Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another pass on “Selling Quality”

Paul Borawski’s blog post on trying to “sell” quality to senior executives has drummed up a lot of responses from the Influential Voices community as well as others.  There are many aspects to this issue but Paul only addresses the starting point of the journey (selling to leadership). You need to sell quality to the entire organization.
Most organizational initiatives start at the top.  Programs get “sold” to management when they see that implementing the program is in the best interest of the organization.  It is usually an easy sell, full of testimonials and dollar savings.  The hard part of this is getting the management team’s hands dirty in being involved in the program.  Jack Welch documented his challenges with GE (Straight from the Gut) in first incorporating Work-Out into the organization and then to take it further with Six Sigma. He insisted that managers become involved, not just supporting these programs and those that did not get involved were found other places to work. He created the culture and sustained it over time. 
Dr. Donald Winter, as Secretary of the Navy during President Bush’s second term, planned to do the same with Lean Six Sigma for the Navy.  Dr. Winter had a monthly meeting with his direct reports that required them to report on activities that they were doing in implementing Lean Six Sigma.  These meetings were passionate discussions. Unfortunately, the incoming and current Secretary of the Navy immediately stopped these meetings at the behest of these same direct reports. The Navy Lean Six Sigma program still exists but not to the energy it once had. 
I had a discussion today with my office mates and the discussion came about on sustaining success.  Part of the “selling” of quality usually involves some training program, often developed by consultants outside the culture of an organization.  The prime complaint of these training programs is that it does not speak to the work environment.  “Examples are not relevant,” “We don’t manufacture anything,” “What’s in it for me?”  The consultants are only hired to train, not to develop something that sustains. 
Which comes to the second or hard part of the sale: how do you sustain quality?  The first part I already mentioned; senior management has to participate.  Most programs die because management “supports” them; but that usually means provide resources but not get personally involved.  Secondly, the program has to be made relevant to all levels of the organization. How does it impact culture? Why doing this program will be in my and the organization’s best interest? This is really hard but necessary.  Quality, to be useful, must be used by everyone; we have to communicate to everyone that not doing quality will affect their livelihood or soul.  Quality has to become personal to everyone in the organization.  It manifests itself in the outward approach by individuals in the way they do work.  Just because we as quality professionals are passionate about quality does not make it so.  We, quality professionals, cannot be seen as the lone voice of quality; everyone in the organization must be that voice.
So Paul and the quality community, how do we REALLY close the quality sale?  How do we ensure that the next version of quality gets full embraced by organizations and not just become a training program that becomes entertainment or resume padding? One soul at a time.
Until next time!
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