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Philip B. Crosby, Quality Teacher Published: Sunday, September 23, 2001 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The business expert, intellectual and great teacher Philip B. Crosby, died a few weeks ago of respiratory failure in Mission St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 75 years old. He was a wise and good man.

The foundation of the Crosby approach is that the system to obtain quality is prevention. Some of his key ideas and formulations are related to doing things right the first time, zero defects, the four absolutes of quality, the prevention process and the six C’s of his learning theory, among others.

One of Crosby’s monumental contributions was that there should be no tolerance for accepting different levels of quality (high/low, good/poor) within organizations. He stressed that there was no reason for planning and propel strategic formulations that were designed in case something did not conform to requirements and consequently it went wrong. He fought Merphy’s law of what is going to go wrong goes wrong. The point was that organizations should never be satisfied with mediocre work, neither accept any price for nonconformance. Managing quality is about prevention, not detection, testing or evaluation of errors. Any product or service that complies with its design specifications is a quality output. Leaders and organizations should always expect a perfect outcome... the power of expectations. Crosby used to shout that organizations were going to save money if they built their products or render their service right the first time. Then quality was going to be free.

A core perspective of his quality improvement process was zero defect s or defect-free products and services. This is a philosophy, a culture and behavioral program for meeting the requirements the first time, every time and to the contrary should never be acceptable.

The management beauty of the Crosby’s philosophy is centered on the four absolutes, principles or decision rules for action. 1) A definition, quality is conformance to requirements; 2) a system, quality is prevention (training, discipline and leadership will produce prevention); 3) the performance standard, zero defects (do it right the first time, eliminating the attitude of close enough, acknowledging that errors are to costly to ignore); 4) the measurement of quality, the price of nonconformance, which is a management tool for diagnosing an organization’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Crosby constantly emphasized that leaders should help everybody within the organization in their pursuit of conforming to requirements, providing education, time, methods, tools and resources to all employees.

To implement the quality improvement process, Crosby presented 14 strategies consisting of very specific actions that are the responsibility of top management, professionals and workers, all interested in transforming the organization. He also advance an interesting learning theory based on comprehension, commitment, competence, communication, correction and continuance of purpose and efforts.

Philip B. Crosby was an honorable man, and his work captured lucid and compelling explorations for transforming organizations of all kinds. May he rest in peace. Like any another genius, we will miss him.

 


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