Organization Management and the Pendulum
I have been re-reading my copy of Introduction to Quality Control by Kaoru Ishikawa. If you have been following our blog, you will know we frequently write on quality items and it is not strange for us to read these types of books. However, there is a reference in this book that takes me back to some of the companies at which I have worked in the past. The specific paragraph is noted below:
Presidential QC diagnosis should not be carried out on the premise that everything is bad, using top management muscle to expose malpractice n a deal shortcomings. Like the doctor who examines a patient in order to diagnose an illness and commence treatment and promptly so that the illness gets no worse, the presidential QC diagnoses aims for action. Its purpose is to enlist everyone’s cooperation to pinpoint weaknesses and systematically improve the situation. This means that CEOs must never become angry, even when their company’s flaws and shameful weaknesses are exposed, and those being diagnosed must also describe their shortcomings clearly an honestly, exactly as patients would explain their symptoms to a doctor.
I do not believe I have ever seen an executive have a melt-down or respond angrily regarding some poor performance, lucky me. I have however, seen these issues covered up, downplayed and flat out ignoring for what appears to be the sake of organization politics. Then we wonder why the organization’s operating costs and project schedule balloon out of control.
There can be little doubt that the olden day’s executive’s angry responses were harmful. Experience suggests there is a new poor way of responding, and that is to not worry about the patient. Shortcomings are not discussed and explored out in the open but covered up and hidden for the sake of creating the illusion of a healthy patient. We are less concerned with making the patient healthy, but use makeup to camouflage what could be a larger systematic issue. As a Vice President of Quality once told me, it is a cancer that threatens to take down the host company. I personally believe reliance on political rhetoric to the extent of covering up operational and personnel issues is equally as bad as yelling. Neither are the way to continuous improvement or a very satisfying work environment. As equally bad as yelling and screaming is neglecting or taking no action that cures the patient or eases the distress. Opting for doing nothing, or makeup and superficial contrivances to make the patient look like they are well or getting better is not a solution. We must remember that even inaction is an action with equal if not greater effects as taking the wrong actions.
 Ishikawa, K. (1990). Introduction to Quality Control. Tokyo: 3A. page 8