I often have to convince people that professional Quality Assurance is a legitimate cost of a project. Most managers who I encounter say that they understand that Quality Assurance is important, but they look for ways to lower or eliminate the cost. Some common suggestions that I’ve heard are:

  • These are good developers. We don’t need to test their code.
  • Can’t we just hire a temp to play around with the software?
  • Let’s cut the testing hours in half. Actually, that’s still too much. Let’s cut the hours by 80%.

Because I often need to justify why Quality Assurance is a good value, I tend to notice articles about major problems that could have been prevented by either better quality assurance or better maintenance.

The Story

The Sunday New York Times had an article this week about recalls at Johnson & Johnson. They have had to recall a huge number of products over the past year due to problems with the quality of their products. This has resulted in shortages of their products on store shelves and a loss of market share.

The root causes of the problems have not been made public. However, at least some former employees who are involved with a lawsuit have said that the root cause was an attempt to save money at the expense of quality.

According to the article:

"Others say it was simply a matter of cost-cutting. The December lawsuit, for example, cited two unnamed former employees who contended that the company failed to address the manufacturing problems at McNeil because it was trying to save money.

Other former employees who are not involved in the lawsuit say that J.& J. seemed to hesitate in recent years to invest in new manufacturing equipment.

‘It takes a lot of money to buy equipment and maintain quality,’ says Patrick Bols, who left Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division in the late 1990s and owns stock in the company."

Other Examples?

As I see future stories like this, I’ll share them here. I’m also interested to hear your stories.

Have you seen a situation where the root cause of a costly problem was cutting costs related to quality?