By Jens Refflinghaus, Kepner-Tregoe 

With World Quality Day just ahead on the 14th of November, mid-way through World Quality Month, the organizer of this annual global quality day, CQI (the Chartered Quality Institute), urges quality professionals to reflect on their achievements. CQI is celebrating its centenary anniversary this year, with origins arising in response to WWI quality issues with munitions manufacturing, while Kepner-Tregoe, dates back over 60 years, when social scientists began looking at the human side of problem solving and decision making, and then applied their findings to issues like quality. With 60 years of experience in addressing quality issues, consider how Kepner-Tregoe has played an integral role in the modern, global quality movement.

Pioneering Concepts: Better problem solving, and decision making can be learned; and improving quality is a global movement involving the human side of change.

Improving critical thinking improves problem solving and decision making. Early research by KT founders, the PhD social scientists, Ben Tregoe and Charles Kepner, found that some military officers were better problem solvers and decision makers because they used a critical thinking process to solve problems and make decisions. Ben and Chuck identified the key elements of this process and developed a critical thinking approach that can be learned and used to find quality solutions and make the best balanced decisions. KT consultants began training managers in this approach to improve management skills, and executives to improve strategic thinking, as well as engineers, line workers and anyone who encountered problems and decisions on the job.

Improving quality is a global movement involving the human side of change. Within manufacturing, the KT processes were integrated into quality management first in post-WWII U.S.; but they quickly spread internationally as the KT “train-the-trainer” approach was introduced internationally. Early adopters in most major industries began integrating the KT problem solving approach into SOPs to solve problems as they arose as well as to prevent future problems in manufacturing. KT quickly moved overseas. In Japan, as the rise of manufacturing post-WWII moved away from inexpensive goods to products known globally for quality, KT began a relationship with Honda motors that is deeply embedded in the global quality movement and and has continued as the company began manufacturing in the US. KT training has been delivered in organizations worldwide in over 60 languages, spanning cultures and traditions. Despite this diversity, the concepts are easily embraced across cultures because they are based on shared human desires to know: What is going on? Why did this happen? What is the best way forward?

Playing a critical role in the rise of TQM, Six Sigma, OEE, Lean and more: KT isn’t an initiative; it is a way of thinking.

Improving critical thinking saves money and improves customer satisfaction. Beginning in the 1980s, manufacturers embraced a variety of successful initiatives ultimately aimed at improving customer satisfaction. Within each approach, the ongoing need to tackle problems and prevent future occurrences has kept KT squarely in the toolbox of every improvement initiative. One client described KT as the third leg of a three-legged stool, along with Six Sigma and Lean. At an aerospace company with the tragedy-avoiding goal of embracing zero non-conformances, KT is credited with saving “millions of euros” while creating a proactive culture that replaced the “fire-fighting” of reactive problem solving. Increasingly, KT has been embraced by IT professionals as an essential tool for IT service and support, providing quality solutions to an increasingly diverse and demanding customer base.

Embracing the human side of Industry 4.0: Critical thinking by humans will continue to play a key role in Industry 4.0.

Critical thinking: the high-demand skills for Industry 4.0: As industry becomes more digitized and jobs are replaced by apps and robots, critical thinking skills continue to be in high demand. The problems of a digitized workplace that cannot be resolved by automation lie with humans working across platforms and technology. Today along with the tech skills needed to optimize AI and build new digitized processes and platforms, critical thinking, and more specifically, problem solving, are among the top 10 in-demand skills for the future.

KT is key to the past, present and future of the quality

Looking back at over 60 years serving the needs of quality professionals, KT has an evergreen track record of support. Now, fully integrated into today’s tech-driven workplace, KT continues to be key to building customer satisfaction while reducing costs and providing quality solutions. Firmly integrated into the past, present and future of supporting quality professionals and quality initiatives, Kepner-Tregoe is proud to celebrate Quality Day 2019 and prepared to support the future of quality.

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About Kepner-Tregoe

Kepner-Tregoe has been the industry leader in problem-solving and service-excellence processes for more than 60 years. The experts at KT have helped companies raise their level of incident- and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective service-management teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.