Last month, this column was used to describe the first three components of
a Complete Quality Process (CQP): top management commitment, leadership and 100-percent employee involvement--with a structure. As promised, this column will pick up where that one left off and
describe the other four components: communication; training; measurement; and recognition, gratitude and celebration.
As mentioned a month or two ago, the term "Complete
Quality Process" was carefully chosen, and the implication that other efforts are often incomplete is not accidental. If you pick back through the flotsam and jetsam of a failed (or,
at least, severely under-performing) quality effort, you will find that one or more of these seven components was overlooked or deemed not worth the time. These efforts tend to die in
nonspectacular fashion.. They never deliver what was promised, and--after time--the effort is marginalized and then--when possible--quietly closed down.
Another variation of
failure is with those efforts under the banner of "quality" that may have all the pieces but greatly over-emphasize one component at the expense of the others. Many--if not the
majority--of reengineering, Six Sigma and ISO 9000 efforts fall into this category. They tend to have fairly impressive early months, but due to their incomplete development of more than one or
two components, they have little or no long-term viability.
CQP is not a particularly revolutionary approach except, perhaps, in three areas:
* The emphasis on doing many different things at once, right from the start
* The notion that 100-percent employee involvement is the only logically defendable approach
* The insistence that this can be done quickly and with a far-less-than-foolish price tag.
When this component is left out of the formal planning for a companywide (remember, CQP includes 100-percent employee involvement) quality effort, it's
usually because the company's senior managers figure they already do this well enough. This holds particularly true for smaller organizations. "After all," the reasoning goes, "we
see each other every day. Of course we communicate. We need to spend our energy on stuff that we don't
do already." The best response to this sort of reasoning is, "Have you ever heard of couples who got divorced because of a 'lack of communication?' Each couple consisted of just two people, and they lived together." Communication must be a conscious and perpetual effort. The key is remembering that there are two elements in communication: transmission and reception. Transmission is what you think you said (well, what you know you said); reception, the element that really counts, is what's understood. People react to what they believe they hear--not to what you believe you said.
This will likely be the most expensive single component to implement and sustain--both in terms of financial outlay and employee time
"off the line." It's also absolutely essential. The "quality-specific" training cannot replace technical training; it must be an addition to the training curriculum. Few
companies will begin with the in-house capability to conduct all necessary classes--beginning with quality team leader classes--so they will have to venture into the marketplace to find a vendor
with whom they are comfortable. A requirement that should be placed on the vendor upfront is that it agree to sell internal rights to the course to the company after customizing the material
according to the company's guidelines and, perhaps, teaching the first class or two. That way, the company can immediately begin to further customize the course to reflect its experiences, and
they can use it whenever and as frequently as they choose. If the vendor balks, find another vendor. The company must also be able to retain control of the course material and its presentation.
Far too many vendor/consultant classes have, for instance, taught that all seven (or nine or 11) of their problem-solving steps must be used with every problem/opportunity. It's important that
team leaders know all of a coherent set of problem-solving steps, because there are some problems that will require all of the steps. But there are a lot of problems, especially early on, that
can be solved like this: "We do what? Good gracious, let's not do that anymore." One step.
How can you tell if you've gotten
better if you don't know where you were and/or are now? Too often, measurement is used as a weapon, or it becomes some sort of religion, complete with high priests and secret rituals and uniform
accessories. There are but two legitimate reasons to measure in the context of quality: to gather data that will be used to generate or enrich ideas for improvement and to check progress toward a
stated goal. If the progress falls short of expectations, revert to the first reason. A few less-then-reverent things to ponder while building the measurement component of your CQP effort include:
* Benchmarking is a great tool, but it's not new or mysterious. Remember the old queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" asking "Mirror, mirror on the
wall"? She was benchmarking.
* SPC is a great tool, but the best way to think of it is as arithmetic for better business.
* ISO 9000 is a valid starting place
if your company has never "done" quality before, and/or your customers are insisting on it, but the assessment of Curt Reimann, the original director of the Baldrige process, remains
valid: "ISO is the death rattle of the old-line quality control guys."
* Six Sigma is a great tool, but it too must be integrated in a complete plan if it's to have any
Recognition, gratitude and celebration.
The company must say "thank you," and it must keep the efforts to do so separate from the
fair payment for sustained efforts that come to deserving employees in the way of pay raises, promotions and bonuses of any sort. There are two reasons to thank deserving employees for their
quality efforts, and (as with virtually every piece of a quality effort) one of the reasons is emotional and one is rational. The emotional reason is that the employees deserve it; they've done
something good for the company and deserve the emotional rush that comes from feeling appreciated. The rational reason is that the thanks increases the odds that employees will do even more that
will be of benefit to the company. (There are so many ramifications of and variations to the recognition component of CQP that it will be the primary topic in next month's column.)
Can this actually be done and have a positive impact on an organization all at once and in fairly short order? One of the primary reasons that Pat re-entered the corporate world a year ago
(after a dozen years as an independent speaker, author and consultant) was to reaffirm his earlier experiences. It can
work. The definition of the Complete Quality Process where he is working is proof.
About the authors
Pat Townsend and Joan Gebhardt have written more than 200 articles and six books, including Commit to Quality
(John Wiley & Sons, 1986); Quality in Action: 93 Lessons in Leadership, Participation, and Measurement (John Wiley & Sons, 1992);
Five-Star Leadership: The Art and Strategy of Creating Leaders at Every Level (John Wiley & Sons, 1997); Recognition, Gratitude & Celebration (Crisp Publications, 1997);
How Organizations Learn: Investigate, Identify, Institutionalize (Crisp Publications, 1999); and Quality Is Everybody's Business (CRC Press, 1999). Pat Townsend has
recently re-entered the corporate world and is now dealing with leadership.com issues as a practitioner as well as an observer, writer and speaker. He is now chief quality officer for UICI, a
diverse financial services corporation headquartered in the Dallas area. E-mail the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org