Toyota is a horrible exemplar

Just like the immense sins of Jack Welch and GE will always tarnish six Sigma it is past time to realize that the conservative, looking backwards to Toyota of much of Lean thinking is a mistake that limits adoption and more importantly innovation.

As a company there is much at Toyota that is just wrong. The 2020 recalls were significant, but frankly not the first year the company has been having major quality contorl issues.

But more important is the fact the company is a liar and a supporter of authoritarianism. As a promponent of the pillars of Lean thats just damn hypocritical. After the failed coup of Janaury 6th, Toyota pledged to no longer fund anyone who supported the attack against US democracy. As of June they are the top fundraiser to those Republicans, giving to nearly a quarter of the 147 GOP politicians who objected to certifying the election results.

Toyota is showing us who they are. A company that stands apart from the principles so important to the Quality profession.

A Quality Mindset leads to Abolishing the Police

As we watch the closing arguments of the Derek Chauvin trial, it is not difficult to see systemic problems with policing in America. One only need to look at stories like:

  • Patrick Rove, long-time police union president, accused of child abuse and with credible questions of how he was so thoroughly protected by the police hierarchy
  • Baltimore police planting toy guns on people they shot
  • The continued excuses of “human error” and “you need to walk in our shoes”, for example the recent killing of Daunte Wright

Read the Wikipedia entry on United States Police Brutality, which provides an excellent problem statement.

For root cause analysis, read the University of Chicago study that found that America’s biggest police forces lack legality, as they are not answerable to human rights compliant laws authorizing the use of lethal force.

It is impossible not to reach the conclusions that the culture is rotten, there are inherently bad actors, and institutional resistance to change is standing in way of improvement.

Given the continued failures in implementing change, it is time to shift the resistors out of police departments. The only way to effectively do that seems to radically restructure the police, breaking their responsibilities up and sending those responsibilities to organizations better suited for these duties.

This is why I stand for police abolition.

Happy Birthday to Franz Kafka

“I usually solve problems by letting them devour me.”

Franz Kafka, Letter to Max Brod

This blog is named after a great short story by Franz Kafka, a writer who should be read by every Quality professional.

Franz Kafka’s work has huge relevance for management and organization. The characteristics of bureaucracy that we find in Kafka’s fiction are widespread in the real world bureaucracies we find ourselves in, particularly the ambiguity of rules, the existence of informal networks within organizations, and systemic corruption. Reading Kafka has greatly influenced my ideas of organizational sense-making and has shaped many of my ideas on ethical issues and conflicts that arise within organizations. It is no exaggeration to say that Kafka’s name is as closely linked to the notion of bureaucracy as Weber’s, and deserves a central place in all organizational studies. Quite frankly, Quality as a practice and a profession would do well to read Kafka thoroughly.

Now is a good time to be active in a professional organization

Many of us are wondering just how we are going to get through the next few months of self-isolation. I’d like to recommend getting active in a professional organization.

Amazingly enough this can be a good time to strengthen your network, further your career or maybe even build some friendships. Professional organizations can enhance your personal and professional development and provide endless networking opportunities. Look around your community—there are bound to be a plethora of organizations (from small local start-ups to national chapters) for you to join.

A professional association can your professional home. It is the place where people in the same field will come to know you, support you, and nurture your growth and development. Especially now for those of us who are self-isolating, our professional associations can mitigate the potential isolation and loneliness of our work. There’s nothing quite like sharing in the excitement of learning about new understandings and techniques with others who share the challenges and the joys of the profession. There’s nothing quite as supportive as a group of people who have “been there and done that”. There is nothing quite like sharing your own experiences and hard-won lessons.

Like I said above, there are a lot of professional associations out there. I belong to a plethora of industry (PDA, RAPS), subject area (ACMP, PPA) and domain (ASQ). Right now my heart is certainly fully committed to the ASQ and the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum, but you do you and find the organizations that work for you. But if you need help navigating the ASQ, or are looking for opportunities to get involved, let me know.

So what can you be doing right now to leverage a professional organization? Especially right now? I think there are four major areas to look at:

Colleagueship: Associations are the primary way that people do face-time networking with people who share our professional interests. Most organizations are offering a lot of online options to make it possible to network with people all over the world. Get your face out there and build those connections. And when we can all get together again, keep at it.

Education: We’re in a rapidly changing field. It can take years for good research to make it into print. Now is a great time to catch up and then stay up to date and knowledgeable about new trends in the field. Take an online course. Ask questions.

Information: Association journals, bulletins and newsletters, websites and mailing lists are often the first place that new developments in the field are published. Many associations use their media to alert their members to more than research. Articles and news items also inform us about changes in governmental policies, new trends and other issues that impact the field.

Career Development: Engage in education offerings. Now is a good time to work on that certification. Eventually there will be opportunities again to attend conferences and present a poster or workshop, but right now heavily use the forums and other tools to get that experience of sharing your work and develop your credentials. Further, associations often have listings of job opportunities that are only available to members.

Above all, Stay Inspired and Stay Motivated.  Love what you do! It is important to be proactive about things you discover on the journey. Get out there, post, ask questions, answer questions, read and then share what you are reading.

In the routine of remote working you are building, now is a great time to make a habit of blocking off a little time in your calendar to go online and contribute. For fellow ASQ members I hope to see you at my.ASQ.

Driving towards a Culture of Excellence

What do we mean when we discuss culture, which is sort of an all-encompassing word that seems difficult to pin down, or can be a rather nebulous way to refer to something bigger than any one individual or team.

Many definitions are available to describe culture. Formally, culture can be defined as “the [predominant] beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and practices that are characteristic of a group of people” (Warrick, 2015).  Culture can usually be described as the symbols, power structures, organisational structures, control systems, rituals & routines, and stories of a group.

Johnson & Scholes Cultural Web (this illustration: www.businessgrowthhub.com)

Why does culture matter, well for starts let’s look at some differences between high and low performing cultures.

High Performance CulturesLow Performance Cultures
Leaders are skilled, admired, and build organizations that excel at results and at taking excellent care of their people and their customersLeaders provide minimal leadership, are not trusted and admired, and do little to engage and involve their people
Clear and compelling vision, mission, goals, and strategyVision, mission, goals, and strategy are unclear, not compelling, not used, or do not exist
Core values drive the culture and are used in decision makingCore values are unclear, not compelling, not used, or do not exist
Committed to excellence, ethics, and doing things rightLack of commitment to excellence, questionable ethics, and a reputation for doing what is expedient rather than what is right
Clear roles, responsibilities, and success criteria, and strong commitment to engaging, empowering, and developing peopleUnclear roles and responsibilities and little interest in fully utilizing and developing the capabilities and potential of people
Positive, can-do work environmentNegative, tense, stressful, and/or resistant work environment
Open, candid, straightforward, and transparent communicationGuarded communication, reluctance to be open and straightforward, and consequences for saying things leaders do not want to hear
Teamwork, collaboration, and involvement are the normTop-down decision making with minimal teamwork, collaboration, and involvement
Emphasis on constant improvement and state-of-the-art knowledge and practicesSlow to make needed improvements and behind times in knowledge and practices
Willingness to change, adapt, learn from successes and mistakes, take reasonable risk, and try new thingsPoorly planned change, resistance to change, minimal learning from successes and mistakes, and either risk averse or risk foolish

Culture can either be built in a purposeful way or left to chance. As we strive for excellence we need to be methodical about building and sustaining cultures we want to drive excellence. A few guidelines then:

  1. Make strategy and culture important leadership priorities
  2. Develop a clear understanding of the present culture
  3. Identify, communicate, educate, and engage employees in the cultural ideals
  4. Role model desired behaviors
  5. Recruit and develop for culture
  6. Align for consistency between strategy and culture
  7. Recognize and reward desired behaviors and practices
  8. Use symbols, ceremonies, socialization, and stories to reinforce culture
  9. Appoint a culture team
  10. Monitor and manage the culture

What most of struggle with is how to actually do that. Of the many papers and articles I’ve read on the subject, my favorite might be from the International Society of Pharmaceutical engineers (ISPE).

The ISPE in 2015 introduced a cultural excellence framework which was expanded on in their 2017 Cultural Excellence Report. I’ve returned to this report again and again and continue to mine it for ideas for continual improvement and change in my organization.

ISPE’s Six dimensions of cultural excellence framework

The six dimensions to build and maintain cultural excellence are:

  1. Leadership and vision: Leaders establish and engender the vision for the organization. Their thoughts, words, and actions about quality are critical in establishing and maintaining a culture of operational excellence. Leadership and vision, therefore, play a key role in establishing the culture, either within a local manufacturing site or across the company.
  2. Mindset and attitudes: These play a key role in driving cultural performance, although they can be difficult to define, observe, and measure. Leaders can assess, monitor, and develop the desired cultural excellence mindset and attitudes within their organizations, using the practical and powerful approaches outlined in this report.
  3. Gemba walks: Management engagement on the floor is a powerful way to demonstrate quality commitment to all members of the organization. Gemba walks allow site leaders to communicate clear messages using open and honest dialogue, and provide a real indication of progress toward desired behaviors at all levels. Gemba walks also empower front-line employees by recognizing their contributions to site results and involving them in problem-solving and continuous improvement.
  4. Leading quality indicators and triggers: There are inherent links between culture,
    behavior, and leading quality indicators (LQIs) that drive desired patient-focused
    behaviors. Monitoring and surveillance of key triggers and the design of LQIs are highly recommended practices to help shape cultural excellence.
  5. Oversight and review: Management oversight and review practices that engage both management and employees support a healthy quality culture because they demonstrate transparency, facilitate dialogue, bring attention to issues so they can be addressed, and highlight best practices so they can be replicated.
  6. Structural enablers: These support the desired behaviors, help speed the pace of change, and improve performance over time. They include:
    –– Develop a learning organization
    –– Establish learning teams
    –– Influence and recognize organizational change
    –– Solve problems proactively
    –– Identify true root cause

Sources

  • R.D. Day. Leading and Managing People in the Dynamic Organization. Psychology Press, London, UK (2014)
  • ISPE. Cultural Excellence Report. ISPE, Bethesda (2017)
  • R.N. Lussier, C.F. Achua. Leadership: Theory, application, and skill development (6th ed.), Cengage Learning, Boston (2016)
  • D.D. Warrick, J. Mueller (Eds.), Lessons in changing cultures: Learning from real world cases, RossiSmith Academic Publishing, Oxford, UK (2015)