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The Four Cornerstones for Change

by Subir Chowdhury

People gain the utmost commitment to Quality when they believe that change makes a difference.

Do you want to change your organization – to transform the rank and file members so that they WANT to achieve true Quality? Of course, you do – who doesn’t?

But even the most perfect retraining process will fail if you do not gain commitment from the people whom you are asking to implement the change. I have learned that when companies impose rules and force a process on people without receiving their commitment to perform, they’ll become resentful and fight change – even when they know that the transformation is worthwhile.

Whether it’s government, education, business, or your family – when your aim is to bring about change, you must ask for the utmost commitment from every active member—including yourself. This is my experience with every client, without variation. I cannot ask a company to make such a change without knowing that everyone is 100% committed.

I came up with four fundamentals — what I call the “Four Cornerstones” – to help companies and organizations begin a sustainable transformation. These are the basic ground rules that can make the difference between a change process that fails, and one that leads people toward a highly adaptable change toward quality.

  1. First Cornerstone: Say to yourself, “Quality is MY responsibility.” Say it out loud to articulate a clear pathway to change. Believe that quality is your actualized mission; that quality has ceased to be someone else’s problem. Quality must become your personal pursuit reflected in every aspect of your work. When quality is embroidered into your life as a belief, then your actions will take on new meaning.
  2. Second Cornerstone: Everyone must accept that Quality involves ALL people, ALL the time. Your goal will be to “deputize” everyone in your organization to recognize problems and solve them. Arm them with the “belief” in quality. Get everyone on the same page by letting them know what’s at stake. Everyone should treat every problem (or potential problem) as though they were burning fires.
  3. Third Cornerstone: Adopt an “I-can-do-it-mindset.” There is a straight line between the leader’s policies and the behavior and attitudes of the employees that follow. If you want the transformation to be sustainable, instill confidence among your people that they are all problem solvers. Build on the belief that everyone owns responsibility for every problem and every success.
  4. Fourth Cornerstone: One-size-fits-all policy-making does not work. While it is tempting frame a quality management policy that can be applied across the board to fit any and all situations, that method will fail. Worse yet, it is counter-productive! Individual response to quality can be very different from person to person. There are so many special cases and exceptions that any set policy itself becomes irrelevant the moment it is articulated. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to allow at least some individuality for our day-to-day mission in Quality?

I have seen situations where these Four Cornerstones have served as a catalyst for acculturation and change in entire companies. I have found that after the transformation begins, people tend to push each other along toward improvement. As people improve, they are encouraged to do more. At the end of the day, it isn’t the process of change that’s important. What is important is the belief that change is making a difference.

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