Today’s post is a counterpoint to a guest post, How to Get the Most out of Your Employees Using Quality Management Software. Read that article first, and then come back here for the response by our own Robby Slaughter.
Randall Gates’ article is promoting the advantages of quality management software. It all sounds promising: we want employees to be productive and we want companies to produce results that are of the highest quality.
But the title of the piece illustrates the problem: if your employees heard you were reading an article titled “How to Get the Most Out of Them”, they’d likely feel belittled. The phrase “getting the most out of it” is used to describe what we do when using juicers on fruit, when we are strategizing for a negotiation, or when doing battle with the IRS.
It’s a clause used to describe optimization through beating. You want to ensure that every bit of flesh is squeezed in search of juice, every rock smashed in search of gold, every paper examined in search of lost pennies. “Getting the most out of them” is what you do to people you don’t like.
But anyway, shouldn’t we all know by now that Quality is Free?
Philip Crosby’s amazing book, Quality is Free, is now over thirty years old. Of course we all think at first that quality costs money. How can you make anyone do a good job unless you spend money in systems that double check their work? Unless you have supervisors that audit their efforts? Unless you have reporting mechanisms for defects and punishments for errors?
In truth, however, quality is free because people who are genuinely motivated to do great work provide quality without management systems designed to oversee them. To quote from Quality is Free:
The executive’s problem in understanding and utilizing the labor force is compounded by the fact that people are not interested in doing something just because they have been told to do it.
It is always cheaper to do the job right the first time.
If the leader is the only one who knows what game is being played, then the leader is obviously the only one who can win.
If you want employees to be more productive, then the first thing you have to do is stop talking about productivity. You have to dive in and help. You must collaborate on everyday projects. You must be doing what they do so they see you as a peer, not primarily as someone who has the power to fire them.
And once your employees see you as contributing personally, it’s time to have a conversation about what metrics actually matter. Ask them how they think that the work (not them, not their work, but the work) should be measured. Mutually define the exact specifications so that the word “quality” has precise meaning.
And after all that, you have a quality management system. You may even buy or build some software to help facilitate the process. But it didn’t come from trying to “get the most” out of anyone. It arose from simply doing the work.