ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - August 2002


 In This Issue...
People and Excellence— People Aspects of the Baldrige Criteria

Using Baldrige to Lead Change

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

Book Nook

From Our Perspective

What’s Up?


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Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

In the last issue of News for a Change, we shared the first segment of a three-part panel interview with four leaders in the field of quality and participation. That initial segment focused on the panelists’ perspectives of significant historical events and anticipated future occurrences.

In this issue, the panelists will comment on our members’ changing roles and how they should prepare for future business challenges. Each panelist also will provide his or her reactions to several hypotheses related to past and future trends in the field.

We’ve also included a sidebar, “Publications That Changed Our Views,” for you to review.

Getting Ready for the Future

What three pieces of advice would you give to the members of AQP regarding how their roles will change in the future, what challenges their organizations are going to face, how to prepare for the future, and what tools and techniques they should be learning now?

Donald Dewar:

Focus on the Bottom Line

We should become concerned with our companies’ bottom lines. This is the way to get managers and other people to listen to our messages about quality and participation. In today’s economic environment, there is more pressure than ever to demonstrate that our efforts lead to financial success.

Expand Your Areas of Involvement

I think that AQP members need to become team players to an even greater degree, recognizing that their companies are involved in or affected by global competition. Find ways to learn more about and support marketing and sales and other functions that face competitive challenges on a daily basis.

Work With Local Schools

I think AQP members should work with their local schools, helping expose people to quality and group dynamics at a younger age. Our members can bring a higher level of understanding of this field—both concepts and practices—to teachers and students without taking over the classroom.

I recently attended a conference that had teachers and students from around the world, and I’ve worked with overseas schools. We have a golden opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences about teams in a way that builds a positive future. We can become part of the solution, rather than critics of the current system.

David Luther:

Build a Personal Learning Plan

First, build a rigorous personal learning plan. Learning should not be a random process if one wants to stay ahead of the crowd. Concentrate some portion on improving known skill deficiencies, but more important, concentrate a remaining part on remote areas, like biology, data structures, how mental capabilities can be increased, or chaos theory. The search is for insight, and insight may be more apparent in other areas, especially when TQM is seen as saying the same thing today as was said yesterday, only with different words.

Find and Apply New Approaches

Second, find a business or process approach that you think will work in your company, borrow it, and sponsor a pilot in your company. A couple of ideas are at work here. One is that most companies do not have an organized effort to seek out, evaluate, and try ideas from other industries. For instance, bar coding existed in grocery retailing for a long time before people figured out how to apply the idea to taking warehouse inventories, the activity that destroyed more U.S. weekends than any other known event. The second notion is that it establishes the quality professional as someone who can break new ground and show a new way to do things that would not change on their own.

Learn How Top Management Thinks

Finally, learn how top management thinks. A favorite sport of many quality types is to proclaim how dumb their senior managers are. One could hear this lament for decades, and even now one finds it in letters to the editor and in editorials. The complaint basically says that we, the quality community, are very smart and you, the CEO, even though you are leading 40,000 people in 21 countries in six languages, making thousands of different products, are dumb. Why? Because you do not follow good quality practices. The assumption for the quality person is that the most important thing by far on the commercial scene is quality. Obviously, many senior managers state, by their actions, that they do not agree.

Rather than the after-work complaining, approach some top managers and ask how they arrived at a particular decision that sounds like it doesn’t make sense. In some cases, the senior manager is wrong or has not considered quality; however, he or she may have recognized that there was a payroll to meet this Friday and that consideration ruled a decision that seemed to fly in the face of quality. Stated another way, find out what the customer for quality, the senior manager, is facing and attempt to understand and to help, instead of blindly criticizing. My guess is that in most cases, the inquiry would be welcome and the discussions would be valuable to one and maybe both people involved.

Jennifer Powell:

Focus on the Purpose, Not Your Title

One of the things I would tell our members is to find a meaningful purpose for their work and not get stuck on titles. You can do this work from anywhere, and you can do it whether people know you by that title or not. People don’t have to know the kind of intervention that you are making if you talk in lay language and your interventions are effective.

Other AQP leaders and I always have been stymied by the fact that we lose members because of title/role changes. We wonder why this happens. My career has evolved and I chose to stay with AQP. I went from being a quality circle facilitator, where there was a direct connection to AQP membership, to being a management consultant to being an HR manager, to being an organization development manager and now to serving as chief of staff, where the connection to AQP is less direct. I always felt like AQP was the place for me to be; it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a full-time quality circle facilitator anymore. All along the way I have been able to interject a tool here and there, whether my company was for or against participative methods. I have been able to use what I learned no matter where I was.

So, I guess I would say to our members, don’t get stuck on your title; instead, find some purpose and meaning for your work. Find ways to influence whether you are called the “chief influencer” or not.

Address Changing Work Ethics by Relating to Individuals

I think changing work ethics also are going to be an issue. “Work-life balance” is a buzz phrase that is going to be around. It is causing people to rethink what effort they are willing to commit. Loyalty is not as important as it used to be; many companies make that clear with their actions, no matter what they say verbally.

I think the changing work ethic is driven partly by the choices companies are making—the choices that make it clear to employees that their efforts, contributions, and loyalty aren’t valued. Companies involved in mergers and acquisitions seem to be affected most significantly. People are no longer as willing to go above and beyond the call of duty because they don’t feel their companies appreciate those extraordinary efforts.

The truth is that when you relate to people individually, they will go to the mat for you every time. If you have a good relationship with a person, and you treat that person fairly, with respect, and like an adult, that person will be loyal and will work hard for you. Organizations are using the changing work ethic as an excuse to not do the right things for their people—to say people don’t care and aren’t loyal. I say, “Why do you think that came about?” The people who run organizations have to accept some contribution to the changing work ethic too.

A perfect example involves a company that decided to change its service award program. In the past, employees who reached a significant service milestone got to order something really nice from a catalog and the awards were sent to their homes. Obviously, this is an efficient process, but the process lacks the socialization aspect of recognition. When the service awards showed up at an employee’s home, no one was there to say, “thanks” for the employee’s service and contributions.

Over time, the managers concluded that employees didn’t care about the program because they didn’t talk about it. So, the system was changed. Now, employees receive a service pin at the first milestone and a jewel is attached to it for each subsequent milestone. Now, employees don’t get to choose really nice gifts anymore; not only does the process lack socialization, but it also lacks personalization.

At the same time, this company conducted focus groups to discuss turnover problems with employees. The company has many initiatives in place to improve its retention at the front-line level, and the spotlight really has been put on retention.

This seems incongruous to me. It doesn’t make sense to put all that energy into a retention program on one hand and then to reduce the service award program because it was too costly and didn’t impact that many people on the other hand. To me, that is a mixed message.

Influence Change Subtly

Organizations have come to a place where “process” is like a four-letter word. If we are really honest with ourselves, we need to realize that many of us who are in the business of promoting processes have gotten so steeped in the techniques that we have lost sight of the purpose of applying the tools in the first place. We hear it said all the time, “Don’t let the process get in the way of the results.” Some managers have picked up on this buzz phrase and used it to avoid engaging in process thinking and using the tools.

I would tell our members that to succeed, “You need to be as balanced as you can be. Don’t focus too much on the statistical tools and techniques and don’t focus just on the human element. Both are needed.” We need to help people understand why the tool is important—what the tool is going to do for them. We need to be balanced and not recommend a tool just for the sake of recommending a tool.

I think that sometimes we take ourselves too seriously as process experts, and we don’t know how to influence change subtly. For example, there are going to be times when we may need to teach people a tool without giving its name. We don’t have to announce, “I’m now going to teach you how to make an affinity diagram.” Instead, we just might say, “Let’s try this,” and describe the steps for making an affinity diagram. This approach shifts the focus from us as teachers who want everyone to learn the official process, to us as coaches who want to get the issue settled effectively and efficiently.

Some people might call this manipulation. Most would say it is not manipulation because it is not self-serving. I would call it “knowing who my audience is.”

Remember That Quality Circles Didn’t Fail

I get so sick of seeing books and articles on why quality circles failed and why teaching them failed. It just makes my blood boil when I hear that because I do not believe that we would be where we are today with teams and employee participation if it hadn’t been for quality circles. I don’t think they failed; I think they did exactly what we needed them to do—they catalyzed organizations and were a springboard.

A technique or tool doesn’t have to be used perpetually in its original format to have succeeded. Quality circles opened the door to participative management; they were the first approach used to involve employees in process improvement and workplace decision making. They served a useful purpose and laid the groundwork for more sophisticated approaches. We haven’t lost quality circles; we’ve added new concepts and practices to them.

Gregory Watson:

Choose a Track: Automation or Improvement

Businesses will respond to the changes of the future by automating repeatable functions that are susceptible to technology and seeking productivity among those value-adding processes that are not susceptible to automation. The quality professional of the future will serve this evolution by offering two tracks. The first track will be composed of technology specialists who set up the automated processes based on sound statistical engineering principles and methods. The second track will contain people who use the system and are responsible for improving its productivity and facilitating collaboration among its human participants.

Although organizations indeed may downsize efforts related to quality, they will do so based on the perceived ability of those efforts to produce value on behalf of customers. The few “quality technocrats” that remain in an organization will be there to service the system and refine its development (automation) further—much like happens in information technology organizations today.

The remaining 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 change projects that have been identified through the policy deployment system. In short, quality efforts will be seen in all parts of the organization, but they will not be associated with a visible organization; they will be embedded in all major functions and activities of the organization. Teams will be the way that organizations amplify the skills and competence of individuals to perform both their routine tasks and their strategic improvement projects.

Do You Agree or Disagree?

News for a Change posed five hypotheses to the panelists. We confess that each statement was designed to generate divergent responses among the panelists. In some cases, the hypotheses intentionally were controversial. We asked each panelist to share his or her agreement or disagreement with each statement, as well as his or her rationale for that position.

Hypothesis #1: Influence of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence

Our first hypothesis is: The Baldrige Award and performance excellence criteria have had the most profound influence on quality and teams in the United States for the past 10 years. They will continue to be as influential during the 2000s. How do you feel about that statement?

Donald Dewar:

I agree with that. Every place I go, in the United States or overseas, it seems like Baldrige is the standard-bearer of all quality performance awards. Most other state and national awards are modeled after the Baldrige Award. I don’t see that changing in the future.

David Luther:

Yes, the Baldrige has had a profound influence; look at the data for those who have applied. But, it probably won’t stay as influential. Those that would do it have done it. The pool is much smaller and other approaches are getting more attention.

Jennifer Powell:

I would say that this is true in regard to quality, but I wouldn’t agree that the Baldrige necessarily had that significant an influence on teams. Others who are really close to the Baldrige might disagree with me, but I think you could do really well on the Baldrige and not have made a commitment to teams. I think individual contributors can help an organization achieve Baldrige. I don’t think it has the same effect on teams that it has had on quality—even with the human resources category. The criteria have been strengthened and are really good, but I don’t believe they’ve had a large impact on teams.

Gregory Watson:

I disagree with this statement. Although I believe that the Baldrige Award has continuing benefit to organizations, its value is being diluted by recent changes in the ISO 9000 series of standards for quality management systems. The recent ISO 9000:2000 approach to a quality standard for minimum performance converges toward the voluntary approach of the Baldrige criteria. I believe that this degree of convergence eventually will divert management’s attention away from both of these structures for defining quality management systems.

Where will this convergence lead? I believe it will trigger a major debate among the leaders of the international quality community. Business leaders in the United States consistently have taken a position in support of voluntary standards as compared to mandatory, government-directed standards. The U.S. position relies on market forces to compensate and correct the direction of voluntary standards driven by competitiveness. The Baldrige Award criteria support this perspective.

As the ISO 9000:2000 standard moves toward the same, a conflict in application will arise. Why should management delegate auditing and “approval” of its management methods (which some consider to be their greatest source of enduring competitive advantage) to a third-party auditor who is not accountable to the business owners?

This convergence of standards with award criteria must be managed more effectively to assure that the baby (quality) is not thrown out with the bathwater (conflict about the application of these two quality approaches). This challenge represents, in my mind, the most serious threat to the global quality movement. And shame of all shames, it appears to be self-induced!

Hypothesis #2: People Versus Facts and Data

Suppose we said it is more important to involve people in quality improvement activities than to rely on facts and data. A solution that is based on commonly accepted beliefs is more likely to succeed than one that is supported by statistical analysis. What would your response be?

Donald Dewar:

I feel that a mix is required and that the ratio in the mix really depends on who is involved in the change and who has to approve it. Most improvement efforts need to be “bilingual.” They can’t rely solely on pure statistics without regard to communications and other people issues. Similarly, they can’t over emphasize people’s opinions and beliefs without regard to relevant facts and data.

David Luther:

This depends on the problem statement. If the problem is to generate better products and services, one needs to use the data; otherwise, a number of people struggling for the answer without data is a political event. If the problem statement instead is to gain the trust of the people, to instill confidence, or to initiate an involvement process, engaging them without the use of data could be an initial step.

Jennifer Powell:

I don’t necessarily agree. I think that ignoring data is what makes the naysayers assert that teams are just about group things. I think you need to have both.

I don’t think you can ignore the data because then you run the risk of acting on one person’s opinion—and perhaps an emotional opinion that takes the group off in a direction that isn’t accurate.

To me, part of quality activities is relying on facts and making decisions based on data. Or, at least gathering the data and making a conscious decision to say, “We don’t think that we are going to use that to make our decision.”

Generally, a combination of facts and data blended with the beliefs and opinions of the involved people is most effective.

Gregory Watson:

I disagree. Both positions are equally untenable. Truth is afforded by embracing an “AND” logic that integrates the involvement of people with facts and data to find the best possible total solution. When organizations rely only on involvement, they suffer from potential negative side effects such as groupthink. Over focusing on facts and data can lead to analysis paralysis. Organizations must learn how to integrate these two approaches into a systematic approach for innovation.

Whenever anyone uses the words “more likely to succeed,” as occurs in this hypothesis statement, the concepts of probability theory are introduced. It is very important that we recognize statistical thinking can help improve any process, including those processes that are aimed at people involvement. People involvement still requires the assimilation of ideas (data) and their processing into positions (facts). Statistical methods can be used to establish the risk of such positions and to estimate the likelihood that is inferred by choices made by management.

Once again an earlier observation can be restated: neither of these two approaches is sufficient by itself to assure long-term success; they are both necessary ingredients of every management system. The issue should not be to choose one over the other but how to integrate the two into a system that meets management’s most basic business objectives.


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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