Bank of America Not So Admirable After All
The article “Driving Organic Growth at Bank of America” by Daniel Cox and James Bossert (February 2005, p. 23) was very informative. I was impressed with the bank’s concern for the customer and planned to compliment the manager of my local branch. But before I got a chance to do so, I came upon an article in the Arizona Republic entitled “BoA Companies To Pay $375 Million,” which says the bank must pay that amount to settle claims of improper trading. The article further reveals an earlier settlement of $515 million was made for the same unacceptable process.
The QP article is very misleading. The payment of $890 million in fines for improper trading certainly does not support the bank’s objective of becoming one of the world’s most admired companies.
Sun City West, AZ
Some Issues Overlooked In Ethics Article
In “A Deming Inspired Management Code of Ethics,” William Stimson clearly illustrates the lack of definition of ethics and the absence of motivation for addressing this issue outside those areas directly covered by Sarbanes-Oxley (February 2005, p. 67). He taps into Deming’s wisdom and points out the flaws in certification programs and quality methods that give managers a false sense of righteousness while effectively excusing them from being role models and becoming directly involved in creating a work environment that is ethical and free from fear.
However, there was a noticeable lack of discussion about the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which address ethics and other behaviors not specifically defined in the penal code. Other issues that should have been addressed include:
- The line between ethical and legal is not always clear. Even the concept of murder is clouded by political and religious interpretations; thus we still have capital punishment, war and terrorism.
- Unethical behaviors are not always deliberate. They may result from a desire to please a customer or manager without that person’s knowledge or consent.
- Unethical behaviors may result from peer pressure.
- If quality is what the customer says it is, businesses must be willing to turn away customers who ask for things that are unethical.
- Deming’s point about buying based on price alone may be the single greatest driver in the degradation of quality and promotion of unethical behaviors. Consumers are guilty here, too.
- Recognition and reward systems can also drive unethical and illegal behaviors. Alfie Kohn’s books brilliantly explore the impact of extrinsic motivators on pride of workmanship and intrinsic values.
Clearly, Stimson raises some excellent points. Perhaps they can be used to inspire more dialogue on this critical topic.
Don’t Encourage Unethical Behavior From Suppliers
William Stimson wrote a very balanced and thoughtful piece that lucidly articulates something we like to think should be naturally presumed—our colleagues and business associates will behave properly and fairly. His article is neither heavy-handed nor overly idealistic; it’s worth the read.
I’d like to suggest an addition to the proposed code: We shall not make outrageous or unfair demands on our suppliers that make it impossible for them to adopt the same code of ethics.
Two Incompatible Schools of Ethics—Cooperative and Adversarial
William Stimson appropriately identified ethics as the linchpin of a successful quality program. More than any other quality guru, Deming recognized and was willing to underscore the necessary—though not sufficient—role ethical considerations play in establishing a continuous commitment to quality improvement. Deming’s emphasis on ethics was evidenced in his admittedly evolving concept of profound knowledge.
What is lost on most advocates of quality systems implementation is the fact there are two fundamentally incompatible schools of ethics: cooperative and adversarial. When speaking about ethics, most quality scholars assume the former school reigns. However, our society is inextricably caught in a vortex of adversarial legalism, so our ethical standards are most often of the adversarial ilk. That negates Stimson’s definition of ethical behavior, which refers to conduct “that is legal and avoids hurting others” (p. 69).
The essence of adversarial ethics is to advance your or your party’s position even, and often most successfully, when you harm the opposing party. Within organizations, the opposition can be characterized as anyone or any group competing for the same resources or seeking the same promotions. I believe such ethical behavior is the downfall of most attempts to introduce substantive quality programs.
DAN F. KOPEN, M.D.
Surgical Specialty Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Forty Fort, PA
Inventory Management Article Was Perfectly Timed
Thanks for publishing Gregory Kruger’s article “A Statistician Looks at Inventory Management” (February 2005, p. 36). I enjoyed learning about his statistical and financial perspective on inventory. Given the importance placed on supply chain management in my industry, the timing of this article was perfect.
Keep up the good work.
KEVIN A. RICE
Takata Seat Belts
Let’s Start Using ‘Quality’ As an Action Word
I’ve been thinking carefully about Debbie Phillips-Donaldson’s thoughts in her “Up Front” column in the January 2005 issue (“Getting Buy-in,” p. 6). She clearly expresses where we stand on quality and where we have been for a long time.
God Is a Verb by David A. Cooper and The Physics of Consciousness by Evan Harris Walker are two great books, each of which I have read several times. Both express the im- portance of thinking of God as a verb—an action word (our collective will).
While reading Phillips-Donaldson’s words, I realized we use “quality” as a noun most of the time. We have even dropped the use of “quality control” from our vocabulary. Perhaps if we start using “quality” as an action word we might again move forward. Simply the way we speak might make a significant change.
OLIN K. SMITH
Retired, Las Vegas
Six Sigma Hijacked By Moneymakers
I loved John Goodman and Jon Theuerkauf’s article on the failure of Six Sigma (“What’s Wrong With Six Sigma?” January 2005, p. 37). It has to fail because it has been hijacked by charlatans and shamans. Its name and overwhelming content are the main causes. Its overall toolbox and separate disciplines used as required and implemented where necessary, however, may eventually lead to its success.
Six Sigma is a brilliant initiative that was taken over by moneymakers without regard to its cause and the actual outcome of implementation. It will fail, in a general sense, for three reasons:
- Confusing statistical terminology.
- A capturing of the initiative by charlatans—so called consulting organizations—that claim knowledge and methodology, while providing confusing and destructive employee training and indoctrination.
- A misunderstanding of the elements of a toolbox associated with the initiative and erroneous use in practice without bringing measurable results.
All that could have been avoided if each Six Sigma case had been approached with a deep knowledge and understanding, and each application emphasized cost and return on investment beyond brainwashing and polarization of the subject. Interestingly, Japanese manufacturers did not need any of the new philosophies and massive brainwashing, because their system already included all these provisions in their underlying culture.