How Do I Convince the Mgmt Team to Embrace Quality?

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    Hello Everyone,
    We are currently in the process of launching our new quality initiative in the Accounts Receivable unit of a large insurance company.  So far, we are in the “Define” phase of the effort.  We have support from the person who heads the organization (although passive support); however, the middle management team is doing everything they can do to quench the effort to improve quality – everything from establishing a Process Improvement Team to securing resources for an “As-Is” process mapping session has been a struggle. 
    Has anyone else out there dealt (or is dealing with) this kind of predicament?  If so, what kinds of things have you done to move forward with your quality initiative & quench the resistance?
    Any tips and/or advice is greatly appreciated.



    It may be that your middle management don’t fully understand the implications of a new quality system. What will it do to their position – will it encourage employee empowerment and erode their power base, leaving their earned position undermined. Are they already very busy and cannot find the time to take on extra leadership duties for QI – are they being provided with sufficient resource to implement. Is there a lack of confidence in senior (passive) commitment to the initiative, and therefore do the anticipate it being a flash in the pan.
    Tim (UK)



    You stated that your senior person was onboard… Schedule a meeting with the senior manager as cjairman discuss the agenda so that it becomes apparent to the management that the senior person has placed you responsible for the implimentation of this effort and the you will be reporting to hm on tollgates report indicating successes and boadblocks to implimentation.
    Be cautious however, you don’t want to appear weak… during the meeting you must establish a team that will work with you. Have the senior person assign the team memebers.  Work this as a team issue not you against them.  I’m afraid you are in a typical “Not Invented Here Scenario” . 
    The best way to diffuse this is make them part of you via a team structure.



    You may want to solicit input from the front line reps that are actually working in the area that you are trying to improve.  I have had success getting management to support projects when the front lines voice problems or concerns.


    Mike Carnell

    I agree with Ron. Making them part of the project is typically one of the better moves. You can’t go head to head with them because they control the resources you need.
    If the won’t actively support it try a thing called “obsequious behaviour.” In laymans terms – kiss their ass (a little). Ask them for advice and guidance. Make them your mentor. They can get sucked into the project by proxy.
    If you neutralize them it is better than having them for opposition. Once you close some stuff off and put a couple real dollars on the bottom line the wishy washy guy make actually do his job and support you. Miricales never cease.
    This behavior isn’t indigenous to SS sigma. It is basically indigenous of poor managers rather than leadership.
    Good luck.


    Steve G

    When I started as a BB I was part of a team with the same job and some of the same issues.  We concentrated the efforts of an MBB and 4 BBs on identifying and solving the issues in our premium collection process as we hypothesised that this would also show up failings in upstream processes.  This concentration of effort was very successful achieving 0 defect in our reconciliations and faster and more accurate premium collection.  We also found that the root cause of many of our defects came from the process that defined our products (which were often poorly defined and hurriedly put together). 
    Assuming that you are at the start of your Six Sigma initiative I have two immediate thoughts for you:
    Data talks; firstly get some output metrics (Ys) on the process.  Collecting this will enable you to show the extent of the problem and you can use it to get management attention.  I suggest that you quantify the $$ outstanding and the aging of the debt.  Make sure that you show the variation and not just the mean (I make the assumption that this will be non-normally distributed…) and any treasury department worth its salt should have this data.  From this you can make a simple cost-of-poor-quality calculation based on your companies investment income assumptions and the time the cash is outstanding.  Going forward, you can turn this into a performance dashboard to maintain focus and show progress. 
    Secondly, the people are usually the hardest part of the equation.  When I review projects where there are buy-in issues it is usually because the BBs and process owners do not have a shared need or common vision.  You need to create this shared need and common vision as soon as possible.  What is behind their resistance and how can you get around it?  Do some simple stakeholder analysis and identify and use your potential allies and the sources of resistance (technical, political, cultural).  I have found that pride and not wanting to be perceived to have failed in the past are very important factors, as is the influence of existing performance measurement systems which distort “rational” behaviour.  Your champion needs to stress that you are not seeking to apportion blame for the past but that you all get credit for identifying and solving the problem.
    If your data shows that there is a significant issue here then get your CFO to champion the initiative, regularly reviewing projects and dashboards.  As you are in insurance I’m guessing that money is tight at the moment and that the CFO would welcome every bit of cashflow and investment income! 
    I hope that my advice doesn’t seem glib or superficial but it’s a quick condensation of a year’s work.  If anything strikes home then I’m happy to expand on my experience. 
    Good luck,



    When our company embraced 6 sigma, it was deployed from the top -down. Everything from Project Selection, where all Key Manager were involved, to choosing the Black Belts, Green Belts, and Project Sponsor were rolled out by our Deployment Champion. We had a 6 sigma launching attended by all middle managers. In the speech made by our President, he stressed the importance of 6 sigma and change management “Fit-In or Fall-Out” as he always says to everyone. That is why we as Black Belts are “feared” in a way because of the publicity and support we have from top management. Also, everyone are aware that whatever problems we encounter, it is reported to the President. I believe that without this move, we would be encountering the same problem your having.
    Good luck.



    I support the detailed comments by Steve G on Thursday, 5th September 2002.  This is a much better response than the use of buzz words and the obvious rehash of the things we read in articles.
    Also, if anyone hasn’t already noted it.  It is very important to point out that implementing this will eventually lead to an easier job on every employee who takes part.  An easier job also leads to more productivity.  More productivity leads to higher profits as indicated in Steve’s comments.
    One of the biggest reasons not to get active backing of your Execs is that they think it will cost more money to implement and that time commitments would have to be increased by all concerned.  Also an uncertainty of payoff by such a project.  All unknowns mean putting off, or passive support as you’ve already seen.
    The first thing you must show are obvious and positive payback of your project.  Then you’ll need to start educating all concerned with the very basics of quality process management (leave out the math and the technical buzzwords).  I would preface your project with scheduling some short seminars for all employees concerned including Executives.  Once they are all on-board and interested in the process of the project you can kick it off.  With everyone’s backing including the employees it will go much more smoothly and be more productive.  If successful it will be a project that becomes part of everyone’s job that meets no resistance.
    Happy Implementation!


    Sam Jalal

    Hi Mark,
    Cultural change is an evolutionary process and so you must be patient.Think of it as the evolution of man .. there were different ages before we progressed to what we are today!!
    The change will only come about once the necessary synergy has been created and thenecessary momentum is reached…moving towards critical mass. Some advice:-
    1. Link your plan to the HR and training plan for the organisation. Use change management tools with respect to people Example CMM for people, Employee Satsifaction surveys etc..
    2. Process/People/Technology are the three key parts of the improvement. These will need the use of hard and soft systems methodlogies and tools.
    3. FORM/NORM/STORM/PERFORM your improvement teams ..!!
    Hope this helps



    Oh yeah big common situation. However I think the issue is that Six Sigma is not a pure quality improvement initiative. It is a Business improvement journey. Try liking your projects to business goals and strategies, not just quality improvement. Show them the money, shoe them revenue increase, and show them increase in customer satisfaction. Sure these things often come from improved quality, but that can between you and me


    Ken Tolbert

    There are two parts – Philosophy and Practice. The management has to understand the Philosophy, more than the Practice of.
    The best way to do this is provide a training session on Six Sigma, which focuses on the Philosophy of. If they are not convinced through this, then you will have a problem driving to success. The Top Level Manager has to buy in totally. It sounds like he has not bought in.
    He has to be in this training.



    Is it really FORM/NORM/STORM/PERFORM ??
    Or is it FORM, STORM, NORM, PERFORM ??
    Or are there both correct?


    Heebeegeebee BB




    Hi, I am actually doing a research paper on this topic and i was wondering if anybody has any information on where I can locate information about the topic “embracing quality management”
    Thank you



    A few…

    Quality is Free – Crosby
    Any W. Edwards Deming book
    The Babtist Healthcare Jouney to Excellence – Al Stubblefield
    Jack – Straight from the Gut – Jack Welch

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