American enterprise has a problem with quality. Pretty much everything we produce is shoddy stuff of questionable value–clever glittering baubles principally designed to come between bedazzled consumers and their wallets. Some say our problem with quality has to do with a lack of leadership, which is sometimes certainly the case, though lately I think the problem is that we have lost leaders who are taking us down the wrong road.
W. E. Deming never said it so well as when he said…
To understand the idea of quality in the deepest sense, it is necessary to understand what we value as human beings. It is our sense of value, based in our shared values, that provides us with an ability to discern quality that is good from quality that is bad.
In our enterprises today we value above all else, profit collectively and wealth as individuals, measured in terms of benchmarks and other quantitative differentials. We grade on the curve. Despite lip service given to the contrary, these are the measures of quality to which our leaders aspire and we collectively follow. As producers, consumers and judges of quality, we are busily pitted against one another, measuring stick in hand, in a single minded pursuit of more-ness, day in and day out in our schools, business, politics and play. We’ve become good soldiers warring amongst ourselves, each one trying to gain the upper hand.
If our sense of quality were defined by our leaders and ourselves, in terms of value created that makes a better world for everyone going forward together in an indifferent world–sometimes a little more this and little less of that–we would surely improve continuously in our ability to optimize the outcomes of our enterprising. We could all benefit from our collaborative effort toward making a better world for ourselves.