The issue of implementing a lasting, meaningful quality transition is so important that I wanted to continue this discussion from last month.

Although everyone in the organization serves an important role, the key to this effort is organizational management. In the early stages there may be but a handful leading, supporting, prodding, pushing and pulling the management group toward a true quality environment. This early effort will determine whether implementation will succeed, because it is management that will make or break the pursuit.

Management needs to move from individuals competing for individual advancement and overzealous attention to short-term budgets in lieu of long-term improvement. Unless there is an increased focus given to a collaborative team endeavor toward a common goal, a quality environment will not be achieved.

No doubt, progress can be made even when a few demonstrate their commitment by deed thereby providing shining examples. However, the truly significant milestones occur when the doubting ones add their talents to those examples.

It must be recognized, up front, there may be a few who won’t or can’t get on board. The problem is that even though their numbers are few, the ones with the greatest impact on the effort will be management who are expected to lead. It’s fairly easy to “talk the talk” rather than “walk the talk,” and it’s definitely noticeable by everyone in the organization. This issue must be corrected decisively by senior management as failing to act will negatively affect morale and performance which in turn will affect customers, internal and external.

To consider commitment a management responsibility may seem unconventional to those who still hold to antiquated cold, calculating, unfeeling managerial approaches and practices. However, those today who excel in quality management and have earned the right to be described as leaders have been able to establish a personal and organizational commitment to satisfying and exceeding customer needs.

Implementing quality means change, and change is difficult for many. It takes a special kind of management to lead, manage, and support the organization if there is to be substantive movement toward a quality environment.

A quality environment is about commitment to establishing and maintaining a customer focus; viewing employees and functional departments as customers; a step-by-step methodology for pursuing, meeting and exceeding customer needs and for resolving issues; and caring about employees while never losing the external customer focus. These require great organizational and individual strength.

It is important to realize that a true quality environment is created with intent and deed, not by accident. Focus, methodology, commitment, and caring by themselves will not ensure a quality environment. An essential ingredient to the recipe is discipline.

When applied to the organizational setting, discipline means requiring management to light the way and to stay on course. Perhaps one of the comforts in traditional management approaches is that they are generally such duration that they don’t require extreme discipline or endurance or the open scrutiny by organizational employees.

In a quality environment, management must expect to be tested often. Its culture requires total commitment and a strict adherence to its rules and its system.

Quality cannot be implemented without commitment and discipline. I spent a long career in an organization committed to a quality culture and dedicated to customer satisfaction. Even under these circumstances, there were difficult challenges.

Many of these challenges centered on the never-ending effort to find better methodologies which required exchanging old ways to new, both organizationally and individually. Change is never without risk, uncertainty, and challenge. These are always present.

Positive, sustainable change can only happen if there is a special spirit in the way it is approached. Certainly, senior management plays a critical role in creating and sustaining a true quality environment. They provide the impetus, funding and ongoing support.

It bears repeating that quality professionals are in an enviable position to help sustain the quality environment or help the organization transition to a new atmosphere. As one who has been in that position before, I can attest it is challenging but deeply rewarding, but only if one is committed and disciplined to help lead the way.