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Let's get personal ... and get involved.

The challenge is before us. The challenge is for a new generation of leaders to take personal responsibility for aligning American industry behind the vision of continuous quality improvement. Who will meet the challenge? It's open to debate and comment.

William Raspberry, a noted columnist, has observed that: "U.S. business leaders have offered a number of theories why they are on the wrong side of the competitiveness gap: lousy schools turning out unqualified workers, government policies interfering with productivity, the Japanese taking unfair advantage of our liberal trading policies.

He conclude, "Now it appears to be dawning on them that the problems are nearer at hand...."

The columnist's observations were based on a poll conducted by the American Society for Training and Development. While the poll showed that three-quarters of the executives interviewed listed quality improvement as a major goal; 16% cited an increased interest in quality improvement; some 86% were aware of the criteria for the Commerce Department's Malcolm Baldreige Quality Award, and 50% requested information on the criteria in 1991, only 6% actually applied for the award compared with 5% in 1990.

I'm not usre that Raspberry intended to suggest that business leadership is directly responsible for the "QG" (Quality Gap) that now exists. But I will assert that our business leaders are a bit late noticing the scoreboard.

Although the scoreboard seems to indicate that we are behind, it's not too late for leaders to accept the challenge of transformation. The transformation in American industry will come from those who want to get involved, those of us who want to participate in bringing our companies, and our country, back to a position of quality leadership in the competitive global marketplace.

For that to happen, we need to understand just what quality leadership is, and then to take it personally.

So what is quality leadership?

In looking at the 1991 Baldrige winners, we see quality leadership personified. The three winners, Solectron Corp., Zytec Corp. and Marlow Industries had leaders who got involved personally in taking responsibility for quality improvement.

Solectron Corp., a leading independent provider of customized integrated manufacturing services to original equipment manufacturers in the electronics industry, has a strong management that is on a crusade to revitalize American business through quality improvement. The executive team sets corporate quality targets and then works with teams to set supporting goals in each functional area of the company.

The management style is participative, with a high degree of coaching and autonomy based on a team-focused approach to employee involvement. The system relies on training and mentorship.

Talk about personal imvolvement: Dr. Winston Chen, CEO, and other top executives personally review, at one of their three weekly quality-related issues meetings, the results of a weekly customer survey.

Zytec Corp., which makes power supplies for original equipment manufacturers of computers as well as electronic office, medical and testing equipment, fosters a common quality focus to ensure that all 3 of its departments move in-step to meet ever more demanding customer requirements. Zytec has adopted an interactive "management-by-planning" process that involves employees in setting long-term and annual improvement goals.

At an annual two-day meeting, about 150 employees, representing all types of personnel, shifts and departments, review and critique five-year plans prepared by six cross-functional teams. Zytec executives thwn finalize a long-term strategic plan and set boad corporate objectives to guide quality planning in the departments, where teams develop annual goals to support each corporate objective.

In face-to-face meetings with team representatives, Zytec CEO Ronald D. Schmidt personally reviews departmental goals and, subsequently, action plans, inlcuding performance measures and monthly progress targets.

Several departments are directed by self-managed teams of workers. Zytec's production workers are encouraged to improve their knowledge and flexibility through an innovative employee evaluation and reward system called the Multi-Functional Employee (MFE) program. Through MFE, employees are rewarded for the number of job skills that they acquire.

Marlow Indusries, a processor of raw materials used in thermoelectric (TE) semiconductors which are assembled as TE coolers, and integrated into heat exchangers for commercial and defense application, describes its quality management as a top-to-bottom approach to continuous improvement.

The emphasis on quality begins with CEO Raymond Marlow. As chairman of the company's TQM council, which crafts the company's 5-year strategic business plan and oversses effots to accomplish short- and long-ter goals, he has daily responsibility for quality-related matters. Marlow's personal leadership has provided an environment that encourages all employees to be involved and participate in the continuous improvement process.

Marlow employee involvement is fostered through a flat organizational structure and an atmosphere of participation. Marlow includes worker representatives in weekly TQM council sessions. Monthly company-wide meetings are held to review company performance, recognize employees for quality contributions, review quality values and make wide-spread acknowledgment to teams.

The three 1991 winners are case histories for involved and active quality leadership. In studying these cases, we learn that the three non-optional elements of quality leadership are: establishing a vision, aligning people in support of the vision and creating an atmosphere of empowerment.

And the attibutes are....

Each 1991 Baldreige winner exhibited the attributes of quality leadership. In fact, every Bladrige winner demonstrated its understanding of vision, alignment and empowerment.

They have learned that vision is a view of corporate goals and objectives; that alignment is mustering the "troops" behind these goals and objectives; and that empowerment is creating an environment or atmoshphere where people can readily align themselves behind the goals and objectives and proceed to accomplish them.

These leaders understand that the primary task of leadership is the empowerment of people who continuously improve processes which result in satisfied customers.

Successful companies - those that meet their customer expections continually - see the big picture. They know their customers and competitors and project exactly where they want to be. These companies are very focused; their vision is simple. For example, Federal Express is very clear that its corporate mission is to deliver its customers' "product" overnight and on time. The 3M Corporation is focused on being first in product innovation. Toyota aims to be the best automotive manufacturer in the world. For the 1991 Baldrige winners, their visions are as clear.

With a simple, focused vision, clearly articulated, effective leaders align people behind corporate objectives. Alignment is achieved principally through a visionizing process and people empowerment.

Today's leaders must empower employees to initiate changes, solve problems, understand markets, master temperamental technologies and manage other workers. Leaders don't simply wave a wand and say, "You are empowered, go forth and do quality things." For example, to empower employees, leaders need to teach and provide training.

The Xerox Corporation understood this when it invented what is called "cascade training." It is the essence of combining personal involvement, teaching and alignment.

Xerox president, David T. Kearns pledged that every Xerox employee would receive the same training in quality principles. The training started at the top of the organization and flowed throughout the company level by level. Kearns mastered the principles and, in turn, trained his top officer together, as a team. These training sessions triggered a cascade which flowed through the organization.

The cascade process is not limited to formal quality training. It also is used to set agendas and effect liaison between various functional groups. The key to the success of the process is the personal involvement of senior management.

But teaching and training are only part of alignment. The effective quality leader must be persistent - it may take years before alignment results in winning awards. Leaders must promote quality goals between levels to assure that "divisional" or "departmental" goals are interlaced and supportive of corporate goals. Effective leaders must fend off distractions such as team rivalries. They build teams and encourage cross training among functional groups. They audit to gauge progress towards common goals.

Alignment does not occure in a vacuum. A quality leader gets personally involved in creating an environment which is conducive to people power.

To do this a leader must observe, listen, ask pertinent questions and exhibit feelings. A leader must respond honestly to other's ideas and help generate new ideas. The leader must build relationships based on trust. To be effective in creating an atmosphere supportive of empowered people, a leader must facilitate team decision making processes by influencing team interactions. The quality leader must build the confidence of team players by timely recognition of achievements and rewarding valuable contributions to the corporate vision.

To empower people, a leader must support, guide and coordinate the work of team players in an environment that spawns individuality and rewards risk taking.

In empowering people, leaders quickly learn that their "position" and "autonomy" are replaced with influence and interdependence. Influence is the ability to get what you want because someone wants to do it. Influence always is reciprocal, it leads to interdependence. If I want to influence you, I must be willling to let you influence me. That commits me to liten to you - to give up telling you what to do.

So let's get personal

When leaders find themselves listening more negotiating more, teaching and coaching more, then it's likely that people power is taking over. And as people power becomes the driving force in American industry, leaders will be more successful at aligning empowered employees behind a national quality vision. For it is empowered people that will take ownership of processes which they will improve to help achieve the corporate vision.

And, if the vision is simple and focused on satisfied customers, then American industry will have made progress in meeting the challenge for a new generation of leadership.

No question that the challenge is before us. But who will meet the challenge?

The challenge will be met by those of us who believe that empowered people are the players who will make American industry competitive in the global marketplace. And by those of us who are willing to get involved personally in changing the way we do things on the shop floor and in the executive suite. It really doesn't matter where it starts. But people must get involved.

Effective quality leadership is hard work and time consuming. It requires seeing the future and tracking measurements. And above all it's a personal thing.

Thomas E. Addision is manager of continuous improvement for Du Pont Polymers and was appointed to the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lippincott & Peto, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:in continuous quality improvement
Author:Addison, Thomas E.
Publication:Rubber World
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:1729
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