What Do We Expect from Senior Leaders?

This is a guest post by Scott Rutherford, who works in quality assurance at a nuclear shipyard, and specializes in performance improvement. He blogs at Square Peg Musings.

“It is most important that top management be quality-minded. In the absence of sincere manifestation of interest from the top, little will happen from below.” – Joseph Juran

This quote began Quality Progress’ September 1986 review of Dr. Juran as an honorary member of the American Society for Quality Control (as ASQ was then called). It has stuck with me like a musical earworm; seemingly to pop up again and again when I read blog posts on changing organizational culture, items pontificating on employee engagement, or people lamenting the fact that senior leadership failed again in their role of championing change.

The earworm struck last night as our local ASQ section hosted a presentation from a local manufacturer’s director of quality. He was hired to effect culture change. He called in a quality “guru” to help and got some good advice on how to proceed with limited leadership buy-in. For the first 18 months, they were highly successful in effecting change; energizing the workforce, breaking silos, and seeing some real success. The quality director was ready to implement round two of changes…until he was told by top management that, “Thanks, you have made some good change for now, but we need to get back to being a manufacturer. “

I did ask one question that still has gone unanswered, not only by this director of quality but also other quality “gurus” out there: “Did you specify the necessary outcomes, behaviors, and expectations to top management?”

I did not ask the follow-on question of, “How would you hold top management accountable to the outcomes, behaviors, and expectations that you need to be successful?” I have not seen a lot of literature on how quality practitioners need to achieve meaningful actions as answers to these questions.

As a senior leader in our organization I am also faced with not only creating the environment for change but also with clearly communicating when change needs to occur. For example, my quality manager came to me with a request to redirect a critical resource to his project in support of clarifying organizational self-assessment metrics. I told him no. The priorities of that resource are correct.

If that was the extent of my answer there could be a misperception that I was not “quality-minded.” But my quality manager came back to me requesting clarification, and after our discussion left with a better understanding why I responded the way I did. He may not have liked it but he better understood my reasoning.

There are so many improvement initiatives that are born with great fanfare and energy, especially when there is a senior leader championing the change. When the focus is shifted away from the care and feeding of that initiative, there has to be discussion with senior leadership on the change and dialog on what expectations are needed to support the change in leadership perspective. That’s not all. There must be focus on the current improvement initiatives to keep good momentum going. This is often not understood by both parties, which leads to frustration from the quality community.

Organizational priorities change. The quality practitioner needs to be proactive in specifying the expectations required to show senior leadership support and finding the magic wand that keeps senior leadership committed to change once the first successes have been achieved.

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Roundtable: Employee Engagement

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The June topic is Employee Engagement.

To what extent do organizations—whether your current employer or previous ones–engage employees about the importance of quality? How should companies approach this issue, and how can they avoid “sloganeering” and make a real difference?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

Jennifer Stepniowski is the Regional Director, North America, at Pro QC International and an adjunct instructor at Hillsborough Community College. She blogs at Quality Time.

I play a little game with myself and make a note whenever I see “quality” referenced. I find myself chuckling regarding the saturation of the word in our marketplace vocabulary. We want stakeholders to associate us with quality and figure saying it a lot or putting it in the company name is going to do the trick. We think adding signs around our workplace or inserting the word into our mission statements will do the trick. Not terrible ideas… But, it doesn’t seem to be that simple.

To read more from Jennifer, visit her blog.

ASQ Fellow Manu Vora is chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. He blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Here are some pointers for effective employee engagement for quality culture:

  • Recruit employees with talent and train them for skills (Reference: Buckingham, M. and Coffman, C. (1999). First Break All the Rules, Gallup Press, Omaha, NE).
  • Involve employees by exposing them to effective teamwork, orientation, mentoring, and effective meeting management practices.
  • Motivate employees by establishing recognition and suggestion systems. Follow the Theory of Strengths (Reference: Clifton, D. O. and Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing, New York, NY).
  • Develop employees with appropriate education and training, timely performance feedback, and coaching.
  • Retain key employees with regular dialogue between supervisor and employee at least quarterly (Kaye, B. and Jordan-Evans, S. (2013). Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay , 5th Edition, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA)

To read more from Manu, visit his blog.

Argentina native Jimena Calfa is a Quality Manager and ASQ Senior member who is truly involved in raising the value of quality focusing on continuous process improvement. She blogs at OnQuality.

“Two way commitment and communication between members of a team, accompanied by setting goals that encourage massive and persistent action is the key to get team members engaged, motivated and performing at extraordinary level of quality.”

This is the answer I got from Sebastian Pereyro, CEO of Empirical and entrepreneur with more than 14 years of experience working in software development in big corporations like Motorola, Google and Disney when I asked him: what is your strategy to have members of your team being fully engaged in the quality of your business?

He highlighted that “because every person has its own needs, we have to TALK with and LISTEN to them; in other words GIVE and RECEIVE on a regular basis. I often share what the company, customer or the project is expecting from them, making sure that the goal and the expected results are clear. I share constructive feedback about performance in a positive manner. I ask the team for feedback about how we are doing; how they are feeling working the way we do and what we can do to help each other to grow professionally and advance in our roles.

One key to encourage fully engaged team members is to give them full responsibility over their roles -empowerment, promoting trust and confidence; and help them take on activities that exceed their current level of skills and capabilities; so they can grow on every project or activity they take on. That is the most motivational tool to increase productivity and well-being of the entire organization.

I like Simon Sinek phrase that says: Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

This is the future of the world economy; this entrepreneur mindset, that comes with fresh and innovative ideas, is what will make any workforce to be fully engaged with the quality of any organization.”

To read more from Jimena, visit her blog.

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She holds an MBA from CEMA University in Argentina, is a Quality Engineer Certified by ASQ, and a Senior ASQ member. Luciana has also participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award in Argentina. She blogs about quality and continuous improvement for small and medium size businesses, both in English and in Spanish.

In my experience, I truly believe leadership is key to boost performance. 10% of the employees will always be demotivated, another 10% will always be motivated no matter the context, but the 80% of the personnel will perform depending on the leadership ability to engage them to do it, but there are three tools that can boost this ability no matter the leader.

To read more from Luciana, visit her blog.

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Top 10 Books for Those New to Quality

Which books are most useful to those just starting out in quality?

Being new to the quality field can be overwhelming, but you can get up-to-speed by reading the essentials.

Add your essentials to the comments!

1. The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition by Nancy R. Tague
The Quality Toolbox is a comprehensive reference to a variety of methods and techniques: those most commonly used for quality improvement, many less commonly used, and some created by the author and not available elsewhere.
The book is written and organized to be as simple as possible to use so that anyone can find and learn new tools without a teacher. Above all, this is an instruction book. The reader can learn new tools or, for familiar tools, discover new variations or applications. It also is a reference book, organized so that a half-remembered tool can be found and reviewed easily, and the right tool to solve a particular problem or achieve a specific goal can be quickly identified.

2. The ASQ Quality Improvement Pocket Guide: Basic History, Concepts, Tools, and Relationships edited by Grace L. Duffy
This pocket guide is designed to be a quick, on-the-job reference for anyone interested in making their workplace more effective and efficient. It will provide a solid initial overview of what “quality” is and how it could impact you and your organization. Use it to compare how you and your organization are doing things, and to see whether what’s described in the guide might be useful.

3. The ASQ Pocket Guide to Root Cause Analysis by Bjørn Andersen and Tom Natland Fagerhaug
The purpose of this pocket guide is to provide you with easily accessible knowledge about the art of problem solving, with a specific focus on identifying and eliminating root causes of problems.

4. Process Improvement Simplified: A How-to Book for Success in any Organization by James B. King, Francis G. King , and Michael W. R. Davis
This book reveals the secrets of Process Improvement (PI). For any organization, this book defines a process as the interaction of people, methods, materials, equipment, measurement and the environment to perform a task or produce an output.

5.The Certified Quality Improvement Associate Handbook, Third Edition: Basic Quality Principles and Practices edited by Russell T. Westcott and Grace L. Duffy
ASQ’s Certified Quality Improvement Associate (CQIA) certification is designed to introduce the basics of quality to organizations and individuals not currently working within the field of quality. This book and the Body of Knowledge (BOK) it supports are intended to form a foundation for further study and application of proven quality principles and practices worldwide.

6. Performance Metrics: The Levers for Process Management by Duke Okes
This book provides a clarifying perspective for those who know that metrics need to be developed but are unsure as to the steps to follow in developing and deploying them. It focuses on making sure that the metrics selected will guide people and processes in the direction the organization wants to go, and allow continual evaluation of success.

7. The Memory Jogger 2, Second Edition: A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning by Michael Brassard and Diane Ritter
Critical tools are explained using real-life examples from all types of organizations with problems similar to yours, making them easy for everyone to understand and apply. The Memory Jogger 2, Second Edition contains all the tools found in the first edition of the Memory Jogger 2, plus 50 pages of new charts and detailed diagram samples, a new tool, and a case study.

8. The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality by Joyce Nilsson Orsini PhD.
The book is filled with articles, papers, lectures, and notes touching on a wide range of topics, but which focus on Deming’s overriding message: quality and operations are all about systems, not individual performance; the system has to be designed so that the worker can perform well.

9. Principles of Quality Costs, Fourth Edition: Financial Measures for Strategic Implementation of Quality Management edited by Douglas C. Wood
The purpose of this book remains the same as the third edition: to provide a basic understanding of the principles of quality cost. Using this book, organizations can develop and implement a quality cost system to fit their needs. Used as an adjunct to overall financial management, these principles will help maintain vital quality improvement programs over extended timeframes.

10. Outcomes, Performance, Structure: Three Keys to Organizational Excellence by Michael E. Gallery and Stephen C. Carey
The purpose of this book is to help you put already-existing performance criteria in a context of your organizational system and assist you in using the criteria to assess problems in your organization. More importantly, this book will help you in designing systemic solutions to the systemic problems you have identified with easy-to-use samples and questions that draw out key areas where the organization needs to improve.

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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 3

The closing ceremony of the 2016 World Conference on Quality and Improvement began with an exciting parade of the International Team Excellence Award finalists carrying flags and cheering. A total of 36 teams competed this year, with a total of four teams receiving awards:

Bronze-level winners:
Loading Like Tetris,Molinos Rio de la Plata
Complaint Busters, Telefonica-Argentina

Silver-level winners:
Nypro Shanghai, Jabil Circuit
Jabil Singapore, Jabil Circuit

The 2016 conference concluded with entrepreneur and venture capitalist Josh Linker, who gave an inspirational keynote speech about innovation, its connection to quality, and why encouraging creativity is important. In today’s world, creativity is beating complacency, and the word innovation ought to be redefined as an everyday action. Linkner encouraged the audience to give fresh ideas time to breathe, and to exhibit humanity as an innovative approach can drive meaningful impact.

Linkner’s closing remarks sum up this year’s conference theme of Quality Expanded: “Now is the time for innovation! Seize the opportunities waiting for us!”

What innovative ideas did you discover at the World Conference?

The day ended just down the road from the conference center at ASQ Headquarters, where visitors were given a tour of the historic building and a glimpse inside ASQ operations.

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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 2

Is this your first World Conference? If so, you may have a valuable perspective on the event. At the Tuesday morning keynote, author and leadership expert Liz Wiseman spoke about valuable perspective of rookies in the workplace—those who are new to a position or field. Despite popular belief, rookies don’t bring new ideas to the table. (In fact, they don’t bring any ideas.) Rather, they bring a new way of looking at problems and solutions.

The afternoon speaker, psychology scholar and author Brian Little, focused on the difference between the traits and characteristics of introverts and extroverts.  The big takeaway is to know own’s first nature in order to perform at optimal level.  For example, introverts solve problems better when they are away from stimulation, and extroverts seek stimulation to carry out tasks effectively. He encouraged the audience to be audacious and try things outside of their personalities and comfort zones, but to find a “restorative niche” that resets them to a natural stimulation level.

Tuesday was a full day of sessions and live quality cast studies presented as part of the International Team Excellence Awards program. In the afternoon there was an exhibit hall extravaganza with games, music, and prizes, and caricature sketches. The day concluded with a networking reception at Milwaukee’s iconic Harley-Davidson Museum.

Wednesday highlights:

  • International Team Excellence Award Ceremony
  • Keynote Speaker Josh Linkner, entrepreneur and venture capitalist
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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 1

When you think of quality, do you think of longevity? This year, longevity stood out as an unofficial theme at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement as ASQ celebrated its 70th anniversary.

At the Monday morning keynote, it was announced that 38 ASQ members had been members for more than 60 years—shaping the quality field in the 20th century and into the 21st. The 70th theme is running throughout the event, from trivia games in the exhibit hall to souvenirs and gifts available for purchase at the ASQ Center. Sunday evening is the “official” conference kickoff, but Sunday morning and afternoon are abuzz with behind the scenes activities and meetings.

For example, a group of ASQ member leaders met up to do a gardening service project at Walnut Way, a Milwaukee-area organization that helps to revitalize local neighborhood. Despite a chilly start and high winds, the volunteers did some much-needed weeding and networking.

Monday morning kicked off with a standing-room only crowd at a keynote by Stephen J. Dubner, the author and journalist best known as the co-author of the book Freakonomics.

Dubner spoke about the importance of data—and particularly good data. His talk was peppered with humorous anecdotes about America’s preference for poultry and artificial insemination of turkeys, and the most effective way to increase hand-washing compliance rates in hospitals.

Dubner made a clear point of finding data that reflects reality. He noted that it is not always the nosiest person who has the best ideas, and that ideas that seem “crazy” should be voiced. The speech wrapped up with a story about a young economics professor at Yale who took on a currency experiment—using monkeys.

The afternoon speaker, James Kane, is the author of two upcoming books, The Loyalty Switch and Virtually Loyal. Kane talked about the difference between satisfaction and loyalty–satisfaction, such as customer satisfaction is simply a mood. Loyalty equals trust equals making someone’s life easier in some way.

Other Monday highlights included:

Live case studies were presented some of the most successful quality implementations from a wide variety of industries in the 2015 International Team Excellence Award Process

After 5 sessions on lighter topics such as Becoming a Chess Master with DMAIC and Applying Quality Tools to Personal Health and Wellness

The Milwaukee Night Out, with vans taking attendees to three downtown Milwaukee hotspots—The Historic Third Ward, Old World Third Street, and Water Street.

Tuesday highlights:

Keynote Speakers Liz Wiseman and Dr. Brian Little

Exhibit Hall Extravaganza with networking, raffles and giveaways.

Tuesday night wraps up with the Networking Reception at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

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Changes to ASQ.org

ASQ.org has gone through some recent updates in order to better serve our members!

Did you know? Under My Account, you can:

•Update your profile image
•Update user name and password
•View entire purchases as well as print and email invoices/receipts online
•Pay open orders online instead of contacting ASQ to pay for open invoices
•Save multiple credit cards and use for online order checkout. Customers can modify saved credit cards or delete cards no longer being used.
•Tailor and opt in/opt out of ASQ communications
•Print membership cards and certificates online
•Access and purchase digital content (Ebooks and Estandards) in one convenient place

Having trouble logging on?

If you have not logged in to asq.org since March 14, 2016, you will need to update your account.

•If you know your member number, enter this in the User Name field (previously this probably would have been your email address). Enter the same password as before; passwords have not changed.
•If you do not know your member number, click on the Forgot User Name? link. This will prompt you to enter the e-mail address for your account and you will receive username reset instructions via e-mail.

Once you have successfully logged into your account, you will have the option to make changes to your User Name and password.

Still have questions or issues with logging on? ASQ Customer Care is glad to further assist.

Posted in ASQ, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Networking at WCQI 2016

Looking to expand your professional network? ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement, held May 16-18 in Milwaukee, offers many chances to network with other quality professionals. Be sure to take advantage of the below sessions and events to expand your network and connect with other conference attendees. Don’t miss this great opportunity–registration for this event is still open!

Conference Kick-off
Following the opening session and keynote on Monday morning, this is an opportunity for attendees to meet in the exhibit hall with other conference participants, connect with old acquaintances, and visit with our exhibitors and sponsors.

After 5 Sessions
Held early Monday evening, these sessions are less formal than our other technical sessions and include a social component which adds to the level of interaction between the facilitator and the participants, as well as the participants and their peers. A sampling of this year’s sessions: Becoming a Chess Master with DMAIC, In Search of Quixote: Inner Dawns and Looming Knights, and ASQ Young Quality Professionals: Your Career is a Start-Up.

Milwaukee Night Out
On Monday evening, attendees will have the opportunity to experience Milwaukee’s night life. Busses will run continuously in a loop that goes from the Convention Center to the Third Ward, Old World 3rd Street, and Water street, and will have complimentary fare for conference attendees.

Engagement with Local Establishments
A number of local restaurants and establishments will be offering discounts to conference attendees. You will only need show a conference badge to receive the discount at more than 40 local establishments. Stop by the Visit Milwaukee area in the Convention Center with any questions.

Satellite Sessions
Six additional sessions will be held in offsite locations, in addition to 100+ breakout sessions at the convention center throughout the run of the conference. These locations include The Water Council and UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences. Each remote venue will hold one session a day for the three days of the event. Simply sign up for the session and the transportation and logistics will be taken care of.

Tuesday’s Networking Reception This year’s spotlight networking event will take place at the Harley-Davidson Museum, where conference attendees can connect with each other in the midst of one of Milwaukee’s most iconic brands.

And don’t forget to network through social media! Use #WCQI16 to connect with other conference attendees and post about your experience.

What events and opportunities have you discovered for successful networking at WCQI and other conferences?

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Roundtable: Voice of the Customer

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The April topic is Voice of the Customer.

What exactly should voice of the customer mean to the quality professional? How important is it? What are the best ways to gather it?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She blogs about quality and continuous improvement for small and medium size businesses, both in English and in Spanish, at www.biztorming.com.

The customer is always right, but how do we know what do they mean by right?

Common tools to capture the voice of the customer are surveys, focus groups and mystery shoppers, though there are new tools and methodologies to get the VOC faster and cheaper.

• Pilot tests: many Entrepreneurs are already into it to develop new products. A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to offer the customer in order to begin the process of learning.
• Social networks: using Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs and other networking tools to promote your business, you can not only engage your audience and let them know what you are up to, but you can also get the their insights, depending on the number visits, likes, favorites and comments.
• Trained personnel: employees are one of the best source of information in regards to customer desires. They should be trained not only to assist the customer but also to
listen to them and communicate their needs to upper management.

Read more from Luciana’s blog here.

Pam Schodt is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer and a member of the Raleigh, North Carolina, section of ASQ, where she volunteers on the Communication Committee. Her blog, Quality Improvements in Work and Life, includes posts about certification testing, book reviews, and lifestyle issues.

The customer is the driving force of organizations.

The best way to gather Voice of the Customer standards is through face-to-face meetings followed up by written and verified specifications. In my experience, the earlier the quality professional is involved in communication with the customer, the better. A relationship is built so an exchange of quality data can flow back and forth. This foundation of trust and professionalism creates a basis for quality improvement and superior products and services.

To read more feedback from Pam, click here.

Dr. Suresh Gettala works as a Director for ASQ South Asia. He is a seasoned quality expert with a unique blend of academic/research as well as industry experience, and also holds the coveted ASQ MBB (CMBB) certification.

Comprehending the requirements of customers continues to be a challenge irrespective of the type of industry that we are in. In many cases, even identifying all the customers is a delicate task.

How do we go about effectively managing customer requirements? The key is to hear from the “horse’s mouth” and not make any surmise about what the customer wants. How do we react to the captured customer voice would eventually determine how well we understand our customers.

When you are attempting to understand the requirements of customers, especially in B2B business, you need to understand that there are two types of requirements – one at the product/transaction level and one at the relationship level. Product/transaction level requirements are often addressed by having a robust requirements gathering and management process. In contrast, there is no such direct method to understand the requirements at the relationship level. At this level managing the customer wants is more of an art rather than science.

Read more feedback from Suresh by visiting his blog.

Luigi Sillé is the Quality Manager at Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation in Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. He has been a senior ASQ member since 2014, and blogs at sharequality.wordpress.com.

The voice of the Customer (VOC), is a process used to get information about customer expectations, preferences and dislikes.

The Voice of the Customer helps you prioritize on those aspects that are valuable to your customers, and eliminate those that are not (you can absolutely lower your WASTE). The Voice of the Customer also helps in identifying GAPS in your service and or products. It provides early stage warnings, so management can pro-actively react on them. To stay competitive in this modern world, the Voice of the customer is the KEY.

Gathering data is important, but collecting it and not using the results is called: Waste. It’s waste of money, time, and effort.

So as soon as the data is received, quality professionals must analyze it, differentiate it and use it to improve, and /or adapt. Management in his turn must prioritize, and act to improve, thus delivering what the customer wants.

To read more feedback from Luigi, visit his blog.

Robert Mitchell retired from 3M last June, where he was known as “Quality Bob.” He has been an ASQ member for over three decades, and recently moved to Phoenix, where he runs a strategic quality leadership consulting business, QualityBob®Consulting. He blogs at roberthmitchell.blogspot.com/.

When attempting to define the “customer” it is important that everyone involved in the commercialization process agree on the target customer. One might assume that the customer is the end-user, consumer. But it is often not enough to just consider the end-user needs; the end-user might not be the purchasing decision-maker. For example, who decides what products get placed on store shelves, placed in catalogs, placed in the office supply room, stocked in the parts crib, or made available for on-line purchase… who is the “Gatekeeper”? In a B2B model, what are the Buyer’s needs? What influences the Gatekeeper and Buyer purchasing decision? How can your product, brand, or organization help that trade/channel customer achieve its strategic goals better than your competition can? In today’s global market where product can be purchased from virtually anywhere on the planet via the World Wide Web, what regulatory, statutory and/or Governmental needs must be satisfied? Of course, let us not forget the Internal customer. How effectively are internal customer & downstream process requirements understood and met by the previous process (internal supplier)? Where can waste and inventory be eliminated in the Value Stream?

Read more feedback from Bob, visit his blog.

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Cultural Barriers Companies Face When Trying to Strengthen a Culture of Quality

This is a guest post by James Lawther, who describes himself as a middle-aged middle-manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for multiple organizations, from supermarkets to tax collectors in a host of operational roles, including running the night shift for a frozen pea packing factory and doing operational research for a credit card company.

Based in the U.K., James is also an ASQ Influential Voice blogger and writes about quality issues at www.squawkpoint.com.

I was once told that beliefs drive behavior. That seems to be a sensible assertion. There may be other factors–habit for example–but I can’t think of a stronger one. If you take that thought and add that culture is the sum of all the ways people behave in an organization, then it is easy to make the mental leap that beliefs also drive culture.
To change a culture you need to understand and change its beliefs.

What is a belief?
A belief is something that we think is true, even though we have no evidence or absolute proof of that fact.

There are lots of management beliefs that we think will drive a business forward. But if you dig a little deeper you will see they do the exact opposite.

Let me give you a handful of examples, a belief, an alternative view and a piece of evidence.

Have a read and ask yourself if these beliefs good for our organizations. Or is there enough evidence to support an alternative view?

Belief – We need short-term targets
If we have short-term targets we will strive to hit them. They keep us on the boil and give us management credibility. If we hit all our targets we will be an excellent business over the long term.
Alternative view – Short-term targets drive short termism. It is easy hit this quarter’s numbers by mortgaging next quarter. Repeatedly hitting short-term targets does little for long term improvement.

Does Jeff Bezos take a short-term view of Amazon’s performance?
Belief – We must have centers of excellence
If all our functions are excellent we will have an excellent business.
Alternative view – Striving for functional excellence quickly pits functions against each other. This just causes friction and rivalry. What is really important is how the functions work together, not individually. Functional excellence does little for teamwork.

Did inter-functional rivalry between defense agencies help the September 11 attacks?
Belief – Failure is bad
We must not fail. Failure is just another word for poor performance. No great business can allow poor performance. Failure is a sign of weakness.
Alternative view – The only way we really learn anything new is if we fail. The only way to learn how to ride a bike is to fall off one. It is easy to avoid failure – stick with want you know – but if you don’t try anything new, how will you ever learn or improve?

What did failure do for James Dyson?
Belief – We must manage the performance of our staff
If we have the best individuals then we will have the best organisation. We should actively “performance manage” our staff to make sure we get the best out of them.
Alternative view – performance management only ever results in fear or jealousy. People are either scared for their jobs or jealous of the bonuses awarded to “high performers.” Both of these emotions are hugely destructive. They do nothing at all for organizational improvement.

What did 10 years of performance management do for Microsoft?
Belief – Our people must be productive
The best way to maximize efficiency is to sweat the “human capital.” We must get the most possible out of our people.

Alternative view – If your staff are absolutely focused on their day job, you don’t give them any capacity to do anything else. Your staff are the people who are best placed to improve their work, they understand it best of all. Shouldn’t you give them the time to do that?

Where would Google be without 20% time?
Belief – We should use current best practice
We should incorporate the latest cutting-edge thinking into our business. If we don’t include it, then our competitors will.
Alternative view – if you constantly switch approaches and strategies you will never implement any of them well. Current best practice never lasts long. There is always a shiny new approach that is guaranteed results, until a better idea comes along. Success comes from sticking with an approach, not continually rolling out the latest approach.
Why are there so many different approaches to quality management?

Beliefs are insidious
They are everywhere, we take them for granted and they reinforce each other. How about adding the following to the list?
• Managers should direct – how about they support?
• We must incentivize our staff – do you need incentives?
• We need more leaders – how about fewer good ones?
• We must benchmark performance – wouldn’t your effort be better spent on improvement?
How many other beliefs could you add to the list?

The problem with beliefs
If you really want a quality culture, you have to challenge and change the incumbent belief system that is getting in the way.

Of course it isn’t that easy. The really tough – but hardly surprising – thing about beliefs is that we all have them and we are all blindsided by them. What about the beliefs I put forward? Are mine any more robust than the incumbent ones? What does the evidence suggest? Or perhaps a better question would be…

What do you believe?

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