Quality Management



Big Q and little q is a term coined by Dr Juran and is key in fully understanding quality. It contrasts the difference between managing for quality in all aspects of business process, products and services which is Big Q.  While little q relates to a much more limited capacity. For example not taking the larger picture into consideration but rather just focusing on a product itself. Big Q is about a broad, strategic and complex perspective and little q is about a micro aspect an operational issue such as quality control.

Yes believe it or not we can learn a lot from the simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While this is very simple it is also a low cost, fun and engaging way that you can tap into a whole range of issues. This is an ideal approach for those new to quality as a method of introduction, but even for those that have been involved with process improvement this can be a fun workshop to help refocus. It can also be conducted as a small breakout session lasting just a few minutes or as a long workshop.

The issues this can address include:

In a recent discussion regarding the impact of quality on the ASQ Design & Construction Division Linkedin Group, a member made the comment that ‘everything made by man is defective.’ Of course this is correct, we cannot create perfection. It was a wonderful comment and it made me ponder perfection in construction and to think of some of the world’s most ancient and iconic buildings and be reminded of just how long quality and construction have been associated.

Wisdom is timeless, which is why two Harvard Business Review articles published in 2001 and 2008 are still as valid and thought provoking today as when they were published. (The references to the papers are listed at the end of this blog.)

In an economic crisis and industry downturn Rigby considers that there are three phases and critical dos and don’ts to be aware of in each stage. 

Reflect on how you reacted in phases 1 & 2 and how you plan to react as phase 3 emerges.

1. Storm clouds gather.

Don’t act as if the storm will blow over.

What are the risks for your business. Where are your weak points? Obviously safety is a key issue, but what about warranty, defects and other issues?

Specific risk sources in construction projects include:

BIM is technology which can be of enormous help. It can of course be a great tool to help us integrate for example design and estimating. It should also become a critical tool for communication with the client, engineering consultants and trade partners and in this way help to create an integrated project.  BUT let us not forget the construction team! If the construction team is not involved then the critical opportunity to better connect Design – Construction or rather Design-Build is lost.

So often I hear builders say that quality may work in manufacturing plants, but not out here building homes. Well of course it does work, but hearing that from a successful builder is ideal. Here is a link to a short video featuring Gary Zajicek, VP of Construction and Customer Relations at Veridian Homes in Madison WI. Gary talks about the impact of using Quality Management Systems, in this case the NAHB Research Centers, National Housing Quality Certification program for Builders and Trades which is based on ISO9001.

While dining at a restaurant recently I was asked by the waiter how my meal was and if there was anything that could be improved. The meal and service were wonderful and I had only one minor suggestion. But I did end by thanking them for asking! When was the last time you were asked by a business how they could improve?

While all builders are trying to become leaner, more innovative and customer focused to impact the bottom line, we should not forget about reaching out to our trades. Our partners are crucial and remember they are the experts in their specific area of the business.

Measure twice and cut once. I think that is probably the first thing I ever learnt in construction and I learnt it as a kid listening to my Dad and Uncle while they reviewed plans in the evening and worked on site each day. You can’t get a more fundamental quality management concept than that and it’s a phrase we use so often in the industry. The concept of course applies to all aspects of design and construction. We can consider it when drafting a home plan, estimating, material storage, construction and customer service.

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