Response to: The Past, The Future, Quality, and ASQ

This is my response to ASQ’s CEO Paul Borawski’s recent Blog Post

The Past, The Future, Quality, and ASQ

– where he writes –

The Past: The philosophy of modern quality reaches back to the late 1930s and 1940s. That’s not so long ago, but it might ancient history. I’ve been in three large quality gatherings in the past year where the question was asked, “How many of you have heard of W. Edwards Deming?” I was shocked and saddened when less than a third of the hands went up. “How about Joseph M. Juran?” Fewer hands. It occurs to me that something isn’t right about that. Am I being nostalgic, or does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?

The Future: What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality? Perhaps for most of the readers, this will mean asking someone who fits the demographic, although I’d be pleased to learn that young professionals read my blog. Why the question? Well, I’m guessing the panel of 150 experts from around the world who contributed to the ASQ Futures Study are all much senior to 35, so the future the study paints is one described by a senior group. What do the 35s and under think and see, on a global scale?

*** *** *** ***

This is a common lament in the Professional Affinity Groups I participate in: new people don’t know our history. I might argue that that’s not limited to those who are new to Quality/ASQ, but I digress.

My cognitive response: why don’t we quit hitting ourselves in the head with the hammer?

After all – who did this to us? WE – the collective we – didn’t pull all of our history together and put it all into one easy to find, easy to use/navigate, heavily promoted/marketed site in cyberspace – and let THEM – the collective masses – access it and learn that history.

And so our “history/herstory” remains mostly a mystery – available to only those who do their homework and digging and searches as a one-off for their personal edification. Unless of course they post it somewhere and market its availability for sharing with others. Which is an “OK” approach – but there is a better approach I think.

Which is where I am ultimately going with this. Hold on.

I came more formally to the Big Q and Little Q back in 1981 at Motorola. I had been previously exposed to Preventative Maintenance in the US Navy in the early-to-mid 1970s, and the concepts of Customer Satisfaction (and more importantly Customer Dissatisfaction) in my first post-college job in 1979. I still have the mini-poster (below).

From Wickes Lumber HQ in Saginaw in 1979…

But I learned about Deming and Juran and Crosby and Dewar in parallel with learning about Rummler, Gilbert, Mager and Harless who were focused more on the Men M in the Ishikawa Diagram version of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I also learned about Shewhart (as in the Shewhart Cycle which although Deming often corrected people – still mistakenly got tagged as his cycle) and about Bonnie Small at Western Electric – and somewhere deep in the memory banks – on some foggy shore – is something about SPC and peas and cross fertilization – but I could be wrong – as perfection is statistically impossible, no? Especially with memories from long ago. And no online source to check with.

From Motorola in 1981…

I recall the scuttlebutt (water cooler talk for you landlubbers) at Motorola when Deming refused to come visit (a paid visit I might add) simply because the CEO wasn’t planning on being there too. Something about him not wanting to waste his time or ours. “The nerve,” we all thought – in our ignorance I might add in retrospect.

I learned about the contributions of the late Geary Rummler to Six Sigma and the history of the blending of existing quality tools/techniques with his Process-orientation and how a training course concept that I had been involved in at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center morphed into  something that morphed into something that became Six Sigma. See Alan Ramias’ article here – at BPTrends – that tells that side of that many sided story of the history of Six Sigma – Alan took over my projects with Geary Rummler when I left MTEC in October of 1982.

So – What To Do About This Quality History and It’s Slipping Into Darkness?

Use today’s technology and Crowd Sourcing to Capture and Edit and Fight (gently) over that history – so that it may be easily shared – outside the firewall of ASQ Membership.

Call it an educational tease about the past history of Quality and an invitation to join the future history of Quality.


Create a Wikipedia like-site (or use Wikipedia) and “organize it/frame it” in 4 sections – People, Tools/Techniques, Publications, and a Timeline – PTPT…

People – organize in alpha order – and link to the Timeline.

Tools/Techniques – organize in an alpha order – and link to the Timeline.

Publications – Books/Articles/Chapters/ Papers/ Presentations – organize by the title, topic and author – and link to the Timeline.

Timeline – organize in 5 year increments for the 1950’s (or so) until today – and organize the prior years by Quality from 1900 to 1950 – and Quality in the 1800’s – and Quality Before the 1800s – as there must be something somewhere about how those Egyptians used quality tools and techniques to build those pyramids – with or without the help of aliens from space.

Just kidding.

Enable text and graphics/pictures and use a “history of editing” function so that disagreements and edits can be tracked – and reversed – and reversed again – and have all who contribute register before being allowed to play in this particular sandbox. Put a small group of both old guard and new guard in charge of (the inevitable) need to resolve disputes.

My Immediate Contribution to the History

Outside my brother’s office on the campus of Northwest College in Powell Wyoming (near Cody for your next trip to Yellowstone – outside the north- east entrance) sits the Deming Plaza. Powell was the hometown of Deming – and he visited back in 1992 – when my brother snagged his autograph for me after his talk – after reading about it in the school’s newspaper and recalling me going on and on about THE MAN.

The Paper.

The autograph.

The Plaza.

The tribute.


The history of Quality – big Q and little Q – is a rich tapestry and goes “way back” as they say. It will be captured and told, no doubt, with some inevitable variation. Doing VR will be tricky. Let’s first capture the baseline and worry about getting down to Six Sigma after the initial capture. Loose-tight as Tom Peters once called it.

Note: the above was done by doing my own adaptation of QFD – by myself – to define the needs and solution-set. Your version, would of course, be a variation.

Please share your thoughts.

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2 comments on “Response to: The Past, The Future, Quality, and ASQ

  1. “WE – the collective we – didn’t pull all of our history together and put it all into one easy to find, easy to use/navigate, heavily promoted/marketed site in cyberspace”

    to speak to the 35 and under crowd, yes they actually do, its called Wikipedia. Thats the extent of the tool methodologies that they have been using and getting their information from when asked of them.

    and at this point, it wont be a website, but an quality basics app—that we dont call quality—that graduating classes will veer towards. And thats only “if” we can call it something they can easily gravitate and associate with that ties in with something business and marketing related that they already are doing.


    • Yes Wikipedia is there. And that’s where Sinbad the comic (and not the sailor) was dead for a few days. So – it’s not something that can always be trusted – much as the Encyclopedia Britannica had errors too. But I do use that as one of multiple sources when I do searches. The trick of course is under what “search terms” would someone find what Paul was referring to? How many searches would that take – on Wikipedia or any other search engine?

      Paul was asking about knowledge of Deming and Juran and other quality gurus and the lack of raised hands when he queried a group about them. Wikipedia is not solving that. People new to quality don’t know of the history. That was the lament. And my response was to suggest that ASQ take that “bull by the horns” and capture that history themselves – and correct the misnomer of the Deming Cycle – as Deming himself would do and credit his mentor. How easy would that be to find and learn about on Wikipedia – unless one was looking specifically for that? Is that effective and efficient?

      Go to Wikipedia right now – and start searching about quality or quality history or other related search terms and phrases, and gurus – and then decide whether or not that is the best approach to bring folks up to speed on the long history of the quality movement. Unless of course you feel that that is totally not important to improving quality. In which case, never mind.


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