The topic given for the month of May by the ASQ CEO, Bill Troy is “What is the Future of Quality”.
Hey, I got an easy topic to write on this month . Easy, because anyone can predict anything on Quality, and everything will be wrong anyway. (The only man who usually got it right is sitting in heaven boring the hell out of God by telling him why Boeing 777 should not have outsourced in China). And if by some chance, a prediction does turn out to be right, then I can immediately add “Quality Futurist” to my LinkedIn profile. So, what’s there to lose.
Though Quality Management has been through a series of transformation over centuries, the objective has remained the same, meeting customer needs!! but it is not as simple as it sounds as the need of the customer can vary and this is where Maslow’s hierarchy comes into play. As per Maslow, the needs of any human being will fall into five levels, Physiological, Safety, Love/ Belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization and one cannot move to the next level unless the previous level has been completely fulfilled. Hence the definition of value addition depends on the level from which the customer looks at Quality. For example, Post World War 2 despite Japan’s ability to compete on price the substandard quality was big concern the reason
being the consumers were located outside japan at a different level in Maslow’s pyramid. Then how did in 20 years Japanese cars topped the JD Power customer satisfaction rating? The answer is the same, leaders like Juran, Deming and Shewhart uplifted the product standards in sync with the Customer needs. Hence history and the future of Quality are not created by Quality professionals but by the customer themselves while we are just channels through which it gets delivered. Hence to understand the future of Quality we need to understand the future of ever changing customer need.
Though the customer needs are volatile in nature it has an inherent pattern. Current availability has always defined tomorrow’s need, for example, if the product was cheaper today the need was for sooner, and once the sooner became the mantra then came smaller, then with less variation …etc. Hence let us have a look at the current state and some of the sectors and try to predict the future customer need and how will quality play a role.
Electronics – This is one industry where we have progressed through smaller, cheaper and sooner at a lightning speed, the next need of the customer will be customization where they can go to a store with a design (could be a cell phone, television, MP3 Player, Camera) and configuration in mind and instantly the hardware is assembled and delivered. Hence agility will be the future of Quality here.
Agriculture- We have so much of buzz around the need for Organic food. Some of the places where quality has already played a role is in guerilla gardening and this will have a future where consumers can grow their own food in an optimized space.
Shared Economy Businesses- Shared economy model is growing in a very fast rate where companies like Air B&B who do not own even an inch of land are worth billion dollars. This is a great model which lets anyone with very minimal skill set to be an entrepreneur with the only challenge with this model is the ownership of quality is scattered among different stakeholders or members which might affect the brand value. Quality has to surely play a major role for shared economy businesses.
Work Life Balance- This is the most important of all the above pointers. With the increase in stress, unhealthy lifestyle and attrition levels at organizations Quality for life will play a key role. Many Organizations have already started providing flexibility to its employees through options like work from home, long sabbatical leaves and more. There is a simultaneous increase in people quitting jobs and embracing nomadic and minimalist lifestyle. Hence we need to strike a balance where the future lies in location independence and quality has to play a huge role to ensure deliverables are met through virtual coordination.