Six Sigma
Last Word


Phil's Journal
Philip Crosby

Building a Whatever, Whenever Culture

I recently visited an enormously successful, internationally known company. As part of the visit, I addressed a large segment of the management team in the company's very modern auditorium. I talked for about 30 minutes on the need to create reliable organizations wherein everything works right and relationships are successful. The worth of such a place is that they can deal with whatever comes along and carry out whatever tasks are necessary for success.

 During our very positive question-and-answer period, the management team regularly came back to the evidence that they had been in business for 25 years and were successful by any measure. In fact, the company's stock value had grown almost 50 percent in the past few months alone. Although their management strategy lacked many of the practices I was proposing, they were steadily registering each division to ISO 9000. They believed this demonstrated interest in managing quality.

 I noted that they could continue to produce products and services, which required a lot of rework and updating, because they were so successful and profitable. I also suggested that, although ISO 9000 is a nice way of documenting quality assurance practices, it has nothing to do with managing the integrity of their processes. I consider it analogous to the owner's manual that comes with an automobile: It says nothing about driving the vehicle.

 Most successful organizations live in a silo, in a manner of speaking. Each thinks that it is the industry, an unsinkable ship. When change is necessary, they usually don't recognize it until the water is up to their chins. There is a long list of companies that have gone through this process (e.g., Xerox, General Motors, IBM and U.S. Steel, to list a few). Recovery has been a struggle and some never made it all the way around. The scars are there forever.

 Instead of building the organization around the product, we need to concentrate on developing organizations that can handle whatever needs to be done. Then we're not left out of the market or saddled with expensive and unusable facilities. We'll have made a habit of following set requirements while continually improving them, and we'll have successful relationships with employees, suppliers and customers that guarantee their patience and loyalty.

 Remember, icebergs are famous for being at least two-thirds underwater and are thus invisible. It only takes one iceberg to sink the unsinkable ship.


About the author

 Philip B. Crosby, a popular speaker and the founder of Philip Crosby Associates--now PCA II--is also the author of several books, including Quality and Me: Lessons from an Evolving Life (Jossey-Bass, 1999). To order a number of products, visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com  or call (800) 223-3932. .

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