Philip Crosby is a noted quality professional, author, and consultant who is widely known for promoting the concept of “zero defects” and for attempting to define quality from the viewpoint of conformance to requirements.
He was born in West Virginia in 1926. He graduated from Western Reserve University and rendered service in the Navy during World War II and then again in the Korean War. He graduated from the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. His working life started on the assembly line in 1952 at the Crosley Corporation, later switching on to the Bendix Corporation in 1955. After two years, he joined as a senior quality engineer at The Martin Company in Florida where he developed and implemented the zero defects concept.
In 1965 Crosby was promoted to the position of the Corporate Vice President and Director of Quality at the ITT Corporation for 14 years. Due to the magnitude of response to his book “Quality is Free,” he left the ITT Corporation and started his own consultancy company, Philip Crosby Associates, and as defined in his book, started explaining quality principles & practices to organizations.
His company was floated in 1985 for $30 million. In 1991, he launched Career IV Inc, a consultancy firm advising on the development of senior executives after his retirement from Philip Crosby Associates. On the quality crisis, Crosby devised the principle of “doing it right the first time” (DIRFT). He also included four major principles:
- The definition of quality is conformance to product and customer’s requirements.
- Prevention is the system of quality.
- Zero Defects should be the performance standard.
- Quality measurement is the price of non-conformance
He believed that establishment of good quality management principles in organizations will have more savings returns than what the organization pays for the cost of the quality system. Crosby stated that since “quality is free” it is less expensive to do it right the first time rather than paying for repairs and reworks.
Contributions to Six Sigma & Process Improvement
The Zero Defect Theory: The Zero Defects theory states that there is no existence of waste in a project. Waste refers to anything that is unproductive i.e. processes, tools, and employees etc.
Anything that is not adding any value to a project should be eliminated, thereby leading to the elimination of waste. Eliminating waste leads to process improvement and consequently lowers costs. The zero defects theory is the concept of doing it right the first time to avoid cost and time spent later in the process of project management.
14 Steps to Quality Improvement: Crosby gave 14 steps for process improvement. They are as follows:
- Management’s commitment towards quality should be clear to all in the organization and those outside it.
- Creation of quality improvement teams with senior representatives from all departments.
- Continuous measurement of processes to determine current and potential issues related to quality.
- The cost of poor quality has to be calculated.
- Quality awareness has to be raised in the organization.
- Corrective actions should be taken to address quality issues.
- Establishment of a Zero Defect committee to monitor the progress of quality improvement.
- Quality improvement training to all the employees.
- Organize zero defects days in the organization.
- All employees should be encouraged to set their own quality improvement goals.
- Obstacles to quality should be discussed with employees in an open communication.
- Participants’ efforts should be recognized.
- Quality councils should be created.
- Quality improvement is a continuous process. It keeps going.
Philip Crosby’s ideas on quality came from his vast experience of working with an assembly line. His main focus was on zero defects which ultimately led to the adoption of this concept by the modern Six Sigma Quality movement.
Mr. Crosby explained the idea that zero defects is not a phenomenon that originated on the assembly line. He defined quality as a conformity to a set of specifications defined by the management rather than a vague concept of “goodness.” However, these specifications are set according to the needs and wants of the customer rather than being arbitrarily defined.