Quality Progress - December 2017 - 65
needed changes. Begin with the most critical strategic
bottleneck and coach a team to remove it. In the process,
learn by doing, measure outcomes, recognize success,
and improve and repeat the process for the next strategic
+ Facilitating or coaching teams on strategic projects.
Quality professionals experienced in training and leading improvement teams can help team members avoid
conflicts with regular job responsibilities by planning work
so that no team member works more than two days per
month on strategic improvement. A six-member project
team, for example, would plan tasks that add up to 12 days
of effort per month for as long as the improvement takes.
Each month, senior leaders review each team's progress
against its plan and take corrective action, if needed.
These teams are mission critical and must not fail.
+ Encouraging top management to use the four P's to
reinforce a culture that pursues the organization's mission.
Team members who were effective plate breakers for strategic improvement, for example, can be promoted swiftly.
As operating quality and productivity increase each year,
better quality at lower cost gives marketers a competitive
edge in attracting enough new business to avoid workforce reductions.
Example. After five years, a bank doubled its total
business volume with no change in its workforce. The bank
was expanding at four times the growth rate of the total
banking market and earned the highest return on assets of
hundreds of peer banks in its asset class. After five years
of rapid promotions and strategic improvement successes,
a lender who had been a valuable plate breaker in the first
year's improvement effort became the CEO of a non-competing bank.
+ Making people proud by balancing focus on the financial
scoreboard with measurable progress toward achieving
enterprise and personal goals. Engage and humanize
your organization by involving people's hearts and minds
in answering questions such as, "How can each person's
contribution to systematic improvement help him or her
achieve personal goals?" For many individuals, being
asked to serve with other team members on an important
improvement project is its own reward.
Example. The manager of a bank's largest branch
stood in the center of her branch's lobby and told the
bank's CEO: "I've worked at this bank for 25 years and
for all those years, we had the same problems. By
working on a process improvement team, we made
those problems go away." She thanked the CEO for
letting her serve on the team and the team trainer for
teaching the bank process improvement. Her team
had streamlined loan and account opening and platform
servicing in her branch and scores of other retail branches.
Team members also benefit from monthly meetings with
members of the executive steering team. In a growing firm,
members of successful teams often are promoted based
on their contributions to team successes.
Stay ahead of creative destruction
Economist Joseph Schumpeter defined creative destruction as a long-term cycle in which new and better products
and organizations replace earlier, outdated products and
organizations. As outmoded organizations are acquired or
disbanded, their human and economic resources become
available for re-employment in the next wave of innovation in
technology, product designs, processes and customer delight.
Permanent shifts in market share often occur during
slumps and recessions. Smaller innovators use market
slowdowns to develop and innovate. In contrast, large, riskaverse organizations slow down innovation to save costs.
When economic activity picks up and customers start buying
the next new thing, the laggards find they have become
During a professional career, you may find yourself in an
organization that is not improving or innovating fast enough
to escape Schumpeter's recycling of people and assets.
Developing a broad and adaptable skillset-along with a
mindset that sees confusing situations as opportunities to
learn-will help you recognize and seize opportunities that
1. Martin F. Stankard, The Power of Confusion: How Seven Simple Tools
Can Clarify Confusion in Your Career and Work, Martin F. Stankard
2. "Criteria for Performance Excellence," Baldrige Performance
Excellence Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology,
3. "What Employees Want: Interview of Ronald White, Associate
Director, Organizational and Work Process Change, Procter & Gamble,
Inc.," Productivity Views Newsletter, Vol. 12, No. 5, 1995.
4. Martin F. Stankard, "The Dark Side of Process Measurement," Quality
Progress, July 2005, pp. 53-58.
5. W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Press, 1986.
Martin F. Stankard is a lecturer at the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
He earned a master's in statistics and
operations research from the University of
Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School
and is a senior member of ASQ. His most
recent book is The Power of Confusion: How
Seven Simple Tools Can Clarify Confusion in
Your Career and Work (Martin F. Stankard
qualityprogress.com ❘ December 2017