The Quality Farce - ISO9000, QS9000, Six Sigma, TQM, Fishbone Diagrams, etc.


Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
The Quality Control Farce

Quality, Quality Control, ISO9000, QS9000, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Fishbone Diagrams and all the other buzzwords on these topics in American industry are synonyms to placate U.S. employees in the elusive realms of security, competitiveness, and unity.

For what purpose? Competitiveness? Employee security? My former employer in the business of CNC controls kept me occupied in training meetings on these subjects for the entire period of my employment there. On January 1, 2000, this company was bought by the Germans who will, of course, start management there by a high number of layoffs and early retirements. The top managers and stockholders always do whatever is necessary for maximum profit, irrespective of the quality control buzzwords and training programs, that is, regardless of ISO status. In November I began employment for one of the last U.S. companies dedicated building large-scale assembly lines for manufacture of motor vehicles.

In December my employer was purchased by the French. The retirement program was immediately discontinued for all employees, and forced early retirements are many. The repeated statements about being competitive against foreign competition through better quality control are, by the evidence, ludicrous -- especially for employee security.

For example, walk through the entire men's section of Walmart and try to find goods manufactured in the U.S. I could find only one: felt brim hats. All trousers, shirts, sweaters, coats and other items were made or assembled in Mexico, Indonesia, China, Korea and other countries. The same experience will be found in K-Mart, Target, Kohl's, Hudson's and all the other stores. The familiar American brandnames are still used, of course.

My point is that implementation of all the quality control standards and buzzwords has made no difference in the decline of American manufacturing. In the automotive industry, which has championed and is now demanding implementation of QS9000, the foreign vehicles have the fastest growth and the greatest share of the market. The Germans now own and manage from Stuttgart one of the Big Three. Our industries are being sold out to foreign ownership at a frightening pace under the farcical security of the ISO standards which, as a reminder, are headquartered in Switzerland.

Dean Wilson, Project Engineer
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Elsmar Forum Sponsor

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member

When will the bleeding end? I know. You left that answer by the 'magic wand', so I won't press you on that.

Good post, although sad. I often wonder if this Sleeping Giant will awaken in enough time to right the ship.

The US has done a terrific job of sending industry elsewhere. It may be our number one export I suppose. I get really angry with the Financiers who get themselves into a position where the 'books' begin to run the organization. With any luck, the organization may maintain itself with innovation and a committed crew who will work hard until the doors are closed for good! How fair is this? In all likelihood, they run the business into the ground, people will lose their jobs, and the business bought up by a competitor. Then, little by little, what is left of the business will be reviewed for value added operations and those that raise cost. The value added operations will be sent to a third world nation, where the organization will exploit the impoverished all in a means of increasing profits. The nonvalue added 'cost centers' will either be disolved or, if so lucky, sold off to someone who might have an interest at fixing things. Let's hope this is the case.

Deming is right on the transformation of American management. Until this happens, jobs I fear will continue to be exported. American management will continue to believe that we are where we are today because of the super-duper job they have done for the past century. Living off the laurels of old. How long can we live on that? We are in the decline, and unless management learns the transformation, then we are doomed to become what we fear most; losers!

So in come the quick fixes! Can't spend anytime in making things right, so let's learn a few coined Quality phrases and go to work! ISO, QS9000, Six Sigma! Let's do it all! That will do! The problem; no instant pudding tastes good enough to management. They want the one that is just perfect! You know the one I'm talking about, right? The one where nobody has to do anything and gold bars land by their feet. Tastes great and easy to prepare! A wave of the Magic Wand and poof.......Success!!!

I have read many posts here, but the ones that continually come to mind are the posts where folks (you and Don mostly) sell the fact that success is a blend of many initiatives, some Quality, some not. I like this and every time I think of these posts the word BALANCE flashes in my mind. Organizational AIM is a must, but BALANCE in thinking is fundamental. No set of guidelines prepared by ISO or anyone else for that matter can prepare an organization perfectly for the future. The dynamic state of organizations may cause, strike that, should cause management to replan the organizational strategy, all things considered. Don's Venn Diagram is a perfect illustration of this holistic thinking.

The recipe for success is different for every organization. Finding the recipe will take time and a commitment from the management group. There is no instant pudding (why can't America accept this)! Additionally, there is a purpose for short term and long term planning. America must stop with the majority of this planning being of the 'short term' varity and start to deal with Constancy of Purpose; the long term commitment.

Well, I can go on for days on this. Time to let somebody else have a go at this.



David Mullins

My empathetic sympathy to you all.
Many countries are in the same boat. In Oz, the Government has actually softened its stance on quality. Government policy used to endorse ISO 9000X certification for inclusion in purchasing guidelines, this has now been removed because it is a disadvantage to non-certified companies - SO!
If Government policy want help push the point home, then I fear we are fighting a losing battle. Even any Aussie food icon like VEGEMITE is owned by an American company.
Our boat is sitting a lot lower in the water than yours, and we embraced ISO 9000 earlier than the US.
Please send food rations and inflatable rafts.

"We trained hard . . . But every time we were beginning to form up into teams, We would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing . . And a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing inefficiency and demoralization."

First Century A.D.

There are two things that are constant;
Change (progress) and the refusal to accept change (regression)

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member

I suppose that we (the USA) don't have a monopoly on bad management practices.

The problem of ISO is that many believe that this External Force (perhaps a Motivator) can bring improved levels of Quality. The fact is, that while external forces can bring about improved Quality, maintaining it must become intrinsically motivated. I guess that they (the ISO folks) forgot to mention that in the standard. If its not in writing, then folks might not know to do this I suppose.

With this in mind, then a government mandate to the ISO standard wouldn't strike me to be a good move.



David Mullins

I've heard tell that the Japanese government has some policy in relation to industry and quality, can anyone illuminate on what that might be/contain?


Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Marc said:
Anyone have any contemporary thoughts on whether 'Quailty' is a 'farce'? :rolleyes:
I read the sad opener to this thread and some of the responses.

Certainly this attitude still exists, but I have noted a budding movement to understand Quality better. I read that Harvard Business School was planning to run seminars on Breakthrough Customer Satisfaction; the course included measurement strategies too. Imagine, teaching business majors customer satisfaction and Management By Fact! My heart swells with hope. :rolleyes:

I have also read (usually in Business Week) about companies that are enjoying gains through Quality. The common thread is that the business leaders didn't learn about Quality until after receiving their various degrees. Interestingly, there has not yet been an editorial comment linking business successes to the quality programs (specifically the honest self-appraisal required) and the catastrophic failures to the lack of same. I may write one for them and see if they print it.

Better to learn late than never, but it's clear to me that business programs should be designed with Quality included in the curriculum so the leaders understand it better. When this happens, and I believe it eventually will, I hope to see less of the derision.


Staff member
Super Moderator
Tools, tools, tools!

The various ISO and other standards, and the requirements in the standards (e.g. Management Review, internal audit, training and qualification) are tools that can help an organization get where it wants to be. In the lab accreditation world, add measurement uncertainty and PT/ILC (proficiency testing and inter-laboratory comparisons) to the list of tools.

It is the people who use the tools that make the difference.

If the folks in charge are not committed to improving the business, including providing leadership and care for the folks who work for them and improving quality of the product or service, then no amount of tools will make much difference.

However, if the folks in charge ARE committed, then the tools become a valuable resource!

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