book by Philip B. Crosby. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984, 205
by Grady McAllister
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quality Without Tears, Crosby adds new layers to his original
offers these fourteen steps for quality improvement in teams:
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.
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
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.
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
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."
Corrective action. The common problem with 'corrective action"
is that people don't understand what the term means.
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."
actions have to begin by identifying the source of the bears.
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
Employee education. Chapter 10 describes the education process
and the curriculum of Crosby's Quality College.
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.
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
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:
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?
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.
Quality councils. Quality professionals get together to learn
from each other and to support the improvement process.
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.
drive his philosophy home, Crosby cites an unusual case study:
"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.
is punishment ...
... For being the cause of the hassle other people had to
live with. For not preventing these things by being interested
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.
three more visitors appear.
Past is a former college professor who wants to retract something
he had taught Emory. The misinformed lesson was to cut corners
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
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.
returns later in the book and applies Crosby's methods to
avert that fate.
available: Managing the Quality Revolution. (Chicago:
Nightingale-Conant, 1993. Four audio cassettes.) Crosby reads
from Quality without Tears and three of his other books.
Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.