Last month I laid out “A Roadmap for the Future” which received a favorable reaction, therefore, I thought I might continue along this path on a subject that is important to every quality professional.

It’s no secret that the world is changing more quickly than anyone could have realized. Rapid technological advancements, an increasingly global economy, customer expectations for increased service and product quality, and the demands for efficiency and productivity gains across every industry will continue to influence our society. This will undoubtedly create problems in how to effectively deal with the massive changes.

As we move forward into the future, how will quality be defined? Essentially the same as always. The customer will define what quality truly means and it’ll be up to the producers to meet the definition and whoever does it best will capture the biggest share of the free market.

Meeting the demands of the customer will be a significant challenge. We are in an era in which technological changes are happening so quickly that some events will be replaced before the ink is even dry (if there was any ink used at all). Customers will be doing what they’ve been doing for generations: looking for organizations that will create superior quality at the lowest cost. I don’t see that changing.

Organizations are coupling quality methodologies like Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, and the Internet to bring about new dimensions to their processes and products to be competitive and provide what customers want, when they want it, and at the cost they are willing to pay.

Competitive pressure to improve quality is not going to diminish. Senior managers will have an awakening regarding quality. Dr. Joseph M. Juran stressed that quality had to be planned and executed—it doesn’t happen by accident. He further noted that organizations will improve quality only when there is proof of the need for it. Do we need any more proof than the recent financial crisis? The need is inescapable. The news, however, is full of factory recalls and declining quality training budgets, which is a sign that not all organizations have gotten the message yet.

I have yet to find, however, an organization that will settle for erosion of top line growth without continuing to improve bottom line profitability. Certainly there will always be constant pressure for higher level performance. The field and customer data would suggest the same holds true for quality performance. Customers will demand even greater levels of quality and will be inclined to push beyond expectations to levels of what Dr. Noriaki Kano, in his customer satisfaction model, referred to as exciting quality.

Successful companies must be in competitive shape by incorporating a stronger quality focus into their strategic plans to link every part of their operation toward customer satisfaction and they must do it at accelerated rates. After all, customer satisfaction is the barometer by which true quality, and profitability, is measured.

Equally critical is that quality professionals in all industries must broaden their own span of involvement and take more control over their education and learning. We must be willing to make an investment in our own learning even if our organizations curtail their training budgets.

Quality professionals will help their organizations see the need to continue investing in prevention costs by moving the quality system upstream. Organizations have been talking about this for decades but most have yet to do this in earnest. Quality professionals must demonstrate the financial benefit to encourage their organizations to do this aggressively.

Quality professionals will also become multi-faceted experts, technicians, designers, trainers, consultants to senior management, and customer liaisons while injecting themselves into design processes, purchasing, engineering, financial oversight, marketing, human resources, and public relations.

 Technology won’t allow us to recede so the only choice is how to move forward.

Methodologies such as Six Sigma and lean manufacturing are the current band leaders but rest assured there are other approaches waiting in the wings. It will happen in time but for now these approaches, and others, provide processes around which people can identify and rally behind. The names and methods may change but the name of the game is higher quality, speedier time to market, and competitive prices.

 The successful organization of the future will lead in management, quality, financial performance, and customer satisfaction or even customer delighters. The hero will be the quality professionals who help make that happen. What’s stopping you from developing the transition plan today, selling it to management tomorrow, and jumping on the whirlwind of change for the future? You can help make it happen!