Quality as an Ethical Obligation

                Companies have a substantially higher obligation to act ethically to its customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and environments than they currently act.

                Milton Friedman, famous economist in the 1970s, said that the sole purpose of a business is to make profit for its shareholders and that corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethics were not factors.  The only governing factor, in his eyes, was the law (Makower, 2006).  In other words, he thought that the law should be the governance regarding ethics, and that companies should not strive for any greater common goal or work based on some set of principles.  He believed that it is the duty of companies to make a profit using whatever means necessary.

                This thinking is evil and corrupt, but it is still the thinking that drives most companies today.  Many companies have CSR programs and preach about diversity, sustainability, or community outreach.  I believe that companies use CSR programs to look good to possible customers and stakeholders.  They do not engage in CSR programs due to any genuine interest in humanity or the environment.  They engage in CSR as marketing and good public relations (PR), in order to boost their profit.  Thus, even though it looks like companies care, it appears that they are still solely profit motivated.  Friedman’s philosophies are deep ingrained.

                Dr. William Edwards Deming had a better mindset regarding profit.  Although CSR and ethics were not a part of the discussion, Deming believed that an organization needed to be customer focused.  If a company focuses on developing products, services, and processes motivated by delivering amazing quality and experience to customers, then profit is an inevitable result.  So, while profit is still very important as an outcome, the focus should be on quality management from a customer perspective (Knowles, 2011, p.138).  Treating the customer unethically would be against the Deming mindset.

                Regarding quality management, the EFQM excellence model builds sustainability, culture, and stakeholders into the model, so it is an application of quality management that includes ethics.  The model includes assessment of the company’s impact on society (Knowles, 2011, p.138).  This is definitely a step forward as far as a framework, but it does not alter the motives of the company.

                When it comes to quality, companies have an ethical obligation to reduce waste (for environmental sake), reduce defects and produce quality customer-focused products (for customers’ sakes), and create safe and positive work environments and work cultures with high-quality processes (for employees sake).  Quality and customer-focused innovation should be important to organizations, not only to deliver maximum value, but to create products that are improvements and improve the lives of their customers.

                Poor quality has serious social consequences.  For instance, the predatory health insurance and healthcare industry is currently maximizing profit in the United States without adding additional value, compared to other countries.  The market is profit-oriented, so prices will go up as high as they can.  Society is suffering now from having to pay exorbitant prices for health insurance with high deductibles, then having to pay high prices for any medications, procedures, or doctor visits.  It is typical to go to the doctor and pay a small copay, only to receive a bill for thousands of dollars in the mail.  In this case, there is no outstanding level of quality, only price gouging.  The effect is that people are in incredible medical debt.

                The quest of quality should come from a sense of responsibility and wanting to drive more value to customers, but instead quality is a method of reducing costs and maximizing profits for shareholders.  If quality is improved, it is to minimize returns, minimizing complaints and bad PR, and minimizing costs.


Knowles, G. (2011). Quality Management. London, UK: Ventus Publishing ApS; Bookboon. Retrieved from https://bookboon.com/en/quality-management-ebook

Makower, J. (2006). Milton Friedman and the social responsibility of business. Retrieved from https://www.greenbiz.com/article/milton-friedman-and-social-responsibility-business

Published by Art Ocain

I am a DevOps advocate, not because I am a developer (I’m not), but because of the cultural shift it represents and the agility it gains. I am also a fan of the theory of constraints and applying constraint management to all areas of business: sales, finance, planning, billing, and all areas of operations. My speaking: I have done a lot of public speaking in my various roles over the years, including presentations at SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and Central PA Chamber of Commerce events as well as events that I have organized at MePush. My writing: I write a lot. Blog articles on the MePush site, press-releases for upcoming events to media contracts, posts on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/artocain/), presentations on Slideshare (https://www.slideshare.net/ArtOcain), posts on the Microsoft Tech Community, articles on Medium (https://medium.com/@artocain/), and posts on Quora (https://www.quora.com/profile/Art-Ocain-1). I am always looking for new places to write, as well. My certifications: ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Web Application Security Professional (CWASP), Certified Data Privacy Practitioner (CDPP), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), VMware Certified Professional (VCP-DCV), Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), Veeam Certified Engineer (VMCE), Microsoft 365 Security Administrator, Microsoft 365 Enterprise Administrator, Azure Administrator, Azure Security Administrator, Azure Architect, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, ITIL v4 Foundations, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner See certification badges on Acclaim here: https://www.youracclaim.com/users/art-ocain/badges My experience: I have a lot of experience from developing a great company with great people and culture to spinning up an impressive DevOps practice and designing impressive solutions. I have been a project manager, a President, a COO, a CTO, and an incident response coordinator. From architecting cloud solutions down to the nitty-gritty of replacing hardware, I have done it all. When it comes to technical leadership, I am the go-to for many companies. I have grown businesses and built brands. I have been a coach and a mentor, developing the skills and careers of those in my company. I have formed and managed teams, and developed strong leaders and replaced myself within the company time and again as I evolved. See my experience on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/artocain/

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