In the manufacturing sector, for many years, we have heard the debate over quality vs. quantity. It usually sounds something like this: “The boss has to decide what he wants, make the numbers or make sure the product meets quality requirements – you won’t get both!” Even the basic consideration of the validity of this statement demonstrates that the premise falls apart in the real world.
Pareto analysis of typical manufacturing data will show that 80% of product mix routinely meets requirements in terms of both quality and quantity. So, in fact, we usually do get both (80% of the time) – which discredits the above hypothesis. It is the remaining 20% which garners all the attention, as it should. For that 20%, attaining either is problematic. It is not a choice of one or the other. A look beneath the product itself will reveal the underlying contributor.
Why is the 80% portion of the product mix seldom a problem? It’s the process!
Why is the 20% portion always a problem? It’s the process!
A robust process provides both quality and quantity. A marginalized process delivers neither. The fix always comes from identifying and
analyzing (that means measuring) inputs and process variables as well as their relationships to a measured output. This concept, when viewed purely from the process perspective, has significant implications for the service sector as well as, most obviously, for manufacturing.
Consider an example of waiting for a doctor’s appointment. You show up on time and wait an hour to see the doctor. No problem with the medical care, the paperwork is just fine, the waiting room is clean and comfortable with good magazines, but blood pressure goes up the entire hour of wait time (frustration). Which processes are robust and which are marginalized? The answer is obvious. Frustration will normally point the way. So dig into the scheduling process, identify the variables, start measuring them, let the data tell the story and construct a more robust process. Some doctors’ offices have done so, some have not.
Is the argument dead? I suggest that, in manufacturing, it is certainly dying if not dead already. Manufacturing folks tend now to understand that process is at the heart of the quality vs. quantity debate. In service, there is a lot of work to be done in order to even acknowledge the root cause of the 20% (bad process). Incidentally, the service sector represents the overwhelming majority of our economy.
You can begin by identifying the deliverables in your business which seem to cause the most frustration to anyone and everyone. If you don’t know, ask. Ask employees, ask customers, ask suppliers – just ask. They will point you in the right direction. Then, make a large sign that says “Dig Here” and start digging.
Director, Organizational Development & Training, The Phoenix Group