From Davis Balestracci -- Use Holistic Improvement: Expand your Role to Become Far More Effective

Published: Mon, 10/10/16

From Davis Balestracci -- Use Holistic Improvement: Expand your Role to Become Far more Effective
I have the “advantage” of never having taken a statistics class!  Just wanted to let you know that I learned more about using and presenting data from this one day than I had in the previous 15 plus years I have worked in Quality. How anyone can talk about data for 7 hours and not be boring is beyond me - but you did it!              -- Nebraska seminar participant last month  

[~850 words:  take 3-1/2 to 4 minutes to read over a break or lunch]

Another Case for "Bolt-on" to "Built-in"

Hi, Folks,
In 2009, my respected statistical colleague Ron Snee saw the need to transition quality efforts to a much bigger picture that he coined holistic improvement:  a system that can successfully create and sustain significant improvements of any type, in any culture for any business. 

Before the current era of trendy approaches, Joseph Juran’s approach was one of the few formal programs available (His classic book Managerial Breakthrough is still a very good worthwhile read for its priceless empirical wisdom). This approach's implicit tolerance for the management status quo was a given.  This resulted in needing excruciating formality and setting up a quality project sub-industry that became a formal arm of the organization.  

Despite the rapid evolution of quality improvement theory over the past 60 years, the same human issues that many times compromised the Juran approach's success remain ever-present .

Snee cites six issues that are still heavily entrenched in many organizational cultures allegedly committed to quality:

  • Failing to design improvement approaches that require the active involvement of top management

  • Focusing on training rather than improvement 

  • Failing to use top talent to conduct improvement initiatives

  • Failing to build the supporting infrastructure, including personnel skilled in improvement and management systems to guide improvement

  • Failing to work on the right projects – those that deliver significant bottom-line results
  • Failing to plan for sustaining the improvements at the beginning of the initiative.

Now, the fad of “big data” as a solution to all problems has become the current smokescreen to avoid facing these issues.  There is a famous W. Edwards Deming quote from the 1980s in reaction to an executive bragging that the company had just bought a three million dollar computer.  Deming replied, “Too bad.  What you needed was three hundred thousand dollars’ worth of brains.”

Improvement professionals have made huge strides in speaking the language of senior management.  However, in many organizations, senior management still does not know the fundamental lessons of quality and, frankly, shows no interest in learning (Other than, "Get to the punch-line and give me the 10 minute overview").  

Promotions self-perpetuate the status quo.  Could it be that few quality managers make it into senior management positions because senior management does not really believe in the quality concepts?

How Holistic is Your ("Bolt-on"?) Approach?

There are seven characteristics of holistic improvement:

  • It works in all areas of the business – all functions and all processes.

  • It works in all cultures, providing a common language and tool set.

  • It can address all measures of performance (quality, cost, delivery and customer satisfaction).

  • It addresses all aspects of process management (process design/redesign, improvement and control).

  • It addresses all types of improvement (streamlining, waste and cycle time reduction, quality improvement and process robustness).

  • It includes management systems for improvement (plans, goals, budgets and management reviews).

  • It focuses on developing an improvement culture (uses improvement as a leadership development tool).

Snee's concise summary:  “The bottom line is that improvement can be a very profitable business, with enhanced process performance and customer satisfaction resulting in improved financial results."

How have you Evolved since 2009 vis-à-vis Holistic improvement?

Jim Clemmer  summarizes well the needed skills during such a transition:

Traditional                Increasing                Leading a High-Performance
Management           Participation            Culture
Direct people            Involve people         Develop self-motivating people
Get groups to            Get groups to           Get diverse groups to
understand ideas     generate ideas        carry out their own ideas
Manage                      Encourage               Build teams that manage
one-on-one                teamwork                 more of their work
Maximize the             Build relation-          Champion cross-functional
performance of          ships with other       work process improvements
the department          departments
Implement                   Initiate change        Sponsor innovation to meet
change                                                           customer needs

Would it be safe to say that many organizations are still stuck in Increasing Participation  – perhaps with some token efforts at trying to create a Leading a High-Performance Culture "bolting it on" to the current culture?  

A challenge:  Use a QBQ! to ask yourselves "How can I make it part of my job to 'connect the dots' for executives regarding the integration of quality improvement into organizational culture?"

Feeling the resistance no doubt manifesting in many of you as you think about what kinds of actions this will require on your part?  

Lack of time? – or is it lack of priority?  Ask:

Can you envision how Data Sanity could be a catalyst for such an approach?

  • "How do I help the culture get to the point where the words 'statistical' and 'quality' are dropped as qualifiers because they are givens?

Stop yourself and work culture wasting time sitting in silly meetings drawing circles around numbers.

Start plotting data over time.  

Continue*  to educate yourself on holistic improvement.

Improvement methods may come and go, but the need to improve business performance and the bottom line never goes out of style. Even innovation and growth will eventually create waste and inefficiencies – effective (holistic) improvement people will never be out of work.  

Until next time...

Kind regards,
* My book Data Sanity is all about helping you obtain holistic improvement skills...including the skills to create dialogue with your upper management – and get eye-opening results that will make them want to engage in this dialogue.
Data Sanity: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results is a unique synthesis of the sane use of data, culture change, and leadership principles to create a road map for excellence.

One of its major goals is to create a common organizational language for healthier dialogue about reducing ongoing confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos. 
Click here for ordering information [Note:  an e-edition is available] or here for a copy of its Preface and chapter summaries (fill out the form on the page).

[UK and other international readers who want a hard copy:  ordering through U.S. Amazon is your best bet]

Please know that I always have time for you and am never too answer a question, discuss opportunities for a leadership or staff retreat, webinar, mentoring, or public speaking --  or just about any other reason!  Don't hesitate to e-mail or phone me.

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