Quality Magazine

Probing the Limits: Persistence is a Fundamental Quality Skill

June 1, 2006

Persistence can give an organization a competitive advantage.



Persistence is just as important as any quality assurance skill when it comes to making quality as good as it can be.

I've always considered persistence to be a fundamental quality skill.

Persistence may not be part of the quality assurance body of knowledge, but when applied to quality issues, persistence can give an organization a major competitive advantage.

To understand how persistence and quality are related, consider the following definition of quality: "Quality is the gap between how good something is and how good it could possibly be." When the gap is small, the quality is good, and vice versa.

Employees' persistence plays a major role in making key quality issues in an organization as good as possible.

A good example of persistence is in hiring new people. Hiring a top-notch person vs. an average person will have a dramatic effect on many quality success factors.

The hiring manager who interviews many people, thoroughly examines candidates and is very selective will have higher quality levels in his organization than a manager who hires the first acceptable person.

Managers who are not persistent when it comes to hiring spend less of their day doing interviews, but suffer in the long-run when the quality of the work done in their department is not as good as it could be.

When I've been in a rush to fill an open position and not been persistent in my interviewing,

I almost always hired someone who just could barely do the job and never could take the job to a new, higher level that a star employee could have accomplished. Finding star employees

takes persistence.

Being persistent applies to other issues in a company such as vendor selection, cost reduction, inventory control, market research, design reliability and corrective action.

Like most things in life, though, doing the right thing by being persistent requires time and effort-two rare and precious commodities.

Despite the fact that I'm crunched for time, like everyone else, I find it hard to cave-in and settle for things that I know are sub-optimal.

After a few years of experience in the business world, I learned that feeling some pain now

and making an extra effort to be persistent in

my actions and decisions pays off in the end. Usually when I was not persistent, the resulting sub-optimal outcomes caused my workload

to increase.

To my surprise, though, I see many of my experienced colleagues trying to save time by accepting things that are "good enough for government work," as the saying goes.

I think that some people are not persistent in their work for several reasons.

First, many people are more interested in checking the task off their list than meeting the intent of the task. To some managers, hiring someone into an open position completes the task. Persistent managers realize that completing the task of filling an open position means finding and training a high-quality person who will excel, not just fill, a position.

I think the other factor in a lack of persistence in some people is simply the desire for instant gratification.

As the owner of a small, start-up company, I'll be doing lots of hiring in the upcoming years. I have built my company on strong quality principles and I don't intend to change that.

To maintain quality as a foundation principle, it is important that I, and other employees, stay persistent in our decisions-taking the time and effort to ensure that our decisions don't just address the immediate issue, but that we also use decision points to optimize quality to make the company as good as possible. This will give us a formidable advantage over competitors that take a "good enough is good enough" approach.

For these reasons, persistence has always been a fundamental skill in my own personal version of quality's body of knowledge.