Establishing a Quality Culture

Establishing a quality culture involves specific planning and activities for every business or department. This sec­tion identifies the steps involved, but first it outlines the emotional processes employees go through as the steps are being taken. Managers need to recognize and accommodate the emotional transition required not only of employees, but also of themselves while the steps toward making the con­version to quality take place.

1. Phases of Emotional Transition

A great deal of research has been done about how people un­dergo transitions from one state of being to another. Most of this research has focused on the stages of transition or re­covery that people go through when they confront a major unexpected and unwanted change in their lives. The types of changes that have been studied most include divorce, the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness, and the loss of a job. Figure 6.4 illustrates the transition process people go through when confronted by one of these major traumatic changes in their lives.

The first emotional response to any type of change is shock. A person is living from day to day, comfortable with the predictability of his or her life. Suddenly, an unexpected change intrudes. A typical response to the shock it produces is denial. The change is so unwanted that the natural human response is to simply deny that it has happened. This levels the state of mind somewhat from the low experienced dur­ing the shock phase. The length of the denial phase varies from person to person. Regardless of its length, the denial phase is temporary.

Events force the issue, and the realization of reality be­gins to set in. As this happens, the person’s state of mind begins to fall. Depression is common during the realization phase. People need a lot of support during this phase. When
realization bottoms out, acceptance occurs. Acceptance does not mean the person agrees with what has happened. Rather, it means that he or she is ready to say, “I have this problem; now what can I do about it?”

This attitude allows the rebuilding process to begin. During this phase, people need as much support as they did during the realization phase. As the rebuilding phase is accomplished, understanding sets in. In this phase, people have come to grips with the change, and they are dealing with it successfully. This phase blends into the final phase, recovery. In this phase, people are getting on with their lives.

Managers hoping to instill a quality culture should un­derstand this transitional process. The change from a tra­ditional organizational culture to a quality culture can be traumatic enough to trigger the process. Knowing this and understanding the process will help managers who are try­ing to instill a quality culture.

2. Steps in the Conversion to Quality

Figure 6.5 provides a checklist managers can use to guide their organizations through the conversion to a quality cul­ture. The various strategies contained in the checklist are ex­plained in the following subsections:

Identify the Changes Needed An organization’s cul­ture dictates how people in it behave, respond to problems, and interact with each other. If the existing culture is a qual­ity culture, it will have such characteristics as the following:

  • Open, continual communication
  • Mutually supportive internal partnerships
  • Teamwork approach to problems and processes
  • Obsession with continual improvement
  • Broad-based employee involvement and empowerment
  • Sincere desire for customer input and feedback

Does the organizations culture have these characteristics? The best way to answer this question is to involve the entire work­force from bottom to top in a systematic assessment that is stratified by level (executive management, middle management, first-line employee, etc.). Figure 6.6 is an example of an assess­ment instrument that can be used for collecting information on the perceptions of employees at all levels in an organization.

Put the Planned Changes in Writing A comprehen­sive assessment of an organization’s existing culture will usually identify improvements that need to be made. These improvements will require changes in the status quo. These changes should be listed without annotation or explanation. For example, if the assessment reveals that customer input is not part of the product development cycle, the change list would contain an entry such as the following: The product development cycle should be changed so that it includes the collection and use of customer input.

Develop a Plan for Making the Changes The plan for effecting change is developed according to the who-what- when-where-how model. Each of these elements represents a major section of the plan, as follows:

  • Who will be affected by the change? Who will have to be involved in order for the change to succeed? Who is likely to challenge the change?
  • What tasks must be accomplished? What are the most likely barriers? What are the related processes and proce­dures that will be affected by the change?
  • When should the change be implemented? When should progress be measured? When should the various tasks as­sociated with the change be accomplished? When should implementation be completed?
  • Where will the change be implemented? Where are the people and processes that will be affected?
  • How should the change be made? How will it affect ex­isting people and processes? How will it improve quality, productivity, and competitiveness?

The plan should contain all five elements, and each element should be dealt with comprehensively. However, the plan should be brief. Be comprehensive and thorough, but keep it as brief as possible.

Understand the Emotional Transition Process Advocates of the change will play key roles in its implemen­tation. The success of the implementation will depend to a large extent on how well advocates play their roles. It is es­sential that they understand the emotional transition people go through when forced to deal with change, particularly un­wanted change (see Figure 6.4).

As noted above, the transition consists of seven steps: shock, denial, realization, acceptance, rebuilding, under­standing, and recovery. People who confront a change they don’t want to make may have to go through all seven steps in the transition. Advocates should understand this and pro­ceed accordingly.

Identify Key People and Make Them Advocates Key people are those who can facilitate and those who can inhibit implementation of the change. These people should be iden­tified, brought together, and given the plan. Allow advocates and inhibitors opportunities to state their cases. Record all concerns and deal with them. This is the step in which a quid pro quo might be used to bring inhibitors around. Executive managers must use their judgment in applying the right amount of the “carrot,” the “stick” and peer pressure (from advocates) to turn inhibitors into advocates.

Take a Hearts-and-Minds Approach Advocates should be conscious of human nature as they work to imple­ment change. On an intellectual level, people may under­stand and even agree with the reasons behind a change. But understanding intellectually is rarely enough. People tend to react to change more on an emotional (hearts) level than on an intellectual (minds) level, at least initially. Therefore, it is important to take the time to deal with the inevi­table emotional response that occurs in the early stages of implementation.

Frequent, open communication—preferably face-to- face—is the best strategy. Advocates should allow even the most negative opponents to voice their concerns and objections in open forums. Then these concerns should be answered in an impartial, patient, nondefensive manner. When the majority of employees accept the change, critical mass will set in, and peer pressure will begin to work on the side of the advocates.

Apply Courtship Strategies Courtship is a phase in a re­lationship that moves slowly but deliberately toward a desired end. During the courtship, the partner hoping to move the re­lationship forward listens carefully to the other partner and patiently responds to any concerns expressed. This partner is on his or her best behavior. If advocates think of their relation­ship with potential resisters as a courtship, they will be better able to bring them along and eventually win them over.

Support, Support, Support This final strategy is critical. It means that the material, moral, and emotional support needed by people undergoing change should be provided. Undergoing change is a lot like walking a tightrope for the first time. It will go more smoothly if you have someone to help you get started, someone waiting at the other end to encourage progress, and a safety net underneath in case you fall. Planning is important. Communication is critical. But support is essential.

Source: Goetsch David L., Davis Stanley B. (2016), Quality Management for organizational excellence introduction to total Quality, Pearson; 8th edition.

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