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How to identify GREAT leaders
Meghana Bilwalkar | June 28, 2006
Pat Towsend and his wife, Joan Gebhardt, who are not new to India, are however, totally mesmerised by the beauty of Taj Mahal. They believe that there is just one word to describe the Taj Mahal -- perfect.
Townsend and Gebhardt, who have co-authored four books on quality, seem to imbibe this perfection in their books.
Townsend believes that a complete quality process will ensure that an organisation's quality effort reaches every aspect of the company and benefits from the knowledge, ability, and enthusiasm of every person on the payroll.
Gebhardt believes that leadership and how people successfully work together are honed in a number of settings.
This is explained in their recent book, Leadership In Action: Complete Quality Process -- which attempts to re-energise the quality revolution by giving organisations a realistic approach to tap into the existing talent. The couple spoke to Business Standard on issues and challenges related to quality control and improvement in business process. Excerpts:
What is the importance of quality control in an automated business scenario where almost everything is controlled by technology leaving little scope for human interference?
It's more than ever. We believe that business processes have changed considerably over the last decade, and personal interaction at work has evolved to a great extent.
With competition on the rise, organisations need to constantly recognise employees as individuals. The need of the hour is not for employees to get smarter, but also for the employer to take stock of what is happening within the organisation.
It can only be achieved through developing a complete understanding of the employees' needs and recognising humanity as a part of the leadership process.
Organisations must also realise that competition is not restricted by boundaries anymore. So, if technology is helping ease the work pressure, it is also bringing the world closer. This only means that unless organisations follow a complete quality process (CQP) a great physical idea will only bring limited success.
How can a company assure the journey from quality control to quality improvement?
The complete quality process is not part of just one measurement tool. It involves entire clusters of leadership, personalisation, rewards and recognition and so on. Think of quality process as a tapestry. You can't pull one thread and expect a spectacular design.
Thus, managers and leaders need to realise that the measurement results must be used for long-term strategic planning. All of this sounds simple. But, how many leaders and managers actually use this process? It's time organisations realise that CQP is a combination of measurement, leadership and anticipation.
How would you identify good leaders and leadership process?
Leadership is a process which is personal, active and obvious. It is a behaviour and not position. We believe that leadership is a subset of love as they are both rational and emotional.
A good leader is one who can connect, talk and be able to develop trust between him and the team members. If leaders identify this process they will soon realise a change in their approach towards people.
All of this becomes even more evident, when we hear employees says, "I love working for her. She is a fabulous boss" or "I love my team." Employees use these words, but they don't examine the events that lead to such claims.
Through quality process, we help leaders try and describe these events that culminate into a good team and a healthy work culture.
What challenges do you foresee in identifying the line between getting close to employees and maintaining the authoritative position, at the same time?
Everyone knows that their mission is to accomplish good results. However, what everyone is not aware of, is that to be able to achieve the mission successfully, leaders must take care of their people.
It can only be achieved by giving them the freedom to decide their course of work and decision process. It is more like, if an employee is held responsible for a job, then he/she should be given a chance to have a say in the process.
But, this does not mean leaders or managers should wash off their hands when it comes to responsibility. They should be able to define deadlines and create an ownership for the product or organisation. This will help move the process away from being permission-based to an efficient business unit.
What according to you are best ways to train managers or leaders?
If we had to lead a team, we would benchmark ourselves against some international leaders. But, this can't be done by selecting one mechanism of management. Managers must realise that mechanisms can be different, but the attitude should be the same.
This includes delegation and identifying resources. However, what happens more often than not is that employees are left to guess what their work profile is or what is expected of them. And, here is where most managers go wrong. The only way to identify these gaps is through a complete quality process.
This way it will make both customers and employees happy, which would result in more money for the organisation.
How can organisations learn, identify and institutionalise data from several resources to ensure an effective way of quality control to improve processes within an organisation?
It is true that the information flow is abundant. But, most managers are confusing information with knowledge. It's time they realise that though information leads to knowledge, both are not the same thing.
Intelligence is to know how to thread out knowledge from numerous resources. However, people who are involved in the quality control process believe that more numbers they collect, the more better they are. This is not true. Numbers should indicate something and be as simple and accurate at the same time.
The other way to handle the information flow is by way of judgement. But, this can only come with experience.
What is the best way to ensure quality control -- hire an outsider or train a team of employees who pass the word around and keep a check on a regular basis?
It's very much individualistic. But, if an organisation decides to go the in-house way, the first thing would be to train the top management. Because, in an organisation, if there is anybody to be trained for quality process, it should the top managers. They need to get hold of the applications involved for the quality process.
This will help them to instill the spirit and seriousness of what makes good business within the organisation. And in case the organisation decides to hire an external agency to fix a problem, they should realise that is more than just issuing cheques.
They must instill a process to use the measurement results on a daily basis, take chances and implement changes.
What are the best practices an organisation should employ to reward achievers in quality control?
Rewards and recognition is the most tricky and important part of the quality process. One can say "thank you" in a number of different ways. This "thank you" can be interpreted in a number of ways by employees.
For instance, a set of employees will appreciate a cash reward as a form of reward and recognition, while others might just say, "Oh! That's because the company can't pay me well, they are trying to keep me happy by way of token money." Or, even a symbolic gift might mean a toy for one employee or a souvenir for the other.
Thus, it is very difficult to know which form of reward will be appreciated. However, managers must realise that they cannot do away with recognition and gratitude.
Therefore the only solution is being both rational and emotional, and make the employee realise that the "thank you" is because they deserve it. And, this is just common sense.
How do you define the role of communication in the quality process?
The flow of communication must be changed from bottom up to bottom down. The term that we are looking for is "listen down" as opposed to "listen up."
Knowing what is happening at the lower-end will mean that leaders can start an effective quality process of involving people and delivering good products and results.
This will help them capture information and push it up the management, which would help to enhance the product and work culture of the organisation.
Managers must realise that communication flow can not be one-way. A way-up and way-down communication flow will help people to identify the power of information and document it. For this, one need not invest in a six sigma study.
How different is Six Sigma Quality from CQP?
It's a just a tool for measurement. Though, it's a marvellous tool, people who focus on just six sigma, will make it a revision of rules than create a personal connect with employees.
More often than not, six sigma and many such measurement tools become religions for most leaders. They should realise that they are just tools and not religions.
Hence, leaders must not be too rigid in terms of accepting other methods to achieve a complete quality process unit. However, CQP is not for people who are looking for shortcuts.
Does good quality come with a high price?
It is either called "cost of quality" or "price of non-conformance". Either way, it is the calculated cost for an organisation of improving or sustaining process to avoid errors in the day-to-day activities.
If this cost is broken down into the cost of preventing errors or problems, the cost of detecting them and correcting them, the cost of failure when those errors or problems get out to customers.
Thus, the consistent calculation, is that, for most organisations, all expenses incurred on quality process when compared to total investments will only result in good money.
What is the biggest challenge an organisation faces in the field of quality process?
The best quality process across any country starts with one simple, yet major question: Who should we involve? It could be a marvellous discussion, should we involve a set of employees or keep them away for some particular reason.
The question one should ask is: Who we can leave out? This way you defend the person who is being left out. The result: an organisation will have 100 per cent employee involvement.
However, the thought to involve every employee in the CQP though is feasible, managers need to look at the training process very meticulously.