I took a position as quality assurance manager at a manufacturing plant early in my career. I had been doing product development and had turned down a quality manager position a couple of times. But, this was open and seemed like it could be good.

It took only a few days for me to discover W. Edwards Deming. 

I found myself battling:

  • The chief designer who specified the minimum specifications possible for materials;
  • The manufacturing engineer who bought tooling then washed his hands when they didn’t perform;
  • The purchasing manager who bought components and raw materials from the cheapest source;
  • The general manager who overrode me when products from his good friend failed to meet spec;
  • People on the shop floor who wanted to do a good job versus a system that confounded them.

I lasted a year, then I found a position elsewhere in product development and engineering.

These memories came flooding back to me when I read that the official Boeing response to yet more problems with the 737 Max program was to do more inspections.

Oh, for crying out loud! From what I’ve read, the source of the problems with the system and program management was the CEO’s office. The board needs to begin fixing things at the root. And then bring in someone strong in a power position to change the system. It doesn’t take a genius to see where shortcuts were taken along the line in order to get production (and sales) ramped up.

You don’t achieve quality from inspection. At that point, it is too late. Fix the system. Advice from 45 years ago.

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