Creating a Culture of Quality

Ashwin Srinivasan, managing director, and Bryan Kurey, senior director at CEB, share the results of a study on quality and working with a bias towards it in Harvard Business Review:

For two years CEB has conducted research exploring how companies can create a culture in which employees “live” quality in all their actions—where they are passionate about quality as a personal value rather than simply obeying an edict from on high. We define a “true culture of quality” as an environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them.

We interviewed the quality function leaders at more than 60 multinational corporations, conducted an extensive review of academic and practitioner research, and surveyed more than 850 employees in a range of functions and industries and at all levels of seniority. Some of what we learned surprised us. Most notably, many of the traditional strategies used to increase quality—monetary incentives, training, and sharing of best practices, for instance—have little effect. Instead, we found, companies that take a grassroots, peer-driven approach develop a culture of quality, resulting in employees who make fewer mistakes—and the companies spend far less time and money correcting mistakes.

The whole article reminds me of something Luke Sullivan shared several years ago on his blog concerning making things with subliminal quality built-in

Should You Automate Your Life So That You Can Work Harder?

Sarah Green on automation and productivity

We’ve all got different ideas about what’s reasonable. I think drinking a meat smoothie is a sign of the impending end of civilization, but I’m totally fine with wearing the same thing every day — a la Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Barack Obama — in order to save time. And we’ve all got a different appetite for work, a different sense of where to draw the line. However, as James Allworth pointed out in our own SXSW panel on why men work so many hours, it’s tough to stick to those limits when the rewards of work are immediate, and the rewards of life accrue more slowly. (To some parents of teenagers, these rewards may seem practically glacial.) It becomes tempting to reserve the best of ourselves for the short-term gains of work and “automate” the long game of life.

Still, I do think each of us has a Rubicon — wherever it is, and whenever we find it. On crossing it, we may start to see luxury not as having a personal assistant or a weekly massage, but as doing something useless simply because we felt like doing it — not because it made us smarter, or thinner, or more productive.


Who Made That Progress Bar?

Daniel Engber explores the evolution of the progress bar in The New York Times:

Is a progress bar a tool to make us more efficient or a sop that helps us pass the time? Its ancestor, the pen-and-paper “progress chart,” showed up in the early 20th century and was hailed at the time as a major innovation. It “refers all facts to the irreducible and final element of human life — time,” wrote Walter Polakov, an early pioneer in project management (and dedicated Marxist), in 1923. “Because it is true to the human dimension, it is both human and humane; hence it obliterates conflicts between men and management, promotes the fullest exercise of man’s creative forces and places work in its proper relation to life.”