus on improvement.

QMP 6 – Evidence-based Decision Making
Decisions based on the analysis and evaluation of data and information are more likely to produce desired results.

QMP 7 – Relationship Management
For sustained success, organizations manage their relationships with interested parties, such as suppliers.

Quality Management System

·         Leadership and commitment
·         Quality policy
·         Organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities

·         Actions to address risks and opportunities
·         Quality objectives and planning to achieve them
·         Planning of changes

·         Resources
·         Competence
·         Awareness
·         Communication
·         Documented information

·         Operational planning and control
·         Determination of market needs and interactions with customers
·         Operational planning process
·         Control of external provision of goods and services
·         Development of goods and services
·         Production of goods and provision of services
·         Release of goods and services
·         Nonconforming goods and services

Performance evaluation
·         Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation
·         Internal Audit
·         Management review

Continual improvement
·         Nonconformity and corrective action
·         Improvement

Friday, June 7, 2013

Quality Community Must Walk Our Talk and Speak With One Voice

The recent post in the View From The Q posting challenges the Quality Community (however that happens to be defined in this day and age ...) with the following questions:

  • What is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?
  • What question does the quality community most need answered in order to advance the state of quality practice in the world?
My response to these questions - and to the greater good of Quality - is that each and every individual who purports themselves to be part of the growing global community of Quality must substantiate their convictions with tangible and meaningful actions.

Our Challenge: We all must WALK OUR TALK and SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE!

Our Question: What can we do today to effectively WALK OUR TALK and SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE?


As a profession, we must look within our own expertise to find the source of inspiration for our future solutions and direction.  One reference that I have always found useful for Software Quality is the ISO 9126 guideline which outlines Quality Characteristics for software.

The challenges of the Quality profession and the aspirations of the Quality Community can be improved by following a framework that emphasizes the following quality characteristics: Functionality, Reliability, Usability, Efficiency, Maintainability, and Portability.  Below is a brief description of how these characteristics can be leveraged to resolve the questions posed in View from the Q, and redefine the future direction of our profession.


By defining and establishing the scope, purpose, and functions of Quality, the form and approach can be derived to evolve in a logical and progressive manner.  When Quality fulfills its agreed function (i.e. assurance, design controls, compliance, business process improvement, standardization, cost reduction), its credibility is enhanced and acceptance will be earned through proven successes.


With high ideals and expectations come a high demand for flawless and capable processes and successful outcomes.  The shortcomings of Quality (i.e. irrelevance, delayed responses, overhead, excessive documentation, obsolescence) must be identified and addressed to avert failures and disassociate Quality with negative outcomes such that while successes are credited to marketing or engineering, product or system failures are (improperly) branded as "Quality failures".


The complex jargon which often characterizes Quality activities creates an esoteric barrier that inhibits communication and disrupts the communication to the point that Quality practitioners must first strip away the majority of content prior to submitting their recommendations and rationale for executive review.  Quality must evolve from its origins in industrial statistical controls (recall that ASQ was founded as the American Society for Quality Control - ASQC) and embrace the linguistic and communication styles of its constituents and recipients more effectively.  Intellectual Property emphasized within the various ASQ certifications predates modern technology by decades, and is reflective of a bygone era of large oligopolistic conglomerates instead of nimble enterprises.


Quality can be universal when applied in controlled conditions to a small quantity of outcomes or transactions.  Software Quality Assurance confirms the efficiency of systems with various tests to measure system behavior when excessive levels of stress, load, and performance are applied.  This concept should be applied to the Quality function overall in order to ensure that Quality is scalable and adaptable to address additional challenges.


Software Quality describes four types of maintenance: corrective, preventive, perfective, and adaptive.  The stability of a system is measured by the relative impact of changes or revisions.  Since change is inevitable and will be more profound and pervasive in the future, the Quality Community must take steps to not only incorporate these changes, but ensure that the service levels and capabilities are not compromised by the changes.  From maintainability the benefits of continuity are preserved without risking obsolescence or irrelevance.


Portability in software refers to the ability of a design to function adequately across multiple devices, operating systems, networks, or configurations.  Unlike other professions, which can remain consistent between industries or domains, the Quality community is highly dependent upon an expertise in its constituent industry.  For example, professional capabilities in Quality obtained from product manufacturing cannot be readily accepted in the processing of food and beverages, even though many of the principles are constant.  A quick scan across job postings for Quality Assurance Manager requires years of industry experience in that field (i.e. software development, food science, aerospace engineering), even if the function is to coordinate internal audits, continuous improvement, or enterprise management systems.


A major challenge is the dispersion and disparity of the Quality function between industries.  As evidence of this example, a technical college (British Columbia Institute of Technology - BCIT) offered distinct and disparate courses in Quality from multiple colleges including Business, Computing, Construction, Healthcare, and Project Management.  Rather than operating as a cohesive entity, these courses were offered independently as elective or discretionary courses, and did not combine the strengths and ideals.  I view this as a reflection of our profession.

When our efforts and capabilities are aggregated and combined, the synergies will exceed our individual personal reach to extend beyond our perceived limits.  Our only limitation is our unwillingness to embrace this fundamental principle which we as Quality community members purport to embrace and advocate to others.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Critical to Value: Strategic Metrics for Quality Management

The content in this post is based on the exceptional book from ASQ Press, Design for Six Sigma as Strategic Experimentation by H.E. Cook.  (ISBN 0-87389-645-9) pub. 2005.

While it is insightful for our profession to engage and embrace globalization, environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and the soft skills characteristic of advanced emotional quotient mentalities, it is imperative that we understand the purpose of our profession.  We must advocate and promote value and protect against losses.

Cook's excellent reference identifies strategic metrics for what is termed as "Total Quality", which aspires to represent quality as the net value to society (complementing Taguchi's definition of Quality Loss as loss to society).  Where needed, I have augmented Cook's list with additional metrics I have encountered in my professional activities.

Fundamental Metrics:
In a competitive environment, there are always pressures to increase the value, reduce the cost, and advance the pace of innovation.  In litigious situations, risk management is established and sustained through legal and regulatory compliance, contractual fulfillment, corrective and preventive measures.
  • Value to customer
  • Cost (variable, fixed, investment)
  • Pace of innovation
  • Legal and regulatory compliance
  • Contractual fulfillment
  • Corrective and preventive measures
Bottom-line Metrics:
The outcomes of these fundamental metrics will be realized in what Cook terms "Bottom-line" strategic metrics.  These transcend beyond the Quality function to influence financial and governance decisions.
  • Working capital
  • Market share
  • Price
  • Return on investment
  • Internal rate of return
  • Breakeven time
  • Legal charges and penalties
  • Inclusion to/exclusion from markets or industries
  • Contingency requirements (based on assessed risks)

Cook uses the term "Critical To Value" (CTV) as the key measure to forecast changes to cost, customer satisfaction, and working capital.  The attributes of products and services can be independently analyzed to determine the extent to which they are Critical to Value.  Cook segments CTV into four Value Curves.

  • Smaller is better (SIB)
  • Larger is better (LIB)
  • Nominal is best - with scaling factor (NIB1)
  • Nominal is best - no scaling factor (NIB2)

As part of each value curve, the analysis includes a baseline value (V0) and an ideal value (Vp). In the LIB case, the ideal specification is at infinity, reflecting the infinite possibilities for value.  These calculations are complicated by the presence of uncertainty and variation, which requires advanced mathematical formulae beyond the scope of this posting.

The high-level lesson is to understand how to establish the CTV measures for each attribute of a product or service, and translate those measures into tangible metrics.