The Fifth Fitness, a New Quality Dimension©
Arthur M. Schneiderman
What exactly is “Quality”? Ask this question to a group of TQM practitioners and you're sure to trigger one of those endless and often heated debates. Visit the misc.industry.quality newsgroup and give it a try. You may be accused of "trolling," but it will provide you with all of the proof you need. It's not that it's a bad question, but one for which we have no agreed upon answer. The problem is that the definition is not static, it depends on where you are in the Quality journey.
A good place to look for the answer is in Japan where this notion has continuously evolved over the past 50 years. There it is defined in terms of the “4-fitnesses.”*
4-fitnesses mirror the historical evolution of quality in post-war Japan. They contain a repeated pattern of movement between a product
(1 and 3) and a market (2 and 4) focus. In
today’s world, where many consumers take fitnesses 1 thru 3 as a given, real profit
can only be found in the short window of life of a latent need.
But, what about the future?
we hear thought leaders in Japan talking about “fitness for the
environment” and “fitness for future generations”.
Here, the product and market merge and are expanded in both time and
space. Out of this is emerging a 5th
fitness or quality dimension: fitness for society.
The 5th-fitness is reflective of a growing worldwide concern over the effect of what we do today, not only on our environment, but also on the people who will come after us. For the first time in history, we have the power to knowingly or unknowingly make irreversible changes in our physical environment. Too few companies worry today about the impact of their factories on global warming or the recyclability of their products. Even service organizations, such as consumer credit companies, don't appear to worry about their impact on the long-term financial viability of their customer's economies. Instead, it is left to government regulators. But just as excellence in the 4-fitnesses has proven profitable when companies “own” them, so it will likely be when they embrace the 5th fitness. And when the 5th fitness does become a strategic imperative, we will begin to see evidence of its presence in an organization's non-financial performance measurement and on their truly Balanced Scorecards.*See for example Shiba, Graham and Walden, page 27.
Last modified: August 13, 2006