Once a pareto chart is developed and the biggest problems are documented, teams can be formed to begin work on identifying exactly why that nonconformance continues to recur. At this point, a quality team can begin identifying the process, both as it works and as it should work. By understanding where problems occur, teams can better identify the process allowing the nonconformance, as well as specific procedures that might not be in place to manage the process itself. This sets in motion changes to the process, procedural updates, and training and education to ensure staff understand specifically how the process works. Once education efforts are undertaken, and policies and procedures are corrected or put in place, continued measurements will validate whether or not the process has been corrected. Again, if measurements are discontinued, how will we know if the problem has really been corrected? And even if continued measurements validate that the corrective action accomplished its goal, should those measurements cease, how will we know the corrective action has
continued to be effective? This is exactly where most quality processes fail. Individuals do not understand why measurements are conducted on processes that work well, so the measurements are subsequently discontinued—only for the process to fail down the road for another reason not initially identified. Here is the true test of commitment to a quality process. What will sustain quality efforts at this point is support from management to encourage, even mandate, that the process which identified the nonconformance—measurement-be continued.
But a quality process will only go so far. The steps discussed allow for identification of nonconformances, and begin the process of corrective action. It allows for an effective and inexpensive means in which to begin a quality process or assist in the justification for a formal process. However, without changes to the environment—and culture—of the organization, no formal process will sustain success. As important as a quality process is to ensure quality products, appropriate attitudes are essential to support the overall values of the organization.
The best definition of "culture" comes from an article titled "Self-Organization."1 It reads, in part: "Self-organization happens. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. Self-organization means that elements interact to form a whole. The whole influences the parts and the parts influence the whole in a set of feedback loops. An environmental ecology emerges. In business we call this culture. When we say things like, "Oh, this place is really ___ " we're putting the behavior of the place outside ourselves. We are denying the contribution we make to what is emerging. Like Dilbert, we sit back looking cynically at the whole and cope by poking fun. We excuse ourselves from our responsibility by saying, "Yeah, but I'm just one little person."
The message is simple. The attitude of the workforce defines organizational culture. Taking that theory one step further, and understanding the effect management's attitudes and actions have on the workforce, one could advocate that it's management that defines organizational culture.
The reality is, you are just one little person, and one little person can make an incredible difference in an organization. It's when we become complacent, give up, and stop trying that we are no longer able to effect change. We get caught up in the less-than-exciting allure of effecting change—it's a slow process—and begin listening to those who have become comfortable telling us "we've tried that before" or "it won't work here" and we begin to believe our efforts are in vain. Effectively, these individuals have thought of excuses to fail, instead of reasons to succeed. When the excitement level of effecting change dwindles and that change process becomes a slow-moving train, it's many times easier to capitulate and not fight the battle. But change is a battle. And to win the battle, certain business attributes must be set in place. Among these are documented vision,
mission, and goals as well as values shared by every individual in the organization. Not until these values are established can an organization begin moving in the direction of cultural change. And cultural change cannot be approached in any laissez-faire manner. Organizational culture has generally been developed over years, and will only be changed through a slow process. To accomplish this change, certain values must be recognized and put in place.
To Be Continued
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