Destroying through labelling LO19852

Dr John Taylor (
Sun, 15 Nov 1998 08:37:01 +0000

Replying to LO19820 --

Replying to points made by Gene and Scott:

This is rapidly turning into a classic 'thread' because it shows how one
perspective neatly causes others to emerge.

First, some clarification, although both respondents have picked this up.
By 'formal' quality I meant the pursuit of accreditation to standards such
as ISO9000, and, by extension related schemes such as 'Investors in
People' (in the UK), which do not precisely aim at quality but are of the
same mould.

I take Gene's point strongly that the formal schemes provide patterns for
organisational behaviour, and it is their misuse that leads to the kind of
problem I identified. In principle, quality, and quality processes,
should be direct progenitors of creativity and innovation, not their

In practice, however, things are often different, as Scott has underlined
with his reference to over-extension. It is too easy for organisations,
managers and employees themselves effectively to 'tick the box' on a
quality scheme, and assume that thereby they have 'done quality'. The PR
and marketing folk may gain a new line to pursue, but in the longer run
all lose by focusing away from quality as a key contributor to the pursuit
of excellence.

I also strongly endorse the view that it is the people issues that are
paramount, as Deming and others originally emphasised. I will welcome
more views and comments, and in particular I hope that someone will be
able to provide one or more examples of organisations that have married
quality processes with creativity and innovation. Untangling how they
have achieved that will, I am sure, provide us with valuable new insights
for wider application.

One negative example of my own came during teaching a general course on
systems in management. A student who was the MD of a small business
announced that he had ceased to tender for (potentially) lucrative
contracts from a noted large organisation that was ISO9000 accredited.
His reason was that the organisation was using the accreditation process
as a clumsy means of exercising over-control of its suppliers, and he was
not prepared to develop the necessary bureaucracy purely for what he saw
as cosmetic aims. My subsequent dealings with that student and his
course-work strongly suggested that he ran a quality operation, that was
not in any way undermined by his declining to follow the accreditation


John Taylor

Dr John Taylor
AGORA: A meeting place for minds

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