Quality = The Culture = The Consequence System

A Request for Some Assistance

In his “A View From the Q” Blog Post for August, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks for some assistance for a speech on creating a quality culture. He states:

I welcome your views on a few questions that I don’t see covered in the content, even the good content, that I think would be valuable and will help influence my speech.  So, thanks in advance for your good help, blog readers and commenters.

If you’re working on a culture of quality, or sustaining one, what do you look for in the people you hire into the organization?  How can you tell whether an applicant will contribute to, thwart, or work at quality culture goals? What attitudes support the success of a culture of quality? Are the personal attributes universal, or do they in your experience differ around the world?

When you’re in a culture of quality, how does it feel? Or, how do you feel? At the moment I’m intrigued by feelings and think more organizations are turning their attention to feelings. Feelings, after all, are at the heart of experience and emotional attachment, which we all understand to drive loyalty and success.


As I hum along to the song now in my head (if you have to ask, never mind – or go here – for a fun approach to the classic – or here for one of several dozens of a more serious version to play in the background if that won’t overload you cognitively) I began a search for a definition of “Feelings” – as I wanted to get that out of the way to address The Consequence Systems needed to shape the Culture needed to enable an overall, organization-wide  Quality Mind-Set and Quality Culture. I’ll get back to Feelings, mine in particular, later.

So let’s turn to Wikipedia:

Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as “a feeling of warmth”.

In psychology, the word is usually reserved for the conscious subjective experience of emotion. Phenomenologyand heterophenomenology are philosophical approaches that provide some basis for knowledge of feelings. Many schools of psychotherapy depend on the therapist achieving some kind of understanding of the client’s feelings, for which methodologies exist. Some theories of interpersonal relationships also have a role for shared feelings or understanding of another person’s feelings.

Perception of the physical world does not necessarily result in a universal reaction among receivers (see emotions), but varies depending on one’s tendency to handle the situation, how the situation relates to the receiver’s past experiences, and any number of other factors. Feelings are also known as a state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments or desires.

If Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch – Then Start With The Culture

If your Strategy calls for establishing, repairing or sustaining your Culture of Quality – then first take stock of your Culture.

I’ve posted on this before – herehere – here – here and here.

And if you believe what I believe – that “The Culture Is (a Result of ) The Consequence System” – meaning that “what is expected and rewarded – and what is not wanted and punished” will drive behaviors – and quality – then you do really need to take a good, hard look at that.

The Consequence System Enables or Disables Strategy

Not as catchy, I know.

It does help to clarify expectations, verbally or in written form. But smart people will figure it out – as long as the Consequences shape the Behaviors.

What about Attitudes?

I “think” that everyone – with some exception – wants to do a good job – is quality conscious – under the right conditions.

But push them to make “the end of the month production numbers” – regardless of how good whatever product or service was shipped – and the lessons become very clear. And actionable.

Ship garbage – because that’s important – and the workforce will figure it out.

Give everyone access to the “Andron Cord” – and don’t punish anyone for pulling it – and they’ll figure that out too. Give them the ability to stop production and then give them grief about doing so – and they’ll figure that out quickly. And then you’ll have a hard time regaining their trust.

The “more sure” and “quick” and “strong/impactfull” the Consequences – the bigger the impact. The “less sure” and “more delay” – the less impact – hence the effectiveness of the hot stove top consequences versus the consequences of smoking (to paraphrase the late Geary A. Rummler).

Consequences are formal – and informal.

Consequences are intended – and unintended. There’s a law about that.

Establishing the right Consequence System requires Systems Thinking. Otherwise the Law of Unintended Consequences might find its way to your situation.


OK. Back to Feelings. I feel that a Quality Culture –

  • Starts at the top and flows downhill – as does tolerance/acceptance of “less-than-quality”
  • Is reinforced – the verbal/written “expectations” – by the “actions” of management – as actions speak louder than words
  • Is created, shaped and sustained, or destroyed by management’s actions that present Consequences

Creating a Quality Culture

Determine and communicate desired results, metrics and standards. Provide all of the Environmental Assets and Human Assets required of a well engineered Process. Empower people to do the right thing. Catch them doing things right and make a BIG DEAL out of it. Celebrate (just a little) your failures and make a BIG DEAL about the Lessons Learned so as to not repeat those failures.

Paul writes in his post  “One large high tech company calls its Chief Quality Officer the VP of Customer Experience.”


But what about the Other Stakeholders – and their Experiences?

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking should nudge us beyond any one stakeholder group such as the Customers.

Just as the root cause of Problems/Opportunities can very easily lie upstream from the symptoms, so too the Satisfaction of downstream Customers might lie way upstream with the other players in the processes.

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