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"The successful situation manager is one who learns to establish the ground rules for success before launching himself into completing the job assigned to him. If nothing else, he must assure himself that he will know when he is finished. He must also decide what persons are involved in deciding he is finished, and supply them with the means to measure his progress. Much of the tragedy of modern life is wrapped up in the failure to accomplish those two basic steps.

. . . You are going to be measured anyway by some means, fair or foul. Usually the one doing the measuring has nothing specific in mind; so he does it by the seat of his pants. Careers are destroyed in this manner."

Philip B.Crosby
(1926-2OO1) in The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way (1973)





Quality Without Tears

A book by Philip B. Crosby. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984, 205 pages.

Reviewed by Grady McAllister

Reviewer's note: Philip B. Crosby died on August 18, 2OO1,  at the age of 75. I credit Crosby with first sparking my interest in business management literature. The quote on the left is from the first book I ever read on the subject.

Long before "quality" became a household buzzword, Philip B. Crosby was the in-house quality guru at ITT. In The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way(1972), he wrote: People are conditioned to believe that error is inevitable . . . However, we do not accept the same standard when it comes to our personal life. If we did, we would resign ourselves to being shortchanged now and then when we cash our paychecks. We would expect hospital nurses to drop a certain percentage of all newborn babies. We would expect to go home to the wrong house periodically. As individuals we do not tolerate these things. Thus we have a double standard, one for ourselves, one for the company.

The standard organizations needed was "Zero Defects":

The Zero Defects concept is based on the fact that mistakes are caused by two things: lack of knowledge and lack of attention . . . Zero Defects is not a motivation method, it is a performance standard. And it is not just for production people; it is for everyone.

Though many wanted to join the quality bandwagon, Zero Defects was not always understood:

I found people thinking that Zero Defects was a worker motivation program and blaming all the problems on the workers . . . Management is the bad guy . . . We are dealing with a new management philosophy, not a propaganda program.

In Quality Without Tears, Crosby adds new layers to his original philosophy.

He offers these fourteen steps for quality improvement in teams:

1. Management commitment. This requires a specific management policy on quality. Quality must be the first item on the agenda at every regular status meeting. The manager must carry a speech on quality in his head and deliver it at every opportunity.

Team Actions:

2. The quality improvement team. "The purpose of the team is to guide the process and help it along. It is not to clear each action beforehand, to be the all-wise oracle, or to hold things back."

3. Measurement. Many people see measurement as 'the ultimate hassle," in organizations based on hassle. But the real hassle begins when no one knows how well you are really doing.

4. Cost of quality. To determine the cost of quality, be sure you are measuring the same thing all the time, throughout the company. The tendency is for each area to try to limit its cost.

5. Quality awareness. Awareness must begin at the management level: "When conformance to requirements becomes part of the lexicon of the company, then it begins to take effect."

6. Corrective action. The common problem with 'corrective action" is that people don't understand what the term means.

Suppose, says Crosby, that you suddenly found a grizzly bear in your back yard: "The answer would not be to set up an armed camp to protect yourself from the bear. This is the sort of action that takes place when parts of an organization are given a shoot-to-kill license. All that results is a lot of yard that can't be used and several dead bears."

Corrective actions have to begin by identifying the source of the bears. 

Team Executions:

7. Zero Defects planning. People get nervous when they hear there is going to be a Zero Defects Day. They expect to 'have a band, straw hats, and balloons and do all kinds of funny things." Zero Defects is a major step forward and is not something to announce suddenly. The process should begin a year and a half ahead of time. It should be serious, dignified, and without hype.

8. Employee education. Chapter 10 describes the education process and the curriculum of Crosby's Quality College.

9. Zero Defects Day. The day is not the time to get the employees to stand up and promise to improve; it is the time to ask the management to stand up for all to see:

Many people rarely have exciting days at work  . . . A well-planned, dignified, Zero Defects Day on which management understands what it is talking about is a delight that will be remembered forever.

10. Goal-setting. Measurement leads directly to goal setting. "The ultimate goal, of course, is Zero Defects" but intermediate goals are necessary to move you in that direction. Ideally, the group chooses the goals and follows its progress on a chart.

11. Error-cause removal. People simply state what problems they are having. It is not a suggestion system in which the employee has to give the answer to the problem:

The team must ask itself, What are we going to do when we receive an error cause? How are we going to tell the person we received it? How are we going to get it analyzed and acted upon? How are we going to tell the person we did something about it?

12. Recognition. Recognize people who can serve as "beacons." These are the people who shine so brightly that they help keep everyone heading in the right direction:

Many managers feel, somewhat cynically, that people are being paid to do their jobs and that's that. This attitude reflects an insensitivity to people that is a trademark of many hockey-style managers.

13. Quality councils. Quality professionals get together to learn from each other and to support the improvement process.

14. Do it all over again . After two years or less, a new quality team takes over with perhaps one continuing member. In all likelihood, the new team "takes off on many new tacks, develops many new ways of doing things, and causes even more improvement than happened the first time." Crosby concludes:

This is all the result of learning, and of watching and participating. As quality improvement becomes more and more an enduring way of life, as it becomes the culture of the company, the process gains speed and permanence.

To drive his philosophy home, Crosby cites an unusual case study:

In "A Quality Carol," Emory Spellman falls asleep on a bus. A spirit appears and takes him to see his deceased partner. The partner is repairing thousands of defective items that their company has made.

This is punishment ...

... For being the cause of the hassle other people had to live with. For not preventing these things by being interested in quality.

The apparition warns:

All these years, you have treated quality like something you could take in or take out. Well, unless you change your ways, you are going to wind up right next to me, forever and ever, twenty-four hours a day. No time off, no visitors, no meetings ---- just all the problems you ever caused.

Predictably, three more visitors appear.

Quality Past is a former college professor who wants to retract something he had taught Emory. The misinformed lesson was to cut corners on quality.

Quality Present appears as a woman who tries to sell him on the quality vaccine. Failing in that, she brings Emory's customers to him through a television screen. One after another comes into view with a litany of complaints about the company's products and services.

When Quality Future enters, Emory finally sees the light. The final and most portentous visitor is a "severe looking person carrying a briefcase and dressed in a black three-piece suit." He has just bought the company from a bankruptcy court.

Emory returns later in the book and applies Crosby's methods to avert that fate.

Also available: Managing the Quality Revolution. (Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1993. Four audio cassettes.) Crosby reads from Quality without Tears and three of his other books.

The Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.

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