Stop Half Steppin! Apply the Zero Defect Mentality, NOW

Dear SBO's,

How much does the absence of quality or half stepping (having defects) on quality cost your business per month? Or how about per year? In addition to negative financial costs associated with omitting or giving a below standard effort in quality, your business also pays in time, resources and a mediocre to bad reputation.

At this point, you have a few options. You can accept that things (defects) happen and note how incremental these defects are in the grand scheme of things, you can get rid of the defects regardless of how much it costs your business in time and money, or you can do things right the first time around – avoiding the costs altogether.

Now as a recovering perfectionist, the latter sounds most appealing to me. And, admittedly so, I instantly began drooling when I found an actual philosophy to back my addiction (yes, perfectionism is my unconditioned stimulus – God’s still working on me – ha!). This philosophy, state of mind, all encompassing movement and phrase is “Zero Defects”. This phrase was derived from his book “Quality is Free” written by Philip Crosby in 1979. In summary, Crosby believed that if no defects exist there will be no costs associated with the implementation of defect remedies and thus, quality is free.

Understanding this philosophy can be confusing as in an effort to grasp this concept, most tend to lean to the need to be perfect or have the perfect services, product offerings, positioning etc. We lean to perfection as a state of being instead of perfection as a state of mind. The Zero Defects philosophy is perfection as a state of mind. Again, it is NOT about being perfect. It’s about having the mental fortitude to chase perfection in all you do. According to Crosby, the Zero Defects mentality requires that you:

  1. Become acquainted with the cost of quality issues

  2. Make it a habit to think about where flaws or defects can come into play

  3. Be proactive. Address flaws in your methods and processes that may allow defects to occur.

What's Your Brand of Excellence?

What standards do you have in your business? What’s most important? Are you in business to solely make money? As business owners we often forget that we own answers to peoples problems. That’s what businesses boil down to – answers. Our clients/customers are people that need something and your business supplies the need. What interesting to me is that every business owner duals as a consumer as well. We are both on the giving and receiving side. What’s interesting is the level of excellence we hold other businesses to when we are being served as consumers, versus the level of excellence we hold our businesses to when we are serving consumers. For example, I get my nails done every two weeks (for the most part). I like them to look a certain way but above all, I want them to look clean, neat and last. If a nail salon does not provide me with at least those three qualities, I never return. I think, “What is so hard about painting my nails correctly? Why can’t they cut them down evenly? Why is it taking so long to be served?” These are all valid questions coming from a consumer. As a business owner I would do well to make sure my clients aren’t asking themselves similar questions of my business. “Why isn’t she responding faster? Why does this have typos? I feel like I could have done that.” Again, all valid questions and comments but ones I religiously make every effort to avoid.

Implementing Zero Defects in Your Business

As an owner, if you are committed to adopt the Zero Defects mentality, congratulations! You are one step closer to being the best problem-solver you can be. But understand that it is not enough for you to adopt this mentality on your own; your staff has to adopt it as well.

According to Crosby, the Zero Defects approach relies on a top-down method. Your staff has to hear and see this modeled from you as well as receive the tools necessary to apply this mentality. Here are a few steps to get you on the right path:

  1. Introduce the Zero Defects mentality with change management principals. Need help? Let me know.

  2. Understand customer quality expectations and design processes to support the Zero Defects standard.

  3. Do not wait for flaws to arise! Be proactive!!!!

  4. Establish a quality improvement team and or lead. This sets the tone in your business and lets your team know that this is the “way things are” now.

  5. Monitor your progress. Get feedback from your customers and team so you can address and prevent flaws

  6. Measure, measure, measure! If you don’t know where you started, how can you know what the true impact adopting this principal has on your business?

  7. Understand that Zero Defects is a destination and circumstances will continue to change. Monitor, evaluate and adapt – yup, it’s a cycle.

I honestly think that business owners should be mandated to provide the highest level of service and care to their customers. Call me old-school (and other things if you’ve made it to the end of this post) but I believe in the age-old golden rule – Treat others the way you want to be treated. Nobody wants to be handled as if they are just a number, or just a sale. Let’s show some humanity, compassion and restore the belief that our actions can heal and our intentions are pure.

*Key concepts derived from Mindtools LTD