Quality is Evolutionary
The pursuit of quality is a never-ending process.
Demonstrated by Dr. Joseph M. Juran’s Spiral of Progress, implementing quality is an evolutionary process. This point is so important that countless books and articles have been written on this subject.
Evolution applies to every aspect of quality implementation. It is attained by a step-by-step progression, one of walking before running, of modest success before major success. This requires a special understanding by management. It requires great patience and a mindset very different than the typical “by-the-end-of-next-fiscal year” mindset.
Implementing quality is not a separate activity; it is not something done in addition to other tasks. It is about everything the organization does. It is all that is to be done, and the way everything is done!
An organization focused on true quality has a different approach. For those companies, all that has occurred and will occur going forward has been a natural progression toward satisfying and exceeding customer expectations, of continually improving their organizational processes.
There must be an understanding that practices and their impacts vary from performance level to performance level. However, experience causes many to believe that the variance is a natural outcome of the organization evolving from its original state to its new state; from the traditional, fundamental, hierarchical entity to the singularly orchestrated total system. A snapshot taken at any point in the transition state will not depict what the organization will be doing later in their quality journey. The customer satisfaction process evolves from concept to routine practice.
The journey starts more fundamentally with an explanation of “why.” In many ways, explaining why is the beginning of the quality journey. Think of this as Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s #1 of 14 Points for Management (Create constancy of purpose). This is an organization’s attempts to convey what quality is about and why it is important. Although one might think this is an organizational challenge, it deals almost exclusively with management, particularly senior managers.
Unless the organization is in dire straits, many executives are the least likely to embrace the need for real change. Generally, many executives are comfortable with where their organizations are going and how they got there. (Dr. J.M. Juran discusses this in his organizational (breakthrough) improvement journey.) It is for this reason so few organizations pursue a true quality environment and even fewer are successful.
In the traditional organization, little time is spent with “why” a task is to be done. Without explaining why the task is important, how can one learn all there is to know or why it is important?
If we are going to satisfy and eventually exceed customer needs, and to outperform the competition, the organization must properly establish the “why.” This is the only way every task and process can be continually improved.
This sounds elementary, so why isn’t it done? Simply, it takes time to do. This is the reason it so often isn’t done, but it is also why successful quality implementation is evolutionary. It cannot, therefore, be left to chance; it must be taught. Humans learn through repetition so it must be repeatedly reinforced. We must remember this as we study and try to learn, and as we teach.
Before most organizations begin their quality journey nearly all learning will likely be task-based. People were training to perform specific tasks consistently. Generally, they were likely taught how something was to be done with little attention to why the tasks were important and their relationship to larger processes. This is in large part due to the Fredrick Taylor scientific management concept implemented in the early part of the 20th century. Effective for the time but it doesn’t fit the modern environment.
In the new environment, customer expectation of quality has changed the way things are taught. It has brought about a sense of curriculum to what must be known about the organization and, with it, education in how we learn. Everyone must understand they are expected to always be learning, to always try to improve themselves so to improve the organization, which too is constantly evolving. Organizations must continually invest in its people who in turn invest in the organization’s future.
Pacing the development of the organization, establishing the why factor, and encouraging the development of an every-maturing organizational structure requires a special kind of management. It requires understanding, skill, patience and commitment to excellence. Dr. Deming’s last of his 14 Points of Management stresses that everyone must be involved with the transformation.
An organization’s quality professionals are uniquely qualified to help facilitate the transformation. All that’s left is the commitment and discipline to forge ahead.