Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality

This is a guest post by Luciana Paulise, the founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She is a speaker, author, and examiner for the National Quality Award and Team Excellence Award in Argentina.  She is also a columnist for Infobae, Destino Negocio, and a blogger for ASQ Influential Voices.  You can visit Luciana’s blog at: http://www.biztorming.com.ar/en/news.

Something was not going well at an organization we’ll call Company ABC, a small business within the automotive industry in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some improvements were being made, many procedures were being followed, and employees were adopting new control processes.

Still, turnover was high, as well as frustration with certain processes that had not shown any improvements at all—while profitability was decreasing. Managers said that line employees were the problem; they were generating issues and not solving them. On the other side, employees were convinced the problem was in the communication channel to top management.

Even though it was a small business, communication from the bottom up was as difficult as in a larger corporation. The owners were asking for feedback on issues, but they were not providing ways to actually receiving the feedback. E-mails to leaders were not being replied to, approvals took longer than expected, and meetings were almost impossible to schedule.

What went wrong in this organization? How could managers and employees bring issues forward as required by a quality culture? How could they strengthen the culture of quality in this environment? What were the main barriers?

Experts says that the employees’ behavior is based on company culture, but what is organizational culture, exactly? As per Wikipedia, “Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.” But who determines these factors in organizations so as to define the culture?

Usually top management defines which habits or behaviors are right by rewarding or punishing them. Therefore, company culture is modeled upon top management behavior.

That was my “a-ha” moment. The main cultural barrier to making this company a better place was actually the top management. They thought the problem in the organization was their people, but they had not considered themselves as part of the problem. They were not “walking the talk.” And people were noticing it.

Then I recalled Gandhi’s quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Leaders needed to take the first step, and needed to be trained to do so. So now the question was, how best to train them?

Edwards Deming developed a leadership model that could be really useful here to train the top. The “System of profound knowledge” that he introduced in his last book, The New Economics, has four interrelated areas: appreciation for a system, knowledge of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology. Managers were probably not going to get this theory easily, but an analogy could help.

I compared the four areas with four human types of intelligence, so that leaders could understand that they needed to manage their behavior in an integral way so as to solve all the problems at the same time:

  1. Spiritual: understanding the company in a holistic way, as a system, is appreciating the business as a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the same aim. These components includes planning, context, competition, processes, shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community, and the environment. Like an orchestra, it’s not enough to have great players. They need to play well together. Leadership needs to focus on all the parts that affect the organization and how they work. The leaders wanted their middle managers to work together, but they didn’t have common objectives, so each of them just focused on their part of the game.
  2. Intellectual: In any business there are always variations, like defects, errors, and delays. Leaders have to focus on understanding these variations. Are they caused by the system or by the employees? Usually employees are blamed for the errors, but 95% of them are really caused by the company system. Distinguishing the difference between variations by using data and statistical methods, as well as understanding its causes, is key to management’s ability to properly remove barriers to profitability. At company ABC in this case study, leaders were focused on the people, while many delays were due to late approvals, lack of the right tools, and lack of training, which the people (i.e. employees) couldn’t handle.
  3. Physical: Leaders assert opinions as facts based on hunches, theories, or beliefs, but they don’t always test those opinions against the data before making a decision. Leadership needs to focus on contrasting their ideas with real data from the operations. The automotive shop started to use daily physical scorecards on the walls to capture and communicate real performance numbers, so that leaders and operators could act on them together.
  4. Emotional: Finally, in order to get real data from the operations, leaders need to work with their people. The problem is that people perform based on how they feel. They are primarily motivated by intrinsic needs, including respect and working with others to achieve common goals, in contrast to simply being motivated by monetary reward. So leadership has to focus on understanding and respecting people so that they can all work together to solve issues. One of the managers used to push a lot on his employees because his monthly payment was based on performance. When his salary was moved to a flat rate, he started to work much better with his team, they all were motivated and happy at work.  Turnover decreased sharply.

So my “a-ha” moment in regards to strengthening a culture of quality was that leaders need to change their behavior first if they want to change the entire company culture—and they have to do it through a systemic model considering four types of intelligence.

What about your company? How is leadership helping to develop a quality culture?

A Day With the Future of Quality

Edwin Garro is an ASQ Fellow and founding member of ASQ Section 6000, Costa Rica. He pioneered ASQ certifications in Central America. Currently he serves in ASQ’s awards board. He is an ASQ CQE, CQM/OE, CQI, CQA, CSSGB and CSSBB. He is the CEO of PXS, a leading consulting firm with offices in Costa Rica and Colombia. He has a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, and a M.S. in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

In August of this year, I visited a junior high school class at the San Rafael de Poás Technical High School, in the mountains of Alajuela, Costa Rica. This is not a typical junior class; these 15-   and 16- year olds will graduate in 2017 with a technical degree in Quality and Productivity.

It was not my first visit to the class.  Ever since I discovered this new Quality and Productivity program, I have been fascinated by it.  These remarkable teens will certainly play a role in the future of our profession.

The Quality and Productivity Technical Program

As a whole, the cluster of medical devices companies is the largest exporter in Costa Rica. All the big names are here, Baxter, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Hospira, Hologic, Moog, just to name a few. Over the years, many Costa Rican professionals have specialized in “all things FDA,” and being ASQ certified is a formal requirement in many of these firms.

One area in which there is still a shortage of manpower is quality technicians. The Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE) took the  concerns of the customer (general managers of the medical devices cluster) and worked with the National Education Ministry (MEP, Ministerio de Educación Pública in Spanish) to create  this very innovative program.

Instead of reinforcing the existing associate degrees, they decided to create a high school technical degree in Quality and Productivity. Over a three-year period, students will receive 2,880 hours of education in management fundamentals, process improvement, quality control, quality enterprises and English. Five technical high schools started the pilot deployment last year; Colegio Técnico de Poás started this academic year. Seven more schools will start in the next two years.

Take a look at the objectives of the program, and keep in mind that the students will still be teenagers when they graduate:

1. Prepare technicians in accordance with the demands of current and future markets.

2. Promote the values and attitudes of quality.

3. Encourage the development of creative and critical thinking structures, which will allow students to deal with the continuous changes in social and economic systems.

4. Stimulate a quality and productivity mindset.

5. Promote quality through Statistical Process Control, local and international standards, the study of waste and the effective use of raw materials, seeking sustainable development with the environment.

Even though there are no graduates yet, companies are already lined up to receive these  students for their technical practice (the last three months of their senior year).

I myself am the product of a technical high school, having studied graphics arts and printing at Don Bosco Technical High School in the early 1980s. I know the impact of this kind of education. My printing background led me my first general manager position, and for the last 16 years, I have owned a successful lithography business.

My meeting with the quality and productivity teens

Every time I arrive at the school, I tell the students and their teacher, Yesenia Alvarado, an industrial engineer by profession and high school teacher by vocation, how much I admire them. They are part of the first truly global generation.  When they enter the job market, their quality knowledge will be a great advantage, even if, as many of them have told me, they go on to college and study something completely different.

During my August visit, I honored a promise I had made last time I came to the school. I told them I would bring all kinds of souvenirs from WQCI in Tennessee. They took my “loot” coming from the booths at exhibit hall, everything from pens to USB memories.

Second I gave them a quick lecture on the future of quality, which is kind of a paradox because they are the future of quality.

Third, and here comes the important part, I made an exercise with them. I asked them about their worries, about how they see the future. We made an affinity diagram exercise (see picture left) and after that a multi-voting session. These teenagers, many of them the sons and daughters of coffee production families, are already thinking about their future jobs and their opportunities in life.

Their three main concerns were:

 Lack of good English language skills for the global market

 Unemployment

 Low salaries

At age 15, they are more worried about the global job market than about prom night or first dates.

To encourage them, I told them that it is precisely their quality education and near future technical degree that will guarantee their full employment and market rate salaries, plus I urged them to pursue full college degrees. It was uplifting to see the students demanding better English classes because they know the current four hours per week is not enough to master a second language.

I don’t know what the future will be for these teens, but I do know that their odds are better with such a good education this early in life. The Costa Rican quality and productivity teenagers give hope to our profession.   I view their generation with a lot of optimism and I would be interested to know if there are similar project in other countries.

The Gift of Knowledge Transfer Through Technology

This is a guest post by ASQ Influential Voices blogger Manu Vora, chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc USA. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Most quality professionals are very proficient in technical knowledge. However, they generally focus only on the technical aspects of their work and overlook “soft” or support skills, which are also crucial for organizational success. In a global economy, professionals need to be more proficient in communication practices and principles to be successful.

One way to approach the development of communication skills and creativity is by experimenting with simple technology such as Google Hangout on Air to share knowledge with a wider audience. As an example, I will describe how this platform was used for a 12-topic leadership excellence series and presented to large audiences in organizations as diverse as Indian universities, large corporations, and ASQ member units, with more presentations planned for the future.

For working quality professionals, Google Hangouts on Air can be used for meeting with offsite colleagues, professional training, or nearly any other professional collaboration.

In regards to ASQ members in particular, with 240 ASQ Sections, 26 Divisions/Interest Groups, and 47 Local Member Communities (LMCs) outside the U.S., there are a large number of technical meetings and conferences being held almost year-round. The Google Hangout platform can easily be used to engage well-qualified speakers from around the world to deliver their topics of expertise. This platform opens up many new opportunities for member units to invite outstanding speakers with minimal time commitment and no expense for travel.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using Google Hangouts on Air.

  • It’s a free, live video conference call (note that Hangouts on Air are different from Hangouts. The Hangouts are not recorded or publicly broadcast and are intended for private conversations).
  • Note that you can certainly record a webinar through a traditional platform like WebEx, but the advantage of the Google Hangout on Air is that it’s free and also immediately shareable through YouTube and, consequently, through other social media and blogs.
  • Up to 10 different participants can take part in the Google Hangout on Air call and there’s no limit to the number or people who can watch the call.
  • Hangouts on Air are automatically recorded and posted on YouTube post-call for easy sharing and viewing (no log-ins, subscriptions, or payment). This is similar to the massive open online courses (MOOCs) distance learning effort that has been gaining popularity in the last five years.

The technology requirements for hosting a Hangout on Air are fairly simple:

  • Stable Internet connection
  • Laptop with microphone and camera
  • Gmail account for the moderator or originator of Google Hangout On Air and the active participants (but not viewers, who only need Internet access).

If using in a conference setting:

  • LCD projector
  • Screen
  • Microphone for Q&A
  • Conference room

Wide reach, low cost:

Here are a few examples of how a Google Hangout on Air can have enormous reach through fairly little organizational effort (unlike, for example, a conference or a physical meeting).

  • The aforementioned leadership excellence series has been shared with more than 6,500 students at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT-BHU), in Varanasi, India. This series will benefit students during their school years, in their job search, and at work. The leadership excellence series topics (LES), by the way, were: leadership excellence, effective teamwork, effective time management, effective meeting management, effective decision making, effective project management, effective risk management, effective talent management, voice of the customer management, effective operational excellence, sustainable change management, and effective supply chain management.
  • With the success of this program at the IIT BHU, in collaboration with ASQ India, a consortium of engineering and management schools was set up with eight or nine institutions to be on Google Hangout at the same time:
    –At ASQ Mumbai LMC, eight Commerce, Science, Arts, Engineering and Management colleges started the LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
    –ASQ India has collaborated with eight to nine engineering and management schools to initiate similar LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
  • For international students at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a leadership excellence series will be offered using Google Hangout platform starting in August 2015. The resultant YouTube videos will be shared with the entire campus community (7,900 people).
  • The series was also presented via Google Hangout to eight to nine regional locations of Vinmar India starting in July 2015. This will benefit the entire company in India with new knowledge.

Caveats and Conclusions

As with any software or meeting program, Hangouts on Air are occasionally prone to glitches and setup difficulties. Below, I’m sharing links to several tutorials to help make your Hangout a smooth experience, as well as a video with more information on using Hangouts in Indian universities.

In the 21st century, knowledge can be transferred globally leveraging technology. Hangouts, as well as other technology platforms, provide tremendous benefits to manage scarce budget resources for learning, development, and training.

For Discussion

What kind of resources are you using in your organization or your personal life to share information? Do you experiment with new platforms or do you prefer traditional means of transferring knowledge?

Helpful Resources

Top 8 Books Every Quality Professional Should Read

top 8 books for quality professionalsWhat books should be on every quality professional’s reading list? This can be a controversial question—ask ten quality professionals and you may get ten different answers. However, there are certain classics and thought leaders that stand the test of time. ASQ staff compiled a list of the top eight books on quality tools, concepts, and ideas ever published.

Now, it’s your turn. Which of these books have you read? What additions or suggestions do you have for the best of quality books list?

1. The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition, by Nancy R. Tague

Quality Toolbox

This is a classic reference and instruction book for new and seasoned quality professionals alike.

 

It includes a variety of methods, tools, and techniques, from the basics to those created by the author. If there’s just one book everyone in quality should read, it’s probably Quality Toolbox.

2. Juran’s Quality Handbook, Seventh Edition, by Joseph A. De Feo

A thorough revision of the bestselling handbook that has defined quality management and operational excellence for more than 50 years!

3. Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action by Duke Okes

The focus of the book is not on statistics but on the logic of finding causes.

Root Cause Analysis

It describes how to solve problems via the analytical process through figures, diagrams, and tools useful for helping make our thinking visible.

The primary focus is on solving repetitive problems.

4.Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy, by Masaaki Imai

Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy is the definitive, fully up-to-date guide to continuous improvement in the workplace.

5. The Essential Deming, edited by Joyce Nilsson Orsini PhD

The title says it all. In this book, Fordham University professor and Deming expert Joyce Orsini presents Deming’s most important management

The Essential Demingprinciples. The book is a wealth of articles, papers, lectures, and notes on a wide range of topics, but the focus is on Deming’s main message: quality and operations are all about systems, not individual performance; the system has to be designed so that the worker can perform well.

6.Quality Audits for Improved Performance, Third Edition, by Dennis R. Arter

Perfect for anyone charged with implementing a quality audit program or those performing the audit, this book is an ideal reference on the established techniques of quality auditing.

7. Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product by Walter A. Shewhart

This classic by quality giant Walter A. Shewhart laid the foundation for the

Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product

modern quality control discipline, beginning as an attempt to develop a scientific basis for attaining economic control of quality. In his search for better knowledge of economy in manufacturing, Shewhart touches upon all aspects of statistical quality control.

8. Process Quality Control: Troubleshooting and Interpretation of Data, Fourth Edition, by Ellis R. Ott, Edward G. Schilling, Dean V. Neubauer

Ellis Ott taught generations of quality practitioners to be explorers of the truth through the collection and graphical portrayal of data. From a simple plea to “plot the data” to devising a graphical analytical tool called the analysis of means (ANOM), Ott demonstrated that process knowledge is to be gained by seeking the information contained within the data.