In 1979, Philip Crosby wrote Quality Is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain, a bestseller that outlined the counterintuitive economics fueling the quality revolution in the U.S. and Japan. His logic was straightforward: It is always cheaper to do things right the first time than to go back and do them again. Crosby showed that investments in prevention more than paid for themselves by reducing the costs of poor quality—inspection, measurement, rework, repairs, or lost customers—that could run as much as 30 percent of total expenses. Those downstream benefits weren’t always easy to track, but they were invaluable. In that sense, he wrote, “Quality is free. It’s not a gift, but it is free.”
Quality methods are usually applied in manufacturing or repeatable services, but if we relegate these lessons to the factory floor we may miss their broader implications for leadership. For Crosby and his contemporaries, W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, quality was a question of integrity. When there were problems with quality, they usually arose because senior leadership had not been clear about what they were committing to deliver (by setting requirements) or acted in ways that did not align with those commitments in practice (through consistent budgets, rewards, recognition, and so on). And when companies transformed, it was because senior leaders became convinced that defects were not inevitable and that accepting the status quo was costing too much.
via Integrity Is Free.