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Quality Approaches for the New Millennium

  • ID: 42765
  • Report
  • July 2000
  • 106 pages
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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Businesses today are standing upon the threshold of a new era in quality. Deregulation and increased competition have played—and will continue to play—a significant part in how businesses operate. In an effort to respond to increasing customer expectations, businesses must be willing to “reinvent” and improve themselves on a continuous basis. It has become essential that organizations be adequately prepared for rapid, and sometimes unexpected, change. The vast majority of organizations today are locked in place by catatonic, ordinary quality programs and frameworks. Companies are now attempting to completely redesign the process(es) used to manage the business, as well as other widespread organizational initiatives. The critical enabler for this transformation is quality—it’s what separates “best-inclass” from “great-in-class” performance. This best-practices research presents systematic methodologies and insights for gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage, using advancements in quality as a general framework. Quality methodologies evolve over time to support continuous improvement efforts. The best-practice “partner” companies cited within this research offer proven approaches to achieving new levels of improvement, sustained competitive advantages, and long-term business excellence.

It is clear that there is no longer room for negotiation in this new age of increased, aggressive competition. Running the race of “better, faster, cheaper” leaves little time for rework—and customers have developed a universal expectation that the product or service being offered is done right the first time. Firms must now modify and calibrate their current quality and management approaches to ensure that they are operating as value-added processes. Unlike in any other business eras, companies now have less room to differentiate themselves based on product or service positioning; rather, they are being forced to focus their attention on process improvement to showcase their reliability and focus
on the customer. “New-millennium quality” offers companies the ability and flexibility to compete under these rapidly changing circumstances and customer requirements.


Drawing input from leading quality and business improvement practitioners, as
well as from secondary research literature, APQC’s study team identified best-practice organizations in four key focus areas. These areas guided the design of the data collection instruments used during the site visit interviews and served as the basis from which key findings were developed.

It is important to note that in many respects the benchmarking partners that were surveyed as part of this research demonstrate quality approaches and use quality methodologies that far exceed that which is considered “today’s quality.” That is, the quality approaches that these companies are using today are paving the way for what will be considered the “norm” in quality approaches into the new millennium. This report also documents new-age quality methodologies that partner companies expect to pilot and implement internally within the next five years. This benchmarking effort investigates trends and practices that have proved to be the most successful and innovative in each of the following four study focus areas:

- quality tools and approaches—looking at new and emerging trends and methodologies for piloting, implementing, and deploying successful quality tools and/or initiatives.

- changing roles of the quality professional—examining the evolution of the quality profession.

- communicating quality—investigating proven practices for the effective communication of quality goals, objectives, and results throughout the enterprise.

- measuring success—concentrating on how firms effectively measure the opportunities and successes of organizationwide quality initiatives.


Four decades ago, companies first began embracing the concepts of quality and
internal process improvement. Many have quoted—and this research proves—that
“the quality discipline is not dead.” Today, more than ever, it is increasingly important to understand the various eras of this journey in an effort to more comprehensively understand how quality is evolving and how this affects organizations at large. On-site interviews and ongoing dialogue with each of the benchmarking partners indicated that quality, as a managerial science, has experienced three major periods of change. Provided below are the three evolutions that quality has endured and the significance of each.

Quality Era 1: Efficient Resource Usage
Quality Era 2: Organizational Structure and Process Improvement
Quality Era 3: Holistic Organizational Improvement


In-depth phone interviews with each of the 12 benchmarking partners, and seven
on-site interviews, led to rich and compelling findings regarding the ongoing use of quality practices that are expected to enable growth and success in the new millennium. The key findings, categorized under the four study focus areas, are presented below:

Section 1: Quality Tools and Approaches
Section 2: Changing Roles of the Quality Professional
Section 3: Communicating Quality
Section 4: Measuring Results


This consortium benchmarking methodology was developed in 1993 and serves as one of the premier methods for successful benchmarking in the world. It is
a powerful tool for identifying best and innovative practices and for facilitating the transfer of these practices. This four-phased approach is presented below.

Phase 1: Plan
Phase 2: Collect
Phase 3: Analyze and Report
Phase 4: Adapt
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- Sponsor and Partner Organizations

A listing of the sponsor organizations in this study, as well as the best-practice (“partner”) organizations that were benchmarked for their innovation and advancement in their approaches to quality.

- Executive Summary

A bird’s-eye view of the study, presenting the key findings discovered and the methodology used throughout the course of the study. The findings are explored in detail in following sections.

- Key Findings

An in-depth look at the 12 key findings of this study. The findings are supported by quantitative data and qualitative examples of practices employed by the partner organizations.

- Lessons Learned

Words of advice from the partner organizations based on their quality journeys.

- Partner Organization Profiles

Background information on the partner organizations, as well as highlights of their quality initiatives and practices.

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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown