Browsing the archives for the training tag.


Engaging Quality in the Workplace… Priming the Workforce

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ASQ has reached out to members asking about employee engagement… More specifically, to what extent do organizations engage about the importance of quality? And, how should companies approach the issue and make a real difference?

To what extent dTVRBNA==o organizations engage about the importance of quality?

I play a little game with myself and make a note whenever I see “quality” referenced.  I find myself chuckling regarding the saturation of the word in our marketplace vocabulary. We want stakeholders to associate us with quality and figure saying it a lot or putting it in the company name is going to do the trick. We think adding signs around our workplace or inserting the word into our mission statements will do the trick. Not terrible ideas… But, it doesn’t seem to be that simple.

How should companies approach the issue and make a real difference? 

I’m currently reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.  In this book, I found the inspiration for my response here… Priming.

Priming is a nonconscious form of human memory concerned with perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. Additionally, priming can also refer to a technique in psychology used to train a person’s memory in both positive and negative ways.” (Source)

What if employers used priming to engage (influence) employees regarding the importance of quality? For example:

  • Conceptual Priming – Determine what related ideas are necessary to prime the response. What words do employees associate with quality? Use this to prime people before shifts, during meetings, within written communications, etc.
  • Non-Associative Semantic Priming – Same as above, but consider concepts instead of words.
  • Repetitive Priming – Repeat communications related to quality to influence later thoughts.

In the absence of my recent association with Blink and considering I have little experience in this particular field of psychology, I’d offer more traditional suggestions like this:

  • Incorporate quality into KPIs and associated incentives. Research has shown this isn’t enough on its own, however.
  • Offer and support ongoing training.
  • Consider the focus on quality within the metrics you’re using to evaluate performance. If I’m pushing you for sales or production numbers and don’t incorporate or support quality metrics within that, I’m basically telling you to get sales and/or produce at any cost.
  • Create a true culture of quality, which is defined as “environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them.”  There’s an excellent Harvard Business Review article where that definition originates.  In the article,  Four Essentials of Quality are discussed. These include:
    • Maintaining a leadership emphasis on quality
    • Ensuring message credibility
    • Encouraging peer involvement
    • Increasing employee ownership and empowerment

The bottom line:

“Employees who ranked their company in the top quintile in terms of quality reported addressing 46% fewer mistakes in their daily work than employees in bottom-quintile companies. In our surveys, employees report that it takes two hours, on average, to correct a mistake. Assuming an hourly wage of $42.55 (the median for CEB client companies), a bottom-quintile firm with 26,300 employees (the median head count) spends nearly $774 million a year to resolve errors, many of them preventable—$350 million more than a top-quintile firm. Although figures will vary according to industry and company, here’s a broad rule of thumb: For every 5,000 employees, moving from the bottom to the top quintile would save a company $67 million annually.” (Source)

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Quality professionals as leaders…

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Bill Troy discusses quality professionals as leaders this month in the latest View From the Q post.

“The idea is this: Every quality professional, a leader.”

This sounds great, no doubt.  But, I don’t buy into the idea that everyone needs to be a leader. I think it’s possible you can equally contribute in profound ways even if you’re not.  But, I’m confident we could have a conversation that would conclude the definition of leadership in general is somewhat subjective.  To simplify things, I’m thinking about something Drucker said here, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

And, then we must consider Deming in regards to “quality is everyone’s responsibility.”

But, I would absolutely agree regarding the necessity for leadership at the management level. Troy did clarify later in his post:

“Simply put, the quality professional, wherever he or she may be and at whatever level of management, must be a leader to be effective.”

That vision and drive found in leaders is exactly what we need to get quality into the C-suite.  It’s that formulation of attributes that will be required for the powers that be to see and support the overall quality initiative and focus. As quality professionals, maybe we just need to be better communicators?

One of the questions I always include in management exams is whether or not all managers are leaders.  I’ve received all kinds of interesting responses. And, I also revert back to Drucker:

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Troy concludes the post asking if I think I’m a quality leader and inquiring about what kind of training I’ve received.  This leads me inevitably to Trait Theory. I’m just not so sure leadership is the result of training. Are leaders ultimately born or made? It’s an existential debate I enjoy… Stogdill defined the following traits and skills as critical to leaders:

LeaderSkills

But, I’ll conclude with this though:

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” —Peter Drucker

And, we do need quality professionals to get results!

Leadership quotes you can’t resist:

25 Great Leadership Quotes (Business News Daily)

75 Inspiring Quotes You Need to Know About Leadership (Inc.)

100 Best Quotes on Leadership (Forbes)

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Small business professional training and development?

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TeachLearnBlocks1The quality community is talking about professional training this month, and I find myself thinking of this as well having missed the annual ASQ Leadership Training in lieu of a work strategy session this past weekend.  Granted, the strategy sessions were incredibly productive and worth the rescheduling effort in this case.

In A View from the QPaul Borawski is asking who “encourages” me to pursue professional training… I must say that it’s a self-driven activity.  Based on experience and everything I’ve read, this is common in small businesses where professional development budgets are more tightly managed, if they exist at all.  I’m certainly not saying that small businesses fail to place an importance on professional training, but I am saying that having worked with several over the years, the training that does exist usually happens because the employee is self motivated and demands it.

An unfortunate trend I have noticed is that small and large organizations alike are cutting back on training and development budgets.  With the seemingly unlimited amount of online material for little or no cost, it is sometimes difficult to justify the cost of training. Of course, the networking and other benefits of such development are inarguable. It is what it is though.

As a reaction to this, I’ve recently gotten more involved with the local ASQ chapter and am serving as the Section 1508 Education Chair… This is something I’m kind of excited about!  My goal here is to make quality training accessible and “raise the voice” both across membership and to the community as well.

As a Section, we are in the process of developing low-cost workshops that can be used in a corporate environment or to focus on certain areas of certification Body of Knowledge information.  We all agree quality training and development must be promoted and made readily available for success.

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