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A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free Critical Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2019

Executive summary

The purpose of this research paper is to develop an in-depth critique of the book Quality Is Free by Philip Crosby. The research provides a detailed analysis of the main themes raised in the book, which includes four major strengths and four major weaknesses of the author’s arguments.

The paper concludes that the authors’ comments are arguably well-developed within the context of quality management as they refer to his experience in the corporate world.


Philip Crosby is a renowned author and scholar in business management. He has published a number of works in this field. The book Quality is Free has been an informative material in management for the last few decades. In this book, Crosby attempts to present a detailed analysis of his experiments in entrepreneurship where he learnt quality ideas from corporate settings and attempted to apply them in a field of business (Crosby, 1979).

The author attempts to examine a number of concepts related to the creation of quality in business even in cases where it seems difficult to do that. Crosby tries to re-examine his principles in business management. He emphasizes on Quality Revolution taken place in the 20th century (Crosby, 1979).

With his arguments, the author has created a new topic of debate with a notion that quality is deeply rooted in the hands of managers in a business setting. In fact, he deviates from the previous notions that considered quality creation as a role of quality departments.

This new perspective in business management has awakened the business world calling for restructuring of organizations to ensure that managers improve the quality of products and services provided by their organizations.

Supporting paragraphs


Crosby begins with a description of how managers should be trained by exposing them to business world. This is an attempt to reject the hypothesis that careers are characteristics inherent to a person right from birth. He provides a brief description of his life and early expectations as per which his father and uncle wanted him to pursue a medical degree.

As such, the family and the community assumed and expected the young Crosby to enter the medical field. However, things went different, and he ended up being a manager in the corporate world (Crosby, 1979). As such, Crosby argues that concepts are people-oriented and should therefore be carried out by people.

Obviously, it is expected that such a book that is largely based on personal precepts will have its strengths and weaknesses. First, it is important to look at the strengths of the arguments given by Crosby.

Crosby successfully shows that to achieve quality is not a difficult task as it has been initially thought. In fact, he argues that the cost of implementing a quality program in an organization is achieved through prevention of defects (Crosby, 1979). Thus, a total cost of implementing quality in an organization should include the costs of prevention, failure as well as appraisal.

There is a wide range of activities that account to prevention costs and include product qualification, designing, engineering of quality orientation, training of suppliers, evaluation of suppliers among other activities (Crosby, 1979). On its part, appraisal cost also includes a number of activities, such as testing and inspecting a prototype, conformance analysis, product acceptance among others.

On the other hand, failure cost includes consumer affairs, corrective actions, warranties, and reworking, redesigning and other tasks (Crosby, 1979).

With this in mind, it is worth noting that Crosby attempts to argue that the role of ensuring quality rests on the hands of company managers as it is not only the role of quality control departments. In fact, it is clear that quality control department cannot perform all these tasks alone (Crosby, 1999).

In addition, some of the tasks are not within the mandate of the department. Therefore, it is clear that Crosby’s arguments are applicable and evident in corporations.

In an attempt to describe the importance of company managers in the process of creating quality in a company, Crosby has successfully used a simple analogy of a “table” that is supported by “four legs”. In this case, he uses the four “legs” of a table as the four key principles of creating quality in an organization. The first “leg”, according to Crosby (1999), is the management participation. In this case, quality management can be achieved if managers are actively involved. Professional quality management defines the second “leg” (Crosby, 1979).

This aspect of quality management focuses on training and networking quality councils. The third “leg” is an aspect defined by original programs. It emphasizes on development of programs in regard to the practical activities presented at all the organizational levels. Finally, recognition is considered as the fourth “leg” that calls for basing quality programs on practical activities within an organization (Crosby, 1979).

A third strength of Crosby’s argument is found in his attempt to describe how effective managers achieve quality in an organization (Crosby, 1979). He argues that managers should show all the characteristics of a quality manager. These include implementation-oriented, listening, learning, cooperativeness, leading by example and quality creation (Crosby, 1979).

A fourth strength of the argument is observed in Crosby’s explanation of quality management using a maturity grid. Briefly, this grid has five stages of the process of organizational maturity.


The author argues that quality is easily achieved, but it is not a mere gift, which means that managers must strive to achieve it. In addition, he argues that improving quality implies that people in an organization have to be converted as a way of problem solving (Crosby, 1979).

With a number of case studies based on real life experience in companies, the author has successfully shown that there is need for managers to be active in achieving quality (Crosby, 1979). Managers should lead by example if an organization is to provide quality services and products in a competitive world.

However, there are few weaknesses in his arguments. First, he assumes that quality is the centre of everything in organizational management. He further shows that there is too much work for managers than there is for other employees, given that managers have the pivotal role of attaining quality.

In addition, the author seems to emphasize on using his 14-step process of quality management “maturity grid”, which shows that he erroneously ignores other procedures or frameworks developed by other scholars.


In a brief analysis, this discussion has shown that Crosby’s thesis is based on managerial involvement in creating organizational quality (Crosby, 1979). It is clear that Crosby worked in real organizations where he gained vast experience in quality management (Crosby, 1979).

With a substantial number of case studies, the author shows that quality is easily achieved in an organization, but managers are required to ensure that everybody works hard to attain the set goals. In addition, the author indicates that quality improvement is largely based on the need to convert people as a means of problem solving in an organization.


Crosby, P. B. (1979). Quality is Free. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Crosby P. B. (1999). Quality and Me: Lessons from an Evolving Life. New York: Jossey-Bass

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"A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free." IvyPanda, 4 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/a-critique-of-philip-crosbys-book-quality-is-free/.

1. IvyPanda. "A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free." July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-critique-of-philip-crosbys-book-quality-is-free/.


IvyPanda. "A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free." July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-critique-of-philip-crosbys-book-quality-is-free/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free." July 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-critique-of-philip-crosbys-book-quality-is-free/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'A critique of Philip Crosby’s book Quality is Free'. 4 July.

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