Six Sigma
Last Word


Phil's Journal
Philip Crosby


To be an executive, by choice

Many years ago, I sat at my inspector's bench pondering what appeared to be a future lacking in prospects. There weren't a lot of jobs back in 1952, and I was happy to have this one. I wasn't quite sure what "quality control" was all about, but that was what I was doing. It was apparent that this was not considered a very important part of the organization. The manufacturing manager referred to us as "necessary evils." Our job was to catch the problems built into the products and somehow try to get them to become acceptable. That seemed like a waste of time to me, but I kept my mouth shut until I could figure out something better. Anyway, it didn't look like there were a lot of opportunities for personal improvement in this area.

 My fellow workers were nice enough people who worked hard but didn't seem to care much about the company--except as a job. They complained about the supervision, but the complaints were all good-natured. My previous full-time work experience had been as a medical corpsman during WWII and The Korean War, with college between. In the Navy, we were vitally concerned about the health of the ship because our own well-being was directly affected. We complained a lot too, and it wasn't always good-natured.

 One day the plant manager brought two visitors over to the machine I was testing to show them a problem we were having. He introduced me to them and asked me to explain the situation. I did, they asked questions, I answered them and they went on their way. This was my first exposure to executives. I realized a few things immediately. They looked like executives, I looked like a tester, and I was just as smart as they were. I had wondered about that. A lot of the quality control stuff didn't make sense to me because it took for granted the inevitability of errors and problems. The whole world of business seemed to be a matter of opinion, not fact. Also, there weren't any real procedures on how to do the testing and calibration; I had to pry the information out of my colleagues.

 So I decided that I would become an executive. It seemed to me that there were two parts to that process:

 First, I had to present myself as an executive. People think you are what you think you are. I had to determine exactly what changes needed to be made. I would make a list.

 Second, I had to figure a way to be useful and reliable in a way that made me an obviously valuable asset. I thought the best way to begin that was to write the testing procedures that we didn't have.

 My list of what it would take to present myself in the right manner was not very long:

* Dress neatly and properly; take care of personal hygiene; walk erectly and purposefully.

* Speak and write clearly and properly, avoiding a regional accent; don't swear; look at people when talking to them.

* Make certain that manners are correct; always be polite; treat everyone the same.

* Stay abreast of current and business events to be able to talk about something besides daily problems.


 The first thing I did was join Toastmasters to learn how to talk to a group. What I really learned was self-confidence. It turned out that I had the makings of a good speaker; my talks made sense and were to the point, and people actually liked listening to me. I also began to take more care with the way I dressed.

 At work I looked at what was happening and determined that it would take about 16 procedures to document the test and calibration work our group was doing. I made a list of what was necessary and talked to the other testers about it, asking them to help. They were delighted, and soon all of the procedures had been assigned. I had written one of them and we posted it on the board as a layout example. I told our supervisor what we were doing. He was a little shocked but appreciative. In a short time, the procedures were all done, so we had them typed up and put in a book. The consistency of work output improved immediately, as did the morale of the unit. Two weeks later, I was promoted to supervisor in another quality area. I put on a collared shirt and tie for my first day of work to start my track to executive row.

 It took me another dozen years to become a real executive with the money, staff and perks that go along with the position. But I didn't learn anything that changed my initial list of what was necessary. But going from being a $315-per- month tester to $7,500-per-month vice president in 13 years wasn't a bad bit of progress. And life has improved in the 35 years since that time.

 In 1992, I decided to do a video/audio project called "To Be an Executive, By Choice." We filmed a dozen 15-minute-or-so sessions on the keys to becoming an executive. The units are broken into subjects such as Personal Philosophy, Finance, Quality, Relationships, Money Management and The Future.

 If you would like to order one of these packages to help speed up your personal progress to the executive suite, call (800) 223-3932 or visit the PCA Web site at www.philipcrosby.com. We want people to grow and prosper, so we've priced these packages at about what they cost: $99.

 Good luck.


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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