Volume 4, Number 4 - April 4, 2006

Every once in a while, as we search for the silver bullet in the torrent of new management books flying off the shelves and onto the Flavor of the Month trash heaps, it is good to remind ourselves of the contributions of Mr. Deming. Many are fundamental to Toyota Production System and to Leadership. My favorite of his “14 points”
is his first.

“Create constancy of purpose to the continuous improvement of products and service, focusing on long range
needs rather than only short term profitability, with the aim to become competitive, to stay in business, and to provide jobs.”

Sounds simple, yet so few organizations demonstrate it. Constancy of purpose means that quality decisions are not situational. End of month quality is the same as beginning of month. It means that the long term benefit of the organization is not sacrificed to hit quarterly targets. It means having your eye on the competition, regardless of its source, with plans to stay ahead. Constancy of purpose doesn’t require the threat of a customer leaving to implement viable corrective actions based on root cause. It means that while your team may argue about how best to accomplish it, no one is confused about the commitment to deliver reliable quality. It means no decision is made knowing that it will negatively impact quality to the customer.

Employees know when that constancy is absent, as do customers and suppliers. Constancy of purpose can only exist when leadership lives it, demonstrates it, and won’t accept anything else. Do your employees, suppliers and customers see constancy of purpose in you?

The United States boycotted the Olympics in 1980 to protest Russian military involvement in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. In 1984 Russia boycotted those same games, held in Los Angeles, in an apparently retaliatory response. China chose that year to return to the Olympics for the first time since the early 1950’s.

Beijing is the site of the 2008 summer Olympics. While China wants to leverage the games to enhance its image as a modern contributor to the world economy, others will want to use the games to highlight its human rights violations and relations with Taiwan and Tibet. American Business has invested heavily in China, and wants to see a strong and predictable environment. Technologists will push to have television and high speed internet in every Chinese home, enabling a huge domestic audience for the games and equally huge market share and profits for the technology companies that participate.

There is a lot riding on those games. Somehow the word “games” doesn’t seem to describe the impact those 17 days in August 2008 will likely have.

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