Innovator Spotlight: Innovation in Quality Management
Jesus Perdomo Ortiz is a professor of business administration at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. There, he specializes in innovation and how to unify administration with design.
Quality management, as many other types of management, acquired prestige in Japanese production systems. However, in a curious twist, its guru was an American engineer. Edwards Deming was trained in the United States and developed methods of statistical quality control at Western Electric. It is unclear how he changed his professional image from quality control to quality management, but this act transformed him into a guru of and, I think, a high priest of Total Quality Management.
Today, after three decades, the Total Quality Management religion is kept alive in the world of business and as a research topic. However, it has not gone untouched by the ever present problem of management fads, those well-learned prayers left by companies: the ISO 9000 and Six Sigma models. Moreover, quality and nothing more is today a management mantra that guides managers and the decision making process.
Among the multiple effects of corporate well being, quality has a little explored and studied advantage: innovation. It is well known that a comprehensive and quality management system improves customer satisfaction, work motivation, productivity and ultimately the profitability of the business. That is, quality produces the expected effects of Deming’s 14 principles or commandments when implemented. However, Deming left out of his sacred tablet’s 14 principles the guiding principle par excellence: continuous innovation.
It was Andrea Gabor, Deming’s disciple and biographer, who discovered the following command: “Quality control, elimination and improvement of the production process are merely the price of entry into the challenge of competition … finally the job of management is to tune the whole system to be able to make the jump from continuous improvement to continuous innovation in all new product categories that the consumer has not even contemplated.”
Interpreting as business principals: Quality control is only an entry price to the market and continuous improvement (Kaisen) must give way to continuous innovation. The Catechism of complete quality is well summarized, and like “love thy neighbor,” the believer in quality must “love thine innovation.”