ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - September 2002


 In This Issue...
Looking Back a Year Later—How Americans Have Dealt With the Changes

Journal of a Visitor to Tragedy

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

Tribute to America:
How Our Lives Have Changed Since September 11

Book Nook

From Our Perspective

What's Up?


  Return to NFC Index

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

In the last two issues of News for a Change, we’ve shared the first two segments of a three-part panel interview with four leaders in the field of quality and participation. The first segment focused on the panelists’ perspectives of significant historical events and anticipated future occurrences. The second segment discussed how we should prepare for changing roles and future business challenges. It also solicited the panelists’ reactions to several hypotheses related to past and future trends in the field.

This final segment explores three additional hypotheses and includes a sidebar that recounts significant historical events that changed our world. We also asked the panelists to reflect on the events of September 11 and how those events would affect our future.

We’ve also included a sidebar, “Significant Historical Events That Changed Our World” for you to review.

Hypothesis #3: Innovation Versus Control

NFC: We posed the following premise: The leaders of most organizations tend to view innovation and process control as being diametrically opposed activities. They choose to emphasize one or the other in their organizations’ strategic plans. This largely dictates the culture that will be found in the organization—particularly in regard to participative management and risk taking. What would you tell us?

Dewar: I think the doors always have to be left open to bring in innovation, but I don’t think that having a process under control puts a lid on things. I remember when I was doing a lot of industrial engineering work. I would go down on the factory floor and I would say, “This is the way the job needs to be done—step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4, and so on. Then I did something that most other industrial engineers would not do. I would talk to a mechanic who worked with the process and had experience in that area. I would go through these steps with that person and he would say, “Well, this is good and that is not good.” We would get the steps worked out, and I would say, “Let me know if you can come up with a better way to do this task. I will come down here and work with you. We can measure the process and determine if your idea improves it. If it does, we can update the steps.”

I wanted innovation to come forth, but I also wanted controls set up in such a way that we were not going to slip backward.

Luther: This clearly is not true, but appears true when one or both are poorly managed. In leading breakthrough companies, innovation is seen as an essential process that has measures, step functions, permission gates, and management oversight. It is a process and does require attention.

Powell: Unfortunately, I think that this is probably true. Although I might agree with them in general, I think the key may be to establish a balance between the two. I don’t think we automatically need to innovate everything; I think sometimes we get a little carried away with innovating everything.

On the flip side, I also don’t think that troubled organizations can incrementally improve their ways to success.

So, this is another one of those cases where I think both approaches are important and we need to find a way to emphasize both.

Watson: I agree with the premise; however, I think that this presents an opportunity for enlightenment of the top managers who do not see the need for integrated management. When one makes this choice, he or she fails to see the value of an integrated organization and faces the resultant failure of the systems design. A process control choice locks the system on repeating what it has done historically with slight incremental improvements that are needed to maintain “control” of the system based on past performance. A bias toward innovation results in new ideas launched into a market that will eventually become unsustainable due to their failure to achieve process control, thereby producing repetitive quality that customers expect from market-leading organizations. True competitiveness merges these two concepts into a product life-cycle strategy that links innovation and customer research to process control and consistent delivery of market performance. Success is achieved when both of these activities are performed better than competitors. By taking an integrated approach to these two activities, management becomes much more aware of the true risks in its business and can understand more clearly how to mitigate such risk by improving allocation of resources to participate in its management.

Hypothesis #4: Teamwork Principles Stay the Same

NFC: We’ve heard that in the future, the principles of teamwork will be essentially the same as they are today. Breakthroughs will come in team members’ skills and ability to work effectively and efficiently together, rather than in new approaches to teaming. What are your thoughts on this statement?

Dewar: I would agree in general, but I think there will be some new things happening. For instance, I recently came across something on “war rooms,” which are similar to a lean manufacturing cell, a little factory within the factory. War rooms bring production workers, supervisors, engineers, etc., together where they have easy access and can keep focused on the common mission and goals. This study showed that productivity for people who worked in a war room could more than double.

Luther: I don’t really know; however, what I do know a lot about is the changes required when teams were electronic and were not in the same room, and in many cases, had never met one another personally. The rules were different. In fact, they were not really rules, but practices, and one had to learn them quickly or lose the objective. A not inconsistent thought is that remote teams will continue to develop and learn the use of IT tools yet to be developed. This, however, is just a guess on my part.

Powell: I tend to agree with this statement. I have been studying, reading, and working in this field for more than 20 years and not a lot of brand new stuff is showing up. It just gets repackaged and somebody combines an idea from one place with an idea from another place and calls it a new concept. So, I don’t think that we will have huge breakthroughs in the tools and techniques themselves, but I think the breakthrough will come from the ways that members interact together.

Watson: I agree completely. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the application of the body of teamwork knowledge to Six Sigma project teams. At the most recent AQP Annual Conference, both the Gold and Bronze Award winners were Six Sigma teams that applied the basic body of knowledge for teamwork skills along with statistical methods of Six Sigma to achieve significant results on behalf of their companies. In the future, top management will expect the integration of teamwork and statistical skills on all improvement projects and change management activities. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The same also may be said of the analytical side of the quality movement.

Hypothesis #5: Roles of Quality Professionals

NFC: Let’s assume that every member of the organization understands the principles and practices of quality and teamwork and is empowered to make appropriate decisions. Wouldn’t that make facilitation, training, and recognition the new primary roles of quality professionals?

Luther: Much earlier in life I identified three requirements for making sure quality was a success and three levels of associates who had to exhibit the requirements. The levels were: senior management; administrative, technical and support people, and other managers; and production and maintenance people. The three requirements were: being willing to pursue quality, being able to pursue quality, and finally, being in an environment that asked people to pursue quality. The outcome is a matrix with rules and attributes for each cell. The article about this goes on and on, but I hope the basic idea is clear.

It relates to the question in that the role of the quality professional as described is aimed only at making people able to go after quality, e.g., facilitation, training, etc. It says nothing about willingness or environment, and it says nothing about distinguishing between levels of management. (Recognition could be the exception as it does deal with willingness.)

While the notion as stated may be attractive to many, I disagree with it.

Powell: I agree with the fact that the primary role might be facilitation and training; I don’t agree that it is the job of the quality professional to do recognition. Recognition needs to come from someone more directly involved in the process or task. I hesitate to say it should just come from the manager because it shouldn’t always come only from the manager. But, recognition that comes from management is the most powerful.

Watson: I fully agree. Many quality professionals will rely on teamwork and leadership skills, along with their expertise in the interpretation of the system to spotlight areas of emphasis for teams to work on to change projects identified through the policy deployment system.

Perspectives on September 11

NFC: What effect do you believe the events of September 11, 2001, have had on quality and teamwork?

Dewar: Actually, I think the biggest thing, other than the shock and brutality of the whole event, was the fact that 100,000 people in New York and around the area lost their jobs. In fact, the numbers may be far greater if you count the layoffs that have occurred across the country.

Powell: One of the things that it probably has done is to refocus people on finding purposeful work versus just making money. I think there were a lot of stories coming out right after the event (and probably still some reflections today) from those people who were touched closely by it and even some who were touched at a distance by it. They said life is really too short and they want to do meaningful work and not just make money.

I think the other thing is that it reinforced the importance of relationships. We hear stories of the people who could have gotten out and didn’t, who stayed to organize people going down the stairs or who allowed people in lesser physical shape or with disabilities to get on elevators first. Those acts really helped to reinforce the importance of relationships in the workplace.

Watson: Quality means that people work together, share a common vision, have compatible principles or shared values, feel secure, work in reliable processes, and are respected. Quality works toward a purposeful end that is measured by the outcomes of our activities and means that we must work with the end in mind.

Such a perspective of quality implies that teamwork is essential in order to achieve the highest levels of performance and that a continuing commitment must be made by all members of society to support a common denominator that unites all of mankind. That denominator is the value we place on life and the right each of us has to invest that life in those things that give us personal satisfaction and produce value for mankind.

Terrorists take away this right by enforcing their values and will through violent acts that do not increase the value production of society but tear it down to support their opinion (Theory O) as to what is most valuable for society as a whole. Terrorism is an affront to all of the principles of quality and will never establish the common bond required by our fragmented world, leading to world peace and the effective contribution of all human potential. The acts of 9-11 are a call for all of us to invest our wisdom and understanding for the greater good of mankind—a call for a more evolved world view that involves all constituencies in a more democratic approach to defining the value produced by and for society.

General Comments

NFC: What other comments would you like to share with our readers?

Luther: I have three additional comments, some of which I’ve mentioned previously.

I would wager that we are about to see a wave of ethics understanding and attention sweep U.S. companies. Enron, Global Crossing, ImClone, and even Martha Stewart and the Catholic Church are being reviewed. It would seem that the process of leading an ethics examination within the firm and helping to design and implement efforts to insure ethical standards are being followed, would or could fall into the charter of the quality professional. This is especially true when ethical lapses are a result of process failure, as opposed to personal failure.

The second comment addresses renewal of the quality effort. TQM came of age as the result of Japanese manufacturing superiority. Six Sigma got its big push, at least initially, from GE. Both of these events occurred outside of the quality community and cannot be depended on to be repeated. Hence, if there is a next wave, it may have to come from within the community and it is not clear to me where, or how, this can happen.

Finally, a repeat of 9-11 in some form or other has the potential for changing all of our lives. I do know that many companies are very active in designing response and prevention measures. I do not know what the quality community should be doing; however, there should at least be a conversation exploring possible ways to be of assistance.

Powell: There is a story that comes to my mind that sort of relates to the concept that people who get a taste of what is possible are never the same again.

Years ago when I first left teaching, I watched a training film where the commentator talked about throwing a stone in a pond. When you first throw a rock in the pond, it makes a big splash with lots of waves. Eventually, the pond calms down, but the level of the pond is changed just slightly—forever. That has been a mantra for me ever since; that image had a powerful impact for me.

So, when I think realistically about what I am capable of doing, I don’t think about making a big splash in an organization. Instead, I set out to change the level of that pond just a little bit. No one else may notice, but I know that I’ve made a difference.

Watson: The coming decade will challenge each one of us with new stimuli that cause us to rethink our purpose and the way that we dedicate our life energy to producing something that we consider of value to ourselves. As far as I can tell, we only get one shot at making something out of the life that we have been given (and even those who believe in reincarnation must admit that our future depends on how we invest our energies in this life).

The biggest challenge that each of us has is to make a difference with the way we choose to invest the energy that defines our personal life force. Those who understand the deepest meaning of quality recognize that its principles are indeed universal and can make a very big difference when applied to almost any type of enterprise or human effort. We can make the world a better place and deliver quality to the community where we live and work. It requires that we share ourselves, as well as the methods and techniques we have learned. In my mind, this social challenge for the application of quality is where we will make our most significant contributions to the world—and those contributions still lie ahead of us!


Our Distinguished Panel

DONALD L. DEWAR pioneered the introduction of quality circles in the United States in 1973 and co-founded AQP in 1977, serving as its president for three terms. His background involves industrial engineering, manufacturing, quality control, finance, industrial relations, and marketing. He served as an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. He has spoken in 25 countries worldwide and has authored or collaborated on nearly 300 articles and papers, 46 books, and 97 training videos. Dewar is president of QCI International, publisher of Quality Digest, Timely Tips for Teams, and QualityInsider.



DAVID B. LUTHER retired from Corning, Inc., as senior vice president of quality, following assignments as vice president of personnel, and lead roles in finance, information systems, and manufacturing. He is past chairman of ASQ, co-founder of the Conference Board Quality Council, a four-term judge for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and former chair of the New York State Quality Award. He is a member of the International Academy for Quality and served on the Visions for Governance project at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.



JENNIFER POWELL has extensive experience in integrating human resource management with total quality and employee involvement, as well as organizational development and change management. She currently serves as president of AQP’s board of directors and has been involved as a leader and officer since 1986. She is currently chief of staff to a regional vice president of customer service at Aetna, Inc. Her previous employers include The Weather Channel and WJZ-TV/Westinghouse Broadcasting. Powell has presented at numerous professional conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally on the topic of employee involvement. She also has had articles published on this topic as well as the role of human resources in employee involvement.


GREGORY H. WATSON is past chairman of ASQ and was named one of its “21 Voices of Quality for the 21st Century.” He also has been a member of the AQP board of directors and received the AQP President’s Award. He has served as an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, United States Air Force Quality Award (chief judge), Florida Sterling Award (judge), New York State Excelsior Award (judge), and Texas Quality Award (judge). He has written more than 70 papers and authored or collaborated on six books. Watson is managing partner of Business Systems Solutions, Inc. He previously has worked for Xerox Corporation, American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), Compaq Computer Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard.


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