TOTAL QUALITY In the eighties, the Japanese started to win market shares all over the world with their home appliances, TVs and cars. The Americans got scared; so they went to Japan and discovered the secret: The Japanese were producing HIGH QUALITY products. However, the principles applied by the Japanese to create quality products were not Japanese. They were common sense, put into practice supported by certain statistical methods taught to the Japanese by an American(!) by the name of Deming. It can be summarized in one phrase: “If we improve every day the way we do things, the quality of our work will also improve every day”. So the fundamental principle of quality creation is what we call CONTINUOS IMPROVEMENT. But, the improvement of what?
Well, of what we are doing, or the “doing” part of our job, which is called processes and procedures. A process can be defined as a chain of events that transforms raw material, information, technology and/or other resources into products and services. If the processes improve, the quality of the products and services will also improve and , the better the quality, the more satisfied customers and the more profitable businees we will have. Common sense, right? Although many of the management “gurus” with their latest theories on how to run a business have disappeared, and quality as such is no longer the most distinguishing feature of many products (now it is more often the design and/or the price), the principle of continuous improvement is still valid and applicable in most companies and organizations world-wide.
In the late eighties and the early nineties, everybody in the west was trying to apply what Deming called the methodology of TOTAL QUALITY. A lot of resources were invested in the implementation of a the corporate culture called THE CULTURE OF CONTINOUS IMPROVEMENT, which included the creation of Vice-presidents, Managers and Departments of Quality and the training of everybody in how to make a Process Flowchart and eliminate “waste” from the processes. The slogan was: “Do it right – the first time”. After two or three years, many discovered that the creation of a new culture wasn´t that easy. Despite having the latest technology, the economic resources and the knowledge, the processes did not improve as fast as expected. Something was not working the way it was supposed to.
THE CULTURE OF FEAR After some years of research and analyzing, we understood what the problem was: The HUMAN FACTOR had not been taken into account in the creation of the new culture. Human factor means two things: emotions and mindset. We know now that in order to create the level of communication and synergy necessary for the principle of continuous improvement to succeed, you need a working climate that foments motivation, engagement, commitment and team spirit. We have learned that it is practically impossible to maintain the creation of quality products and services in the long term with a work environment predominated by gossip, intrigues, military style leadership and FEAR.
In what we call THE CULTURE OF FEAR, people waste a large part of their energy dealing with interpersonal conflicts, unnecessary pressures and a bad bosses. Did you know that bad bosses are more dangerous than passive smoking? It is so because bad bosses create job insecurity and unrelenting demands. Research from the Universities Harvard and Standford have shown that worrying about losing your job makes you 50% more likely to experience poor health, and having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness. (Comparatively, passive smoking raises the risk of getting sick 20 – 25 %).
THE CULTURE OF FEAR is characterized by three “commandments”: “The boss is the boss” “How you feel is not important” “We expect a permanent sacrifice” The lack of trust, engagement, team spirit and general well-being experienced in the culture of fear do not permit the development of the creativity and synergy needed for quality creation. Continuous improvement is not possible with a hostile, arrogant and autocratic leadership that often says one thing and do another, while creating injustice, favoritism, disrespect and an exaggerated work load.
Another problem in the culture of fear is the lack of accountability, due to the belief that making a mistake is a “sin”that should be covered up as soon as possible, because the boss is always looking for the “guilty” to be “punished”. So the main motivation for going to work for a lot of employees is just the basic need of receiving a paycheck. Obviously, they will not give their best, and who cares about continuous improvement? Instead of deeply involving themselves in their work, these disengaged employees show up, put in their hours, do the minimum amount required to not get fired, and go home feeling unsatisfied and frustrated.
THREE TYPES OF EMPLOYEES In 2013, Gallup Inc. released a report called “State of the American Workplace” with the findings of a huge study covering 30 years and 17 million workers. Among a lot of interesting findings, the study showed that there are three key types of employees:
From the same study, they concluded that in the US (2013), 70% of the American workforce is either disengaged (52%) or actively disengaged (18%). – That is unbelievable! THE CULTURE OF TRUST AND ENGAGEMENT The last 25 years have taught us that quality, as well as efficiency and productivity, to a great extent depend on personal development of each member of the organization. Values, paradigms, self- image and people skills should permanently be the focus of revision and improvement and employee engagement should be the goal and focus of the business. Every member of the organization needs to develop flexibility, motivation and commitment, as well as a will to grow on a personal level in a way that enhances team spirit and collaboration. In a changing, uncertain and complex environment only individuals with integrity can respond to the challenges of the moment with initiative and accountability, and only flexible and adaptable teams reach their objectives and prevail. The objective is to create high performance teams through the development of quality interpersonal relations and organizational well-being. That can be achieved in what we call THE CULTURE OF TRUST AND ENGAGEMENT. It´s three “commandments” are: “We are all responsible” “How you feel is important” “We expect you to experience permanent satisfaction”
“WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE” This means that on the one hand, we all have an individual responsibility for the results of our work, but on the other hand, we are all responsible for the overall results of the team. When one member of the team gets it wrong, the whole team gets it wrong, independently of who made the mistake, and success and good results also belong to the whole team. This doesn´t mean that there is no “boss”. There is always one that carries more responsibility, although it doesn´t necessarily have to be the same person all the time. In that sense, anybody in the team, at one time or another, could function as the team leader.The advantage of this “commandment” is that you minimize the fear of making mistakes, because a mistake is considered an opportunity for learning. Feeling that we are responsible as a group also reinforces team spirit and collaboration.
“HOW YOU FEEL IS IMPORTANT” Here we are talking about the universal wisdom of “treat others the way you want to be treated”. There are ways we interact as human beings that create well-being and others that create suffering. When we treat each other with kindness, honesty and respect, we feel a lot better than if we use hostility and distrust. And we all know that a person that feels good is more productive than one who feels bad. It´s common sense. That, however, doesn´t mean that we all have to be best friends in order to have a great team. We all face the samme challenge in the need to develop patience and tolerance when dealing with each other´s imperfections. In the culture of trust, the leaders are people focused and have learned to exhibit a variety of leadership styles, using the most appropriate one depending on each unique circumstance they face. They show kindness and empathy, but can also be firm and demanding, always trying to inspire creativity and engagement, although they sometimes have to make autocratic decisions that might hurt someone’s feelings. Another important aspect is feedback in the form of positive criticism and recognition. Nothing motivates more than a great feedback program. Employees want to perform well and appreciate receiving critical information to let them know how to improve and remind them that they are important to the company.
“WE EXPECT YOU TO EXPERIENCE PERMANENT SATISFACTION” That is of course not always possible, but the intention in the culture of trust is sincere. We should enjoy our job, shouldn´t we? – Even have fun? Imagine dedicating most of our lives in a job we don´t enjoy! Not having had a good time in the job is one of the reasons why many retirees suffer from a feeling of meaninglessness and depression. It’s easier to enjoy our job when we are well treated and feel support from our co-workers. That is why in the culture of trust personal development (the improvement of “being”) is considered a strategic objective. Applying the principle of continuous improvement to the “being” part of our job, we improve our personality and the way we treat each other and thus, create higher quality (read: more trust) relations. That, in turn facilitates the “doing” part, or the processes, and as a result, we create the culture of continuous improvement that Total Quality was talking about. Carlos Enrique Blohm, a distinguished Venezuelan businessman summarized it all as follows: «To treat the employees well is more expensive, but in the long term it is more profitable».
©2019 Jan Moller
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