There is no more important role for a manager than to bring quality to an organization. There is also no better opportunity for a manager to become a leader than in the quality process.
Quality is based on two precepts: Predictability in All Things and No Waste. As long as you keep those fundamentals in mind, both in what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, you can move your organization any direction you want to go.
Getting started on quality is not difficult, and the way to do so is to ask questions. Asking questions is the most powerful tool you have available, but it can be risky. You have to be prepared to be honest with yourself and to listen with an open mind to the things you hear. So, before you begin, here are some pointers:
- Maintain an objective view.
You need to take the role of objective observer, even when what you are looking at seems to be wholly subjective. As you ask questions, take a step back from the answers so that all you are looking for are data - whether numbers, reports, observations or opinions. They are all data and, combined, will lead you to what you need to know.
- Do not take anything personally.
Quality is not a finger-pointing exercise - for or about you or your employees. It is an honest and open method of getting at solutions through objective observation, data collection and employee participation.
- Look within your area before taking on the world.
As you start the quality process focus on your area of responsibility. This will ensure you get fast, visible results and that you are seen as unafraid of cleaning your own house first. As you gain recognition for your achievements others will jump on your bandwagon.
Then, once you're ready, start with questions such as:
- How is your organization doing? What works well? What doesn't?
- How do people interact with one another? Is there a sense of purpose or are people just doing their jobs?
- Which problems continue to crop up? Where is there waste?
- How does your organization contribute to the vision, mission and revenue of the larger organization? How do you know?
- How are you measured? Do those measures make sense, give guidance, allow you to predict?
Once you have asked - and continue to ask - your questions, take a look at the tools and techniques already adopted by your organization. Some of them may be from defunct initiatives. Some may be ongoing. You may need to identify new methods of bringing quality to the enterprise.
Whatever you do, keep it simple and straightforward. Make sure everyone knows the purpose and methods for what you are trying to achieve.
Whatever you do, don't put limits on yourself or your organization. One of the most predictable surprises in quality is that there is no end to the upside. New processes, products, markets and revenues. It's all there - and you're the one leading the enterprise toward those goals.
From Manager to Leader
Within the quality process comes that most grand and glorious moment in the life of any leader. It is the moment when you remember who you are, what you believed you could do for and with your organization, and are taking the steps to get there.
And there's more. When you are acting as a leader, you are also achieving one of the main goals stated by Dr. W. Edwards Deming: To bring joy to the workplace.
Joy in the workplace is measurable. It is tied to revenues, profits and productivity. Joy leads to decreased operating costs, greater competitive positioning and larger marketshare. Joy equals money, security and growth, for the organization and the individuals housed within it.
The fiscal benefits of joy come from ensuring that everyone in the enterprise has the knowledge, skill and ability to be a success in his or her job. The organization is not only open to new ideas and innovative approaches, it actively seeks them out.
Management works to ensure that everyone and everything is working toward the greater good. No stone is left unturned in the search for success - for the individual and for the organization.
Management not only creates the environment leading to joy, but also benefits from it. No longer are you spending your time on wasteful pursuits. Your knowledge and instinct about what the organization can be is consistently being accessed and utilized.
You, too, are bringing the best of yourself to the job every day.
Quality is more than a collaborative effort. It is a collective effort. Ultimately everyone and everything in the enterprise becomes involved.
But the only way that happens is if you own your responsibilities to the organization, your employees and to yourself to create the best that can possibly be - and then to surprise yourself and everyone else by realizing that there is nothing but more and better. And you're the one who led them there.
About the Author:
Leslie L. Kossoff is a leading organizational consultant. Her firm, Kossoff Management Consulting, coaches executive and management development, and organizational strategy.