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Crosby’s Quality Management Maturity Grid

Of all the quality ‘gurus’ I find the late Philip Crosby one of the most readable. In his book ‘Quality is Free’ (Mentor 1980, ISBN 978-0451625854), which I can thoroughly recommend, he advocates the use of a simple tool to show where you are in the quality management spectrum; he calls it the Quality Management Maturity Grid.

The grid is a simple 5 x 6 matrix that shows different stages of maturity of the company’s quality management against six different quality management categories (management understanding of quality, problem handling, cost of quality, etc).

The lowest stage of maturity is called ‘Uncertainty’ – the organisation is inexperienced, quality management is a low priority and reactive, etc – then as quality management matures it goes through the stages of ‘Awakening’, ‘Enlightenment’, ‘Wisdom’, then the highest level, ‘Certainty’.

Each point – maturity versus category – on the grid has a brief description of how that combination appears in the company; for instance, in the ‘Uncertainty’ stage, Problem Handling looks like “Problems are fought as they occur; no resolution; inadequate definition; lots of yelling and accusations.” If that sounds like your company then I’m sorry to hear it and you are at the ‘Uncertainty’ stage for Problem Handling!

Here’s the grid (I know it’s difficult to read in some browsers as it’s shown below; you can either make your browser window a lot wider or click on it a couple of times to see it more clearly):

(Corrected 09 July 2012, thanks to Stephen for spotting the bug – see Comments.)

You use it by asking a number of people to assess the company; the more the merrier from different levels and roles across the company as it helps to give a more complete picture. Each gets a copy of the grid and makes a subjective judgement about which Stage the company is at for each category; they mark the grid in the appropriate position.

It is important that they are very honest in their assessment; make a point of this with them.

(By the way, you may find Cost of Quality a bit tricky to estimate if I don’t explain what it really means; sorry about that, I’ll have to blog about it another time. In the meantime, have a look at Jim Wells’ excellent description here.)

The total score is obtained by adding up the scores for each category; Stage 1 ‘Uncertainty’ gives a score of 1, Stage 2 ‘Awakening’ = 2, Stage 3 = 3, etc. The minimum score is therefore 6 (all categories are at ‘Uncertainty), and the maximum is 30 (all are at Certainty); I know of no company that is at 30 so if you really are there please get in touch as I’d really like to meet you!

It is really interesting not only to see the scores for each category (as well as the total), and the arithmetic mean across all the assessors, but also to see how individuals from different departments or roles in the company mark each category; big variances in scores indicate that people see the company as being very different in this area – why is that? Is the high score or the low score more appropriate? What needs to be done about a low score from just one part of the business? It can be a fascinating exercise.

The thing I particularly like about the Quality Management Maturity Grid is that it is (a) very quick and easy to use, (b) insightful – it makes you think, and (c) – most important – it doesn’t just show you where you are but, also, what your company would have to be like to get a higher score; it therefore acts as your route-map for strategic quality and helps you plan your quality improvement initiatives so that you move steadily towards the right in the grid.

19 comments to Crosby’s Quality Management Maturity Grid

  • Tom,

    Great article. What I have found to be the case when I have employed similar methods is that there is no one score that defines the organization accurately. In some areas we may be at a stage 3 or 4 and in others at a stage 2. Another suggestion is to use internal audit results to help quantify the scoring on the Maturity Matrix. Internal audit should show evidence of the current status of business processes in the areas assessed. Just a thought. I need to get a copy of Crosby’s book for myself. Thanks for the link to my COQ post by the way.

    Jim Wells

  • Tom G

    Hi Jim

    Thanks for such a rapid feedback – the ink isn’t dry yet! Absolutely right that some companies can have a very wide range of results and that in itself is interesting. I like your idea that there could be a tie-back to the results of internal audits; I’ll have to give that further thought.

    My friends at Amazon certainly have used copies of Crosby’s book; I think it must be out of print because the new prices on Amazon are just silly – it’s good but I’m not sure it’s worth $64!

    Philip Crosby had an interesting approach to quality, his 14 stage improvement process comes across as a bit over the top for smaller companies but there is much that can be learnt from it I think.


  • Malgorzata

    Jim and Tom,
    I’d like to recommend you another, additional way, described by Mr B.G. Dale in his book “Managing Quality”, where he proposes the descriptive method of assessment of TQM. He identifies 6 phases of TQM and clearly explaines them, starting from nonaligned to world class (Japan Quality medal).

  • Tom G

    Thanks Malgorzata, I wasn’t aware of this book so I will look into it when I get the opportunity. Thanks for the comment.

  • Malgorzata Malgorzata

    I,m sure you also know very popular Business Excellence Models. In USA there is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, in Europe – EFQM. They are very usefull, with clear scoring and well recognized and implemented by companies. In public sector, in Europe there is CAF – Common Assessment Framework. Hundreds of organizations make a selfassessment with that tool, to be more customer oriented. With best quality wishes. Malgorzata

  • Tom G

    Thanks Malgorzata for reminding us of these other established systems and tools. In my past ‘big consultancy’ life we had several in-house assessment tools, too. I believe the important thing is to choose a suitable one and try using it – doing ‘something’ (rather than nothing) is probably more important than choosing a specific one rather than another for many people. I do like Crosby’s approach, hence this blog piece, but that is not to take anything away from these other tools and standards, they can bring a lot to the party. Many thanks. Tom

  • Benson

    Thanks for sharing, Tom. I am reading Crosby now 🙂 What’s your opinion about SPC for quality control? just learn from you guys…

  • Tom G

    Thanks for the comment, Benson. SPC has its place although it tends to work best (for what I think are obvious reasons) on medium to high volumes. See http://www.qualityandproducts.com/2009/09/28/how-does-statistical-process-control-work/
    Best Regards, Tom

  • Biplab Dutta

    Good article. This may be used as a self assessment tool of maturity level of quality management system of any company.
    Biplab Dutta

  • Tom G

    Thanks Biplab, I have used it with SMEs going forwards through the stages of maturity as well as those not doing so well. I think it helps by showing not just where a company is now but how it would need to look in the future to be more mature (or less…).

    Best regards


  • Lee W

    A very interesting read Tom, thank you for taking the time to post this up.

  • Tom G

    Thanks for the kind comment, Lee, much appreciated.

  • Meck

    Thanks for an article, when we use the grid we just get individual score of the measured item. I was worried how can obtain te overal score of a company?

    I think to get it may be we take the total score and divide it by the number of categories that are measured, for this case is 6. Thus is a company has highest score of 30 (which is not likely to occur), then on division we get a score of 5. In case of other values approximations can be made to the nearest whole number.

  • Tom G

    Meck, the total score is usually just obtained by adding up the scores for each category; Stage 1 ‘Uncertainty’ gives a score of 1, Stage 2 ‘Awakening’ = 2, Stage 3 = 3, etc. The minimum score is therefore 6 (all categories are at ‘Uncertainty), and the maximum – as you say – is 30 (all are at Certainty). You could average the score, as you suggest, by dividing by 6 but that isn’t really necessary. The key is to look at the scores and the descriptions of the next stages, then devise a way of moving them towards the higher stages.

    Best regards


  • Rob-SA

    Hi Tom,

    Very informative post.

    I am intertested in the fourth row (cost of quality . . )

    Two values are recorded – Reported & Actual.

    I understand the later however how does one account or describe the reported ? Or should it be seen as the expected cost of quality ?

    Im a keen to hear your reply


  • Rob-SA

    Hi Tom,

    I have a second question.

    Would I be correct in stating that if the cost of quality be unknown or the model of calculating the CoQ then the default of the actual percentage would then be 20%


  • Tom G

    Hi Rob

    ‘Reported’ is what people are telling you about Cost of Quality; it’s what they (or you?) report on a normal day-to-day basis. And it’s usually under-estimated, people tend to only take the superficial, obvious costs into account. ‘Actual’ is the real Cost of Quality when you take all the factors and second-order effects into account. I haven’t got round to blogging about Cost of Quality yet, partly because Jim Wells has already done such a good job of explaining it: http://qualitypractice.blogspot.com/2010/01/total-cost-of-quality-for-total-picture.html!

    As to your second question, yes, this was Philip Crosby’s assertion – if you didn’t know what CoQ was, i.e. you didn’t have a thorough way of calculating it or reporting on it, then 20% would be a pretty good guess. Of course, it’s only a guess and there will be companies worse than that, and probably some better, but in his view 20% was a good working average. That’s quite a serious amount compared with costs – and profit margins – in most businesses and is one of the reason Crosby says “Quality is Free” – if you can spend 5% of sales on Quality Management and save 20% then you can make a huge difference to a company’s performance but it will, effectively, cost you nothing (or a negative amount).

    Hope that helps, and thanks for reading the article.


  • I’ve been interested in maturity models for some years, and have used a variety of models over that time. As you point out, it’s important to take action and use something; using the model that’s most aligned with the situation and assessment that’s being undertaken is equally important.
    I’d question whether there’s a typo in the grid for Stage 5 of Problem Handling. I expect that the intent of this should be that problems are prevented, except in the most UNusual of cases. ie. preventive actions are part of the culture of the organisation, ensuring that problems don’t (or only exceptionally) occur.
    (I’m sure that it could be phrased better.)

  • Tom G

    Well spotted, Stephen, it was my transcription not Crosby’s original. Thanks for the feedback, I will correct it shortly.

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