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Grand Daddy of Quality - Philip Crosby -

Who said “Quality is free, but it’s not a gift”? Who was the first non-doctor to create a vaccine? Who maintained that zero defects was the job of management as much as the front line? Philip Crosby! He said it was less expensive to do it right the first time than to pay for rework and repairs, and he’s still right!

This year would have marked Philip Crosby’s 94th birthday, truly a Great Grand-Daddy of Quality! He’s been referred to as the “Fun Uncle” of Quality and grouped with two other top gurus, Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran, in terms of his impact in the field. An engineer, a prolific author and the founder of an international consulting firm, he is known primarily for the concept of Zero Defects.

Claims to Fame – What Did He Invent?

Zero Defects

He maintained that the ultimate goal was to have Zero Defects

Mr. Crosby was a big proponent that everyone from the top to the front line of an organization should have an attitude and a commitment to preventing errors. In order to help organizations achieve this goal he had a number of supporting ideas:

How to Get to Zero Defects:

  • Doing It Right the First Time – Management declares that errors are not inevitable
  • The Prevention Process – Anticipate errors instead of inspecting and correcting them
  • The Quality Vaccine – Management empowers employees to treat problems as “bacteria”

He was plain spoken and his ideas were so catchy that in the 1980s his consulting company was advising 40% of the Fortune 500 companies on quality management.

The Four Absolutes of Quality:

His Four Absolutes provided a bold vision of Quality

Mr. Crosby’s guidance stemmed from these simple principles.

  • Quality is defined as conformance to requirements – deliver what the customer wants
  • The system for causing quality is prevention, not appraisal – detection is too late
  • The performance standard must be Zero Defects – not “that’s close enough”
  • The measurement of quality is the Price of Nonconformance – the Cost of Poor Quality

With Mr. Crosby’s “Absolutes” he was able to help management see that increased quality did not mean increased cost. Quality and cost were not in competition which is captured in one of his quotes, “Quality is free – but it’s not a gift.”

Little Known Facts:

  • His “Quality Vaccine” treated process problems as bacteria
  • His book, “Quality Is Free” helped foster the Quality Movement

Philip Crosby at the Bahama Bistro:

Quote of the Day:

  • “Can he sing like his brother Bing Crosby?”

Putting Philip Crosby into Action:

  • “Why did you call in the Quality Doctor?”
  • “So he’d give the whole kitchen staff The Quality Vaccine!”

His book “Quality Is Free” was a bestseller and helped with the rise of the quality movement in the ‘80s. He wrote over a dozen books like “Quality Without Tears” which were read by many because they made quality so accessible and understandable. His 14 Steps to Quality Improvement are still relevant today.

Happy Birthday Philip Crosby!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 30 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Marriott International, Inc. build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.
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