Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Social Responsibility - Why is Quality involved?

Today, I am up at ASQ HQ doing some personal and professional work and the muse must have hit because while waiting for my ride to the airport I thought I would put in my take on why Quality needs to talk about Social Responsibility (SR).

There is one phrase that Paul wrote in his latest blog that is playing in my head like an old Mister Mister song:"...being socially responsible is not about philanthropy (giving money for social good), but about business: “Doing well by doing good.” "  In what my organization does, you can say being responsible is about making sure that the active nuclear reactors that are docked in my shipyard don't become the news of the day.  But that is an extreme case and I don't think that is what Paul and Michelle Mason, the ASQ point person for SR, is really talking about. To me, the question is, what are we doing to create the environment so that every day, anybody in your organization is "doing well by doing good?"    

There has to be an appreciation that doing well by doing good is a behavior. Behaviors are influenced by leaders, policy, workplace, and the application of behavior.  Leaders interact with customers, they set the culture based on their applications or creation of policies and they provide resources for the creation of the appropriate workplace.  What we often lose is the understanding of the relationship of these elements and how these combinations fit together.  Because we are dealing with the human element of things, we cannot use a prioritization matrix or DOE to optimize the level and mix of variables to create the "ultimate" behavior. It is more about cause and effect in their relation to the environment. 

Which means that there needs to be an appreciation of how people are going to react and to have a conversation around why, when faced with a situation, a person behaved in a way that was totally unexpected nor anticipated. In the past we just slapped them down, fired them, or sent them to brainwashing course (more training, sir!).  Now, we need to understand motivation, recognition and expectation.  

Does that mean we need a staff psychologist?  No, I believe it means we need to be human.  When we are away from the workplace we act differently because, in most cases, we are seen as valued individuals and not a simple number in a database. We are taught from childhood acceptable behaviors and it is expected, as we grow older, to enforce and learn new behaviors as our world changes. It also means that we should be comfortable in enforcing established norms and behaving such that we reinforce the behaviors that we expect. So why don't we apply that in a work environment?   What is stopping you or me from taking this to heart and modeling our behavior in this fashion?  What is stopping our organizations from being a representation of the humanistic tendency that we want to espouse?

All rhetorical questions, I know but until we accept that organizational performance is enhanced when behaviors support organizational goals and norms we will never truly see breakthrough performance.  

Suggested reading:  Senge's Fifth Discipline and Rother's Toyota Kata

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