Quality Is Personal: A Foundation For Total Quality Management

Quality Is Personal: A Foundation For Total Quality Management

by Harry Roberts


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In this penetrating guide to involving employees in the process of total quality management, the authors make the argument that "personal quality checklists"—by which employees monitor waste reducers and value adding activities in their immediate work environment—can significantly increase individual understanding of the general concepts and implementation of top quality management.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780029266250
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 06/28/1993
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1



Although our primary interest is quality for the individual — in work and in everyday life — we begin with a brief survey of organizational quality, or, as it is frequently called, Total Quality Management (TQM). (Parts of this survey are drawn from the Report of the Working Council on Core Body of Knowledge for the Procter & Gamble Total Quality Forum of 1992.)

The working assumption of TQM is that continual organizational improvements, small and large, are not only possible but are necessary for long-term survival. Opportunities for improvement are recognized primarily by continuing reexamination of all existing constraints on the way that work is done. This reexamination is focused on all organizational processes, and it is guided by three basic ideas, which have to be sold to all employees:

1. Orient all efforts towards delighting customers and removing waste in (or constraints on) internal processes.

2. Stress team effort at all levels inside and outside the organization, including cooperative efforts with suppliers and customers.

3. Use data and scientific reasoning to guide and evaluate improvement efforts, and to hold the gains from past improvements.

These three ideas, when applied systematically, lead to management practices that are very different from traditional practices. The new practices are so appealing that many people, upon first encountering them, will insist that they have been following them all along.

The ideas of TQM lead to much more than meets the eye on first glance. And they pose a profound psychological challenge: they say that, no matter what we have done in our lives up to now, we must be prepared to find that we can do enormously better. This is gratifying in the sense that improvement is always gratifying. But it also suggests that what we have done in the past is going to look bad in the light of present knowledge. For many of us, that is hard to accept.

The detailed management tactics of TQM go beyond traditional optimization within fixed constraints to shoot at ever-moving improvement targets by relaxing or eliminating constraints. Since there is no end to opportunities to relax or eliminate constraints, improvement is never ending.

Relaxing Constraints

"Relaxing a constraint" is an abstract expression. One of the authors offers a personal example of what it means. In 1968 the author and his teenage son were jogging along a mountain trail in North Carolina when they were confronted by a large eastern timber rattlesnake who was visibly and noisily blocking the trail. They stopped abruptly about ten yards short of the rattler. The father picked up a large dead branch and advanced on the snake, intending to make him move off the trail so that they could continue the run. The son called out in alarm, "Dad, let's just walk around him!"

They took a wide semicircle around the snake and continued on their way. The rattler went on rattling, but the confrontation had been avoided. Here, the constraint was the assumption that the process of jogging demanded that they stay on the trail; the removal of the constraint permitted the run to continue without a potentially disastrous incident.

A Definition of TQM

TQM is a people-focused management system that aims at continual increase of customer satisfaction at continually lower real cost. This is a total system approach (not a separate area or program), and an integral part of high-level strategy; it works horizontally across functions and departments, involves all employees, top to bottom, and extends backward and forward to include the supply chain and the customer chain. TQM stresses learning and adaptation to continual change as keys to organizational success.

The foundation of TQM is philosophical: the scientific method. It includes systems, methods, and tools. The systems permit change; the philosophy stays the same. TQM is anchored in values that stress the dignity of the individual and the power of community action.

TQM is in one sense a highly democratic system, but it requires dedicated and informed leadership from senior management, leadership that is aware of the obstacles to successful implementation. TQM goes beyond specific improvements, however desirable these may be, to the transformation of organizations and organizational cultures from what they are today to something very different.

What Is In an Acronym?

TQM is only one of many acronyms used to label the management system that we have just described. Some of these acronyms are widely used, especially CQI for Continuous Quality Improvement. Others are specific to given companies or organizations. Three comments are in order:

* The substance that underlies the acronym is what matters.

* Labeling a given organization's activities by one of these acronyms does not in itself demonstrate that the organization is implementing the management system we are discussing.

* All the current acronyms could pass out of use without affecting the usefulness of the management system here described. An organization could implement the concepts without using any acronym at all.

Definition of Quality

This approach to TQM suggests that customer satisfaction — even customer delight — is a useful definition of "quality." Customer satisfaction has many dimensions, of which conformance to specifications is only one. In addition, in Building a Chain of Customers (New York: The Free Press, 1988), Richard Schonberger, distinguishes:

* performance*

* quick (some suggest "timely") response

* quick change expertise

* features*

* reliability*

* durability*

* serviceability*

* aesthetics*

* perceived quality*

* humanity

* value

The eight starred items are taken from a listing by David Garvin, Managing Quality: The Strategic and Competitive Edge (New York: The Free Press, 1988). Schonberger points out that the four unstarred items are not just variations or extensions of the first eight: they are basic and vital in their own right. Thus quality, considered carefully, includes more than has been traditionally subsumed in the term, certainly much more than conformance to specifications. Conformance to specifications is desirable — essential — when the specifications are aimed at achieving customer satisfaction.

But even more, quality becomes everyone's job; it cannot be delegated to inspectors or a quality assurance department. This is where personal quality fits in. This seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but it does need to be discussed, elaborated, and, above all, made concrete in terms of what we do from day to day.

Manufacturing Quality and Service Quality

Much of the work and literature on TQM has been focused on manufacturing. Quality in manufacturing requires meeting or exceeding customer expectations by making products that consistently operate within customer-based specifications.

Although manufacturing quality and service quality are similar — manufactured products are desired only to the extent that they provide services to customers — it is easier to understand and visualize good quality in manufacturing. People nod their heads in assent when they hear about service quality, but they don't know how to go about making it happen.

From manufacturing experience, we know that managing quality has two key components: to count and reduce defects; and to measure and reduce cycle time, the time that it takes to complete a given process, such as the assembly of a car. These fundamentals carry over to services. If you do not address these two fundamentals, you will not achieve your quality objectives. Do a good job on these fundamentals, and the rest is straightforward; it's fun. This requires, however, that every person in a service organization count defects or measure cycle time for those processes that are the most important in meeting or exceeding customers' expectations.

This sounds simple, but it demands a fundamental culture change in which customer expectations are accorded the highest importance, and ambitious goals are specified for improvement in all current processes. Note, in particular, that the easy answer of improving quality by hiring more people or spending more money becomes a last resort rather than a first step.

Service in the United States

Airplanes don't often take off and land on time, even in decent weather. When you get something repaired, it is likely that it won't be ready when promised, and that something else will be damaged in the process. If you need work done in your home or you expect a delivery to your home, prepare to rearrange your life for the convenience of the supplier. Salesclerks talk to each other and seem offended that you are interrupting them. There are lines to check in at hotels in the evening and then to check out in the morning. You may die in the hospital emergency room while they get the information you gave them three months ago; if you survive the emergency room and are admitted to the hospital, you will provide the same information again, perhaps many times.

Traditionally, these examples are typical of service levels. If customers have even thought about it, they have concluded that poor service, like death and taxes, is inevitable. The only option seems to be to grin and bear it.

But it doesn't have to be this way: things are changing. If you need next-morning delivery of a package from Chicago to Los Angeles, you can rely on Federal Express to get it there. If you want to have a wonderful vacation with your children or grandchildren, you know that you will have a great time at Disney World. If you need a customized pager the next day, you can bet on Motorola having it in your hands. It is possible for U.S. companies to provide outstanding service. Not many are doing it yet, but the number is increasing, and there are great opportunities for executives and managers who want to differentiate themselves — whether an entire company, a department, a work group, or an individual. It costs something to do so, but the payout on the investment can be enormous.


Now we come to personal quality, which relates these generalizations about TQM to you and to us.

0 Bob Galvin, formerly CEO of Motorola, has listed "The Welcome Heresies of Quality," in which he contrasts the "old testament" (ot) and the "New Truths" (NT). The first items on his list are:

ot: Quality control is an ordinary company and department responsibility

NT: Quality improvement is not just an institutional assignment, it is a daily personal priority obligation

Our aim is to elaborate Galvin's "New Truth."

Galvin made it plain that one key to implementing a strong quality program in any organization is personal quality. You cannot delegate the concept of quality. One of the basic tenets of leadership is that you don't ask others to do what you are not willing to do yourself. You will make progress faster by leading and showing the way than by drawing maps and telling folks where to go.

This book elaborates the personal quality journey. A major emphasis is on a tool called the Personal Quality Checklist, which is introduced in the next section. But we also go beyond checklists to consider other tools for achieving and improving personal quality.


The authors have taken Galvin's first "New Truth" at face value. Much of our discussion will be focused on a simple tool that we call the Personal Quality Checklist, which turns out not only to be useful for training about quality but to have astonishing potential for quickly improving general work effectiveness, and also for improving quality in everyday life outside the workplace.

We have tried the Personal Quality Checklist ourselves and have encouraged hundreds of others to try it. Most have been substantially helped in their work performance. For a few, the Personal Quality Checklist has done even more: it has proved to be a simple but powerful way to cope with chronic frustrations of job and daily living.

Many quality experts call not only for continuous improvement but for breakthroughs of performance. The Personal Quality Checklist is good for continuous improvement, but it also can lead to breakthroughs. It is not just an instructional tool. Fortunately, we do not have to ask you to take this claim on faith. If you follow the general approach outlined in Chapters 1 and 2, you can verify or refute it within a few days or at most a few weeks.

The Personal Quality Checklist has greatly improved the effectiveness of meetings in the Central Region of AT&T and aided in systematic quality training there. It has been useful in getting a fast start on several quality training programs at the University of Chicago, ranging from the campus MBA program to the Executive Program, quality training for staff, and even a special Quality Forum for senior managers who were interested in getting their companies started on the TQM journey.

The Personal Quality Checklist has also been received with interest by a number of audiences at short courses and seminars on quality. The checklist is something anyone can actually try out on short notice with minimal instruction, without preliminary organizational preparation, formation of teams, and provision of budgetary support.

Beyond the checklist itself, we have found that a personal perspective on quality strengthens the understanding of general principles of quality, including especially the ability to recognize and eliminate waste in all activities, the visualization of quality concepts such as Just-In-Time production, the understanding of the key role of customer satisfaction in quality improvement, and the use of simple tools of data analysis.

What's New About Personal Quality Checklists?

Later we show that the idea of personal quality checklists goes back at least to Benjamin Franklin, so clearly the idea did not originate with us. What we try to do is to illustrate the possibility of tying checklists closely with the TQM approach and to show how use of quality checklists can improve on what many people — including probably many readers — have been doing in a less systematic way.

The Personal Quality Checklist resembles in some ways the various schemes for time management, which entail systematic checklists of things to do. There are two differences: the Personal Quality Checklist is aimed at improvement by removal of system flaws, and it entails much less paperwork. However, the two approaches are not incompatible: Some users of the Personal Quality Checklist have included a standard, "Keeping my time management system up to date."

In the first three chapters of this book, we provide a detailed account of the Personal Quality Checklist, and we discuss contributions of personal quality to quality in general.

In Chapter 4, we discuss other routes to personal quality improvement, including routes based on detailed measurements rather than Personal Quality Checklists; use of other quality improvement tools; elimination of constraints; systematic approaches to the elimination of waste, Just-In-Time at the personal level; improving personal quality by benchmarking; inspection and personal quality; housekeeping for greater efficiency and reduction of waste; personal quality and athletics; personal health care; process mapping; simple questionnaires; personal vision/mission statements; personal process management; and statistical work sampling.

Chapter 5 goes beyond personal quality to survey Total Quality Management in organizations and to suggest how the personal approach can strengthen organizational efforts at the implementation of Total Quality Management.

The Conclusion gives a one-page summation of the message of the book.

The Appendix presents an elementary statistics tutorial based on data from personal quality checklists.


To begin a Personal Quality Checklist, you simply keep track of shortcomings — we like to call them defects — in your key personal work processes. A variation on the approach is to keep track of cycle time. (Cycle time is the length of time it takes to go through a process once; for example, we may speak of the cycle time of order filling as the elapsed time from receipt of an order to its shipment.) The aim is to reduce both defects and cycle times for important personal processes.

Why Count Defects?

The word "defect" has a negative connotation for some people who would like to keep track of times we do things right rather than times we do things wrong. Fortunately, most of us do things right much more often than we do things wrong, so it is easier in practice to count the defects. Moreover, we can get positive satisfaction from avoiding defects — witness accident prevention programs that count days without accidents.

Others suggest keeping track of the ratio of total defects to total opportunities for defects. Although this means more record keeping, it is sometimes feasible; in most instances, however, we suggest opting for simplicity of record keeping. Also, there are instances in which the total opportunity for defects cannot be counted: for example, we can count accidents, but we can't count opportunities for accidents.

Some with a background in statistical process control know that precise measurements are more informative than defect counts. Thus we learn more if we record precisely how many seconds we were early or late for a meeting, or if we measure the exact cycle time to fill an order. In certain applications of statistical process control in manufacturing, we may measure a dimension rather than record simply whether the dimension is in or out of specification limits. Our emphasis on defect counts rather than quantitative measurements reflects the judgment that the simplicity of defect counts makes it possible for people to record defects when they would not take the time and trouble for measurements.

There are times when we take measurements in any event, and we would do well to record and analyze them. For example, someone who takes the personal quality approach to monitoring health will want to record actual blood pressure readings rather than simply monitoring whether they were above a certain warning level. Someone who is seriously trying to lose weight will want to record actual weights rather than simply checking a defect for weights above some goal. On Sergesketter's 190-pound limit (see below), however, simply recording higher readings as defects permits him to maintain his weight at a satisfactory level.

In Chapter 5 and in the Appendix we discuss approaches to personal quality based on measurements.

You cannot reduce the number of defects in your processes if you don't count them, and you cannot reduce cycle time if you don't measure it. Leaders who expect their associates to count defects and measure cycle time in order to provide quality service must show them the way. Service will improve a lot faster.

To get started on your Personal Quality Checklist, you must identify the processes you personally use to do your work. Almost everyone uses meetings, telephone calls, and correspondence in one way or another. Also, it is important for everyone to make a good appearance and to stay healthy. With these ideas in mind, in the spring of 1990, Sergesketter developed an initial checklist as a simple way to improve personal quality. Here is his initial list:

On time for meetings

Answer phone in two rings or less

Return phone calls same or next day

Respond to letters in five business days

Clean desk

Credenza: only same day paper

Never need a haircut

Shoes always shined

Clothes always pressed

Weight below 190 pounds

Exercise at least three times per week

Sergesketter then shared this list with his associates at AT&T and asked them to help him avoid defects. He also encouraged associates to start their own lists based on the work they did and what was most important to them. Many did just that, and they started to learn more about quality together.

Here is more information about Sergesketter's list:

1. On time for meetings: There is no distinction between major defects and minor defects. If you are one second late, that is a defect. (If you wish, you can count an additional defect for each minute or five minutes you're late.) Soon, everyone was on time for every meeting; in fact, most people arrived a few minutes early, so many meetings began before the scheduled time. Everyone was there for one 8:00 A.M. meeting by 7:50, and so the meeting started. It took nine minutes, and was over before it was scheduled to begin! The experience has been that meetings take one-third less time when they start promptly. The productivity improvement is enormous, and it costs nothing.

2. Answer phone in two rings or less: Actually, the aim is one or less. Research has shown that most people think that the phone should be answered in two rings. It was learned from AT&T manufacturing experience that the designed cycle time for a process must be one-half the targeted maximum in order to have essentially all actual times within the maximum. This gave a chance to teach a quality guideline in a form that could be easily understood and appreciated.

3. Return phone calls the same or next business day: This is common courtesy and most people think they do an excellent job here, until they start to record the defects. (An appropriate standard is to record an additional defect for each additional day that a call is not returned.)

4. Respond to letters in five business days: This one couldn't even be scored until date stamping was set up for all arriving correspondence. Then it took a couple of months to realize that it was necessary to design a process with mean response of 2.5 days to achieve near-100 percent response in five days.

5. Clean desk, and Only same day paper on credenza: Until you are in a "Just-In-Time" operation with your paper flow, you can't believe how much time you are wasting going through the same paper without taking any action. All the time spent in prioritizing is wasted. This is another of those productivity bonuses that cost virtually nothing!

6. Never need a haircut: You look in the mirror and see that you need a haircut (or your hair tipped) and it can be a week before you can arrange it in your schedule. Charge a defect for each day that you look in the mirror and see an unkempt image! This leads you to think how to solve the problem. One solution is to get a haircut every other week. If you get a haircut before you need one, then you will never need one. (We were led to this insight from Disney World, where you never see a dirty window because they literally wash the windows before they get dirty. Prevention achieved through planning is the quality principle at work here.)

7. Shoes always shined, and Clothes always pressed: These are similar to the haircut category.

8. Weight below 190 pounds: (This is five pounds above what the charts say is the ideal weight for Sergesketter, who is 6' 5" tall.) One key to success is to manage caloric intake, which illustrates the quality principle that desired results are achieved by working on the processes that produce the results. (Phil Scanlan, quality vice president for AT&T, marks a defect any day he is over his target weight. On those days, he also marks a defect for any foods he eats that are high in fat or calorie content.)

9. Exercise at least three times per week: To achieve fitness in limited time, try the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) exercises, which take 11 minutes a session for males (12 minutes for females) and require no special equipment; and they are graduated by age. The book explaining them is still in print. The RCAF exercises do, however, require high intensity. Less intensive alternatives that take a little longer are given in Ken Cooper's books Aerobics and The New Aerobics. Many other good fitness programs are available.


Sergesketter put his list into effect in April of 1990.

No refined statistical analysis is needed to see the substantial drop in the number of defects, rapid at first, slowing more recently. (Here again is a quality lesson: When you intervene in a process to improve it, plot the performance data in time order. If the intervention was clearly successful, as here, you can see the results without formal statistical analysis.)

But there is more to the story than this simple statistical record. Reducing defects is valuable only if the reduction leads to enhanced job performance. Here are some of Sergesketter's reactions as reported to his associates early in the process:

* I was not aware of the extent to which I was not returning phone calls the same or next day; this was a surprise to me.

* We had no way to count defects related to correspondence. As a result, we are starting to date stamp correspondence when it arrives and date stamp the file copy of the response.

* When you share your defect list with others, they will help you reduce defects.

* None of the items I measure is in the "four-minute-mile" category, and yet I started out at a rate of 100 defects per month.

* A 68 percent annual reduction of defect levels looks very attainable for what I am measuring.

* Some associates have asked about counting defects related to being on time for meetings. I will be late for a meeting rather than cut short a conversation with a customer, but I will count a defect. This has caused me to schedule my calls at times when the probability is low that I will be late for a meeting. If I notify people in advance that I will be !ate and specify the time I will be there, I do not count a defect unless I miss the specified time without further notification. Arriving for a meeting even one second after the scheduled starting time counts for me as a defect, as you have to draw the line somewhere.

* I encourage and challenge you to start counting defects. It is impossible to reduce defects if we don't count them, and we can't reasonably ask our associates to count defects if we don't!

* I really believe that if several thousand of us here in the Central Region start counting defects, we will reduce them and differentiate ourselves from our competitors in a significant way.

In a talk given at about the same time, Sergesketter made the following challenge:

I want you to make a list of at least five areas that are important to you — five things that will help you meet your personal and business needs — and to count "defects," with your goal being 68 percent annual improvement.

Note that there was no requirement of a standard list, nor any attempt to use the lists to grade employee performance.

Eighteen months later several interesting things had happened at the Central Region of AT&T.

* Many employees now kept their own customized personal checklists. Here, for example, is the defect list of Diane Shank: meetings on time; return all calls and audix within 24 hours; complete in-basket in less than 24 hours; provide prompt feedback within 24 hours; answer all questions in five business days; take the train, don't drive; practice music 15 minutes daily; don't eat chocolate; answer phone in two rings.

* Employees liked to talk about their checklists and to help each other to avoid defects.

* Meetings started on time, ended on time, and were much more businesslike.

* Sergesketter estimated that this simple approach freed up over one hour a day for him. This is suggestive for senior managers who believe that Total Quality Management is a good thing but can't find time to lead TQM activities.


f0 Dr. W. Edwards Deming has had enormous influence on the start and subsequent progress of what is sometimes called the "quality revolution." As a young man, he worked with Dr. Walter Shewhart of AT&T Bell Laboratories. (Dr. Shewhart was the creator of Statistical Process Control and the inventor of the control chart.) During the 1940s, Deming applied quality principles at the United States Bureau of the Census and taught many short courses in Statistical Process Control that had a substantial impact on the United States effort in World War II. In the 1950s, Deming — along with another American, Dr. Joseph M. Juran — was very influential in starting the thrust towards quality improvement in Japan that has become a target for the rest of the world to emulate. Widely recognized in the United States only for the last dozen or so years, he continues — in his early nineties — as an indefatigable and uncompromising advocate and teacher of quality methods for management.

Much of Deming's management philosophy is bound up in his famous 14 points, which he advocates as a route for transformation of management. We found it interesting to see how a Personal Quality Checklist can aid one to understand what Deming is driving at in these points. To our surprise, we were able to trace valuable connections with all of them.

Point 1: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business and to provide jobs. A checklist, focused on key processes, creates a constant awareness of quality and demonstrates strong purpose towards continuous improvement.

Point 2: Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change. (See point 7 for comment.)

Point 3: Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product (service) in the first place. The best environment for reducing the need for final inspection arises when individuals are aware of, and responsible for the quality of, the processes by which they do their own work. The Personal Quality Checklist enables this environment.

Point 4: End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total costs. Move toward a single supplier for any one item on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust. The checklist concept can help to instruct suppliers on the principles of quality and assist in identifying those standards that need tracking. Suggestion of standards for the checklists of one's suppliers is an effective, tactful way to communicate requirements and to enable continuous improvement between customers and suppliers. In fact, exchange of checklist standards, with an invitation for suggested improvements, is a good way to improve almost any customer/supplier relationship, including the all-important customer/supplier relationships within an organization.

Point 5: Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service to improve quality and productivity and thus constantly decrease costs. Quality checklists enable continuous improvement by providing the data to the person doing the work. The information is immediate and credible. Because the person can add new standards as earlier ones come into control, a checklist facilitates progress both in quality and cost reduction.

Point 6: Institute training on the job. The Personal Quality Checklist can both aid in education and training and monitor the effectiveness of educational and self-improvement initiatives. The concept can be designed into educational and training materials, as we have done in a wide range of courses, including even MBA classes in quality management.

Point 7: Institute leadership. The aim of leadership should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Leadership of management is in need of overhaul as well as leadership of production workers. As mentioned earlier, one of the tenets of leadership is that you don't ask the people you are leading to do what you are not willing to do yourself. Keeping a Personal Quality Checklist is visible and practical quality leadership. You will find it has a strong impact on your associates.

Point 8: Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company. All work is part of a process. Therefore the focus of managing processes rather than people is powerful and energizing to an organization. That focus drives out fear, because it is based on the premise that people basically want to do a good job and that when defects occur, the approach is not to fix blame but to fix the flawed process that led to the defects. People understand this concept quicker and better when they have personal experience with a Personal Quality Checklist for the processes they directly own. The checklist also helps to inculcate the idea that any process can be improved, which leads to open-minded consideration of suggestions for improvement from any associate.

Point 9: Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team to foresee problems of production and use that may he encountered with the product or service. One of the most effective ways to break down barriers is to use data as opposed to anecdotes, perceptions, or intuitive insights. One difficulty, however, is that many people are either reluctant or don't know how to go about collecting data. The Personal Quality Checklist teaches a straightforward way to collect data. It takes the mystery out of how to do it. When people use data, it reduces and even eliminates the emotion that is often the root causes of barriers between departments.

Point 10: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. With a focus on managing processes, it is no longer necessary to use slogans and exhortations to energize people. Defects become sources of information on how to improve quality. Continuous improvement follows. New levels of quality and productivity are achieved by reducing defects and reducing cycle time in the processes, not by setting broad objectives for the results of the processes. The rule is to keep your eye on the ball, not on the scoreboard. The Personal Quality Checklist brings this lesson home at the personal level.

Point 11a: Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.

Point 11b: Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership. The key is to manage processes, to focus on reducing defects and reducing cycle time. This requires strong leadership by people who can keep these fundamental principles foremost, and the Personal Quality Checklist facilitates such leadership — and facilitates acceptance of it.

Point 12a: Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.

Point 12b: Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means inter alia abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective, management by the numbers. The abolition of merit ratings and traditional management by objective is the most difficult of Deming's concepts for many to understand and accept. If you are managing people and not processes, traditional management by objective is the obvious tool for driving alignment of the organization. However, that same approach also drives fear and intimidation into the organization and destroys teamwork. If you start to apply the quality principles and manage processes, you can drive out fear and build teamwork. Again, keep your eye on the ball and not the scoreboard.

Point 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement. On Sergesketter's Personal Quality Checklist, he keeps a supplemental record of number of days of education he has completed for the year to date. His objective is a minimum of ten days of education each year.

Point 14: Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job. The Personal Quality Checklist is useful to everyone in the organization from the chief executive officer to the entry level clerk. It can put everybody to work, overnight.


We did not write this book on Personal Quality Checklists simply to round out your general knowledge of ways to go about quality improvement. We have found that Personal Quality Checklists can be used with effectiveness — including some very quick improvement — by almost everyone. In Chapters 2 and 3 we shall provide detailed guidance. Now we give general guidance to help you get a quick start. We urge strongly that you give the Personal Quality Checklist a try — starting very soon!

The key, as indicated in Sergesketter's example, is to keep track of defects and cycle time on the most important standards of business and personal life. The most important standard for an airline is that safe landings equal takeoffs. You have to find your own standards. All businesses and individuals have to determine what is most important for them. That is where to start.

A study of Fortune 1000 executives about service quality by the executive search firm, Paul Ray & Carre' Orban International, showed that accuracy is considered to be the most important factor in determining service quality; speed of response is a close second. Courtesy, ease of access, and one-call resolution were also considered important.

To achieve accuracy and speed of response, it is essential to reduce the wastes — activities that can be altered or even eliminated without harm to performance — that pervade so much of what we do. Often these wastes are hidden, and we are not aware of them. In Chapter 4, we give hints on how to identify and reduce waste.

The Stroke Tally

Recording defects is much easier than quantitative measures often used in TQM; it takes just a stroke tally for each recognized defect. This tally is a simple and powerful tool. It promotes awareness, costs almost nothing, and yields accurate real-time data on one's personal work. Each stroke is an opportunity to think about possible improvements. The positive impact of the knowledge thus gained from a stroke tally can have a substantial bearing both on improvement of customer service and elimination of waste, two of the key routes to continuous improvement.

Often the lessons from the strokes leap off the tally sheet. In more complex situations, the strokes provide the input data for quality tools such as Pareto analysis, cause-and-effect diagrams, and run charts.

The Personal Quality Checklist provides a framework for people from all kinds of organizations, service as well as manufacturing, to form the habit of keeping stroke tallies. Once formed this useful and valuable habit can lead to formation of other good habits, for example, good habits about diet and exercise.

We shall talk also of approaches to quality based on measurements, rather than recording of defects. A measurement — say of actual cycle time—gives more information than a defect tally for failure to achieve a certain desired cycle time. But the simplicity of the stroke for a defect is a great practical advantage. It is well to become involved in detailed data collection and record keeping only when this is absolutely necessary.


One of the keys to success and fulfillment in both our personal and professional lives is a heightened sense of awareness. It helps us to see the beauty of a flower, to appreciate the creativity embodied in a sonata, and to marvel at the taste of a dish prepared by a French chef. Awareness also helps us to see where we are wasting time, money, and resources in our work life, and where we are falling short of customer expectations.

The power of the simple stroke tally to heighten awareness is extraordinary. The strokes are facts, and facts are friends. They tell us what is really happening. When people start keeping a Personal Quality Checklist, they are usually amazed at what they learn about themselves from the stroke tally. This heightens awareness, which leads to insights about improvement. Habits quickly change for the better.

Any time you want to heighten your awareness, establish your standards and make a stroke on a card or piece of paper whenever a deviation — defect — occurs. You will be surprised and pleased at what happens.

Keep It Simple

You may think that the concept of a Personal Quality Checklist is too simple to be effective, that nothing so simple can deliver anything worthwhile. However, even in large organizations, simple systems are often far more effective in delivering top quality service than are more complex and expensive systems. Roger Dow, vice president of Marriott Hotels, tells three wonderful stories that illustrate this point.

Roger checked into the Irvine, California, Marriott, and the desk clerk enthusiastically welcomed him back. He knew that they did not have any type of data base system for her to know that he had stayed there before, and that it had been several months since his last stay. He asked how long she had worked for Marriott, and she said one month. He was puzzled, so he asked her how she knew that he had stayed there before. She replied that the doorman, as they were walking to the desk, had asked him if he had previously stayed at this hotel. The doorman then tugged on his left earlobe to indicate that Roger had said yes. After the check-in process was complete, the young lady said: "Now watch this. Bellman, please show Mr. Dow to his room." As she said this, she tugged on her left earlobe. The bellman looked at Roger and said, "Mr. Dow, it's great to have you back. Let's go!"

Roger had talked with the data processing organization about designing a system so that guests could have the morning paper of their choice delivered to their room. They said that they would look into it. The next week Roger checked into a Marriott Hotel in Miami and was asked whether he would like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, or the Miami Herald delivered to his room in the morning. He made his choice and then asked the desk clerk what system they were using to do this. She showed him a pad of blue-lined paper with three columns, one for each paper. Room numbers were placed under the appropriate column. At 2:00 A.M. the order was called in to the newspaper distributor, and the bellman used the list to distribute the papers. The next morning the paper Roger had requested was slipped under his door.

The head housekeeper at the Marriott Hotel on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago noticed that she was receiving a lot of calls requesting an ironing board and an iron. She took a stroke tally, and this type of call represented 64 percent of the total calls. Armed with this information, the housekeeping quality improvement team put together a purchase order for $25,000 to buy 1200 irons and ironing boards — one for every room. Having the facts from a simple stroke tally, the general manager was persuaded of the value of this proposal, but he didn't have an extra $25,000. However, he reviewed the capital program and saw an entry for $26,000 to be spent on replacing black and white television monitors with color television monitors in the bathrooms of the rooms on the concierge level. When the general manager spoke to the concierge, he learned that no guest had ever commented negatively (or in any way) about the television set in the bathroom. It was an easy decision. A simple process using some facts resulted not only in saving the housekeeper many calls, but eliminated scores of trips by bellmen and anxiety on the part of many guests who needed an iron right away.

"Keeping it simple" is often the most effective approach. This applies not only to service processes but to complex, even high-tech, manufacturing processes. One fine book on quality in manufacturing — World Class Manufacturing, by Richard J. Schonberger — is subtitled, The Lessons of Simplicity Applied (New York: The Free Press, 1986).


An important part of Total Quality Management is recognition. In addition to recognizing groups for team efforts and successes, it is helpful to recognize individuals for their successes in personal quality. In the Central Region of AT&T, Gil Regnier started a recognition program in the Major Markets Area called "Lagniappe." Anyone in the area can nominate an associate for the Lagniappe Award when the associate is "caught in the act" of outstanding personal quality. The award is personalized so that it is something the person being recognized will particularly appreciate. One of the award recipients was a single parent with two small children. Gil arranged for someone to clean her house, which delighted her.

One of AT&T's branch managers in Chicago, Jim Burke, awards a special pin to associates who have demonstrated quality in their personal work in such a way that they prevent waste and rework. This award reinforces the quality principle that "Prevention Is Achieved Through Planning." The pin is worn with pride by those who have received it.

Both Gil and Jim were influenced by what they had seen and heard from others. Gil introduced his program after making a trip to visit Milliken in North Carolina and seeing a similar program. Jim formulated his plan after hearing Mike Vance talk about Walt Disney's philosophies about quality. Mike was responsible for training for Disney a few years ago and is a wonderful teacher. Bob Galvin talks about the importance of learning quality by studying what others are doing. Gil and Jim are great examples of people who have done this.


Some managers become so enthusiastic about personal quality checklists that they are tempted to mandate their use among their subordinates. In our view, this is a mistake. Use of checklists should be encouraged by clear explanations of rationale and methods, and by examples of successful use, not by command.


Implementation of ideas of TQM in organizations can be extraordinarily difficult. A few organizations have been very successful. Others bungle the job, and there are many ways to bungle. The most common problem is failure to understand that successful TQM requires the dedication of senior management to a transformation of organizational culture, which requires a shift from top-down control to widespread employee empowerment to make improvements. Employees must be recognized and rewarded, not punished, for making improvements. The key idea is Deming's eighth point: "Drive out fear," which includes fear of taking initiative to improve the way the organization works.

Another problem is faulty training. Organizations often start training programs for TQM with general awareness training, followed by specific instruction to prepare associates (employees) to work on quality improvement teams. These teams try to improve organizational processes, typically tackling messy interdepartmental problems for which solutions offer high payoffs.

Formation of improvement teams, however, is often slow. High-priority problems have to be identified, and teams have to be formed. Only after the first teams have achieved successes can formation of additional teams be accelerated. Hence before participating on a team, many trainees may find themselves marking time for months or even years after their initial training, during which time enthusiasm may cool and memories of the training grow hazy.

Personal Quality Checklists are a simple supplement to TQM training; indeed, they can often serve to "jump-start" a TQM program in an organization. As explained above, each individual must define desirable standards of personal job performance and then keep track of failures — "defects" — to meet these standards.

Each standard should have a clear relation to customer satisfaction. At the personal level, we have many customers. As members of an organization, the people in the organization who depend on our work are our (internal) customers, while all the customers of the organization itself are also our customers. Beyond our organizational customers, we have many other customers: for example, friends, family, neighbors, community, and nation. ("Ask what you can do for your country.")

Failure to keep customer satisfaction in mind often leads to discouragement in attempted implementations of TQM. Some companies work hard to make improvements that are of no importance to customers. For example, one company improved its on-time delivery record from about 40 percent to over 90 percent in a single year, only to find that it had lost market share. The problem was that its previous on-time record, while far from good on an absolute scale, was better than that of its competitors. In its preoccupation with improving its delivery record, the company neglected serious problems that did matter to its customers, such as providing prompt and timely response to customer questions, and competitors were doing a better job of that.

There are two broad types of standards; some standards may share aspects of each type.

1. Waste-reducers or time-savers; for example, "on-time to meetings and appointments" or "quick reply to phone messages and correspondence."

2. Activity-expanding activities; for example, "talk to all direct reports at least once per week" or "call parents at least twice a month."

The waste-reducers and time-savers help to develop a personal understanding of quality in terms of each employee's immediate work environment. This understanding is valuable in its own right, and it leads to more effective participation on improvement teams and other TQM activities.

One principle is essential: The list must be balanced between waste-reducers and activity-expanders. There must be enough waste-reducers to make time for the activity-expanders. Otherwise the checklist resembles a list of New Year's resolutions and quickly bogs down in a torrent of defects that cannot be easily corrected. Our experience suggests that ambitious exercise standards require more time than most people are likely to be able to find. Unless you really want to run a marathon, don't try to undertake an exercise program that would permit you to do so. Recall that Sergesketter does the RCAF exercises three times a week. The exercises take 11 minutes each day for a total of 33 minutes a week.

If you are in doubt, lean initially towards having too many waste-reducers. If you err in that direction, you can easily add activity-expanders later, but if you err in the direction of too many activity-expanders, you risk discouragement in the critical first days of your checklist.

A second principle is that all standards on your list — waste-reducers and activity-expanders — must be unambiguously defined so that you can recognize immediately when a defect occurs. You should never find yourself asking, "Should I count this as a defect?" Another way of saying this is that you must have operational definitions for all your standards. Operational definitions are essential for all measurements in TQM.

The Personal Quality Checklist plays more than a training role: it can bring immediate and substantial improvements in personal job performance, including typically the freeing of time to make it easier to participate in team improvement projects and other TQM activities. Moreover, since there is evidence of enormous waste in personal job performance, especially in service organizations, the aggregate effect of improvements in personal performance can itself be substantial. TQM can't be based on personal performance improvement alone, but improvement of personal performance can contribute greatly to TQM.

In this respect, Personal Quality Checklists can play the same role in TQM as a good suggestion system. In fact, the best Japanese suggestion systems — which elicit an average of one or more suggestions per week per employee — are directed mainly at improvements in the immediate workplace. They also include training in ways to recognize improvement opportunities.

Personal improvement efforts may pose a danger of "suboptimization." For example, an individual can increase numerical output by skipping steps or doing them in a sloppy fashion, thus exporting costs to the rest of the organization. This danger seems minimal for personal checklists because reduction of waste at the individual level can, in and of itself, do no harm. Of course, if the reduction of waste applies to an activity that does not contribute to the organization's goal, the reduction will do no good either, unless it frees up time for other value-adding activities. (One checklist user freed up a lot of time from several waste-reducers, but discovered that he had deteriorated on another waste-reducer — a limit on weekly viewing hours of television. His increased efficiency was thus wasted. Even in this example, however, he did no outright harm and presumably enjoyed the extra TV viewing!)


The Personal Quality Checklist is primarily an individual quality tool. It helps the individual better to serve internal and external customers, and thus to improve organizational performance. But, as in the example of improved meetings at AT&T because of the "on-time-to-meetings" standard, associates can help each other in meeting checklist standards with consequent improvement of group performance.

In some instances, small teams of employees — the equivalent of "quality circles" — have made shared checklists the basis of local improvement efforts. Members of the team help each other in setting up the standards in the first place and then meet periodically to identify problem areas. These meetings can be a catalyst for discussion of broader quality problems facing the team.

Letting Other People Keep Score

Professor Jay Shah has furnished this thought-provoking story about a novel group application. A checklist user was under heavy job stress and found himself grouching and snapping at his wife and children at the dinner table and around the house. He told them that he realized the problem and had decided to add a "snapping standard" to his checklist, but they noticed only moderate improvement. The children decided to post his new standard on the wall, and they took over the scoring of his defects. At the latest report, this step seems to have solved the problem.

Copyright © 1993 by Harry V. Roberts and Bernard F. Sergesketter

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