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The age of transformation.

The age of transformation

I welcome this opportunity to be a guest columnist and to use this space to promote the need for American industry to change the way it does business. I am sure that this is not new to you. You have read about the need for quality improvement in this publication before, and this probably won't be the last time. What I hope to do is to challenge you to either get started or to take the next step on a path of transformation that is critical to American industry's ability to succeed in a very competitive global marketplace. This transformation is important.

It is crucial that you accept this challenge, since I believe that we are no longer in the Information Age, but in the Age of Transformation. You and I are faced with transforming the way we do business or we will suffer paralyzing competitive disadvantages.

Foreign competitors produce and deliver high quality products at costs significantly below our manufacturing costs. It seems that a day doesn't go by that we don't read about our global competitors - in the auto, steel, electronics, textiles and specialty chemicals industries for example - producing higher quality products or gaining market share in markets once dominated by U.S. companies. U.S. industry must change to meet and surpass the competition.

The transformation will be accomplished by people like you and me. We can make it happen by understanding how work gets done, knowing what our customers' quality expectations are and having a vision of the most effective way of doing things. We also must set core quality objectives, establish measurements and concentrate on continuously improving processes rather than fixing short-term events.

The path to transformation is embodied in quality improvement management systems like the Malcolm Baldrige Award which, with its seven criteria, provides a framework for changing the way American industry does business.

Who is Malcolm Baldrige anyway?

Simply stated, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes a company's performance against a set of criteria that a company must pay attention to in order to form a better way of doing business. The Award's criteria have their foundation in the Deming Prize Criteria, the 1985 NASA Excellence Award Criteria, and input from quality experts who proposed modifications to make the Malcolm Baldrige criteria the best available at the time.

Winning the award is an honor and prestigious. It is recognition that the winner has embarked on a path of transformation. But it isn't easy. To win the award, a candidate must submit a 75-page application, addressing 99 different areas, to a board of examiners which is comprised of quality experts selected from industry, quality consulting firms and universities.

The process of pursuing the award can take as many as five years. It definitely is not a "get-this-done-by-the-end-of-the quarter" project. There are many questions and processes that must be asked and analyzed before pen can be set to application.

Simply submitting an application only puts one in the race. The examiners carefully review the application using a detailed scoring system. The examiners then recommend certain candidates for site visits to a panel of judges. The judges select finalists from all of the candidates recommended to them. Examiners are then dispatched to the candidate's facility to verify information in the application and see the transformation process functioning. Based on site reports, the panel of judges recommends award recipients to the Secretary of Commerce.

Criteria add up to transformation

The Award examination process focuses on the seven Baldrige criteria:

* leadership;

* information and analysis;

* strategic quality planning;

* human resource utilization;

* quality assurance of products and services;

* quality results;

* customer satisfaction. During the examination heavy emphasis is placed on quality achievement and quality improvement as demonstrated through quantitative data.

While all of the criteria are important, I believe the most important are leadership and valuing people, customer satisfaction, and information and analysis (or measurement).

Since transformation's goal is increased competitive advantage, customer satisfaction must be at the forefront of our thinking. We must examine our knowledge of the customer, analyze our customer service processes, and check on how responsively we meet customer requirements and expectations. In addition, we must recognize trends in customer satisfaction paradigms.

For example, I know that more enlightened businesses implement customer feedback systems that instantly correct or "make the customer whole" in the event of a customer complaint. And they track complaint data to seek to improve their performance continuously.

While customer satisfaction is a criterion, leadership and people are the linchpins to successfully changing the American way of doing business. Assessing how we envision and communicate clear quality values and how we guide all activities of the company toward quality excellence is more than an award criterion, it's a necessity. Also, our quality leadership in the external community and how we integrate our public responsibilities with operational quality values and practices are key requirements.

We must critically evaluate our efforts to develop and realize the full potential of the work force, including senior management. We must do this to maintain an environment conducive to full participation, quality leadership, and personal and organizational growth. The people will be the transformers. What gets improved? People improve, and in turn they improve our work process.

If people and leaders are the locomotives pulling and pushing towards quality excellence, measurement and information analysis are the track that will keep us on course. The adequacy and use of data, information and analysis used to support a responsive, prevention-based approach to quality and customer satisfaction is critical to knowing where we've been and where we want to go. If the track isn't laid and kept in good repair, we'll have a difficult time getting to the station.

What measurement and information analysis is necessary? That depends. But you might start with time as a generic measure for all processes. Cycle time concepts can apply to all functional groups. If individual employees and teams begin to measure and reduce the length of time involved in a work process, many improvement areas will emerge. Especially, if the benchmark measurement is compared to the "best in class" (an external entity) performance.

Although I believe that the above are the most important of the Baldrige criteria, the other are absolutely required to complete the framework for transformation.

Briefly, the other criteria:

* Examine the company's planning process for achieving or retaining quality leadership and how the company integrates quality improvement planning into overall business planning (strategic quality planning).

* Audit the systematic approaches used by the company for assuring quality of goods and services based primarily on process design and control, including control of procured materials, parts and services (quality assurance of products and services).

* Survey quality levels and quality improvement based on objectives derived from analysis of customer requirements and expectations and from analysis of business operations (quality results).

Together, the Baldrige criteria from the foundation upon which a framework for transformation is built. This transformation is personified in Malcolm Baldrige Award winners.

The Baldrige Award is important because it is a standard for excellence. Award winners become role models for measuring how American industry can excel. The award is important to you because it requires transforming the way you do business in order to be competitive in the global marketplace. The transformation empowers you to make greater contributions to your organization's competitive position in this highly competitive world. Transforming how an organization does business so that it continually strives to improve the quality of its products and services will be the competitive edge of the decades ahead.

If you want to make your work environment better, improve the products you make or the services you offer, contribute to the success of your organization and be recognized for your contributions, the transformation process will make it all happen for you. I promise.

In a future issue I will tell you about the role of leadership and people power. In future columns I will share with you my thoughts on the importance of measurement and the concept of time as key elements in the transformation process. And then I will conclude by addressing the primary objective of the Transformation Age: Total customer satisfaction.

How do you get started on the path of transformation? You begin by asking your fellow co-workers how they would eliminate defects and waste and how they would make the product or service better. You devise a way of measuring how the immediate process is accomplished and compare these measurements to your direct competition or another enterprise that is doing it better than you are.

You don't need to wait for senior management's approval to get started. You can step out and be a leader by establishing a vision for your particular process, by creating an environment that encourages your co-workers to make contributions, and by being the driving force behind communications about the transformation process.

One thing is certain from my perspective. If we don't get started, it won't matter whether or not this is the Information Age of the Age of Transformation, because what it will be is old age, an age when we will no longer be able to compete with the younger, more dynamic customer-focused nations. Transforming the way American industry does business to avoid old age is the challenge of leadership and the subject of my next column in February.

Thomas E. Addison is manager of continuous improvement for Du Pont Polymers and has been appointed to the 1991 Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lippincott & Peto, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Tech Service; The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
Author:Addison, Thomas
Publication:Rubber World
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:Du Pont.
Next Article:Nitrile group containing highly saturated copolymer having improved cold resistance.

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