Zero defects – zero sense

Posted on 4 Aug 2008 by The Manufacturer

Rob Thompson says firms must keep reality in mind in the quest toward quality efficiency...

“The quality manager must be clear, right from the start, that zero defects is not a motivation program. Its purpose is to communicate to all employees the literal meaning of the words ‘zero defects’ and the thought that everyone should do things right the first time.”–Quality Is Free by Philip B. Crosby

W. Edwards Deming, New Economics, page 10: “No defects, no jobs. Absence of defects does not necessarily build business… Something more is required.”

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the attainment of zero defects recently. I’ve written about this topic before but this post summaries my own position nicely:

“Effectively zero defects is not really achievable in most cases. Defects are largely a matter of definition. As performance improves expectations will often rise. When you eliminate anything you would have called a defect years ago, standards are higher and things that would not have been called defects are no longer acceptable. At some point the system process advances to such a level where zero defects is possible in some cases but in many (say medical care, air transportation, education, computer software, restaurants, government, management consulting, civil engineering, legal services…) I really think it is basically impossible.”

Fundamentally, it needs to be appreciated that there is a difference between reducing defects and eliminating them. The cost of trying to support zero defects goes up exponentially as you get closer to zero. Deming used the red bead experiment to highlight that if a process has a failure rate built into it from the beginning, worker competence is not the issue.

It really is all about management.

By Rob Thompson.

Article originally posted on Rob’s LearnSigma blog

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