Haim Shore
Professor Emeritus

Quality Control and Review — Two Concepts Confused by Israel Supreme Court

“Quality” and “Conformance” are two basic concepts in quality-engineering. The quality of product/service is evaluated exclusively by their degree of conformance.

Conformance to what?

There are two distinct perspectives to judging conformance:

  • Conformance to Specifications“;
  • Conformance to Requirements“.

With the first, the produced item/service are each inspected to judge compliance with specifications, as the latter are expounded in a Specifications Document (a major output of engineering-design). The inspection procedures, and possible corrective actions that follow, constitute Quality Control. For example, a managerial policy may demand that response-time on a “Help line” for an incoming customer-call be at most three minutes for at least 95% of incoming calls. A quality control procedure would be more explicit, based on listed specifications: “Measure daily actual percentage of response-times three minutes or shorter for a random sample of 200 calls”.

There is, however, a second perspective to judging quality. This involves a different type of compliance — “Conformance to Requirements”, of end-users and those of other relevant agents (like government safety regulations, management-policy, engineering and so forth). Meeting specifications only is no assurance that requirements are met. Listed specifications may not properly reflect end-user requirements, or a product/service, deviating from specifications, may better fulfill some requirements. For instance, in the earlier example perhaps a maximum wait-time of three minutes is too long for the patience span of most customers. In that case, there is mis-match between specification and requirement. Another example is a purchased product that is over-weight (like an over-weight package of ice cream). Although the product deviates from specification, it probably better fulfills end-user requirement.

In quality engineering, the tool used to ensure that mis-match does not occur between requirements and the actual product/service is Quality Review. It is periodically conducted, mostly to ensure that engineering-design changes, implemented during the product life-span, do not take the product away from its original goal, namely, satisfying requirements of end-users and relevant other agents. These requirements are commonly listed on a Requirements Document.

There are two parts to conducting periodic Quality Review: Checking the quality of specifications (how well they conform to listed requirements), and checking actual requirement-wise quality (namely, the degree of conformance to requirements of actual product/service).

Having learned the different roles of Quality Control and Quality Review to ensure and preserve quality, how would we define the roles of the parliament (Knesset in Israel) and the Supreme Court in these terms? Which is responsible for Quality Control and which for Quality Review?

More generally, how should we measure conformance to specifications and conformance to requirements of the three branches of government, “Legislative (“making laws”), Executive (“carries out laws”) and Judicial (“interprets laws”)”, as these are denoted and briefly explained on us.gov site?

The parliament is supposed to pass laws that fulfill requirements and expectations of the end-users, the voters (plus dependents and other non-voters that are citizens or residents of the country). In the parlance of quality engineering, the parliament translates voters’ requirements into specifications (laws and regulations). The government role is to enforce these laws (in Israel, like in most other democracies, some regulations may be formed and enforced by government without permission of the legislators).

The role of the Supreme Court, or more generally, the Judicial Branch, is different. Appointed members of the Judicial Branch are entrusted with the task of performing Quality Control, namely, inspecting conformance to specifications, as the latter have been delivered by the Knesset in the form of laws and regulations. And if members of the population, to whom a certain specification (law/regulation) applies, deviate from specification — the judges and justices (in the US, members of the Supreme Court) are granted authority to determine that such deviations have indeed taken place, and then take corrective actions to ensure that such deviations diminish in the future, in frequency or in size. This is implemented by the Judicial Branch by various means, like punishment (fines, prison terms, community-service terms) and others. If the Supreme Court decides that a certain specification (law), passed by the Legislative Branch, is non-conforming to the Constitution, a different course of action is taken to ensure that deviation from specification (this time deviation from the Constitution) is made null and void. This is done by some corrective action, in cooperation with the Legislative Branch.

Which, of the three branches of government, should perform Quality Review, namely, checking conformance to requirements?

In a democratic regime, this should be conducted solely by representatives of the people, namely, the elected members of the Legislative Branch (the Knesset in Israel). Dependence of members of the Knesset on those who have voted them into office would ensure that when laws and regulations are passed — the “Voice of the Customer” never ceases to be heard. This dependence materializes in elections, and, between elections, by various public-debate channels and other tools, like grass-root movements (“Human Rights Watch”, “Let the Animals Live”, “Black Lives Matter”), voluntary organizations, social media and various other channels (media or otherwise).

Deploringly, Israel Supreme Court, functioning at times as “The Supreme Court for Justice” (unjustly so called), has in recent decades taken upon itself, apart from Quality Control, also the undeserving task of conducting Quality Review, both for laws passed by the Knesset and for decisions taken by the government. In other words, instead of certifying conformance, or non-conformance, to specifications (laws), Israel Supreme Court has one-sidedly extended his mission-statement to be the final arbiter regarding conformance to requirements. This testifies to a broken democracy. Conformance to requirements can be decided only by elected representatives, not by appointed officials. To lend the Supreme Court a semblance of an institute performing only Quality Control (rather than a non-legitimate Quality Review), the Israel Supreme Court has invented an imaginary Israel Constitution. Thus, an argument of non-conformance may be widely claimed by Israel Supreme Court, not with regard to requirements (which is what it really does) but with regard to specifications (as in traditional Quality Control, the true and legitimate mission of a Supreme Court). This has been achieved by Israel Supreme Court via a set of Basic Laws, passed by the Knesset, which Israel Supreme Court has declared to be part of an Israeli Constitution.

Yet the Knesset has never declared the set of Basic Laws to be part of an Israeli Constitution (either present or future). There is no such to-date. Therefore, there is no escape concluding that the controversial decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court indeed constitute, in practice, Quality Review (assessing conformance to requirements), a task never entrusted in the hands of the Supreme Court. This task may solely be entrusted in the hands of an agency subordinate to the elected body, namely, the Knesset.

Having recognized the distinction, borrowed from quality engineering, between quality-control and quality-review (and how this translates in evaluating current functioning of the three branches of government) — may assist us delineating more clearly what is currently wrong with the modus operandum of Israel Supreme Court.

Hopefully, this may guide members of the Legislative Branch to the needed corrective actions in Israel system of governance, and transform the Legislative and Judicial Branches to perform their true missions (not borrowed ones). Hopefully, this may lead to the Israeli nation being better served by these branches, and with better overall quality.

About the Author
Haim Shore has been a tenured full professor (retired, as of 2015) of the Department of industrial Engineering and Management, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. His research concentrates on quality and reliability engineering and on statistical modeling. He owns five academic degrees and has published seven books and scores of articles and book chapters. Professor Shore personal blog: haimshore.wordpress.com
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