If you spend a little time around the business world, you can’t help but run into the various religions of Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, and Total Quality Management, etc. These are all the same under the skin, they’ve just been dressed in different buzzwords depending on fashion.
And none of them are about quality, really, as much as they are about cost cutting. Make it cheaper, make it quicker, but unless the product absolutely quits working it’s good enough.
All of these ideas are heavy on “metrics”, flowcharts, and are a new career path for those middle managers who were too bored by accounting, not smart enough for engineering, and not personable enough for sales.
But like all religions, it starts out with a good idea at the base. It’s a way to try and institutionalize giving a damn. But institutions are incapable of giving a damn, only people can.
A while back, an executive put forth the following as a way of reviewing the work put out by his company:
1. What was the idea to be presented?
2. How was the idea presented?
3. What result was achieved?
4. After seeing this result – what could have been done to the picture from this point on, to improve it?
The executive was Walt Disney, and this memo is from 1935. Yet I’ve never seen anyone’s Powerpoint presentation bullet points as succinct and effective. (The whole 8 page memorandum is available here – it’s interesting to see the detail Disney went into to communicate his point on training animators.)
In those 4 points you have the sum total of reams of management books, hours of seminars, and conferences of consultants. (I’m not sure what units consultants are measured in, so I’m calling it “conferences”. They always seem to take over the conference rooms, right?)
All from a guy who dropped out of high school and probably didn’t know what a Pareto Chart was.
But he still did OK. Because he gave a damn.