Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for April 2009

Barrier Busting: ISO Compliance, to Commitment (TWO)

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In Barrier Busting One, we looked at minimizing the impacts of Narrow Ownership, Narrow Focus and Poor Alignment, Misguided Intent on management system execution.

Part two examines how to institutionalize the management system into the everyday way of doing business.

BARRIER: Cramming For the Exam

SHIFT TO: The Way Things Get Done Around Here

The management system is the mechanism that ensures requirements are met, company goals are achieved, and customers are satisfied. The system consists of the structure, strategies, policies and procedures, processes, and people involved in producing a product or service, and turning an honest buck along the way.

The big honkin’ goal of the management system is to enhance organizational effectiveness and optimize performance by adding a healthy dose of discipline and consistency to daily operations.

Effective management system execution, ISO or otherwise, requires daily commitment to following documented procedures, not just when it is convenient.

Effectively executing a management system requires long-term support and disciplined commitment from leadership, and total alignment, understanding and involvement from everyone. While the short-term pain can be discouraging, there is significant opportunity for long-term gains.

It all comes down to execution, and execution starts with engagement and alignment.


Written by Craig

April 30, 2009 at 6:19 am

Barrier Busting: ISO Compliance, to Commitment (ONE)

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In the spirit of “don’t complain about problems without offering a solution” here are some thoughts on addressing the first two barriers identified in ISO and Management Systems: Barriers. 

BARRIER: Narrow Ownership, Narrow Focus

SHIFT TO: Broad Ownership, Broad Focus

 Objective: position ISO as a management tool capable of managing all aspects of the business, ensuring that goals are met and desired results are achieved.

One small step…from this point forward, “quality management system” is referenced as management system. This is much bigger than “quality”.

Check out this short passage from the IOS on ISO.  I added the strikethroughs and bolded phrases.

The ISO 9000 family of standards represents an international consensus on good quality management practices. It consists of standards and guidelines relating to quality management systems and related supporting standards.

ISO 9001:2008 is the standard that provides a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what the user organization does, its size, or whether it is in the private, or public sector. It is the only standard in the family against which organizations can be certified – although certification is not a compulsory requirement of the standard.

Simply eliminate the “Q” word three times, and focus on the message of the bolded phrases. What a difference.

Communicate the benefits of integrating ISO into the daily approach to work for each function, each individual. Benefit Selling is a great concept…what hassles, what headaches can be avoided?
“What benefits?” If you can’t find any, then why are you doing this to yourself? 

BARRIER: Poor Alignment, Misguided Intent

SHIFT TO: Mission and Strategy Enabler

This is big enough that it warrants its own chapter. Just a few teasers for starters here.

The ISO standard requires a quality policy which serves as the foundation of the management system. Great, another plaque on the wall…need a bigger facility. Does the management system really need its own mission statement?

The management system is a strategic tool. The company’s strategy and the management system must become seamlessly aligned. ISO requires objectives which support Policy, just like with any strategic plan. All of the documented procedures are nothing more than the tactics that must be executed to achieve the objectives.

Written by Craig

April 26, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Resources: Management Systems

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NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) a good source for lots of stuff related to the ISO standard.

International Organization for Standardization (IOS-keepers of the ISO standard. IOS / ISO…don’t ask)  Don’t look for an official free source for the standard!

Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, home page.  Interesting…you can download copies of the Baldrige criteria free.   You pay quite a lot for the ISO standard.

Written by Craig

April 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Roadmap: Engagement in the Education and Business Worlds

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I’ve seen a recent spike in viewers on the topic of “engagement” and thought it might help you find what you’re looking for if you had a roadmap of recent posts on engagement here at In Pursuit of Excellence. The following posts explore engagement in both the academic and business / industry worlds, as they are very much related.

The Business Case for Alignment and Engagement  is a lengthier piece that details a good amount of data and estimates for how engagement impacts execution and productivity. 

What IS Engagement Anyway?  One of the focal points for In Pursuit of Excellence is “engagement”.  So…what IS it anyway? In exploring the blogosphere, I came away even more confused than when I went in. There is huge disparity of experience-based opinion among practitioners. Add all the academic debates, studies and dissertations on “engagement”….forget about it! I made a stab at concocting a working definition for engagement in this three-post series:

  1. Engagement Per Commercial Authorities: three heavy hitters weigh in on engagement: Towers-Perrin, Gallup Management, and BlessingWhite.
  2. Engagement: the Gap Between Academics and Shop Floor. Framing, for my own clarification, some of the academic language surrounding engagement…. Studies, dissertations and meta-analyses of the previously established constructs of satisfaction, commitment, involvement and motivation… Operations managers need plain talk, centered around results. They don’t live in the world of studies, constructs and dissertations. The quickest route to a manager’s stonewall is to espouse theory without substance.
  3. Engagement: Now We’re Getting Personal!  The challenge: come up with a working definition for engagement. Not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot based on four attributes I hold as truths. OK, not “universal truths” but my opinion.

Let the Rabbits Run  is a great parable from the book Soar With Your Strengths by Clifton and Nelson. This book is a classic in the strengths-based leadership field pioneered by Gallup Management. The more a person has the opportunity to utilize their strengths, the more they are fully engaged.

Engagement Goes to School. The hypothesis: high school kids are disengaged in both their education and in thinking about their future….education is perceived to be irrelevant to their future. The underlying issue: students are not engaged in any kind of “future thinking” to even know what is, and isn’t relevant to them. An even deeper issue…teachers, and parents too, are also disengaged.

The High Cost of Student Disengagement?   The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools, a McKinsey report, predicts that the U.S. GDP would be $1.3-2.3 trillion higher if the achievement gap between the United States and its international peers were closed in 1998.

Meaningful School-to-Career There is a good deal more to be said about this topic, a definite work-in-process. If students saw the connection between what they were doing in school and the rest of their lives, they would become more engaged. In the meantime, the rest of the developed / developing world is kicking US students’ butts in standard achievement scores.

School-to-career requires a real partnership between education and B & I. (pssst…..this is not just an education crisis-this has everything to do with competitiveness in the global economy)

And after all this, I still don’t have a working definition of engagement in twenty words or less…


The High Cost of Student Disengagement

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Reference back to an earlier post, Engagement Goes to School.

The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools, a new report from McKinsey & Company, predicts that the U.S. GDP would be $1.3-2.3 trillion higher if the achievement gap between the United States and its international peers were closed in 1998.
Check out the
McKinsey report. $$$ is based on overall impact: “Avoidable shortfalls in academic achievement impose heavy and often tragic consequences, via lower earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of incarceration.”

If there is even a small degree of merit to McKinsey’s findings, this would indicate that key stakeholders of the education system, business and industry, stand to gain a good deal from pitching in to help right the academic ship. All politics and territorialism aside, and I agree those issues are not insignificant.

Engagement is part of the equation.

Written by Craig

April 23, 2009 at 11:06 pm


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(see ACCOUNT (+) ABILITY = RESULTS (?) for Part One)


This is not rocket science! A simple formula in which accountability is just one element:

Clear expectations +

Knowledge, skills and abilities +

Accountability +


= Results.


The Formula In Action


  1. Leaders set S.M.AR.T. expectations. Better yet, involve the do-ers in determining what needs to be done. Then, leaders provide the template through modeling, and performance management and coaching helps keeps people on track;
  2. Don’t set your people up for failure! Communication, Training and Development must provide knowledge, skills, and abilities people need, to have a realistic chance to deliver on their accountabilities;
  3. Accountability is nothing more than making sure people know what they are expected to do, and what the impacts are of their delivering the goods as expected, as well as the consequences of not doing so;
  4. Follow-up includes manager / subordinate communication, regular performance management updates, and coaching when necessary to get a person back on the right track;
  5. Results are realized in the form of goals being met, and in desired behaviors that have become routine — expectations, or norms;
  6. Adjust expectations, repeat process


IF there is involvement in goal setting of those accountable with achieving the goals (engagement), and a clear connection to the top (alignment) then the level of commitment to achieve the goals ramps up.


Effective performance management kicks in, avoiding “fails to meet expectations” at year-end by truly managing performance throughout the year. If there is a performance issue, clarifying expectations and coaching to improve performance comes into play at the time and place of need.


Engage > Align > Execute!



Written by Craig

April 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

ISO and Management Systems: Barriers

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I’ve had good experiences with ISO-certified management systems, and not-so-good too. Straight up: certification does not mean “good system” any more than a college degree means a “smart” person (that sounds like an interesting topic for later…mental note). And certification certainly doesn’t guarantee “good product or service”.

Why can ISO-based management systems be so difficult to develop, implement and execute effectively? My selections for the Gang of Four Hit List of Barriers follows.

Narrow Ownership, Narrow Focus. ISO provides guidelines for the development of a “quality management system” which too often translates into “that’s a Quality Assurance thing….they’ll take care of it”. Management rep, internal auditors = QA staff.

And while there are exceptions, ISO is too often viewed as manufacturing only, targeting product quality only and of no concern to support staff. 

Poor Alignment, Misguided Intent. The Quality Policy is the mission statement of the management system. (again, terminology … “Quality” Policy) As such, it should be an extension of the mission of the company. Objectives are developed that describe how the quality policy is to be achieved. Metrics are identified to gage progress toward achieving objectives. Yet, too many quality policy statements have no clear line of sight to the company’s mission statement. And the objectives are tightly focused on product quality only, and only product attributes are measured.

Cramming for the exam. Few events can cause panic and trigger furious levels of activity like an “audit coming” announcement. Crews working like mad to sweep dust bunnies under the rug, hoping the white-gloved auditors won’t find any dirt (sorry folks, but that’s what records are for…to verify that the system is operating as it should over time).

Good auditors can spot a good system from miles away….send me the records

Failure to Take “Culture” Into Account. I wanted to hold this down to three issues for starters, but this one snuck in the back door. People are the gatekeepers of process and execution. Adopting a management system is at least as much of a culture shift as it is a shift in tasks.

Change Management stuff applies here, in buckets.

Written by Craig

April 22, 2009 at 6:19 am