Learn about the philosophy of zero defects and how to achieve it to improve the quality of various types of work.
Published 2 Dec 2022
Zero defects is a philosophy founded on the idea of getting things right on the first try. Designed to work for all industries, this all-encompassing philosophy aims to improve efficiency and increase profit for businesses by eliminating the cost of their mistakes. It can lead to better customer satisfaction, a change in perspective, and a continuously improving work environment.
The idea of zero defects started with Philip Crosby, a well-known American quality professional. He perpetuated the idea that quality should be invested in the most, as “quality is free.” He believed that investing in quality meant that one should do things right on the first try to assure themselves of a high-quality outcome immediately.
Crosby didn’t give hard rules for achieving one’s standard of quality, declaring quality is neither tangible nor intangible. Quality, he said, was simply about conforming to an organization’s standards and requirements to the best it can be. To achieve this, he placed heavy emphasis on preventing waste when performing essential tasks. Waste here was defined as anything unproductive or inessential to a task, such as certain processes and tools. Prevention was better than cure, and by doing things right the first time and avoiding mistakes, a high standard of quality can be achieved.
Zero defects theory should not be confused with perfectionism, however. The philosophy of zero defects doesn’t mean that people never make mistakes. Instead, it means that companies shouldn’t be working with the idea that not giving one’s best is the norm. Substandard and unclear targets where the final product can just be fixed later should not be expected; instead, management should work to create things right on the first try with clear targets to produce their ideal outcomes.
Today, zero defects is the leading philosophy behind many total quality management and assurance programs across different fields. Together with the Six Sigma concepts and the 5W1H method, it promotes continuous improvement throughout the workplace, ensuring that the standard of quality increases with time, as well as the standard of leadership.
14 Steps to Zero Defects
Although Crosby did not give clear definitions for quality, he laid out 14 steps to achieving zero defects for quality improvement that can be used by anyone. These are:
Empower your team with SafetyCulture to perform checks, train staff, report issues, and automate tasks with our digital platform.
It can be hard to keep up with your zero defects plans, especially if you are busy with other matters. To solve this dilemma, you can use a digital checklist. Having a digital checklist can help you track the tasks done in your organization and the errors that your staff encountered, which, in turn, can help you and your quality improvement team improve your zero defects plans accordingly.
SafetyCulture offers a free zero defects implementation plan template for anyone to use and modify as needed. SafetyCulture is a digital inspection app used across different industries to ensure that the quality of their processes and products are controlled through checklists. SafetyCulture can also help you do the following:
You can get started with SafetyCulture for free here.
This template is for quality managers to use when checking the implementation of an organization's zero defects plan. With this, they can conduct monthly checks by team and individuals, as well as analyze different tasks or processes per team.
This template can help quality managers and Six Sigma practitioners apply the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) methodology when improving their processes and quality control methods
Roselin Manawis is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She has experience in news writing and content marketing across different fields of discipline. Her background in Communication Arts enables her to leverage multimedia and improve the quality of her work. She also contributed as a research assistant for an international study and as a co-author for two books in 2020. With her informative articles, she aims to ignite digital transformation in workplaces around the world.
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