There are two schools of thought on quality management. One views quality
management as the management of success and the other the elimination of
failure. They are both valid. Each approaches the subject from a different
The ‘success’ school is characterized by five questions (Hoyle, David and
Thompson, John, 2001)3 :
1 What are you trying to do?
2 How do you make it happen?
3 How do you know it’s right?
4 How do you know it’s the best way of doing it?
5 How do you know it’s the right thing to do?
The ‘failure elimination’ school is characterized by five different questions
1 How do you know what is needed?
2 What could affect your ability to do it right?
3 What checks are made to verify achievement?
4 How do you ensure the integrity of these checks?
5 What action is taken to prevent a recurrence of failure?
In an ideal world, if we could design products, services and processes that
could not fail we would have achieved the ultimate goal. Success means not
only that products, services and processes fulfil their function but also that the
function is what customers’ desire. Failure means not only that products,
services and processes would fail to fulfil their function but also that their
function was not what customers desired. A gold-plated mousetrap that does
not fail is not a success if no one needs a gold-plated mousetrap!
The introductory clause of ISO 9001:1994 contained a statement that the aim
of the requirements is to achieve customer satisfaction by prevention of
nonconformities. (This was indicative of the failure school of thought.) The
introductory clause of ISO 9001:2000 contains a statement that the aim is to
enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the quality
management system and the assurance of conformity to customer and
applicable regulatory requirements. (This is indicative of the success school of
In reality you cannot be successful unless you know of the risks you are
taking and plan to eliminate, reduce or control them. A unification of these
approaches is what is therefore needed for organizations to achieve, sustain
and improve quality. You therefore need to approach the achievement of
quality from two different angles and answer two questions. What do we need
to do to succeed and what do we need to do to prevent failure?
Quality does not appear by chance, or if it does it may not be repeated. One
has to design quality into the products and services. It has often been said that
one cannot inspect quality into a product. A product remains the same after
inspection as it did before, so no amount of inspection will change the quality
of the product. However, what inspection does is measure quality in a way that
allows us to make decisions on whether or not to release a piece of work. Work
that passes inspection should be quality work but inspection unfortunately is
not 100% reliable. Most inspection relies on human judgement and this can be
affected by many factors, some of which are outside our control (such as the
private life, health or mood of the inspector). We may also fail to predict the
effect that our decisions have on others. Sometimes we go to great lengths in
preparing organization changes and find to our surprise that we neglected
something or underestimated the effect of something. We therefore need other
means to deliver quality products – we have to adopt practices that enable us
to achieve our objectives while preventing failures from occurring.