Where Have All the CQO’s Gone?

Two Chief Quality Officers (CQO’s)

I know have left their jobs – involuntarily – in the last six months. This is a real shame and sad for these professionals. CQO’s are definitely an endangered officer. So, what does it say about our profession?


I’ve been in and around quality for more than 25 years. When, I first started, most organizations didn’t even have a quality department. Then during the explosive growth of quality from 1980 to 2000, the quality function grew in importance to become a critical C-level function.

Quality went from a technical position to a first and second level manager to a director level. Many companies had VP’s of quality and some even developed a position called Chief Quality Officer (CQO). This was the top quality position in our profession.

‘Quality is Job #1’; remember that ad from Ford? It was Ford’s mantra, its marketing tag line. Each company developed similar marketing visions and mission statements. I thought they were inspirational. I was a quality believer and evangelist for years.  I wrote 4 books on quality. I gave a dozen talks on quality each year. It was an exciting and lucrative time to be a quality consulting professional. Quality professionals were at the forefront of national and organizational competitiveness. Quality professionals and consultants were in huge demand to stabilize, lean, and improve internal and supplier processes using the tools that we discussed above. Great and good times.


But, times changed. And, now we can get back to our original question:

“Where have all the CQO’s gone?” Or maybe more important, ‘Why isn’t quality at the C-level table anymore? Great questions and very troubling ones at the core of the future of quality and the employability and promotion of quality professionals. This is my answer. Quality is everyone’s job!’ This was Phil Crosby’s tag line. How true. Quality diffused throughout the organization and into the supply chain. Then it moved offshore with the huge outsourcing movement over the last ten years. We, the quality evangelists, were more successful that we anticipated. Quality did become everyone’s job, not only in our company but also in our supplier base. So, another critical question- What happens to the quality professional, when everyone is responsible for quality?  Standardization and then commodization of quality seem to have occurred. Quality lost its cachet. Quality became the entry ticket to simply be in and do global business. We saw this with all the contracts that had ISO 9001 as a bidder or supplier requirement. In this journey, something else happened. Quality, as ‘good enough’, became the business requirement as opposed to continuous improvement. Companies said they didn’t need a Chief Quality Officer to enhance competitiveness. The person in charge of ISO registrations or product certifications could be a director level or even a second level manager.


The marketplace hates a vacuum. Where are today’s Deming’s and Crosby’s? I’d like to see the new faces who are rushing to write articles, keynote events, be the guru poster person, and in general lead our profession into the new era. It’s sad. I haven’t seen or heard this person. This person may be you! You’re doing something great in a hot area that is a natural extension of quality, such as risk management, healthcare quality, cyber security, or supply chain management. If you are, great. Get published in Quality Progress. Give talks. Write books. Lead a movement. We need CQO’s now

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