Crosby’s Four Absolutes and Organisational Functions

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Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Quality is now the major differentiator in today's increasingly competitive business environment. In the event of increasing global competition, the continuous increase in customer expectations and customers' demands, as the quality of services and products improve, those companies that become unable to cater for the needs and wants of customers risk losing them to competitors. Ultimately they risk erosion of profits and thus failure. As a result and according companies are being forced to think up strategies that will assist them in building and maintaining a competitive edge. One such strategy has been the development of quality and quality management within the organisation. (McAdam and Barron)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an organisational process that actively involves every function and every employee in satisfying customer's needs, both internal and external. TQM works by continuously improving all aspect of work through structured control, improvement and planning activities that are carried out in concern with guiding principles that focuses on Quality and Customer Satisfaction as the top priorities.

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TQM recognises that the Customer is at the centre of every activity. The customer may be external or internal. The key is to determine the gap between what the customer needs and what the system delivers. Once the gap is recognised, it would be systematically reduced and results in never-ending improvement in customer satisfaction at every level.

Well-known Philip B. Crosby emphasized prevention rather than inspection (audits) and promoted a definition of quality as "meeting the customers requirements the first time and every time."  (Crosby)  His work is part of TQM. Crosby's philosophy on quality is driven solely by prevention of defects. It is expressed in a phrase he uses: Do it right the first time and every time. Crosby emphasizes zero defects, given that he believes there is only one level of quality. In other words, the presence of any flaw in the product deprives it of quality.

He believes management's perception and attitude towards quality needs to be transformed if the organisation is going to succeed at delivering quality consistently. For example, Deming and many managers believe that error is inevitable and one only has to deal with it. Crosby believed it is self-defeating to plan and invest in strategies that deal with errors instead of investing in strategies and processes that prevent errors from occurring in the first place (Garvin and March).  Crosby believed in prevention rather than inspection. Crosby felt that senior management were responsible for quality in contrast to Deming who felt that they were responsible for 94% of all quality problems. Crosby developed the four absolutes of quality management, which were (Petersen):

  • The definition of quality is conformance to requirements.
  • The system of quality is prevention.
  • The performance standard is zero defects.
  • The measurement of quality is the price of non-conformance.

Let us try to examine how different organisational functions contribute to delivery of Crosby's "Four Absolutes". Oakland (2000) is to be believed then traditionally quality was considered the responsibility of the Quality department. He also states that employing more inspectors, tightening up standards, developing correction, repair and rework teams do not necessarily improve quality. From this then, there is a notion that something more grounded, more continuous and all encapsulating is needed to address the issue of mistakes and errors, often made by humans, which lead to delays and dissatisfaction across the board.

Put succinctly, Quality, in terms of 'Total Quality' is a comparative concept and, contrary to the opinion of Philip Crosby cannot be regarded as an absolute. (Hutchins)  A customer's assessment of the quality of any organisation is based on the best the customer has seen. The customer does not always know what is feasible within the organisation. So the challenge to the organisation is to raise the expectations of the marketplace by providing goods and services at a higher perceived quality than those of its competitors.  Total Quality company therefore will continue to change these expectations, usually in directions not predicted by the competitor thus gaining a competitive edge. (Hutchins).

Manufacturing can still be considered as one of the primary functional areas within a business to contribute to Crosby's "Four Absolutes" concerning absolute that performance standard is zero defects. Without a manufacturing department, the firm would, in most cases be devoid of one of the most valuable commodities in business – a product. The manufacturing process is involved with the physical production of a product, starting a point just beyond the research and development stage and carrying it through to almost to the end consumer.

Next primary functional area of a business is the Marketing department. This department will deal with the sales methods, promotions, positioning, as well as any other aspect of the end sales of the product or service. Marketing department's work, by effectively building the bridge between a product, and the market to which it is being targeted. Involving such activity Marketing department deals with absolutes of quality is conformance to requirements and the measurement of quality is the price of non-conformance.

The links between all of these areas is in some cases fairly obvious. The marketing department for instance could not work without having a product to market, and in order to have a product, you need a manufacturing department. Of course the link goes much deeper than this. The process of marketing a product may well begin well before the actual manufacturing, and so the marketing department would have to communicate effectively quality department to ensure that what they are marketing is actually a product, quality of which can and will be realised.

There are some strengths and weaknesses of Crosby's approach. Firstly the strengths are: (1) Provides clear methods to follow (2) Worker participation is recognised as important (3) Strong on explaining the realities of quality and motivating people to start the quality process. The weaknesses of Crosby's are; (1) Seen by some as implying that workers are to blame for quality problems (2) Seen by some as emphasising slogans and platitudes rather than recognising genuine difficulties (3) Zero defects sometimes seen as risk avoidance (4) Insufficient stress given to statistical methods (Slack).

The Relationship Between Quality and Cost in the Organization.

Cost is the disbursement upon funds incurred by a firm in manufacturing and retail its production.  Each cost is a charge against revenues and profits for the use or consumption of resources during a trading period. Cost can be classified along the functional lines, distinguishing between production, selling, distribution, administration and finance costs. (Slack)

Term Quality we use to imply superiority of a service or product. We suppose quality product, meaning for instance a Jaguar car. It is well designed, well constructed and will as a result serve a long period. Considering motorcar of low quality, we think of somewhat like Volkswagen or Fiat, with its poor panels, cheap mechanisms and low specifications.

The balance between cost and quality in purchasing is questioned when an organisation is looking to purchase the best for what they can get for their money. However, this is not always the case. One of the main considerations in the purchasing functions is that the quality in question is fit for purpose. Sometimes the overriding factor on the decision to purchase is that products are of the highest quality. E.g. luxury car manufacture Roll Royce will pride themselves on using the finest materials when manufacturing their cars.

When at the ordering stage the emphasis will be on high quality rather then cost. Keeping cost to a minimum is an important factor for any business including companies like Roll Royce (to a certain degree). However, Roll Royce will not compromise their image of quality for the sake of cost.  Often, a company has no choice but to use the most expensive materials or highest quality that money can buy.

As mentioned above, purchasers have to take into consideration whether or not the quality is fit for purpose and what the product is going to be used for. The decisions that are made can be made personally for individual use or at corporate level. E.g. if a purchasing manager for a car manufacturer has to make a decision on the type radio to buy, then there is a combination of factors that will need to be considered.

The price will have to suit his budget. The quality would have to be of a standard that one would expect from a car of that type from the company. The buyers final decision may well be to buy a radio system that he or she would never consider putting in their own car. But yet the decision made will mean that the system chosen will go into thousands of newly built cars. This is because the decision made was not personal; it was made of behalf of a company so it had to suit their needs.

As people we are constantly trying to find the balance between costs and are own perception of quality on a daily basis. According to Juran, quality is: "fitness for intended use." This definition basically says that quality is "meeting or exceeding customer expectations." So according to this theory, we achieve quality when we buy a product that does what its supposed to do. If a purchasing manager is buying radios that he or she wouldn't use personally, this still ties in with Juran's definition of quality because the radios will meet the customers expectations, although is will not meet the buyers. (Juran)

To achieve high quality, a company does not have to always have to pay the high costs. For example the cars produced by the Japanese used to be of low quality and unreliability was common. Things have changed now. Japanese's cars are now built to an excellent standard and reliability is second to none. Not only are the Japanese building excellent cars, they are building them at a great speed. This is partly due to lean supply techniques that the Japanese have mastered. The whole area of purchasing and suppliers is streamlined to achieve minimum waste. Adopting these techniques cannot be done over night, but lean supply is an excellent step in the right direction in achieving a good balance between cost and quality long-term.

Keeping the balance between cost and quality in an important factor for any business. As mentioned above, it depends on what the buyer is trying to achieve overall. If high quality is the overriding factor for a company, then this will tie in with the companies' high quality image. Whether it is no frills or impeccable quality, managers will try to find a reasonable balance where appropriate.

Project Management

Prior to defining project management, let us define what a project is in fact. There might be a disputable explanation of project concept. Commonly, a project is a human activity that has a time scale (a starting and an ending points), a clear target (objectives), a team of people, and change of what a project might result. Similar to what “a project is a human activity that achieves a clear objective against a time scale”. (Reiss)  On the other hand, “a project is any activity with a defined scope of requirements, time scale and budget”. (Craig, Jassim)

Generally, I would like to conclude that a project should have objectives, time scale, and budget. In the circumstances, the definition of project management might be related to the definition of a project, which it could be defined as a collection of techniques that relates one to the other leading projects to success. Bringing a project to a success, there might be a number of criteria to do so, which this might not be easy for who has responsibilities of the operation. In the circumstances, I would like to discuss firstly, the goal and objectivities of a project management, and secondly, a manager’s failure managing the project, and thirdly, tools and techniques applied to produce a good project, and finally, risks and problems occurred.

Projects can cover a wide range of human endeavour and physical projects represent only a sub class of the types of projects that exist. Other projects may cover the implementation of a new work method, arranging a social event, writing a book, fixing a leaky tap etc. For projects to exist by this definition there must be a visible need to be satisfied. The satisfaction raises two major issues: (1) the needs of the various participants (stakeholders) in a project are not the same, (in construction projects the needs of the owner are not the same as the contractor) and (2) the needs must be identifiable. This is not to say that the need will not change during the life of the project, however the objectives of the project must always be directed at satisfying that need. (Craig, Jassim)

Values are specified that satisfy the need or desire and again as the needs change so to must the values. These values often are a compromise between perfection and cost or time. By this definition, projects are able to provide some form of order in chaos. Projects can then provide a way of organising and focusing activity.  Projects play a major role in implementing business strategy. Projects are one of the major choice elements that an organisation may select from. They form part of the overall organisational planning process. The choice elements are defined as (Lock):

  • Mission: the business that the organisation is in.
  • Objectives: desired future positions on the roles of the organisation.
  • Strategy: the general direction in which the objectives are pursued.
  • Goals: specific targets to be sought at specified points in time.
  • Projects: resource-consuming sets of activities through which strategies are implemented and goals are pursued.

Organisations can also change missions by the nature of the projects that they undertake and vice versa. Companies that would have been involved in a single sector of business may have adapted strategies that suit that sector. A change in sector by these companies as a result of the types of projects undertaken may lead to a change in strategic direction.  Many companies are now embracing a new method of management. This process uses projects to undertake strategic change.

This new area has turned management thinking over where project management was considered the child of general management. Under new process the management of a company becomes the management of a stream of projects.  Clearly, a project has a manager, who would take the lead as the project going. As a manager, he or she should know the goal and objectives of a project and how to organize, manage, plan, and avoid problems. Perhaps, there might only be 3 objectives that a manager should manage, which are time, cost, and quality. (Lock)

Firstly, timing might obviously important, which should have a start and an end of a project. Secondly, cost might also important for what project should be operated on budget. And finally, a standard of quality that would be set by a company might be very hard to do. Some of managers might try to balance three of those objectives, which as they thought keeping each objective on balance was obviously important as it is.

They might be poor managers, who were trying to do so, because specifications might have changed anytime that would affect their management every time. Changes, such as an extra time, cost, or other related orders, might be made by a company, which this obviously would affect decisions, works, and implications of every members in the project. On the other hand, a scope of project might also be important. A project should be planned as What, How, Who, How much, and when to do it. These might be the key part of a plan, which should be expressed clearly in terms to be easily understood.

There are a number of reasons why a manager could fail to plan. Firstly, time pressure might affect a manager who might waste his or her time doing many tasks without a good plan, such as recruiting many staffs, positioning the project, growing risks and problems, and so on. Another reason could be a poor project plan, which might be unscheduled, complicated, or even not understandable for the members to do their tasks. The project members might be confused, if unnecessary or not available information were given to them. (Reiss)

Meanwhile, a project management could be intended as a management and a planning. Therefore, a successful manager should have abilities of motivation, team building, career growth, financial control, and other related abilities to a manager. If a manager has an objective, it must be clear and understandable for whose members produce their work well. Especially by team building, it could develop a well structure of team and stimulate the open, productive, and effectiveness of a team.

To start a project, the first issue a manager should do might be planning. Planning might be about future of what a project would be good, or even bad. As a manager, he or she should have a scope and try to predict how the project will go and what needs to organise it. This estimation would be really important for them to know approximated cost, effort, or even risk of a project. Moreover, by estimating, it could build a confidence to the manager and the members. In the circumstances, a manager should motivate and provide the opportunity to his or her members to think ahead. Therefore, communication might be really important in order to understand each other, work together, and produce the project on time, budget, good method, and strategy.

Those plan modelling could assist a manager to produce a project on their timing. Its process could start firstly by a network modelling, secondly, a barchart modelling, and finally a histogram modelling. Firstly, a barchart is a complex modelling technique, which allows a project manager easier to manage his or her plan frequently. Moreover, by using barchart, the project manager could communicate the plan to his or her members clearly, because it represents every single task of activities and the time scale of its tasks. (Craig , Jassim)

Basically, a project management might be intended to a management with a planning. But, on the other hand, a project management could also defined as the management of change, which allows a manager to create a change involving the movement from one state to another, for example, moving location of a factory. Changes could also be made for future plan, which this should be updated frequently to produce a good project. Furthermore, the project manager should modify his or her plan and distribute them to his or her members.

On the other hand, monitoring might be the second issue a manager should do. It might be about examining how a project is going on, managing risks, and also updating of the plan regularly. In the circumstances, a well-designed spreadsheet would be needed as a tool in order to monitor all aspects, such as risk, actual actions, and assumptions.

There are 2 different approaches monitoring a project, which are monitoring by a manager his or herself and by other people. Monitoring a project by own could be very useful, which would allow a manager to notice little tasks going on and might bring a new idea to him or her. By using the second approach, it might not be useful for the manager his or herself, because a manager need to know what has happened to each tasks in his or her plan.

It might be inevitable that a project would result a number of risks. The risk might be occurred only if the project abandoned, delays, overspending, occurs errors, or probably, unacceptable. A high or small risk will occur depends on what proportion your project is. As it occurred, it must be recognised as far as possible by analysing it and its consequences, because critical effects could be made to the environment and the company you might be in.

Achieving good project, a number of issues might be occurred as the project going on. It might be about budget, time management, or even a member who might be off sick. The best way might be avoiding or solving every problem occurred as soon as possible. Simply because a new problem might be coming, which as it might grow becoming more threatening and impossible to avoid. In the circumstances, it would result crucial effect to members, or even your career.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that a project management might not be easy to be operated. There are a number of tools and techniques should be applied, in order to produce a good project. Nevertheless, it is clear that those tools and techniques could support the project manager easier to communicate his or her plan to the members. On the other hand, there are some risks and problems a manager should have to face. Depends on the proportion of a project, a high or small risk would occur. Clearly, a manager should have abilities to lead a team to a success. A manager could fail, if he or she could not get every little problem in control. A better project management could only be produced if the project manager could stay on the track managing the project.


Crosby, P.  "Quality is free" McGraw-Hill 1979, pp 55-62, 87-89, 106-109.

Craig, S. and Jassim, H.  People and Project Management for IT, London, McGraw-Hill, 1995

Garvin, D. A., March, A.  A note on quality: The views of Deming, Juran, and Crosby.  Boston, MA:  Harvard Business School, 1986

Hutchins, G.  Fundamentals of Quality Auditing. Prentice Hall, 1992

Juran, J.M.  Juran on Planning for Quality, New York: Free Press, 1988

Lock, Dennis, Project Management (Sixth Edition). New York: Wiley, 1996

McAdam R., Barron, N., “The role of TQM in the pharmaceutical industry: a clinical trials analysis”. International Journal of Healthcare Quality Assurance, 15, 2, pp 106-123, 2002.

Oakland, John.  TQM "Text With Cases", Butterworth Heinemann, 2002

Petersen, Peter.  "Total quality management and the Deming approach to quality management" Journal of Management History, Vol 5 No 8, 1999

Reiss, G.  Project Management Demystified, 2nd ed., London, E ; FN Spon, 1992

Slack N. et al.  "Operations Management" 2nd Edition Pitman Publishing, 1998, pp 760-830

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Crosby’s Four Absolutes and Organisational Functions. (2018, Mar 01). Retrieved from

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