Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Paul Borawski announced a project with ASQ and IBM to look at Social Responsibility--see what works and whether there is a business case.  We're left wondering exactly what "Social Responsibility (SR)" means and what "works" would look like.  For some, it means taking care of the homeless.  For others, it's reducing your carbon footprint.  For most of us, something in between, a consciousness of your corporate role in society.  Being a responsible citizen means not dumping pollutants into the environment, for example.  (Are you listening Shell, BP, Massey Energy, etc.?)  A business case could mean obtaining a platinum rating for your new building, new solar panels on your roof.  Efficient use of energy and other resources. 

One interesting aspect of all this is that the American Society for Quality is doing it.  Well, maybe ASQ is doing it.  They are not emphasizing what the initials stand for as they strive for a global presence and move out of strictly "quality" initiatives.  If you've followed my writing long, you know I think quality has become a slang word--no real defined meaning, something people invoke when they don't want to talk about other things, like cost. 

Just returned from a meeting of the Healthcare Division of ASQ, where there was considerable discussion about how to improve healthcare, but not much talk about quality.  It's process improvement, LEAN thinking.  The greatest improvement is needed in reducing the cost of healthcare, not improving quality, and that will be done by improving the processes of delivering healthcare services.

All this comes with a recent article in JAMA titled "The End of the Quality Improvement Movement" in which the authors posit that the QI movement has produced no measurable results in the past 40 years, at least not in healthcare.  Maybe it's time to change out thinking.

Maybe it's time to take the word quality out of our vocabulary and define more precisely what we are talking about.  So let's change our focus to SR or LEAN or Value Stream Mapping or some other way to reduce the cost of healthcare.  Your children will thank you for it.

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