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Columnist: H. James Harrington

Photo: Scott Paton, publisher


Harnessing Change
Organizational excellence is based on total quality.

H. James Harrington



People support change as long as it doesn’t affect them. He should change, she should change, they should change, it should change, but me change? No way!

Change is inevitable, and we can either lead it or be swallowed by it. We must all change the way we work, think and act as individuals and groups. We must:

Prevent problems rather than react to them

Focus on continuous improvement rather than simply meet targets

Find root causes rather than treat symptoms

Participate more and give fewer orders

Manage statistically rather than fly by the seat of our pants

Develop internal customer-supplier relationships

Focus management’s attention on processes rather than activities

Develop customer partnerships and eliminate “us vs. them” relationships

Rely on teamwork

Change doesn’t come easily, particularly when it means altering the way we think, talk and act. It requires a lot from all of us.

During the last 20 years, management systems have evolved through three distinct stages: total quality control, total quality management and self-control.

During the quality control stage, companies restructured their control systems to include all the elements of total quality control. Many met most of the requirements outlined in the ISO 9001:2000 series specifications for quality systems. However, typical areas of noncompliance include properly applying statistical process control, performing effective design reviews, qualifying processes before they’re released to production and certifying employees. These are fundamental controlling parameters that must be established before most companies move on to total quality management.

During the total quality management stage, management embraces quality as its responsibility. In the relentless pursuit of continuous improvement, all employees and managers are given quality educations. The quality of support processes is measured and assessed with the same zeal as the quality of production processes. Management and employees effectively use statistics to solve complex problems. Business processes are known, understood, documented and controlled to the same degree that manufacturing processes are. Every employee and manager is involved with teams. Everyone is trained to solve problems and understand statistical thinking. A Six Sigma environment is promoted.

When management reaches the self-control phase, mutual trust and confidence develop between management and employees. All employees are provided with the four “T’s”--training, tools, time and a team--and management removes all major roadblocks to error-free performance. As a result, management no longer needs employees or managers to check on other employees. The quality assurance department is integrated into manufacturing engineering, product engineering, manufacturing and sales.

Employees are provided with specific business objectives, develop their own processes and standards, and inspect their own work. Self-managed work teams select their own leaders, develop budgets, determine group members and determine which team members receive salary increases.

Management establishes an error-free performance standard that’s accepted by everyone. Six Sigma was good but isn’t good enough anymore; excellence and value, rather than quality, are the focal points of the company’s activities. Quality can be defined as doing things right every time. Excellence is doing the right things right every time. Error-free performance is the standard of excellence that every organization must work to achieve. Excellence truly is total quality.

During the total quality management stage, it was widely accepted that more than 85 percent of all problems could be solved only by management. In a self-controlled environment, employees are empowered with many of the rights previously reserved for their bosses. With this increased accountability and knowledge, employees are able to solve 75 percent of the problems that occur in today’s business climate.

This gives management the necessary time to focus on long-range planning and provide recognition to the teams and individuals who truly excel. People are rewarded based on their value to the company, not on their length of service. Work group bonuses, employee stock plans and profit sharing are the rule rather than the exception.

At the end of this management evolution, the systems that are used to manage organizations support employee self-control and, as a result, unlock the door to organizational excellence.

About the author

H. James Harrington is CEO of the Harrington Institute Inc. and chairman of the board of four other companies.

He has more than 45 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 22 books. Visit his Web site at www.harrington-institute.com.