Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mission and Vision

This topic has always been close to heart since I have experienced both the good and bad side of it. Recently I answered a question on LinkedIn on this topic and thought it would be a good idea to share it.

Here is what I replied:
"I believe that it has to do with leadership. Vision and Mission statement like many other things are part of a company’s culture and organizational development, and have everything to do with motivation and leadership. In order for Mission and Vision to have an effect in an organization, the people have to
1) Know them
2) Understand them
3) Believe in them

In most cases Mission and Vision are known at best, rarely are they understood by anybody else other than the team that came up with them, and even more rarely to people truly believed in them. Intriguingly, when people believe in these statements they are not really necessary, since at that point they are simply part of the companies’ culture. In such cases you will also observe a correlation between strong leadership and organizational focus.

So it really doesn’t help to keep pushing these to people to remember or memorize the statement, you have to motivate them to know, understand, and believe in it."

You can view the whole thread here.

But really what prompted me to write this posting is a proverb I came across:

"Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand."
-- Chinese Proverb

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Quality Monster

When I was fresh out of college and got involved in my first consulting gig I was somewhat confused to learn about the prevalence and power of the “quality department” in most of the companies that I was working for. Through my studies I learned that quality was a controlling concept that manufacturers used to make sure that everything was – if you will - ok with the product. It took my quite a while to understand and grasp the extent of this monster of an organization, which seemed to have a deliberate separate existence within each company.

Where did this quality organization come from? It seemed unnatural to have quality managed by a separate entity. My understanding at the time was that quality was inherently part of the process. It came from good engineering and good craftsmanship – with a sprinkle of discipline. If you separate the quality management from the process, you create a conflict of interests. The people involved in each department strive towards different goals.

Why then do we have huge quality organizations in regulated industries? Ah-ha “regulated” that may be the clue. It seems to stem from the push for compliance. Regulated bodies like to have confidence that there is compliance. How better to show this other than be dedicating a separate organization to secure compliance? So it seems that in fact its politics and not anything to do with good engineering or manufacturing practices.

In my mind quality and product are tightly connected. Quality products is what we want, there is no sense in product with no quality. Therefore it makes no sense to separate these to organizationally either. Like a good German engineered car (or Japanese nowadays) it is a result of an effective production system. In fact in quality is something you get free if you simply Lean-out your process. Quality is inherent to the process. However you can’t just tell your quality department to go home one day? Is it me that fails to see the benefits in what we consider best practices?