Quality Without Governance = Disaster

I found another example of how an organization’s governance undermined its quality discoveries, to the detriment of its customers and society at large.

GM Cobalt Delayed Recall

The link describes a scenario where General Motors recalled its 2005-2007 Chevy Cobalt due to an ignition problem.  The summary is that:

  • If the ignition is contacted in a certain way, the engine will shut down.
  • If the engine shuts down, the airbags will not deploy.
  • If the airbags do not deploy, the safety of the driver and passengers will be compromised.

There were multiple deaths arising from this automotive hazard.

According to the article, the technical staff successfully recognized and reported the ignition issue.

A GM engineer experienced the problem while test-driving one of the vehicles in 2004 according to deposition transcripts provided to CNNMoney by Cooper. GM’s engineers concluded there was a problem with the ignition switch in 2005, the depositions showed.

“Testimony of GM engineers and documents produced in Melton v. General Motors et. al., show that the automaker actually knew about the defective ignition switch in these vehicles in 2004 before it began selling” the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.

CBS News has learned GM’s recall is coming 10 years after the defect was first discovered and seven years after people began to die.

My point in raising this subject is not to disparage General Motors, but to draw attention to the fact that our Quality profession is fundamentally impotent and powerless unless the organization’s governance is willing to make the necessary commitments and decisions to follow through when quality problems are discovered.

In our profession we devote considerable time to the tactical methods and techniques to discover quality outcomes.  However there is inadequate and insufficient attention dedicated to synchronizing the Quality function with the Executive or Senior Management.  For every high profile example, there are likely ten or twenty examples at different levels.  This is a very substantial challenge.

About Daniel Zrymiak

I am the ASQ Regional Director for ASQ Region 4, Canada, for the 2015-2016 term. I aspire to collaborate and support with all quality practitioners worldwide, but especially with my fellow Canadian ASQ members and Member Leaders. I am a distinguished professional in Quality, having attained multiple recognitions through the American Society for Quality and International Academy for Quality as a practitioner, leader, author, conference speaker, and influential voice. My professional experience is currently in management consulting, and over the last 20 years I have been engaged in increasingly complex and progressive work in financial services, manufacturing, medical device development, software delivery, telecommunications, resources, and professional services. I have also taught quality and operations management at several post-secondary institutions in the Metro Vancouver area. LinkedIn Profile
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