The Total Quality Management (TQM) revolution seems to be over. But it’s not!
One contribution by Edwards Deming is still a strong component of how successful businesses work: continuous process improvement. All you have to do is look at commercials for new cars, cell phones, and computers.All tout improved or recreated products or new creations. They are sleeker, have more features, work faster, and (may) cost less! All of those improvements are a result of continuous process improvement.
Deming was a strategist who believed, as I do, that everything we do is a process and every process can be improved. Companies that succeed regularly evaluate processes. It’s not a fad: It’s a way of thinking and doing. It’s asking, What can we do . . .
. . . quicker?
. . . smarter?
. . . with more people?
. . . with fewer people?
. . . with less cost?
. . . with increased satisfaction?
. . . to increase productivity?
We’ve done a better job improving the technical side of processes, such as mechanized steps and a variety of measurements, than we have with the people side of processes, such as team building, conflict resolution, and customer satisfaction.
That’s not to say improving the technical side or different steps in a processes isn’t important. It is! Imagine how productive you’d be today if you were doing your work exactly the same way you did it 5 years ago.
You wouldn’t be able to communicate electronically as easily.
Sharing documents and sending invoices would be awkward at best.
We seem to come easily to the decision that we must continuously improve the technical and equipment side of processes. We can measure the amount of time and, therefore, the costs.
With business relationships it’s harder to be objective. We may not realize that the amount of time allocated for specific steps in a processes is because one department “pads” time when working with us because individuals don’t trust each other. We may miss the fact that we have multiple meetings because decision makers aren’t all in the room or on the same page.
Since we know improved work relationships result in improved productivity, each person can make a difference. Simply ask yourself: What can I do to improve my work relationships and my work processes? What actions do I need to take to build trust with my colleagues, managers, and customers?
Asking, answering, and acting on such questions lead to professional accountability that can positively affect corporate accountability from the bottom up.