What to do about "quality confused" management
Whenever I talk with those who are charged with managing quality for a living, I receive much the same impression: They are discouraged because their management does not seem to understand what quality is all about, particularly when it comes to their role in bringing it about. Management also does not seem to appreciate their quality people or the results that are obtained. I am often asked whether I have ever experienced this problem, and whether I have a solution for it. My answers are, respectively, that I have and I do.
Management's lack of understanding originates in the confused presentation of quality concepts and the ways of bringing about desired results. They are bombarded with "programs" like ISO 9000, the Baldrige Award, statistical process control, etc. By the time someone has slugged their way to the senior levels of any organization, they have acquired enough wisdom to know that programs do not bring about solutions. They know that having a checking account, for instance, does not mean it is filled automatically.
Also, they see that the quality profession agrees on almost nothing. The books on quality they pick up seem to be aimed at showing that other people do not know what they are talking about when it comes to managing quality. They cannot even find an accepted sensible definition in common.
The solution I have presented to this dilemma is for the quality executive to bring the management team together for what I call the Quality Leadership Philosophy College. We spend two informal days together, noon to noon, and work out a common understanding of the quality management concepts and who has to do what in order to make it part of the woodwork. All of this can be done near, but not in, the offices of the organization so that everyone except the PCA II staff can go home every night. But the attendees have to swear to lay off the telephone and faxes. Before the session, we like to spend a little time in the company and with the quality leader to be able to personalize the meeting.
The result of this gathering is that the professional can now discuss quality with any member of management using a common vocabulary, common understanding and common objectives. Management will have a new appreciation of this pragmatic way of doing things. They will think of quality management as: establishing an organizational culture where all transactions are completed correctly each time; and where relationships with employees, suppliers and customers are successful. They will look at the quality function as a valuable money maker rather than a nagging nuisance. This lets the quality leadership enter the tent where valuables are hidden.
We conduct these sessions, on request, for people in the same organization. I usually participate in them so that we can all get to know each other. Then we can e-mail questions and answers as they occur while the attendees go about installing that culture. We are talking about understanding, not canned procedures, processes, programs or such.
It changes people's lives, improves corporate success and does it all right now.
E-mail Philip Crosby at email@example.com
Visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com