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Publication Number:      Date:  Winter 1997
Issue No: Vol. 60 No. 3
Date: Winter 1997


'Quality Journey' Update: Results That Make A Difference

by Margherita DiCenzo and Trish Day

You've probably heard a great deal about "quality" over the past several years. Perhaps you've worked on committees or teams connected with the quality management, National Quality Initiative (NQI), and "Quality Journey" efforts. On the other hand, maybe you've heard little about these initiatives. In either case, you may not have the full picture of what these programs have meant for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Can we point to actual changes and results? The answer is yes.

Quality Management in the Federal Lands Highway Office

The Federal Lands Highway Office (FLH) adopted quality management techniques after participating in training on total quality management (TQM) in the summer of 1989. Since then, the organization has integrated quality principles into detailed strategic business planning processes to develop customer-oriented performance measures. FLH has measured external and internal customer satisfaction and product delivery from the beginning of its efforts. The following three results are just some achievements FLH has seen through its efforts:

Team Empowerment

The Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) has focused on a continual improvement process empowering cross-functional teams to develop and carry out solutions. OMC's objective has been to achieve its strategic goals and increase customer satisfaction. Some of OMC's accomplishments in quality are:

New National Emphasis on Quality Products

FHWA began to apply the quality process to all aspects of highway engineering and operations with Demonstration Project (DP) 89 on Dec. 12 and 13, 1990. The first step was a meeting of FHWA and its partners from state highway agencies, the construction industry, construction associations, and academia to plan specific activities to promote quality in the highway community. The participants made two requests -- support from upper management and a national emphasis -- that would make a difference in the future of quality management.

Also at the meeting, committee members established the mission for the NQI: To place a national emphasis -- from all corners of the highway industry -- on producing quality products.

Since then, we have seen many results and actions that show just what a difference NQI has made.

Quality Journey roundtables and leadership training sessions were held to involve every employee in the quality management process.

Quality Journey roundtables and leadership training sessions were held to involve every employee in the quality management process.

Results of Quality Initiatives

NQI helped to focus the attention and effort of the transportation community on achieving quality results. For transportation engineers, researchers, and the construction industry, this focus has helped make quality more than just a watchword -- it is now the way we do business. Examples include:

FHWA's Quality Journey

In February 1995, Administrator Slater established the FHWA Quality Council, with Executive Director Tony Kane as chairperson, to provide overall leadership and support to the quality initiative in FHWA. The Quality Council launched the FHWA "Quality Journey" to bring all FHWA elements into a consistent focus in customer satisfaction, employee involvement, and continuous improvement. Examples of quality journey actions include:

Goals for the Future

Quality management techniques and the specific actions under NQI have produced many benefits. FHWA encourages employees to feel responsible for the quality of their work and to push the envelope with new ideas and processes.

NQI has strengthened relationships among the transportation partners -- FHWA and its associates in the transportation community. Since the goals are to achieve more efficient use of resources, better results, and customer satisfaction, each partner organization knows the benefits of good results.

How do our partners and customers rate the quality of our services and products? How many fewer complaints have we received from the states and from Congress? How many compliments have we received?

Our goal is to answer all these questions with responses that show the improvements we've made. The quality journey has begun for FHWA. And we'll continue to listen to our customers and focus on quality.

Margherita DiCenzo is a senior writer-editor in FHWA's Publishing and Visual Communications Division. She recently assisted with the development and publication of materials for FHWA's Quality Journey roundtable.

Trish Day is a multimedia specialist in FHWA's Publishing and Visual Communications Division. Among her other projects, she manages the production of many of the agency's newsletters.



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