The latest blog post from ASQ Influential Voice member Kerrie Ann Christian struck home to me about what Quality offers in the way of value and how it is illustrated in the Arthur Miller play, “All My Sons.” Arthur Miller is one of my favorite playwrights because he writes about the weakness of the human condition and how dire circumstances coupled with their beliefs drive people to do most unusual acts. Kerrie Anne provides a good summary for “All My Sons.” Willy Loman is another tragic figure of Miller’s from “Death of a Salesman.” You can draw a parallel with today’s CEO’s and how they act. I would contend that the value from the C-level perspective is more driven by what is right in the eyes of external forces rather than what is right for the organization. That is not leadership. Leadership is doing what is right regardless of whether someone is watching or not. The challenge we face is educating the C-level that quality provides more than how to do it right (little q) but also the ability and information to be strong in their convictions about the future (Big Q).
Kerrie Anne ends with the lament about the large introduction of “fakes” that are appearing in the marketplace, especially in areas of sensitivity like the military. Recently, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan discovered fake fire extinguishers. These fire extinguishers, bought on government contract, were not filled with the appropriate retardant but with compressed air, which would accelerate a fire, not extinguish it. Fortunately, the fake fire extinguishers were easily identified (identical serial numbers, non-metallic triggers, different canister shape) so that others could spot them and dispose of them. Why does a company produce this type of product?
I will end with a success story: the US Navy Nuclear Program. One gentleman was the driving force at its beginning and there are some here in the shipyard who swear they see his ghost: Admiral Hyman Rickover. Rickover placed a stamp on the program that is best explained by this quote: "I have a son. I love my son. I want everything that I do to be so safe that I would be happy to have my son operating it. That's my fundamental rule." (p. 55, Power at Sea: A Violent Peace, 1946-2006 (2006))
Every day, America’s sons and daughters are riding, operating, and maintaining equipment that is nuclear powered. Since 1955, more than 200 US nuclear warships have been built and not one has had a nuclear reactor failure. Not everyone can be a Hyman Rickover. But if the C-level executives of Enron, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, WorldCom, Bear Stearns, and Solyndra, internalized purpose and the value of quality half as well Rickover did, the world economy would be a lot better off than it is today.
Until next time!