Short History of Quality
from 10,000 BC to the Present Day by R.Q. Teasdale
As we practice Quality in our daily work lives
in Financial Management, it’s easy to forget the significant
impact that Quality has had on human history. This article will highlight
a few important dates and events in the history of Quality.
10,000 BC, A deeply wooded area near a river.
The invention of Quality is largely attributed to
a female hunter-gatherer named Tiffany. As the story goes, Tiffany
was watching her mate prepare a satchel to carry food. After a moment
of thought, Tiffany showed him a more efficient way to construct the
satchel to maximize its carrying capacity. Tiffany then scratched
a mission statement into a stone wall and made a loud grunting sound
that signified process improvement.
12 AD, Jerusalem, First Quality Champion,
Caleb of Khartoum. Caleb was a basket weaver by trade, but
had a real soft spot for quality initiatives. It was this deep interest
in making things better that attracted a group of goat herders to
Caleb. These herders were working on a process improvement for weaving
goat wool. Caleb was engaged to work with this group to resolve conflicts,
create consensus and keep the goats out of the meeting area. His compensation:
twelve shekels per week, or roughly $40,000 per year in today’s
565 AD, Rome, Invention of the scatter
diagram. Some believe that the scatter diagram was invented
in ancient Rome when a servant of the Emperor Augustus called out
to a group of street vendors to “scatter” because the
emperor was approaching. When they did so, according to legend, the
servant noticed the pattern of the running vendors and immediately
thought of applying this pattern to some data he had gathered and
of plotting this data using the Cartesian Coordinate System. This
story is in serious dispute among some scholars due to the fact the
Cartesian Coordinate System (named after Rene Descartes) was not invented
for another 1,000 years.
1492 AD, Spain – First QI Team.
Before Queen Isabella engaged Columbus to set sail, the Spanish Royal
family formed a quality improvement team to plan the trip. The team
was comprised of the Queen, a few Princes and Princesses, and a facilitator.
The team only functioned for a short time because when the facilitator
suggested that the Queen needed to stick to the agenda, he was beheaded.
1849 AD, Milwaukee, Invention of Customer
Service. No one ever smiled at each other before 1849 largely
because it was tough to find a good dentist. Without smiling, there
was no human warmth, which directly caused the surly and rude attitudes
pervasive in the early 19th century. Shirley LaVoin, a bartender from
the south side, smiled constantly, due to a rare muscle disorder.
This smiling had a dramatic impact on business and soon people came
from all over Milwaukee to see Shirley’s smile. It wasn’t
long before entrepreneurs got the hint and began smiling and saying
nice things to their customers. Thus customer service was born. As
for Shirley, her facial muscles eventually relaxed and she was fired
from the bar for being churlish.
1912 AD, Somewhere in the Atlantic, First
reference to a Type 3 problem. As the Titanic was sinking,
someone was heard to say: “I don’t think there’s
a bloody thing we can do about this.”
1956 AD, Hollywood, First television
program created using Quality Principals. Those Wacky
Witches of Salem, which aired in the fall of 1956, was developed
and produced entirely using Quality principals. The writers and production
crew formed teams, brainstormed problems, and developed a mission
statement. When jokes weren’t funny enough, gap analysis was
used to quantify the humor and bring it to the desirable level. Unfortunately,
the show was cancelled after only three episodes and Hollywood has
steadfastly refused to put Quality into its programming since.
1990 AD, Seattle, UW Financial Management
adopts Quality within the Division. Financial Management,
through the Leadership of V’Ella Warren, was one of the first
UW departments to adopt the Quality framework. Like Tiffany from 10,000
BC, the Pioneers Team and the others that followed began by grunting
and scratching mission statements onto walls. This all changed dramatically
a few years later when the division bought pens and flip-charts. The
light of Quality was lit in Fin Man in 1990, today it still burns
Dr. Teasdale received his doctorate in
Television Viewing and Cellular
Biology from the College of Universal Life at P.O. Box 3763, Loma