We talk a lot about processes at Intelligent Management. That’s because well-designed and well-managed processes are the bedrock of Quality and healthy organizations. But it’s more than that. Processes require constant attention and continuous improvement. In case that begins to sound like a treadmill, let’s remember something very important and fundamental for our lives: we can enjoy the process.
People want quality lives
What do we mean by quality? We hear about it constantly, quality products and services, quality time. We would say that quality is, first and foremost, a mindset. Quality is something that is built, not just checked, and that requires continuous and relentless improvement. Quality, then, is not “achieved”, it requires vigilance and it is an ongoing process.
Lack of quality, i.e., excessive, unmanaged and misunderstood variation, from boardroom thinking to shop-floor activities, is what robs people of their pride in workmanship, prevents customer satisfaction, undermines relationships with partners, stifles innovation and creates unhealthy and ethically awed business environments. Excessive variation in organizations, just like germs that proliferate, is the infection that leads to the demise of any economic activity.
Quality is achieved when people are “involved,” and that means intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation in individuals is what sustains efforts over time and is achieved only when we see ourselves reflected in what we do, when we take pride and derive joy from our work. The role of a leader is to ensure that no-one is deprived of that joy because the state of mind created by joy is what enables learning and it provides the drive for the innovation that goes with it. (Dr. Domenico Lepore in ‘Quality Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’)
Improvement is in our nature
It’s no surprise that self-improvement is a multi billion dollar industry. The desire to keep achieving, to move onwards and upwards is inbuilt in our nature. In art or science there is no “end” but continuous questioning. We are naturally seekers, not just achievers, so once a goal is accomplished there is always something beyond (see Affective Neuroscience ). In part, this is imposed by external circumstances because markets and society are constantly evolving so our reality is constantly shifting and changing. Challenges such as globalization and digitalization accelerate the change.
It is true that it is a natural tendency to resist change when it creates too much discomfort. However, as humans, we have the unique opportunity to participate actively in the process of change, to be not just seekers but continual co-creators of our world. We believe that the work of both W. Edwards Deming and the Theory of Constraints help us to do precisely that.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint . This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.