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 Quality Leadership

Core Beliefs

by Pat Townsend
and Joan Gebhardt

Volumes have been written about quality and leadership, two fascinating topics with wide implications for the business community. When all the pages have been turned, however, it is often difficult to summarize what core beliefs the authors hold. Here are some of our core beliefs (in no particular order) to give you a general idea of what we'd like to focus on in the following months:

 In order for a country to control its national destiny, it must first control its economic destiny, and quality has proven itself the key to economic success in today's world.

 The decision to implement a quality process is a hard-nosed business decision which, if done well, will result in greatly increased profits, long-term employees and satisfied customers. Everybody wins.

 The best time to implement a quality process is when a company is optimistic and poised for growth.

 Quality is less about "what" work gets done than about "how" work gets done. Quality principles apply to any organization, whether public or private, manufacturing or service (including health care and education).

 Tools for implementing quality fall roughly into three categories: leadership, participation and measurement. A judicious blending of all three is essential.

 Both knowledge and commitment are necessary to achieve quality; either alone is not enough.

Quality is both rational and emotional.

 The current surge of interest in leadership is a natural extension of the worldwide quality movement. It represents a progressive step away from Frederick Taylor's theories of centralized decision making.

 Anyone can master leadership skills, but it takes courage. Only the self-confident can lead; insecure people must settle for being managers.

 Every person on the payroll must participate for the organization to receive maximum benefit from a quality process. The only logical percentage of the work force to actively enlist is 100 percent.

 Empowerment is not a license to do whatever you want. "Empowerment" means that every person in the organization receives authority equal to her or his responsibility and is accountable for the results -- no more, but no less.

 A well-implemented quality process requires top-down commitment and bottom-up implementation. Executives must accept the idea that employees are capable adults. Trust is the cornerstone. The guiding philosophy must be, "It is better to ask forgiveness than permission."

 Employees' expectations of respectful treatment are rising nearly as fast as customers' expectations of better products and service.

 External customer service will rarely exceed internal customer service and will never consistently do so over the long haul.

 No one person can ensure positive perception of an organization, but virtually any individual employee can ensure a negative perception.

 The only valid uses of measurement are as a source for improvement ideas and as a way to check progress in the wake of changes. Anyone who uses measurement as a weapon is a fool.

 In the United States, the estimated cost to prevent, detect and correct problems, added to the cost of business lost because of undetected problems, lies between 30 percent and 35 percent of gross sales.

 Quality is the transferable job skill of the 21st century. Customer focus, creative problem solving, teamwork, ability to handle change and a continuous quest for growth and improvement make welcome attributes in any line of work.


Some of these core beliefs enjoy the status of received wisdom; some are controversial. We haven't presented one of our core beliefs because we find that people tend to laugh at it. Instead, we want to pose a question and find out what readers believe:

Define Point A as the day on which the senior management of an organization makes the informed decision to implement a quality process. Define Point B as the first day on which a quality process is in place. The process involves every person on the payroll -- assume a 3,000-person organization -- and includes components of senior management commitment, leadership, reengineering, communications, training, measurement and recognition. Proof of its viability is measured by the bottom line.

How long should it take to get from Point A to Point B in this 3,000-person organization? Please send your answer to ptownsend@qualitydigest.com. We'll share what we believe, as well as any answers received by September 15, in our October column.

Pat Townsend and Joan Gebhardt will be posting a new column the first of each month. Discussions will revolve around quality, leadership and recognition. They have written more than 200 articles and four books: 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); and Recognition, Gratitude & Celebration (Crisp Publications, 1997).


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