Monday, November 19, 2012

Why do we keep asking the same question?

Please forgive the following rant.  As this is World Quality Month do we really want to rehash the past or look ahead?

Is asking the same question over and over again a corollary of Einstein's definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again in the hope of different results) or being a nag in the hope that it will nudge some to action?  That wasn't what my parents taught me; I am responsible for my own action or inaction.

That is how I feel after reading Paul Borawski's latest blog post bemoaning the fact that leaders want quality but don't seem to want to adopt quality.  So let's offer up some ideas and see what quality professionals can do about it.

1. Academia treats quality as a lesser form of following the rules.  Now there are pockets of enlightenment but for the most part universities treat quality as a separate THING.  If they teach quality, a majority of schools teach a single undergraduate course on quality in an engineering curriculum. For others, quality is a chapter in a business school's operations management text. An enlightened example of what should be is based on a University of Michigan course called Factory Physics where Deming's "analytics" are applied to the "physics" of manufacturing processes.  Quality is an applied concept.and it is larger than any one college course.  It is a lifetime of scientific discovery through making missteps. 

2.Quality is about problem solving and our systems don't support it.  Why is this here?  The basic fundamental of supervision is problem solving.  We are very good at finding solutions and moving on.  What we don't do well is eradicate the problem, make it so it does not come back again.  This is  the true elements of Deming's 14 Points.  Quality professionals need to make processes repeatable so that leaders can make good decisions. For quality professionals to do their magic, they need leaders to invest in the most precious resource--time.  Yet, leaders are taught that "I don't have time to spend" to eradicate a problem or truly understand a system.  So many leaders bemoan the fact that I don't have time to do it right but seem to find the time to do it over when it is necessary. 

3. Faster, faster, faster!!!!  I am so confused.  Can someone tell me why when we want to go faster, we immediately gain loss of memory and sense and look for every opportunity to NOT follow the rules?  If you want to go faster, learn the concepts, live the concepts, apply the concepts.  This requires time.  Unfortunately, in our demand for faster promotions at the expense of learning a position, we get senior managers who have not failed nor have they learned.  So when faced with complex decisions they often get the "deer in the headlights" look.  

4. Change the rules, change the system.  Corporate leaders follow the rules of law and accounting.  It is a rare occurrence that quality concepts are taught in these curricula. How do leaders learn? Grounded on academia, based on experience. 

Given these things can a typical quality professional impact these issues?  On the surface, hell, no!  BUT: we as quality professionals need to continue to push our professional society to "raise the voice of quality."  When quality practitioners get into leadership positions they need live the quality principles as their own.  As for my academic colleagues, you need to tear down the walls between colleges show them that quality does not belong in a specific school because the concepts of quality belong in ALL disciplines and the concepts infused and practiced in all courses. 

Happy Thanksgiving!   
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