Quality Culture requires men being better allies to women

ISO 26000: Guidance on social responsibility defines social responsibility as:

The responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behavior that:

  • Contributes to sustainable development, including health and the welfare of society
  • Takes into account the expectations of stakeholders
  • Is in compliance with applicable laws and consistent with international norms of behavior
  • Is integrated throughout the organization and practiced in its relationships

ISO 26000 also defines seven key principles of socially responsible behavior:

  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Ethical behavior
  • Respect for stakeholder interests
  • Respect for the rule of law
  • Respect for international norms of behavior
  • Respect for human rights

One shouldn’t have to look for reasons for human rights and the drive towards to diversity, but let us simply say there are a ton of studies that show that diversity improves decision making, problem solving and even make us smarter.

In short diversity is critical towards a Quality Culture. Gender equality is a critical part of being a successful quality leader, and it behooves each and every one of us men to drive towards it. To figure out how to make our own workplaces more diverse.

There are many aspects of creating diverse culture but I want to discuss how it is critical that men support women, that we be allies. Too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way the lead. Individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes and reinforce the perception that these are women’s issues — effectively telling men they don’t need to be involved. As always, it is always about the system thinking. Without the avid support of men progress toward ending gender disparities is unlikely and organizations cannot find reap the benefits.

Men need to become better allies by focusing on listening, support, and respect. We need to listen to women’s voices and bring all those core skills of  focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing to systematically addressing inequities, whether the ubiquitous workplace sexual harassment or gender exclusion. End your silence and support and ally. No matter what level of your organization you are in.

By being a deliberate male ally, by actively promoting gender fairness and equity in the workplace we can drive systematic improvements. To lean on Deming, we can drive out fear. And isn’t that what Quality is all about?

Liminal – ‘In Between’ Words and Phrases

Words to describe those in-between, stuck in the middle, between the devil and the deep blue sea, liminal kinds of things.
— Read on www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/in-betweens-words-and-phrases/liminal

As a quality professional I can use threshold, interstice and even liminal and occasionally be-twixt. But now I need to be ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’ more often at quality management reviews and the visual management boards.

What quality matters are on your radar?

What quality system concerns do you have? What are you investing time in figuring out? What are your best practices – the quality solutions you are proud to share?

The site I work at is under a consent decree (fairly late in the process now). I joined because I wanted the experience of building and refining quality systems in that environment and the last five years here have been incredibly rewarding for a whole host of reasons.

I started this blog because I had a whole host of things I wanted to share. It also serves as a reflective tool to refine several ideas that I am working on. The themes of change management, knowledge management, document management, risk management, computer systems and data integrity (amongst other things) are the items I have spent a lot of time on and are some of the topics driving the next stage of my career.

If I was to do a personal SWOT of where I am at (100% my opinions, does not represent anything official), it would look like this (with seasonal fall leaf structure):

SWOT - personal experience

It is not that hard to draw from these to my topics of interest.

I am following a tried-and-true technique, that of thinking aloud, which allows me to reflect upon and clarify the problem and focus on what is next. “Thinking aloud” requires talking through the details, decisions, and the reasoning behind those decisions. This slowing down the process allows me to fully comprehend the problem. This blog then serves to experiment, consider, and then decide upon next steps.

I’ll end this asking the same question I started with: What are your quality system concerns? What would you like to talk about on this blog?

Sometimes quality requires forgetting

DeHolan and Phillips introduced the concept of organizational forgetting to our concepts of knowledge management. While unintentional forgetting is something we usually want to avoid, there is a time when we want to intentionally forget.  Perhaps after a corporate merger we are combining systems or replacing systems. Perhaps it is the result of a large step forward in technology, or an out-right replacement. Some major cultural transformation comes along. And the last thing we want is for no-one to be able to forget the old. For those concepts to linger in our memory and our decisions. For that is a risk that can easily lead to deviations.

 

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Take for example changes in document numbering. Fairly simple of the surface but remember that procedure number is the tag which we use in conversation. No-one ever gives the whole title; we throw around these tags left and right and for our own coded language (another topic worthy of a blog post). Then we change our numbering format and a year later everyone still uses the old number. And mistakes start creeping up. Or just the perception of mistakes builds. Or perhaps everyone still thinks in the manner of the old ERP’s logic, and forget to do crucial aspects of master data management when a change is made. You get the idea

This purposeful frogetting, an aspect of knowledge management (and change management) – that of the purposeful removal of knowledge — is a critical step in our systematic approach and an important part of our strategic toolkit. However, it is very difficult, as deeply embedded pieces of organizational knowledge are generally locked in place by various other pieces of organizational knowledge that depend on them, and removing one implies modifying the others as well. We need to develop the tools to dismantle the previous way of doing work — the unneeded routines and formerly dominant logics of our changed systems.

One of the best way to do this is to get rid of cues. All the little breadcrumbs left behind. If you want people to stop using old document numbers, ensure that no document folks would use on their daily basis has those numbers. However, this ideal model of radical elimination of all cues associated with the old routine seems rather unlikely in all changes from old to new . So when we are working on our change its important to select those cues that will have the biggest bang for our buck. Some general ideas to help inform this are:

  • Look for opportunities to drive out mix-messages – aim for consistency in message
  • Ensure there are positive reinforcements for use of the new routine
  • Actively constrain the to-be-forgotten activity. Reduce the time in two different processes. Do a radical transformation. Reduce the confusion.
  • Reward the individual for participating in the new way. The group can’t change faster than the sum of the individuals, so incentive the change.

When doing a change it is important to consider these as risks, and build into your change plan. Incorporate into your training. For the basis of your communications. Drive out the old, embrace the new. Otherwise you are just increasing the risks inherent in your new way of working. But like many aspects of change management, easy in concept, difficult in execution.

ASQ to quality professionals – change is hard!

The ASQ has announced​ the theme for the 2019 World Conference On Quality And Improvement: “Leading Change”.

Change has always been constant, but in today’s digital landscape the pace of change is accelerating at a faster and faster rate. Within this dynamic is the opportunity for quality professionals to lead their organizations through the changes that each is destined to go through.

The focus areas are:

  • The Future of Quality
  • Managing Change
  • Building and Sustaining a Culture of Quality
  • Quality Basics
  • Advanced Content Master’s Series

For those interested, you can submit your proposal at https://asq.org/conferences/wcqi.

Looking back at the last few years:

  • The 2018 theme, was the “Innovation of You,” with focus areas of​ “Building and Sustaining a Culture of Quality”, “Master’s Series”, “Quality 4.0: The Future of Quality Starts Here”, “Quality Fundamentals in the Digital Age” and “Risk and Change.”
  • The 2017 theme was “Grow Your Influence: In the Profession, Through the Organization and Around the World” with focus areas of “Focus on the Customer
    Operational Excellence”, “Quality as a Competitive Advantage”, “Quality Fundamentals” and “Risk and Change.”

From this I draw the following opinion:

  1. Change is perceived as hard
  2. The future is murky
  3. Culture of Quality is definitely something important (we might not be sure exactly what it is, but it is important!)

All of which are true. It also iterates what I fundamentally believe is a core function of quality. We drive change, we build a culture of excellence, we help navigate the future.

I enjoyed the 2018 ASQ WCQI in Seattle and will certainly plan on going whether as a speaker again or a participant. While I wish the ASQ would be the perfect organization of my dreams, I do deeply believe that an approach defined in the 2019 focus areas is one that brings a lot of value to any organization.

I have begun recommending co-workers submit this year, and I have a few ideas I am toying with myself. Proposals are due Aug. 17. I encourage you to be contemplating the best practices in your organization and be considering how you can share them with the wider quality world.

Open Spaces

Jason Kottke is spot on “Open offices result in less collaboration among employees

In the past few weeks I’ve had more and more upset conversations with co-workers who have moved to open office work locations. And the Royal Society study that Jason references is a good read for anyone contemplating open spaces.

Being here in Boston, and having done my share of hanging out at MIT, I’ve seen some good open space concepts. But what the best ones actually do is create modular areas of privacy and areas for scalable interactions. And this is what the application of open offices I’m seeing in the corporate world are missing.

I’m hoping to ride this trend out. Or at least until the open office concept has been improved to a more scalable modularized office. I know it is currently one of my criteria for considering moving jobs and I’ve turned down an offer because of the location’s open office.

How folks work contributes to the culture. We should be driving interaction, collaboration (another problematic concept according to some studies) and problem-solving. Folks sitting with headsets on as they wait to get a Skype call does none of that. As the research shows, and anecdotal evidence supports, open spaces drive down productivity and make folks more likely to tune out and move on to a new job.

Deep expertise, quality culture and the long road

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, a professor who writes about the social impact of technology, wrote and excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times this past weekend titled “What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue.” In this she takes to task silicon valley, stresses the importance of hard-earned expertise and the “safety culture” model. A topic near-and-dear to my heart as a quality professional, as she stresses the importance of deep expertise, lengthy training and the ability to learn from experience (and to incorporate the lessons of those experiences into future practices) as a valuable form of ingenuity.

Safety culture = quality culture. It has been said many times that the only real difference is that of the question asked (patient safety vs employee safety), but lets all agree that the tools used are pretty equivalent.

What this article really reminds me of is an article from A Lean Journey back in February titled “Lean Culture: Do You Want Firemen or Farmers in Your Organization.”

I see this a lot in Lean, especially early in the transformation process. An idea that any expert is equivalent, that quick, fast wins are the best. Which is sometimes relevant, often not good for the long run. Its interesting that we are, what, 30-40 years into Lean as a management methodology in this country (my entire adult life I have been involved in Lean projects of one sort or another) and it still feels new in most places.

I think that the trends Dr Tufekci and Mr McMahon are discussing are very similar. Stem from similar causes, and probably lead to why a lot of long-term transformations don’t get the benefits we intend.