What’s keeping CEOs up at night, and the answer to it all…

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I just read through the latest View from the Q post and related white paper discussing CEO challenges for 2012.  Not surprising stuff here…

What CEOs are failing to recognize is how the majority of what “they’re thinking about” all ties together with a quality program that is closely knitted into all of the organization’s strategies and subsequent activities.  The issue is ongoing and quoted from the report referenced, but I argue we’re in the process of a management evolution that is drifting away from this paradigm.  It’s just happening kind of slow…

For some organizations, ‘quality’ remains a set of tools and techniques associated almost exclusively with quality control. For others, quality has evolved into a critical partner, closely linked with business model development and the enterprise-wide execution of long-term strategy to achieve results.”

This has been THE issue when it comes to “selling quality” and rationalizing with executives regarding the investment in terms of returns and not costs.  But, it seems this remains the challenge, and changing thinking is not easy.  Going from short-term thinking to long-term thinking requires more than just a mandate.  Fayol gave us four functions of management that start with planning… Start there.

Some positive examples that we are moving in the right direction to address the issues that are keeping these CEOs up at night include:

1) I’ve noted a change in textbooks, in as short of a time as six years, where quality is concerned.  Where it wasn’t mentioned at all when I started, there’s now a focus on ensuring quality though continuous improvement and not just how it relates to production control.  It wasn’t something we focused heavily on even through my graduate program.  In speaking with other professors and students, this is changing as well.  Super good news here!

2) Social media has only scratched the surface of how CEOs stay connected with successful case studies and current research.  I see these executives taking advantage of this more often and their primary source of media is moving into the digital age as well.  Podcasts, interactive publication apps and public forums are talking more and more about quality throughout the supply chain as an absolute must.  Let’s face it… quality is “in.”

3) I see younger people starting to care more.  I think their power lies in what kind of consumers they’ll be.  And, with an education system focusing on how to get it right, I expect they’ll be good decision makers as well.  If today’s CEOs pave the road, the executives of tomorrow will follow.

I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that included an interview with Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman.  It was such an inspiring interview to read because it was obvious that he got it.  He got how all of these things CEOs say bother them most come down to meeting and exceeding expectations with a focus on the long-term.

Innovation, human capital, global political/economic risk, government regulation, global expansion, cost optimization, customer relationships, sustainability, corporate brand and reputation, and investor relations… Incorporate quality into corporate culture and strategy and the rest falls in place.  Use the tools to keep you on track.  Quality control certainly has a purpose, but it’s not the goal.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Janet MacCausland  •  Jun 25, 2012 @1:17 pm

    Jennifer,
    we too have seen a sudden shift of attention from educational venues towards quality basics. Our next Memory Jogger thats about to be released has also changed format from our traditional learning approach. Its moved to a visual learning tool, as well as quizes up front and theory and case studies in the back.

    This new genre of learning is key to changing the way CEOs funnel down the information that they are driving towards the executives. So much so that many of our books moving forward are going to be based on the quality basics such as Hoshin, and Kaizen etc., the basics will get you there.

    Nice observations above. If I could “LIKE” it, I would!

    Janet