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.


  1. ISO14001 is not only about environmental protection; it's also meant to safeguard the health of the public. Its importance, when communicated properly, will lead to awareness and in turn motivate companies to seek for its accreditation.

    -Barton Wilson @ IsaRegistrar