I’ve worked at many companies in the past that were obsessed with the language of Quality. They talked constantly about Quality and had dozens upon dozens of metrics to measure it. They had shelves upon shelves of giant 3-ring binders full of quality documents and quality logs.
But I’m not convinced they actually knew what quality was.
Management chant the quality mantra one moment … and the next moment tell Engineering to reduce the costs of the components used in the design. They did not recognize the irony of that. They essentially told us on a daily basis, “Make our products as crappy as possible … in a quality-conscious way.”
Another problem with quality metrics … and metrics in general … is that if a company manages solely to metrics for metrics’ sake, it sometimes misses the forest for the trees. For instance, in the cartoon above, Biff is far more concerned that a single quality metric is out of whack than with the fact that only 23 units shipped last month.
Biff (the cartoon one), is actually more savvy than I give him credit for in this comic. If I weren’t going for a cheap metrics-based laugh, I would have had his head explode at the fact that only 23 units shipped in a month. But that has more to do with cash flow than quality metrics. His head will probably explode when he sees the previous month’s financial statements. That’s a strip for another day.