ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

July 1998


Creating A Workplace Community

Finding Your Way Through Performance Measurement

A Quality Vacation On The Jersey Shore

The Honda Dirtbusters Cleaned Up In Nashville

Consolidation Processes Save Time, Money And Win Awards


As Goes The Follower, So Goes The Leader
by Peter Block

Off -Target Marketing - Can We Talk
by Bill Brewer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


A Quality Vacation On The New Jersey Shore
Business and Government Partner to Improve the Environment

It was supposed to be just another day at the beach for Phil Scanlan.
It was the summer of ’88 when the Scanlan family (Phil, his wife and four kids, ages 11-19) descended on the Jersey shore for a weeklong vacation. Seven days of sun, fun, sand and tans along a small stretch of the 126 miles that comprise the New Jersey Shoreline. But this was one vacation everybody was happy to see end. The first two days were filled with rain. A break in the weather on day three led to a day at the beach. And then on days four through seven there was sign. Not a sign from some divine being but a sign stuck in the sandy beach, “THIS BEACH IS CLOSED DUE TO POLLUTION.” That sign ended a family vacation but began a quality-based environmental improvement project that transformed the Jersey Shoreline.

When it Rains it Pours
Tourism is the second largest industry in the state of New Jersey with the Jersey Shore being the top attraction. Each year over 16 million visitors contribute over $15 billion in revenue to any of the 90 shore municipalities.
Times haven’t always been prosperous for the Jersey Shore. In 1987 and ’88 the shore reached a “crisis level.” Pollution was running rampant – syringes and other medical waste washed ashore, old collapsing piers scattered debris across the tides and oil spills and off-shore dumping all added to the deteriorating water quality.
When it rains in New Jersey it pours. Sewage and drainpipes had reached such a poor level of upkeep that heavy rain led to heavy sewage and drainage overflow into the ocean waters. These and other pollutant sources caused over 855 beach-block closing days throughout 1988 (one beach-block equals the distance between lifeguard stations along the beach). The deteriorating water affected more than beach goers. From June 1987 to March 1988 over 740 dead dolphins washed ashore in New Jersey.
The NJ Shore Cleanup Initiative: Case Study in Quality Practice (Rutgers University, 2/98) cites a 22 percent drop in tourism numbers and a drop of $800 million in revenue from 1987 to 1988. The Jersey Shore had become unsafe for humans, deadly for marine life and a waning source of revenue.

An Environmentally-friendly Quality Approach
In 1989 several states had developed quality programs similar to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program. A group of individuals, sponsored by major corporations throughout New Jersey, decided the state could benefit from a similar program. Quality New Jersey (QNJ) was formed.
“AT&T happened to be the largest corporation in New Jersey in terms of employment and we had been perceived as a quality leader,” states Scanlan, AT&T’s quality office vice president, about the start-up of QNJ and its corporate sponsors. “The governor was involved. It was a state network to move quality forward.”
At its first meetings QNJ designed focus groups to identify problems throughout the state and design quality approaches to solve these problems. QNJ’s focus groups included business, industry, health care, education and environment. Scanlan assumed the helm of the environmental focus group whose ultimate goal would be to restore the Jersey Shore.
“In ’89 there was an election for governor in New Jersey and one of the major newspapers ran a survey to find out what people thought were the biggest problems in New Jersey.” The problems these respondents identified would be key issues for the campaign. The results indicated that the environment, particularly the Jersey Shore and its closings, was a big deal, Scanlan recalls from QNJ’s initial days. “We should do what customers care about. We ought to fix the shore,” Scanlan concluded.
The challenge was to take the proven quality approach from AT&T and apply it to a community problem. “I actually believe the quality approach is an approach that you can use to solve almost every major problem because it is basically premised on – you start with a problem, you get your cause, you address your causes and then you prevent, eliminate or reduce the problem,” Scanlan states.
However, key differences existed between the quality approach in business and the quality approach in a community setting. Ocean water quality fell under the control of three different levels of government – federal, state and local. Among these three levels of government there were no clear process owners and no single source was held accountable for the water quality. “They all manage themselves separately and make their own decisions. They typically don’t act as a coordinated aligned team,” sums up Scanlan. To resolve the water quality at the Jersey Shore would require a successful partnership of business and government.
“I would treat government as any other business leader that I’m going to help – to be their quality mentor or coach,” Scanlan states. QNJ also had to convince government agencies that a quality approach was worthwhile, and had the capability to solve statewide issues. “The approach we took was, look, I’m willing to put in some of my time and effort, basically either free or on loan from AT&T,” continues Scanlan. “So the issue was, hey, government, do you want to take advantage of this and use some talent that exists in a company?”
AT&T stood to gain from the business-government partnership as well. “There’s a benefit to the people who work at AT&T. If you’re going to have a lot of people in a place, you’d like to have an attractive place,” Scanlan states concerning AT&T’s role. “We’re here. We’re a business. We have talent and knowledge. We should share. We should give something back to the community.”

The Power of the Middle Manager
In late 1989 the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) became a key component in the shore cleanup process. Dave Rosenblatt, a DEP representative began attending QNJ meetings. The partnership of the DEP and the QNJ led to information sharing. The DEP shared data concerning ocean water quality, water testing, pollution sources, etc. The QNJ team supplied the DEP with information about basic quality practices of pinpointing problems, addressing causes, identifying process owners, improving measurement, etc.
With Rosenblatt’s involvement several key steps were achieved. For example, the measurement unit for beach closings was identified as beach-block-days of closure. Formerly beach closings were measured by the number of days closed (a varying distance). The beach-block measurement provided a standardized measurement that could be applied statewide and would result in more accurate and comparable data.
QNJ also identified, or recruited, process owners for improving ocean water quality. The EPA (federal government) was responsible for controlling off-shore dumping, oil spills and large-scale pollutants. The DEP (state government) was best suited for measuring the ocean water quality. The shore municipalities (local government) were ultimately responsible for maintaining shore conditions and drainage system infrastructure.
With process owners identified and new measurement systems in place, the shore cleanup project was ready to implement improvements. At this point QNJ’s role shifted. QNJ did not have the authority to implement strategies and improvements. QNJ could not order a municipality to repair leaks in its drainage system, but this did not stop QNJ from actively shaping the future of the Jersey Shore. QNJ established communication between process owners, shared best practices, provided leadership support and developed recognition programs that honored Jersey’s top municipalities. With the aid of QNJ improvement methods pollution has halted and water quality has improved.

And the Winner Is…
In 1991, the Jersey Shore was beginning to show signs of improvement. It was also the first year for the QNJ Shore Quality Awards. Based on the Malcolm Baldrige criteria, the shore quality awards were given to the counties or municipalities displaying the best pollution prevention and water quality results. Since 1991 the Shore Quality Awards have been presented in partnership with the N.J. Department of Commerce and the DEP.
“You have to recognize, award and motivate people at the end of each year so they want to do another year,” Scanlan states about the Shore Quality Awards. “The people need somebody to pat them on the back and say ‘good job.’ I remember the first award I gave to Lester Jowoski (Monmouth County New Jersey Health Official). Here’s a big, burly, six-foot guy that had just been out that morning until five o’clock catching people dumping oil barrels. He came up and I gave him his plaque,” Scanlan continues. “He was angry, tired and dirty. I just said a few nice things about him – recognized him for the major improvements he had made. I give him this award and a tear came to his eye. It was a $25 plaque. He said it was the first time he had ever received recognition for what he had done.”
After several years of continued success QNJ hit a major roadblock in their efforts to improve the Jersey Shore. State budget cuts in 1992 led to the removal of Rosenblatt from his assignment with QNJ. Rosenblatt had been a highly influential player, a bridge between government and business, in QNJ’s mission. During the following year the number of beach-block closings, as well as closed shell fishing areas, rose for the first time since QNJ was founded.
But the following year Rosenblatt was reassigned to his work with QNJ thanks in part to the new fund-raising initiative. Following the decline in water quality in ‘92 the state of New Jersey began the “Shore to Please” program—New Jersey drivers were given the option of purchasing either traditional license plates or new specialty plates whose proceeds benefited environmental cleanup efforts. The “Shore to Please” license plates provided a dedicated source of funding to QNJ and allowed its participants to return their focus to improving water quality.

The Bottom Line
Since its start in 1989 QNJ has helped the Jersey Shore show continuous improvement, both in water quality and tourism dollars. The environmental focus group has expanded their attention to include all of New Jersey’s water quality issues. QNJ is introducing other states and cities to the quality approach it took and its successes. By using a quality approach QNJ was able to transcend multiple layers of government and achieve goals and objectives that had been almost inconceivable less than a decade ago.
As a true testament to the success of the project Phil Scanlan, along with his family, selected the Jersey Shore as their 1997 summer vacation spot.

July '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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