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Part 2: What Sustainability Can Learn from Quality

November 2, 2010

As promised, here is part two:  the final seven key principles of quality management as applied to sustainability.

Drive out fear so everyone is more effective.  Are the words “Too big to fail” suddenly flashing in your brain?  Fear has been endemic since the economic crisis on so many levels. This refers back to where we saw in Part 1 of this post that as cost was the bane of quality, so to it is of sustainability.  Fear of being more expensive is counterproductive, and often not true anyhow.  In Part 3 of this post, I will write about Philip Crosby and his approach to cost and quality.

Break down inter-departmental barriers and work as a team.  Refer to principle 3, “Build it in the first time”.  Ensuring a team approach is effective not just for sustainability but for many things in business, including quality, cost control and speed to market.  Iterative approaches take time.

Eliminate slogans and targets as these create adversarial relationships.  I have taken some training in negotiation, and what strikes me here is that this is similar to the “win/lose” mentality of many negotiators.  I win so you lose.  (Which, as you learn in some negotiating classes, is incredibly counter-productive).  Slogans and targets separate the few from the many, creating an “us and them” approach that is largely ineffective (see Principle 9, above).  The mindset needs to shift to “We both win”.

Eliminate quotas and management by objective.  Substitute leadership.  Leadership.  Too bad we can’t buy it on eBay.  Since we can’t, we look to sustainability leaders and leadership organizations, such as the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, and associations like the Green Meeting Industry Council.

Remove barriers that rob people of their pride in workmanship such as merit ranking and management by objective. I was a bit confused by this, so I took some time to see if I could unravel it.  What it means, I think, is that management needs to be less “downstream” (i.e. management by the numbers) and more “upstream”, or management of the people.  Unsurprisingly, this could perhaps be summed up as “Qualitative, not quantitative”.

Have a training and self-improvement program. Since the principles have already mentioned training, I think I might change this to read “Have a corporate responsibility program”.  Involve you and your people in the community.  It makes everyone richer.  Sustainability is self-perpetuating.

Transformation is everyone’s job.  This harks back to principles ten and six.  Sustainable transformation is everyone’s job.  If this makes you think of Ford’s old slogan. “Quality is job 1”, refer to my previous post, A Profitable Revelation.

I used Google books to look up part of Out of the Crisis and found this interesting paragraph, titled Hope for Instant Pudding.  In it, Deming identifies an obstacle which is all too familiar to sustainability practitioners:

the supposition that improvement of quality and productivity is accomplished suddenly by affirmation of faith…come, spend a day with us, we too wish to be saved”.

Sustainability, like quality, can’t be bought and mixed like instant pudding.  No matter how many glossy reports you produce, sustainability takes time.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 4:00 pm

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  2. November 2, 2010 5:06 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

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