A couple of interesting papers recently crossed my desktop that I'd like you to reflect upon.
The first was a 1994 paper by Dr. Juran (one of America's top quality gurus) titled "Quality Problems, Remedies and Nostrums" that focused on the Zero Defect (ZD) movement. In this paper, he states that "the results of the ZD movement are not very impressive" first, because failures greatly exceed successes and second, published results appeared more qualitative than quantitative as if their main purpose was to impress their customers.
The second document is an ISO related discussion on the difference between "corrective action" and "preventive action" to eliminate the causes of non-conformance. The paper explains that corrective action is about stability, and preventive action is about capability. For QFD practitioners, this explanation also demonstrates the difference between a problem solving approach using DMAIC, and a design approach using DMADV to understand true customer needs and assure satisfaction.
Neither paper answers this critical QFD question, however: "Does nothing wrong mean anything is right?"
We ask this question at the start of every QFD Green Belt® course in order to provoke students to go beyond fixing and preventing negative quality, and to search for positive quality.
In other words, customers don't buy a product or service because the product is problem-free; they buy a product because it helps them, the customer, become problem-free. This means you must understand what outcomes the customer truly wants in their life and work.
Unfortunately customers are not always good at explaining themselves. After all, few suppliers ever bother to ask, so customers are not practiced at describing their problems or unfulfilled opportunities.
This is why VOC tools such as the gemba visits, Customer Process model, and Customer Voice table are essential to good QFD. These tools help customers use words and actions to show us what "success" means to them and why they are failing. Through these tools, customers can explain their biggest headaches and missed opportunities.
With this knowledge, a QFD team can then identify solutions that are capable of delighting the customer better than the competitors. This is how QFD differs from other quality initiatives.
If you find this topic helpful, you might be also interested in reading "Finding Customer Delights Using QFD" in the 2006 Symposium Transactions. Better yet, plan to join us this fall in the 24th Symposium on QFD in St. Augustine, Florida, to learn more about these modern tools.