Dear Editor,

Once upon a time in the land of Productivity there lived a wise King. The King told his subjects, "If you make your products well, you will sell plenty and prosper." However, deep within the castle there was unrest. The King's inspectors did not believe that the people heeded the King's simple advice. So pushing aside their microscopes and measuring tools they set about to create a set of rules to ensure the quality of the Kingdom's products. They claimed it was not a revolution, but an evolution. Their cry became, "Say what you do; do what you say." They called themselves the Interested Sons of the Order, or ISO.

Now the King, who was all for better goods and happy customers, began to listen to the ISO. They came bearing TQM and Six Sigma. They came bearing the -- Proclamation. The King was confused. It was many words. Great banners appeared throughout the kingdom stating that the King's products were the best. Surely this must be true, the kingdom now had the documents and forms to prove it.

Soon, members of the ISO were pushing aside their data packages and getting to sit at the big table in the part of the castle that is carpeted. The King's advisors called them by name. The ISO displayed their charts, although neither the King nor his advisors actually understood them, or cared. They wrote corrective actions, to display their power. It was necessary; it said so in the Proclamation. Life was good, for the ISO.

Customers in other lands heard of the ISO. "Hurray, we are saved," they cried. It was a new day. Out of the cubicles and into the spotlight for the inspectors. An iron fist to wave for the customers. The Proclamation spread throughout the land. It became bigger than the Kingdoms, bigger than the Kings.

Ah, but can there ever be enough of a good thing? The wagon makers thought not. "Yes," they said, "the Proclamation is good for you, but not for us," and soon the first of many variations appeared. It was not long before the inspectors came bearing requests to their Kings for additional funds to satisfy the special interest groups. The Kings did not smile.

Eventually, the big fish were fed. It was now time to catch the smaller fish. But, the smaller fish could not swallow the twenty course Proclamation. So, the ISO said, "Let's put the twenty dishes on five platters, mix them up a bit and make it easier to choose and sample. Let's not write as much, since it is frightening the masses. Let's make a new buzz word we can all get behind to make this all sound like it's better and new. Let's call this "Process Driven."

The inspectors, now haggard and breathless from trying to keep up, approached their disgruntled King with the news. "What, again?" bellowed the King. "Soon you will be telling me that this will happen every five years." The inspectors bowed their heads and envisioned their offices disappearing.

One morning, after a particularly long audit in which the number and detail of quality objectives of the organization were in question, the King called for all his subjects to meet in the courtyard. An army of workers tossed the Kingdom's ISO procedures into a raging fire. At noon the King addressed the crowd. It was a short speech. The King simply said, "If you make your products well, you will sell plenty and prosper." The inspectors went back to their microscopes and measuring tools never to be heard from again.

Steve Demski