For many years American businessmen have traveled to Japan in search of the secret formula that would give them Japanese productivity. Each group would return with a new buzz word that was allegedly the secret to success. Initial trips brought back news about quality circles and SPC, then it was JIT, later on attention was given to Taguchi Methods, then it was on to QFD and TPM, etc. While each of these tools has its advantages, use of these tools by themselves has not provided the success that their sponsors have envisioned. There still seems to be a missing link that enables all tools to work. Could it be management?
Some have wondered why the Japanese, who are such fierce competitors, are willing to tell Americans their business schemes for improving quality. The rationale ranges from indebtedness to the United States for Dr. Deming, to it makes good business sense in view of the friction over the trade deficits. One additional reason, that has a ring of truth to it, is the Japanese are willing to share because they know full well that most companies do not have the ability to implement the ideas and become competitors. The analogy used to describe this rationale is that it is like the math student that copies his friends homework all semester. Things seem to go along well until exam time comes and he finds out that he does not know how to reason through the problems and get the right answer for himself. The student did not realize that math skill is not just getting the right answers, but more importantly learning how to work through the problems. Even though American businesses have gone to Japan for “the answers”, they are still not successful because they have not gone through the thought process to get the answers for themselves. The reason that the Japanese continue to improve quality is that their management has developed a deep rooted conviction over the years that quality and profits go hand in hand. Americans keep hearing that quality is the answer, but they often times have an inability to reason through the detailed changes necessary in their own organizations that will produce the same results.
While American management may not have been through all the thought processes of the Japanese, they continue to learn lessons about quality in the school of hard knocks. Some have tried the technical tools and failed. They now pursue alternate paths in an attempt to change their own organizations so they can become world class competitors. What they are discovering is that the real avenue to change is not found in the technical tools, but rather in the management process. As the comic strip character Pogo once expressed it, “We have found the enemy, and it is us.”
People have been talking about management for years, could the solution to world class quality be found here? Well it seems that management style produces something in a company called culture. Culture is the combined state of mind of all employees that determines how people will support a company, whether or not they will volunteer any extra effort, as well as how they will respond to the customer. It is an intangible attribute, difficult to measure, and often times dismissed as the soft side of management by those who would rather deal with hard facts and numbers.
This paper is devoted to sharing the struggles of a Rockwell Management Team that is attempting to change its own culture.