Organization Culture - "Quality is nonvalue-add."

“Quality is nonvalue-add” ~ Upper Leadership.

What are your thoughts, whether for or against the statement?

I understand that Quality (QE and inspection) does not explicitly add value to a product; however, with that same concept, one could say Manufacturing Engineering is also nonvalue-add.

Quality (inspection) ensures the quality of the value-add through validation and verification.

Quality Engineering is the planning of the controls related to product quality. Similarly, Manufacturing Engineering is the planning of the controls or methods of manufacturing the product.

20 Replies

@Joshua Rask
step 1, if you can, find a new place to work. Step 2, if no options are available, ask what “value” means for upper leadership, I'd imagine the answer would be profitability, if so the proposition can be as simple as: properly done, Quality Management results in the elimination of rework, doing things right the first time is cheaper, from there the benefits to the company grow to other areas and efficiency begins to permeate the organization. If upper leadership cannot visualize this simple paradigm, go back to step 1.

@Joshua Rask I would suggest that: 1) building quality into products and services is a value-add for customers, and 2) perhaps delineation is needed between quality management and the rework that results from poor quality. The former is intended to address the waste generated by the latter. I've always been taught to use the “Will the customer pay for it?” criterion when assessing whether an activity is value-added. I'm eager to hear from others on this question.

@Donnie Minnick I agree that building quality into products is value add. It saves time and money if planning is done upfront.

Quality IS value. Without Q/quality there is no value, in service or product. A culture of quality is essential, but not inherent, to a successful organization, whatever their business. But, especially in the era of "Lean", many organizations lose sight of the fact that quality is the glue holding everything together.

@Joshua Rask

I agree with what everyone has already been shared.

Quality is technically ‘waste’ so maybe that's what they are thinking with nonvalue-add?

I think its a gentle reminder that if all products and processes are all optimized and defect free - then “Quality” wouldn't be needed. If that is not the case, Quality is there to help with both.😀


@Joshua Rask
Although the first place we quality professionals say we save the companies on is rework and efficiency, (for those of us in medical device, pharma, automotive, aerospace) we also prevent harm, injury, illness and hopefully death to the users. It's not until some operations person ignores what was recommended & finds themselves in trouble with an agency that they start yelling for help from Quality or Regulatory. Yes, if they don't value the promotion of safety & efficacy for the products they manufacture, I agree with step 1. BTW, I once had a GM that in front of everyone on our management team looked at me and said "you know you're one of the wastes". That's when I decided to leave that company.

Clearly building quality into goods and services is value added. We have abundant instances of how expensive it is to cut corners and deliver shoddy services and products.

The manager with the perception might be referring to some small aspect of quality, like an inspection department. Or, (s)he might have some other flawed definition of the term. Either way, the first question I'd ask would be to have her/him clarify what (s)he means by the statement.

Because there are so many perceptions about the definition of quality - and because many of those perceptions are at best incomplete and at worst entirely off the mark - trying to respond to a blanket statement without clarification feels like a hopeless task.

@Joshua Rask
In my industry, not having the qualification paperwork in order means our products cannot be sold or used. Not much value to be had in producing an airplane that legally isn't allowed to leave the factory. Obviously QA cannot take credit for 100% of the value added by the airplane being legally able to get off the ground, but neither can operations take 100% of the credit for building an airplane that would be worthless without a certificate of airworthiness, or a design and plan provided by “non-value-added” engineering.

All functions should strive to reduce waste in their processes and interruption to the production of the product, but any manager who focuses too much on the idea espoused in the original post should be reminded of the potential for legal liability when low-quality products fail in use. We in aerospace are all too familiar with the real human cost of poor quality and cannot tolerate that attitude, and other industries are certainly not strangers to bad quality products hurting people. Food & pharmaceuticals come to mind first, as well as other heavy manufacturing and construction industries.

Meta Brown
23 Posts

@Joshua Rask Did your management actually say that? If so, please explain more. What was the manager's job title and role? What was the context of the discussion?

If Project management is " Value added", so is Quality management. Quality Planning is most critical and "value added", which is is part of Quality management. In earlier days, Quality meant " Inspectors" checking every part after processing, which is non-value added. Things have changed since development of process based Quality management system.

@Joshua Rask here's my thinking. quality means meeting requirements. Deming's chain reaction (

is "improve productivity>>decrease costs>>decrease prices>>increase market>>stay in business>>provide more jobs>>return on investment. If you're following the chain, it's value add.

@Joshua Rask Often when we hear the words quality management, we think about manufacturing processes and practices that ensure the widgets being produced meet expectations. What we don’t think about are all the other business processes and functions that quality management plays a key role in. An organizations quality management system impacts its effectiveness, efficiency, scalability, adaptability, employee morale, customer satisfaction, profitability, and long-term performance.

If a company does not value those, then yes, quality is a non-value added activity.

@Joshua Rask Some modern product development practices state that they “… build quality in” implying that discrete quality (or “burn in”) activities or phases are no longer required. This may be what Upper Leadership is referring to. Practically, this (above) is possible in some product or solution development organizations but many still insist on discrete quality work (even if it's referred to as Smoke Testing.)

I find upper/higher/middle leadership/management disparaging quality practices (or assuming quality “happens”) have not owned the responsibility of delivering a ("quality") product or solution (or a component of one.)

My thoughts - It's likely Upper Leadership lacks grounding in the reality of product and solution development (and has been to one too many “executive” workshops-not hands-on, of course.)

As stated, it could have been a clever remark that quality inspection is NVA, but I doubt it

I suspect the cost of poor quality concept would be an impossible sell to this person/company as well

Dilbert said it best - when you enter the Management Zone reality no longer applies

As a manger you can just mandate zero defects and presto all problems are gone, then call for executive bonuses all around!

Norm Howe
67 Posts

@Raul Martinez

This is the only reply that I've seen so far that even comes close to addressing the real problem with the original statement. ‘Upper Leadership’ is, in fact, not leadership. And they won't stay ‘upper’ for very long. Get out NOW, Joshua!

Norm Howe
67 Posts

@Joshua Rask
I'm guessing that ‘Upper Leadership’ doesn't even know what Quality is. They probably think it's necessarily some added feature that's visible to the customer. Of course that will cost more, and how dismally wrong it is. Here's a deeper discussion that ‘Upper Leadership’ might understand [probably not, but you could try]: https://www.vcillc.com/blog/posts/2019/10/how-do-you-define-quality

@Joshua Rask
Thank you for posting this; it has generated a lot of interesting responses that will be helpful in my classes.

As many have mentioned, I think it would be helpful to understand the meaning of what was meant by the Upper Leadership and how that meaning will affect their leadership decisions. If they are coming at it from the traditional “quality is non-value-add because it doesn't change the form, fit or function of the part" and they understand that should drive a culture of quality into all value-added activities by empowering those doing the work to learn by continuously improving their processes ever pursuing perfection, it may not be a bad thing. On the other hand, perhaps they need to tweak their definition to be in the eyes of the customer. Meaning, quality is what the customer is willing to pay for; this sort of argument is easier to make in heavily regulated industries where quality policies are mandated.

Good luck in your adventure of understanding!

@Joshua Rask

I think it is important to clarify the term "non-value added" because there are at least two distinct meanings:
* in the context of Lean manufacturing, all processes are categorized into value-added and non-value added activities; where value-added are tangible transformations that distinguishes a product or service and for which a customer will pay. Everything else is support for those processes and do not add 'value' to the product or service. So in this case, the Quality function is technically a non-value added activity.

However, in reality, most customer purchase decisions are differentiated by customer expectations. For instance, there are some obvious attributes that customers expect when they purchase an item or service:
* it will operate as intended,
* is delivered on time,
* is configured is as specified,
* billing is correct

There are also intangible attributes that customer's favor
* ease of the ordering process
* access to information/support on the product or service
* elimination of barriers to purchase (eg. having a local warehouse to avoid issues with customs and duty charges)

So it is technically correct to consider quality as non-value added, but it is also incredibly short sighted to view the manufacturing output as the sole determinate of customer expectations. Understanding customer expectations (the reason you have customers) places an enormous emphasis on the value of quality and the processes that ensure excellence, and is clearly "value added".

Jose Perez
8 Posts

@Joshua Rask
Sadly, the energy your post generated confirms that the work of too many Quality practitioners is being challenged at their workplaces. Not a great place for the profession to be.

Ruth Ola
9 Posts

@Joshua Rask thank you for sharing your thoughts.

i see quality inspection as a process within the bigger QMS picture.

QMS should be designed and implemented as how we do business for an organization to see the value.

A good place to start will be to review your organization's approach to the seven quality management principles:

  • QMP 1 – Customer focus
  • QMP 2 – Leadership
  • QMP 3 – Engagement of people
  • QMP 4 – Process approach
  • QMP 5 – Improvement
  • QMP 6 – Evidence-based decision making
  • QMP 7 – Relationship management

How is the organization doing in all these areas? Are the quality professionals working collaboratively with other process owner? Are we providing support and involved in continuous improvements?

I think as quality professionals we need to keep learning and finding new angles to add value to our organizations.