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Phil's Journal
by Philip B. Crosby

Traveling and the Business World

It seems I have traveled all of my life. As a teenager in the Navy, as a trouble-shooting reliability engineer, as a corporate executive, as an author/lecturer and, of course, as a tourist. There are few places I have not been. All of us accept traveling as part of our career obligation and either enjoy it or put up with it, depending on our personal characteristics. I have always liked a place once I arrived; however, getting there is usually not part of the fun.

During my 14 years at ITT, I spent a lot of time in Europe and South America and became very aware of the well-known national cultural differences among those closely packed countries. It was always considered necessary to be sensitive to the things you said and did in order to avoid insulting or embarrassing the hosts. The Europeans in particular took great pride in their unique customs and traditions. Every French citizen was considered to be identical in this regard, as was each Italian, Brit, Dane and so forth. In the Far East, the customs, religions and personal dress were much different than in North America and Europe.

I found that being polite and considerate seemed to work everywhere, and that most people I met were very much like the ones I had just left. They all had the same concerns about their jobs, family, health, food, golf game and whatever it was we talked about. The nations were quite different, but the people weren't.

Recently I went on a speaking tour that took me to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Europe. The managers who attended these discussions on "The Absolutes of Leadership" are all trying to build a place in the world economy. In India, for example, they had been cut off from much business opportunity by government regulation and lack of technology. But now they are emerging in many ways. They are a major force in the software and textile industries. During each talk, someone raised the subject of the problems of dealing with national cultures. As I thought about it, I realized that my instinct of years ago was correct.

National cultures have nothing to do with the world business culture. Respectful discussion and treatment are all that is necessary to recognize these differences. The world business culture is built on integrity and consideration. If an organization is both useful and reliable, it will be accepted in the business world. It is not necessary to learn what incense to burn or not burn in order to do business. This should have become obvious in the case of Hong Kong. They rise above the limitations of tradition and go directly to the niceness of business. If a Chinese tea ceremony would help build relationships with an American client, then they have one. Shrimp on the barby is just as easy to arrange if an Australian comes to the office.

The United States has regional cultural differences as profound as those between Greece and Belgium, but this does not interfere with personal or business relationships. Every country is different within itself, usually north vs. south. In every case, personal respect and organizational reliability are what it takes to have successful business relationships in this world economy.


The MBA World

I am regularly invited to speak to MBA schools. In the past few years, I have been to a couple dozen of them, both in the United States and abroad. Usually the format is the same: I speak to a diverse group of people from the university, the local business community and their supporters. Then I have a session with the MBA students and their faculty. Usually there are three different types of classes: the full-time students; the evening classes, made up of people who are working and who pay their own way; and the executive class, who go one day a week and are financed by their company. They all ask different questions, with the full-timers worried about the future and the execs worried about the now.

I spend 15 minutes discussing what I have been working on or thinking about, and then we have questions for an hour or so. We cover a broad range of subjects, mostly oriented toward their concerns about doing well in the business arena. Then they turn to quality and their concern that even though they have courses in TQM and SPC, they don't seem to know much about how to make quality happen. They wonder about the value of ISO 9000 certification and other fads. Those in the executive or evening MBA programs all have tales to tell about their companies installing these programs, only to end up not with few results and angry employees. I tell them that this is to be expected. Something built on sand will not support anything.

TQM and ISO 9000 are to quality management as a banjo is to classical music. We need a philosophy in order to cause quality, not a bunch of procedures and techniques. If we can think of business as being constructed around transactions and relationships, then we can start putting quality management to work to our advantage. The idea is that management alone sets the organization's policies and objectives, the individual thought leader (not necessarily the CEO) determines the integrity of the place. Quality management means creating an organizational culture where transactions are completed correctly the first time and where relationships with employees, suppliers and customers are successful. Trying to make that happen with some system run by a committee is naïve. It is also an abdication of responsibility.


What I've heard

Three engineers got in a car and it wouldn't start.

"Must be the transmission," said the mechanical engineer.

"I think it's the wiring," said the electrical engineer.

"Let's all get out and get back in again," said the computer engineer.


Send me your questions and I'll respond. You can e-mail me at philcros@aol.com or fax (407) 682-6688 -- Phil



Copyright 1997 QCI International. All rights reserved. Quality Digest can be reached by phone at (916) 893-4095



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