Barriers to Quality

People say they want quality; however, their actions may not support this view for the following

  1. Many think that defect-free products and services are not practical or economical, and thus believe some level of defects is normal and acceptable. (This is called acceptable quality level, or AQL.)
  1. Quality is frequently associated with cost, meaning that high quality is synonymous with high cost. (This is confusion between quality of design and quality of conformance.) Organizations may be reluctant to spend on quality assurance, as they do not see an immediate payback.
  1. Quality by definition calls for requirements/specifications in enough detail so that the products produced can be quantitatively measured against those specifications. Few organizations are willing to expend the effort to produce requirements/specifications at the level of detail required for quantitative measurement.
  1. Many technical personnel believe that standards inhibit their creativity, and thus do not strive for compliance to standards. However, for quality to happen there must be well defined standards and procedures that are followed.
The contributors to poor quality in many organizations can be categorized as either lack of involvement by management (Phillip Crosby), or lack of knowledge about quality. Following are some of the specific contributors for these two categories:
Lack of involvement by management based on studies from Phillip Crosby
  • Management's unwillingness to accept full responsibility for all defects
  • Failure to determine the cost associated with defects (i.e., poor quality)
  • Failure to initiate a program to "manage defects"
  • Lack of emphasis on processes and measurement
  • Failure to enforce standards
  • Failure to reward people for following processes

Lack of knowledge about quality

  • Lack of a quality vocabulary, which makes it difficult to communicate quality problems and objectives
  • Lack of knowledge of the principles of quality (i.e., what is necessary to make it
  • happen)
  • No categorization scheme for defects (i.e., naming of defects by type)
  • No information on the occurrence of defects by type, by frequency, and by
  • location
  • Unknown defect expectation rates for new products
  • Defect-prone processes unknown or unidentified
  • Defect-prone products unknown or unidentified
  • An economical means for identifying defects unknown
  • Proven quality solutions are unknown and unused
If achieving quality (i.e., defect-free products and services) were easy, it would have been
accomplished years ago. Quality is very difficult to accomplish – it requires the close cooperation of management and staff. Achieving quality requires a commitment and the establishment of an environment in which quality can flourish.