How do serving leaders lead the next quality revolution? How can entrepreneurs create a culture where quality products and services provide a competitive advantage to their organizations? With so many different challenges facing serving leaders today, has quality made it to the top of your list?
My first and global mentor was W. Edwards Deming. For those of you who do not remember Dr. Deming, he was the man responsible for helping to lead the rebuilding efforts in Japan after World War II. He was certainly one of the most influential men of the 20th century and many of the world’s most successful organizations are based on his thinking on quality and leadership.
I recently had a client ask if his leadership principles still work and can they be successfully applied to a smaller, more entrepreneurial workforce. I thought I would share with you what I told him. My involvement with Dr. Deming and his organization changed my life forever. It provided me an opportunity to work with many great global clients at the most senior level of their organizations. Our projects provided significant insights into how we train and develop our workforces and leaders moving forward. Our work in school systems created strategic alliances with several individuals who later would become senators, representatives and governors in the Great Lakes Region. Because of my work with Dr. Deming, several influential Fortune 100 CEOs used their influence to get me involved with key emerging technology projects within their organizations that had international implications. These projects offered me a platform to share my impressions on World Class Manufacturing and emerging global trends including new product development, organizational change, and strategy.
Here are several key stages to building a new quality revolution for your business.
The first stage of building a quality revolution has to center on your people. It’s easy in the age of technology and instant communication to miss the most critical element to your organization’s success. It’s your people. For all the ideas Dr. Deming shared with me, it was that understanding of how people work and what motivates them that was the most important. He had a keen understanding of how people worked and what didn’t. He provided many keys to managing people. What made Dr. Deming unique was he didn’t believe there was a silver bullet available to developing your people. He believed it was an incremental process and had to be worked on constantly. He always reminded those of us closest to him that we must help our clients incorporate quality into their overall organizations’ purpose. He understood quality was a part of the solution, not the complete solution.
The second stage of building a quality revolution is that an organization must have evolving standards to be successful. It must build on prior success but must continue evolving to meet changing needs of customers. We must strive to show our team members that constant improvement is always possible. Because of this, he believed that inspection was not the best way to always measure improvement. He believed that people must develop the right skills if you hope to get the right results. In this way, Deming was different than many of the other quality engineering gurus that believe measurement alone would insure a better quality product or service.
The third stage of a quality revolution is to create significant relationships with your partners. He was an advocate for closer integration between business partners. To do this, he recommended finding partners with similar mission, vision, and values. He felt that successful partnerships involved sharing success while understanding each of the partners’ contribution to the successful relationship. Dr. Deming felt that the more aligned the partners values were, the more likely long term success would be achieved.
The fourth stage of a quality revolution was that Dr. Deming believed that for an organization to be successful, it must be managed. He did not believe that innovation came from random acts but from planning for constant change in the organization. Steve Jobs felt the same way when it came to creating innovative practices in his organization. He believed both managers and team members had an active role in creating their own destiny. He felt the more every leader engaged their team, the more successful that organization would be. Over sixty years ago, he believed that the best organizations would evolve and grow faster by having more people involved in the process, not less. In this way, individual contribution can be leveraged throughout the organization. The only way to optimize your organization is to manage it. Without successful management and leadership principles, organizations fail.
When you think about successful businesses today, how many have evolved through these four stages? If you’re a purpose driven entrepreneur, you should consider where to begin your process. It’s never too late to start.
If your looking for additional ideas on how to build a better business using systems thinking you might also enjoy reading How to Leverage Your Business Systems for Better Results!