Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

Although I’ve spent my entire career working in the quality and process improvement fields, my undergraduate degree is in economics. I learned that economic cycles are normal. Economic downturns result when there is an imbalance in the economy. Past recessions have developed when businesses overestimated future demand and overproduced. When businesses realized their inventory was large relative to actual demand, they cut production and used various means to sell their excess inventory. Thanks in part to quality professionals implementing lean and other improvement processes, this source of imbalance is less common and less severe. However, as is now obvious, there are other ways to screw up an economy.

Tom Pyzdek’s picture

By Tom Pyzdek

Over the years I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the lament, “We don’t have management support!” I sympathize. Lack of management support is without a doubt one of the prime causes of failed process and quality improvement efforts. Without leadership backing, any organizationwide initiative is ultimately doomed. This column will explain why it’s not enough to ask for support in general. If you’re not very specific, you might find that the management support you asked for ends up killing you with kindness. Consider the following ineffective strategies:

Strategy No. 1: Command people to act as you wish. People in less senior levels of an organization often have an inflated view of the value of raw power. In truth, even senior leaders have limited power to rule by decree. Human beings by their nature tend to act according to their own best judgment. The result of invoking authority is that decision makers must constantly try to divine what the leader wants them to do in a particular situation. This leads to stagnation and confusion as everyone waits on the leader. Even under the best circumstances, people will often misinterpret the leadership’s commands.