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Blog, Quality

Is Quality an Old Persons Game?

Posted: November 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

G U E S T  A R T I C L E

rowing up I wanted to be a police officer. Or a fire fighter. Or a doctor. Who didn’t? Kids grow up wanting to be what they are familiar with, and being a quality professional wasn’t even a career path that I knew existed until after I graduated from school. The tendency to do what we already know how to do is pervasive. What kid doesn’t want to be like mom and dad? After all, learning new things and stretching outside of your comfort zone is scary.

This is why programs like police foundations and early childhood education are extremely popular. There are a lot of people who would be perfect for jobs they would never think to apply for. Instead they are coerced into a system that perpetuates over-saturation of certain fields because they are familiar. And this tendency exists across the entire spectrum of students, from hands-on learners to abstract thinkers. Many bright and talented young people who are exceptional problem solvers think that they want to become lawyers only to crash and burn before they enter their 30s. There is an entire market dedicated to burning out lawyers – ranging from illegal stimulants to In order to avoid over saturation, these professions adopt increasingly gruelling admissions standards.

As always people are limited in two ways: by the things that they know, and the things they can do. Of course, everything that you are doing you already know about, but there are things that you may not know about that you could be doing.

In my experience this is a near universal battle cry for people that are lean professionals, yet, ironically, recognition of this principle does not mean that the industry is acting in a way of best fit. As lean experts we know that companies will continue to act in ways that they are familiar with until someone comes along and convinces them that they could be doing better. Yet, we do not approach the continuation of our own field in the same manner.

Quality is an old person’s game. Think of the number of times you, or someone you know, has given an exasperated sigh before muttering: “Well they just don’t make ‘em like they used to…” Or better yet, think of how many 8 year olds who have come up to you at family functions and said “When I grow up I want to be a process engineer or a Six Sigma Black Belt!”. Chances are not that many, even though being a Six Sigma Black Belt is exactly as cool as it sounds.

Maybe it is because lean methodology encourages us to hire exactly as many lean experts as we need, without over hiring. Maybe it is because our degree of obscurity means we do not inherit the saturation overflow, or systemic advertising, that other industries do. For example, many police foundations graduates become security guards or crime analysts. But most likely, it is a combination of both of those factors.

Manufacturing is an old-blood industry as it is, and by 2025 the majority of the population will be 60 or older. This will push economies and organizations to respond to the resulting market needs – like filling newly vacated jobs, and catering to senior living. Society, and most industries, are very aware of the impending changing of the guard. In fact, this is not even the first time that I have written on this subject. Essentially the problem can be distilled down to generational differences between baby boomers and millennials. For example, millennials value fulfillment to a higher degree than baby boomers have. Additionally, the training systems that we currently have are not prepared to accommodate the static career lifestyle of the future. Employee turnover is likely to not only massively increase in the short term, but to also never return to a rate as low as it currently is.


We all know the change is coming, but how will the industry age? Will we age gracefully like fine wine, or will we sour like milk? As circumstances evolve, North American manufacturing could shrink or gain in terms of market share. The only certainty is that now is a time of opportunity. If we choose to age gracefully then we are going to need systems that can accommodate our changing needs. Continuous improvement systems and revamped training programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Millennials are also going to bring with them unprecedented technological expertise which companies will be able to leverage in the form of new programs. It is reasonable to expect a technological paradigm shift within the next ten years, and we need to be at the forefront of it if we ever want to bring back – and keep! – manufacturing jobs.

The pursuit of quality is a continuously evolving field made up of some of the brightest minds working with exciting tools. People just don’t know about it. Usually peoples understanding of quality is a vague understanding of how quality products stabilize businesses, but an understanding of how vital quality is missing. This isn’t to say that things were made better back in the good ol’ days, but instead to point out that quality is taken for granted.

Kids these days are familiar with the show How It’s Made, but the focus is, ironically enough, placed on the steps of how something is made. But the really interesting part, is behind the steps. Why are those steps occurring in that order? Sure glowing bits of metal, plastic, and glass are fascinating, but why are they glowing? What about the vision that went into preparing the order of these steps? We are so busy watching “what” is made, that we miss the real “how” – the system behind the product.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to solve complicated problems for the rest of my life. I liked the challenge, I liked the feeling of accomplishment, and frankly, I’d be bad at doing anything else. I did not become a philosopher, but I do plan on sitting down and asking myself only one question for the rest of my life: How can this be done better?

It is a question that I have answered before. But I know that every time I answer the question, I can ask it again, and again, and again. I found myself in the lean industry not because I knew I wanted to be a part of it when I was eight years old, I stumbled into it by asking “Why?” too many times. To me, being a lean professional is interesting, and fun, and cool. How could it not be? It is an industry that is constantly changing and growing into something that is always going to be better than itself. We are constantly looking for new processes and new ideas to do better with, we ride the cutting edge of human development. We cannot possibly age like milk. Because we aren’t milk. We are fine wine, through and through.

So let’s act like it.

About the author:

Trevor Brookes

Trevor Brookes

Trevor Brookes is currently working with the Nessis Incorporated. He is responsible for updating the companies social media, generating digital content, and facilitating meetings between clients and sales representatives. Trevor is also a professional actor and has been connected with InVision Artists Talent Management. He has also presented a workshop “Implement TWI in your workplace and improve your company’s efficiency”, organized on November 9, 2016 by Nessis Inc. and ASQ Ottawa. View Trevor’s full profile at Linkedin.

This article and images have been produced with permission. Title picture is not associated with the original writing.