ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - April 2000

Issue Highlight - Hard Measures for Human Values
--- We have now made the stock market our primary measure of well-being. It is the lead story on the news, it stares me in the face at the top of my home page. It peers at me from the lower right hand corner of my TV screen...

In This Issue...
Looking For Adventure
Healing Blue Cross And Blue Shield
Applying The Magic Of Disney
When Teams Are Destructive

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Diary of a Shutdown

Views for a Change
Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds:
I hold these truths to be self-evident.

--1. Management creates over 80 percent of the problems. Management is also the only one who can correct these problems.

-- 2. Management does not understand the root cause of the quality problem or they would have already corrected it.

--Keeping these truths in mind, you need to first collect relevant data to determine the magnitude and the symptoms of your quality problem. It is very important to quickly define if the quality problem is contained within the organization or if it has slipped out to your customer.

--Once you have this data in hand, roughly estimate what poor quality is costing your organization. This does not have to be an exact figure-an estimate will do. For example:

  • 20 percent of our customers would not recommend our product to a friend, decreasing our share of the market by 5 percent or $3 million/year.
  • 15 percent of our product cost is scrap and rework.
  • 25 percent of our production cost is inspection and test. Forget the quality of your support area.

Typical support group costs would be:

  • For the last five projects, project engineering's design release was an average of five months late, costing us at least five months in sales. ($15 million)
  • Of the five major IT projects implemented last year, all were over budget (a total of over $10 million) and only one produced the promised results ($3 million).

--This data collection process should be time-boxed-in, so that you don't get into too much detail. Two weeks should be adequate.

--Now that you have some information in hand, it's time to go to the next phase. In this phase, you should hold individual meetings with each member of the executive committee to get their perceptions on what needs to be changed to improve quality. I would then meet with three different segments of the workforce in focus groups.

--These focus groups should be divided into middle management, first-line managers and employees. With each focus group, you should ask them to define their view of the quality problems that are facing the organization, and what should be done to correct them.

--Once you have completed the focus group meetings, it's time to analyze the data and define what the problems are and what actions need to be taken from each of the work segments. Each segment will have important inputs to correct your quality problem. I am often amazed at the varying views and actions that are required based upon where one fits into the organization.

--Based upon this analysis, you should prepare a report that summarizes the input provided from each of the segments and then present it to each segment. It is extremely important to provide feedback not just to the executive team, but to all segments of your organization.

--This feedback will help everyone focus on the quality problem and provide additional suggestions on what should be done to correct the problem.

--With this data in hand, you should now be able to prepare a project plan, budget and value proposition that should be approved by the executive team. If they will not approve a budget for the quality improvement process, don't go forward with it, because it will fail without this minimum level of executive support.

--James D. Showkeir Responds



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