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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Performance and Culture - Contrived vs. Legitimate Quality

I read with interest and appreciation the comments on the View from the Q blog about what not to do with respect to Performance Management.

I have encountered reporting situations and the ultimate result is that more energy and effort is spent on creating a convincing report than on attending to the task at hand.

While this applies to any management initiative, I will use quality as an example.

Imagine that you are an independent used car salesman, and you have a car of questionable and uncertain capabilities.  It may or may not be a lemon.

If you were to use this vehicle for a cross-country trip taken by your family members, consider the extent to which you would go to ensure safety and reliability.  No cost would be spared and no effort would be too great to protect your loved ones from harm.  I refer to this as "legitimate quality".

Now, being a proprietor of a business, you have to sell this used car before it consumes your inventory and becomes a burdensome cost.  In order to convince a prospective customer of its value, a series of convincing checks and inspections are made and passed with full check marks.  Additional enhancements are made to give the impression of superior quality (paint touch-ups, adjusted odometer, over-inflation of tires so that "kicking the tires" returns a firm response).  I refer to this as "contrived quality".

Executives love their dashboards, but the culture will determine how they are used.  If the culture is punitive, where "green" indicators are rewarded and "yellow" or "red" situations incite hostility and rebuke, then the implicit message is to conceal problems until they can be assigned elsewhere, deflecting blame and accountability.  Comparative numbers will always be positive because baselines and references will be skewed to always reflect a "good news" story.

If the culture seeks and rewards legitimate quality and the identification and correction of root causes, then problems will be sought and recognized.  Integrity will be championed and whistleblowers will not fear for their jobs or reputations, but appreciated as contributors to quality improvement.

The best data manipulators will eventually be caught and called out.  People have an inherent pride in their work, and when they are constantly being asked to overlook or conceal findings and details, they will become jaded and cynical.  In such situations, the "rats and weasels" will thrive and prosper, tainting the overall culture to adopt similar traits.  "Eagles" will soar elsewhere.

The cultural differences between organizations that penalize and reprimand employees for reporting bad news, and those that embrace the opportunity for improvement are revealed over time by the order of magnitude in product and service quality and employee engagement.  

What is our solution?  Repel the contrived approach and always strive toward legitimacy and integrity.  Work as if your family's safety was dependent on your efforts and decisions.