In Dr. Deming: The American Who Taught the Japanese about Quality by Rafael Aguayo, the focus is on the differences between the way that American and Japanese companies interpret quality. By focusing only on the numerical representations of quality and by setting quotas that would reflect quality, we have undermined the potential of employees to manufacture and provide services with a sense of quality. We have done well at getting the numbers of quality, but have overlooked the Spirit of Quality.
This numerical view of quality and for success has also crept into the area of personal and professional success. In talks with people about what makes them successful on the job, its the numbers: how many cars they have, how much they cost, how many weeks of vacation, how many dollars salary or bonus, how long they've been with the company and how few negative evaluations they have had. It is curious isn't it, that a whole society has adopted the mode of economic and bottom line thinking as their primary model for success.
Quality Comes from the Heart
Deming's view of Total Quality Management is that quality comes from the heart. Quality is not a thing to be harnessed by statistical quality control procedures. Data analysis is one way to evaluate quality, but it is not the way to achieve it.
Quality occurs because people care, not because someone reached an arbitrary goal set by an uninvolved manager. Quality also occurs because people matter; they are resources to be developed and appreciated. Too often they are considered interchangeable parts to be replaced rather than refurbished. We treat our office equipment better than our people.
Many companies whose primary function is sales of products, lose out to the competition because their sales managers (all the way up the line) focus on yearly increases in sales quotas rather than improved service for their customers. In Service America, Zemke and Albecht emphasize that taking care of customers, meeting their needs and paying attention to their problems will automatically increase sales.
True Success Comes from Quality
In the 1970's we misinterpreted this focus as being "nice" to people and called it the "Human Relations" movement. Managers thought they had to smile at their employees and never complain about their work. Of course that was not successful. Now we have implemented quality circles to give back some of the decision making power to those who can impact the production and service in an organization. But we need to go one step further.
Because true quality comes from the heart, the heart of each person must be energized. This is particularly true for management students. One day, I met a young man who had just begun a Business Management program. When I asked how he came to choose business, he said, "So I wouldn't have to study a lot of history, literature, psychology and sociology." Of course I choked. What is business if it is not the interaction of people all focused on a common goal? How can quality occur if our young people think that "business" is purely and economic and financial discipline. And what is economics except the study of how people make decisions about the future?
True success for the individual comes when quality is at the basis of what ever is done. In meeting with those who have been invited to participate in corporate downsizing, too many have breathed a sigh of relief that they no longer have to participate in the lack of quality they experienced. Lack of true quality was evidenced in the Hubble telescope, the Bradley tank, Michael Milkin, corporate takeovers that bankrupted companies, and in the S & L scandals that we will pay for into the next generation.
Certainly pride in workmanship, expertise, effective leadership, cooperative communication, professionalism, and long range planning were not the directives in these disasters. They were short term and profit motivated directives from people who acted on the numbers not on the heart; capitalism at its worst, Mr. Scrooge at his best.
Books like Peale and Blanchard's The Power of Ethical Management call for quality from the heart. These authors suggest that in order to maintain an ethical perspective in business managers need to focus on purpose, pride, patience, persistence, and perspectives. They do not mention price or production. Of course production is important. However it must be a result of, not the driver for the other "P's".
In Derr's Managing the New Careerists one of the new career success orientations for professionals of the 1990's is the need for balance. This is another reflection of the concern for quality in work, quality in business, and quality in life. Young professionals today are refusing to give their all for the company. Will that prevent quality? Or will it force the company, and the investors, to examine their own motives? The best profits are made when there is harmony between investors, owners, and workers.
Five Paths to Personal and Professional Quality
As professionals what can we do to develop quality in our work and in our personal lives? There are five areas of development that enhance quality: expertise, professional contribution, leadership, communication, and strategic planning. The basis for this development is values. Each professional must develop a sense of what is truly important. This goes for the person at the top of the company as well as those at the bottom.
Expertise is a gift that each of us has been given. It needs to be tapped. It is not our job description; rather it is the expression of ourselves through our job description. It is the way we approach the job and the skill we use to accomplish the tasks. It is how we make a difference.
Professional contribution is the actual difference we make a commitment to accomplishing. It is the positive part of ourselves that we leave behind whether it be in the form of new processes, improvements, new ideas, or simply the ability to be an good team player. In one sense, it is what we share with others in our field, which can occur through professional organizations, through writing, through conferences, or through networking. The bottom line is the sharing of our expertise to enhance quality.
Communication plays an important part in the sharing of expertise. Professionals come from a variety of perspectives: economic, human relations, standard operating procedures, and political interests, for instance. Understanding the value of other perspectives and appreciating the differences that these perspective provide an access to quality that is otherwise missing.
Leadership requires a special the ability to create and share a vision. Visions with selfish ends will result in disaster. Visions that include benefits for many result in success. Of course this depends on how we define success.
Turning the vision into reality also requires the strategic planning skills that are once more based on values. What is important? How do we know when we have it? What steps do we take to get there? What resources and people can help? This series of questions is the essence of strategic planning whether we plan for our own professional development or for the development of our organization.
Quality of the heart is behind the best success. Tom Peter's described the best of what he could find in his books and columns on excellence. Certainly, the visions and requirements of the marketplace will change, but quality from the heart will not; it is constant.