Make every word count in quality

Mike Wroblewski
Tags: lean manufacturing

The Lord's Prayer has 50 words.

The Ten Commandments have 297 words.

The Constitution of the United States of America has 4,500 words.

Our Company Quality Manual has 10,572 words.

It took just a little effort to read the entire 55-page quality manual from front to back. Then I was told that was there was still more to read. Each of the 20 elements (based on the old 1994 ISO Standard) had additional documents to this core quality manual, totaling about 300 extra pages (which I did not bother to word count!).

Wow! What a large, complex description of our Quality Business System. I asked around the plant to see if anyone else had read the entire set of quality documents. Only one out of 100 employees had confessed to actually reading it. I bet this is a common occurrence at more than just one company across America.

I started to realize that this was just another reason why our quality system was not understood within the company. Why was our quality manual so huge? Could it be simpler? Would the company benefit if we could improve this manual to the point that it would be read by every employee? Would our customers benefit if every employee understood the quality system (processes)? I thought "yes" and we began to kaizen our quality manual.

It took just a couple of weeks. After several revisions, we had successfully simplified our quality manual to a clear and simple description of our quality system. The final version was now just 1,851 words across seven pages. We made every word count by taking out all the "extra noise" – words and phrases that added no value to the final piece.


The next step was getting every plant employee to read it. In its revised form, it became an easily accomplished task.


About the author:

Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is president of Victory Alliance Technologies, a Greensburg, Ind., firm that specializes in lean implementation. He writes a blog called "Got Boondoggle?" featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Mike can be reached by e-mail at