Tag Archives: quality management

How the Baldrige Process Can Enrich Any Management System

The “Baldrige Crystal” in a hall at NIST (Gaithersburg, MD). Image Credit: me.

Another wave of reviewing applications for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) is complete, and I am exhausted — and completely fulfilled and enriched!

That’s the way this process works. As a National Examiner, you will be frustrated, you may cry, and you may think your team of examiners will never come to consensus on the right words to say to the applicant! But because there is a structured process and a discipline, it always happens, and everyone learns.

I’ve been working with the Baldrige Excellence Framework (BEF) for almost 20 years. In the beginning, I used it as a template. Need to develop a Workforce Management Plan that’s solid, and integrates well with leadership, governance, and operations? There’s a framework for that (Criterion 5). Need to beef up your strategic planning process so you do the right thing and get it done right? There’s a framework for that (Criterion 2).

Need to develop Standard Work in any area of your organization, and don’t know where to start (or, want to make sure you covered all the bases)? There’s a framework for that.

Every year, 300 National Examiners are competitively selected from industry experts and senior leaders who care about performance and improvement, and want to share their expertise with others. The stakes are high… after all, this is the only award of its kind sponsored by the highest levels of government!

Once you become a National Examiner (my first year was 2009), you get to look at the Criteria Questions through a completely different lens. You start to see the rich layers of its structure. You begin to appreciate that this guidebook was carefully and iteratively crafted over three decades, drawing from the experiences of executives and senior leaders across a wide swath of industries, faced with both common and unique challenges.

The benefits to companies that are assessed for the award are clear and actionable, but helping others helps examiners, too. Yes, we put in a lot of volunteer hours on evenings and weekends (56 total, for me, this year) — but I got to go deep with one more organization. I got to see how they think of themselves, how they designed their organization to meet their strategic goals, how they act on that design. Our team of examiners got to discuss the strengths we noticed individually, the gaps that concerned us, and we worked together to come to consensus on the most useful and actionable recommendations for the applicant so they can advance to the next stage of quality maturity.

One of the things I learned this year was how well Baldrige complements other frameworks like ISO 9001 and lean. You may have a solid process in place for managing operations, leading continuous improvement events, and sustaining the improvements. You may have a robust strategic planning process, with clear connections between overall objectives and individual actions.

What Baldrige can help you do, even if you’re already a high performance organization, is:

  • tighten the gaps
  • call out places where standard work should be defined
  • identify new breakthrough opportunities for improvement
  • help everyone in your workforce see and understand the connections between people, processes, and technologies

The whitespace — those connections and seams — are where the greatest opportunities for improvement and innovation are hiding. The Criteria Questions in the Baldrige Excellence Framework (BEF) can help you illuminate them.

How to Become a Successful Change Leader

For this month’s Influential Voices Roundtable, the American Society for Quality (ASQ) asks: “In today’s current climate, transformation is a common term and transformative efforts are a regular occurrence. Although these efforts are common, according to Harvard Business Review two-thirds of large-scale transformation efforts fail. Research has proven that effective leadership is crucial for a change initiative to be successful.  How can an individual become a successful Change Leader?

Change is hard only because maintaining status quo is easy. Doing things even a little differently requires cognitive energy! Because most people are pretty busy, there has to be a clear payoff to invest that extra energy in changing, even if the change is simple.

Becoming a successful change leader means helping people find the reasons to invest that energy on their own. First, find the source of resistance (if there is one) and do what you can to remove it. Second, try co-creation instead of feedback to build solutions. Here’s what I mean.

Find Sources of Resistance

In 1983, information systems researcher M. Lynne Markus wanted to figure out why certain software implementations, “designed at great cost of time and money, are abandoned or excessively overhauled because they were unenthusiastically received by their intended users.” Nearly 40 years later, enterprises still occasionally run into the same issue, even though Software as a Service (SaaS) models can (to some extent) reduce this risk.

Before her research started, she found these themes associated with resistance (they will probably feel familiar to you even today):

By studying failed software implementations in finance, she uncovered three main sources for the resistance. So as a change leader, start out by figuring out if they resonate, and then apply one of the remedies on the right:

As you might imagine, this third category (the “political version of interaction theory”) is the most difficult to solve. If a new process or system threatens someone’s power or position, they are unlikely to admit it, it may be difficult to detect, and it will take some deep counseling to get to the root cause and solve it.

Co-Creation Over Feedback

Imagine this: a process in your organization is about to change, and someone comes to you with a step-by-step outline of the new proposed process. “I’d like to get your feedback on this,” he says.

That’s nice, right? Isn’t that exactly what’s needed to ensure smooth management of change? You’ll give your feedback, and then when it’s time to adopt the process, it will go great – right?

In short, NO.

For change to be smooth and effective, people have to feel like they’re part of the process of developing the solution. Although people might feel slightly more comfortable if they’re asked for their thoughts on a proposal, the resultant solution is not theirs — in fact, their feedback might not even be incorporated into it. There’s no “skin in the game.”

In contrast, think about a scenario where you get an email or an invitation to a meeting. “We need to create a new process to decide which of our leads we’ll follow up on, and evaluate whether we made the right decision. We’d like it to achieve [the following goals]. We have to deal with [X, Y and Z] boundary conditions, which we can’t change due to [some factors that are well articulated and understandable].”

You go to the meeting, and two hours later all the stakeholders in the room have co-created a solution. What’s going to happen when it’s time for that process to be implemented? That’s right — little or no resistance. Why would anyone resist a change that they thought up themselves?

Satisficing

Find the resistance, cast it out, and co-create solutions. But don’t forget the most important step: recognizing that perfection is not always perfect. (For quality professionals, this one can be kind of tough to accept at times.)

What this means is: in situations where change is needed, sometimes it’s better to adopt processes or practices that are easier or more accessible for the people who do them. Processes that are less efficient can sometimes be better than processes that are more efficient, if the difference has to do with ease of learning or ease of execution. Following these tips will help you help others take some of the pain out of change.


Markus, M. L. (1983). Power, politics, and MIS implementation.  Communications of the ACM, 26(6), 430-444. Available from http://130.18.86.27/faculty/warkentin/papers/Markus1983_CACM266_PowerPoliticsMIS.pdf

A High-Quality Academic Book Review

qmj-coverexampleI’ve recently been assigned the role of Book Review Editor for ASQ’s Quality Management Journal starting with the second issue in 2013, under the guidance of new Editor, Larry Fredendall of Clemson University. As we are preparing our book reviews for this issue, Matthias Thurer (who will also be preparing regular reviews with me) asked me for guidelines and what constitutes a “good” review. Here is my message for Matthias, as well as for any of you who are interested in preparing a book review for an academic journal.

In my opinion, the book review should be 500 to 900 words and discuss some or all of the following, as appropriate. These questions, which have been adapted from wendybelcher.com, are consistent with the excellent structure adhered to by the late James Kohnen who served as the QMJ Book Review Editor for many years:

  • What are the 1-3 main messages of the book?
  • Does the book achieve its stated goals?
  • Is the book a contribution to the field or discipline, and if so, what is that primary contribution? 
  • Does the book relate to a current debate or trend in the field and if so, how? 
  • Is the book well-written? What is the writing style and who would it appeal to?
  • How accurate is the information (e.g., the footnotes, bibliography, dates)? Who would benefit from reading this book? 
  • How does the book compare to other books in the field? 
  • If it is a textbook, what courses can it be used in and how clear is the book’s structure and examples?

If you know of a recently released (or pre-release) book that is relevant to academics and practitioners in quality management, or would like to prepare a book review for our pipeline into the QMJ, please let me know by email (at myfirstname dot mylastname at gmail)! We will be including 3-5 book reviews in each issue of the QMJ.

I invite you to add to this discussion – as a reader or writer, what are your criteria for a high-quality book review? Please share in the comments.

There Is No Process Until It Is Observed

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

I realized today that there’s a little bit of a quantum effect in quality management:

There is no process until it is observed.

Here’s what I mean. In the August 2012 issue of Quality Progress, Lynne Hare writes about how simple flow charts can be useful diagnostic tools. Just ask multiple team members to describe or characterize a process they’re familiar with… and see if they come up with the same thing! He says:

“My opening gambit was to ask each of the six team members to separately draw a process flow diagram. How many of you think I got six different flow diagrams? In fact, I got seven: One person wasn’t sure, so she drew two.

Clearly, the flow diagram exercise underscored the fact there had been no common understanding of the process; therefore, there could be no process control, no variation reduction opportunity and no path to improvement.”

I’ve seen this first hand! Most recently, it happened in our Spring 2012 “Quality and Process Improvement in Action” class at JMU. One student team was trying to document the process used by a community agency to link small businesses with resource providers who could help them develop their products, services, and marketing. After interviewing each of three stakeholders, the team ended up with exactly three vastly different process flow diagrams!

They were confused and dismayed. “What can we possibly do now?!?! We’re stuck!”

Fortunately, we (their professors) had seen this sort of thing before. When all of the stakeholders have a different sense of the process, this provides a pretty strong clue that they have never contemplated the steps of the process before, and how those steps are interrelated. More significantly, they have never shared an understanding of the process. Even though they have all been doing work, playing their roles, and serving a purpose, they have not been working together as part of a process – even if it seemed like they were!

Because the process has not yet been consciously observed by the group of participants, there is no process!

And as Lynne Hare points out in his article, without a common understanding of the process there can be NO process control — NO opportunity to reduce variation — and NO way to improve. If you find yourself in this situation, make it a point to get those participants and stakeholders together and consciously observe the process.

Once you do this, you make it real, and end up with a basis for moving forward.

Quality Feels Like Being in Love

(Image credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

I love Paul Borawski’s August discussion topic on ASQ’s View from the Q. Among other questions, he asks:

When you’re in a culture of quality, how does it feel? Or, how do you feel? At the moment I’m intrigued by feelings and think more organizations are turning their attention to feelings. Feelings, after all, are at the heart of experience and emotional attachment, which we all understand to drive loyalty and success.

 

I totally agree with Paul that we are upon a revolution of feelings in the workplace, and understanding the critical role our individual well-being plays in the success of defining and carrying out a shared vision – so this question of how does quality feel really resonates with me. Of course many of us know of Garvin’s definitions of quality, outlined in the mid-80’s, which include transcendent quality – we know it when we see it!

I believe that it goes a little deeper than this – that we know quality when we feel it.

And to me, the feeling of quality is the same feeling as being in love. Everything is sparkly and optimistic. Music sounds better… food tastes better… time flows with ease and contentment when you are around your beloved. You feel inspired and alive and on fire. You have hope for the future! You feel supported and appreciated! You have energy, and interest, and enthusiasm! It feels warm and inviting and fluttery and all your needs are satisfied! It feels like someone got into your head and your heart and totally understands you – cares about you – and continues to try to understand you day by day (it’s starting to sound a lot like Voice of the Customer, huh)?

I’m reminded of Simon Sinek’s keynote at WCQI 2012 in Anaheim – where he told us the cute story about people with their Mac computers. How Mac owners shine and polish their machines… how they always have them open in airports… how they share “secret glances” with other knowing Mac users. What unites them? They are all in love with their technology. The shared feeling of love breeds a camaraderie and interest and sense of community and understanding. And a whole lot of motivation and inspiration.

The ultimate measure of quality, in my opinion, is how much in love you are with something – and it can be a product, a process, a person, or even an idea. And how do you know when you’re in love? You know it when you feel it.

Note:

I have some research coming out in the October 2012 Quality Management Journal outlining the most significant articles in that journal since its inception in 1993, so I looked to my results first to see what references are the most influential in terms of quality culture. I found these two, which I’ll follow up on to see if they shed light on the feelings question. For now, you can peruse them on your own.

  • Kujala, J. & Lillrank, P. (2004). Total Quality Management as a Cultural Phenomenon. QMJ, 11(4), 43-55.
  • Cameron, K. & Sine, W., (1999). A Framework for Organizational Quality Culture. QMJ, 6(4), 7-25.

Is Social Responsibility (SR) Mainstream or on the Fringe?

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

In his July post, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks about the relevance of social responsibility:

“Is the world growing more responsive to the needs of being socially responsible (SR)?  Is SR mainstream thought, or still in the fringe?  Have those that know quality raised their voices to explain to organizations that being socially responsible is not about philanthropy (giving money for social good), but about [doing well by doing good]?”

Is SR mainstream thought, or still in the fringe? I think it’s a combination of both. The concept of social responsibility (aka corporate social responsibility) is not new – in fact, it’s been part of the fabric of the continuously improved Baldrige Criteria since the early 2000’s. With the 2010 publication of the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility, the concept has been formally segmented into 7 “core subjects” which include organizational governance, human rights, labor practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues, and community involvement and development. In addition, there are 7 “core principles” which include accountability, transparency, ethical behavior, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for law, respect for international norms of behavior, and respect for human rights. Undoubtedly, many organizations embrace these core principles as part of their fundamental ethically-driven value systems.

So people have been doing it, companies have been doing it, but the formalization of social responsibility is what’s new – and still, in many ways, on the fringe.

From the research perspective, there is still much to be explored – we have just set foot on the fringe. I wrote an article (scheduled for the October 2012 issue of the Quality Management Journal) that explored emerging themes in quality management research. One of the things I discovered,  by doing a citation network analysis and exploratory text mining, is that there is much work to be done in exploring how social responsibility can be applied as a quality management practice. Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming article:

…rigorous research into either what to do or how to do it following Ahire et al. (1995) is absent. Ascigil (2010) explored social responsibility in Turkish firms for the QMJ, but no broader examinations are yet available. Because the concept map indicates that QMJ research has effectively integrated strategy development and culture concerns into its examination of quality impacts of business results, hubs within the QMJ may provide an effective starting point (e.g. Grandzol & Gershon 1997, Kujala & Lillrank 2004, Handfield et al. 1998, or Cameron & Sine 1999).

Regarding Paul’s second question, I believe that it is quite common to conflate social responsibility with philanthropy, and that as a community we should seek to really understand the difference – and apply it in our organizations. To accomplish this, we need to ASK WHY we are doing what we do MUCH more aggressively, and make these motivations (and the directions for the flow of our profits!) much more transparent to our customers and stakeholders. Only then, in my opinion, will we make the lofty ideals of social responsibility and ISO 26000 more real in our organizations and communities.

If you’re looking for more information about social responsibility or ISO 26000, the March 2011 issue of ISO Focus+ is a must-read.