People or Processes? How to Achieve Quality

                If an organization wanted to achieve excellence, it should focus on its people.  Such an organization should develop and motivate its people to drive quality through a cultural change toward delivering customer value and continuously improving and learning.  That cultural change in people means that the people of the company will then improve the processes, adopt excellence and improvement frameworks, and develop practices and katas that will drive excellence.  An organization cannot effectively develop processes and automation to the point that people are not the key factor in excellence.  Even the automation needs to be creatively and carefully crafted by people.

                It is an oversimplification to think that a process can be perfected to the point where human interaction, creativity, and problem solving are no longer a factor.  In systems thinking, it important to integrate and maximize “between people, activities, processes, policies, places, and resources” (Tjendra, 2018).  People are the first consideration.  Even the two top principles of Deming’s Total Quality Management (TQM):  being customer-focused and having total employee involvement illustrate the importance of people on excellence.  Likewise, the EFQM Fundamental Concepts of Excellence illustrate that it drives culture (people) and has key concepts around change management (people), harnesses creativity and innovation (people), leads with vision, inspiration, and integrity (people), manages with agility (people), and succeeds through the talent of people (EFQM, n.d.).

                Processes and people are linked, but I believe that I can get the most value out of a solution if I follow the Agile Manifesto and focus on “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” (Agile Manifesto, 2001).  Agile is a respected management mindset that has extended beyond software to create a customer-driven concept in any industry (Denning, 2016).  Alex Honor explains that the principle is more amplified by saying it as people over process over tools, meaning that people are more important than process (Honor, 2010).

                Even in using statistical process control methods like Six Sigma and the Taguchi Method, although they seem to be highly impersonal and process focused, depend highly upon the involvement and participation of people. Shyam Kumar Karna and Dr. Rajashwar Sahai, discussing the Taguchi Method, focuses on understanding and optimizing the process, but also said “It is also pointed out that the Taguchi Method is also very compatible with human focused quality evaluation approaches” (Karna, 2012, p.16).  In Six Sigma, Six Sigma: The Impact of Personnel on Process Improvement:  Empowered employees are critical to Six Sigma’s success indicates that the engagement of employees at all levels, including their imagination and initiative, is crucial for success (InfinityQS, 2019).

                The process can only be planned, done, checked, and acted upon by people.  If problems exist in the process, then people need to define the problem, measure the problem, analyze the problem, improve the process around problem, and control the process to make sure that the situation is improved.  Every one of these steps is a human step and cannot be automated.


Agile Manifesto. (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Retrieved from

ASQ. (n.d.). What is Total Quality Management (TQM)? Retrieved from

Denning, S. (2016). What is Agile? Retrieved from

EFQM. (n.d.). The Concepts. Retrieved from

Honor, A. (2010). People over Process over Tools. Retrieved from

InfinityQS. (2019). Six Sigma: The Impact of Personnel on Process Improvement:  Empowered employees are critical to Six Sigma’s success.  Retrieved from

Karna, S. K., & Sahai, R., (2012).  An overview on Taguchi method.  International Journal of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, 1, 11-18.

Tjendra, Jeffrey. (2018). Systems Thinking is the New Design Thinking. Retrieved from

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