When you hear a term such as ‘zero defects’ in regards to quality management, you may assume that it has a literal meaning rather than veering towards a concept. This term has started to pop up a lot in the improvement arena, and as a concept it does not come without its share of controversy. There are those that believe a bid for perfectionism is vital to ensure that quality levels are constantly bolstered. Then there are others who are adamant that perfectionism is not only unrealistic, but also even dangerous as a company culture. Regardless of what stance one could take on the zero defects concept, one thing is sure – this approach has plenty of lessons that can be applied to your overall quality management strategies.
How Does This Apply to Quality Management Systems?
By now, continuous improvement is not a new idea by any means. On the far side of this spectrum though lies an idea that has far less leeway for potential error or failed targets. Taking ‘zero defects’ literally would of course be a bit of a stretch – a faultless, near-perfect level of quality on the other hand keeps that target top of mind at all times. There are a few elements that define this concept, which can be summed up as follows:
- Quality requirements matter. What this means is that requirements need to be met at the time of each project. With each project, every possible potential for improvement needs to be addressed within that time.
- Right first time. Quality needs to be address right from the get go, as opposed to considered later in the game when problems arise. A proactive approach leaves far less room for error, in other words.
- Quality is measured by bottom line. Quality should also be measured in relation to financial goals. Wasted resources, production, unnecessary processes and even unproductive employees should all be identified as promptly as possible.
- Performance is evaluated too. Also in line with the perfection approach, it’s not enough to be good – quality standards and performance needs to be as close to perfect as it gets (or to see it another way, gaps in performance need to be as close to zero as possible).
The point of quality strategies in the first place is to improve operations at every level within the workplace. Continual improvement aims at bringing in various plans that align with this goal on a more sustainable basis. A ‘no tolerance’ type of approach on the other hand would work slightly differently in that it does not allow for any error (human or otherwise). A more intensive approach could be a great way to get a new improvement strategy in place, or even as a refresher ‘spring cleaning’ drive if your current strategies are a little stale. By balancing it with more sustainable approaches that boost both improvement and company morale, you will end up with a powerful quality management plan that shakes things up just the right amount.