Friday, May 27, 2005

Total Quality Leadership - Why Did They Have to Sell Me?

After reading the sage words of an "ol' cavalryman" in this post at ROFASix, I reflected on this comment he made, and it took me back to sometime in the early 90s:
"Here is NOTR's explanation for this seemingly surreal realization of the obvious. It all started because a General Officer (GO) got an idea! It was probably after receiving an inquiry from a member of Congress asking what the Army was doing to reduce the number of casualties from IEDs. Instead of responding, "We are going to kill more bad guys Senator," this GO decided it was time to start an informational campaign after hiring a contractor to "study the problem." "
Sounds like a "Process Action Team" (PAT) in the making to me. Roll the time line back to the summer of 1973, teleport to Charleston Naval Base, aboard USS CONE (DD-866). Envision a 3rd Class Midshipman, in dungarees, being assigned to the Engineering Department for two weeks, while the ship would be underway in the summer, in the Caribbean (are you sweating yet?). For two weeks, I spent the 8-12 watch daily in the Aft Boiler Room. While there, I helped record all sorts of data on the many systems in the plant, which were passed to the Biloer Room Supervisor to review, and then they were sent to Main Control for the Engineering Officer of the Watches (EOOW) examination. "Out of Limits" readings were noted, and corrective actions taken. Trends were monitored, and, the next morning, the Engineer Officer would look at the mulitiude of hand written data collections and sign off on them, many times, grilling the Main Propulsion Assistant (MPA), Electical Officer, or the Auxilaries Officer as to why things were doing (or not doing) what the logs reported. Identify the problem with sound data, then develop a fix. Fast Forward, USS MILWAUKEE (AOR-2) c. 1978. Fresh caught Ensign spends time in the Engineering spaces, completing his Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) professional qualifications. Learns from the EOOW what the logs and records are useful for, getting a "guided tour" throught many of these reports. Same thing: Watch your system, identify the problems, and fix them. Fast forward, USS CONOLLY (DD-979) 1983. Assigned as Engineer Officer, qualifed as EOOW, therefore reviewed logs during the period of my watches, and also had the "pleasure" of distoring my signature to something much less legible, by signing about 30 some logs each day (and if we were inport and it was Monday, about 90 log sheets). Regularly asked my MPA, the ElecO and AuxO, sometimes to their dismay, why things were (or were not) doing what they were doing. Fast forward, Combat Systems Mobile Training Team, c. 1991. Adm Frank Kelso is Chief of Naval Operations. Someone tells him about a guy named Dr. Deming and "Total Quality Management." He gets briefed, decides it's the new sliced bread, and we all are have to get edumucated on TQL. TQL you ask? Not TQM? Nope, we do "leadership" we don't "manage." LCDR Tilden is the "facilitator" introduction to TQL, held in a building on the CINCLANTFLT compaound. I sit and listen to how we have to now learn how to gather data, so we may look at it carefully and then put our collective heads together and come up with solutions to the question: "How can we do this better?" I raise my hand, impertinant O-4 that I was, peeved for having to go to some mmeting for a day, when the Fleet had things to be trained on. "Aren't we doing that now?" But, a marketing "objection handling" routine was rolled back at me: "No, this is all new, and you have to learn to embrace it." I shut up. I saw where this was going. The tennants of TQM/TQL ahve a lot of merit. I have taught many things, in and out of the military, and have found people absord something best and quickest, when you connect the new thing to a similat old thing they are familiar with. for example, if any of my potential skydiving students in the First Jump Course had any experience flying (and I mean hands on the stick experience), I could easily explain how to pilot an open canopy, and the landing aptterns to follow during the approach to the landing area. We refused to do this in the Navy. TQL was the new method, and we had never had a clue about it. Bottom line: I think this happened because how would it go, for marketing and sales, if you showed up at a CEO/President's office and said: "I have a way to make you more efficient and therefore more profitable. All I have to do is take you back through all the good concepts of your MBA program and remind you about the methods of ecnomic analysis add a little statistical analysis, and the like. Pay me $2.7 gazillion and I'll get to work." Yeah, right. Response: "Get out of my office, I'm already doing that." How would it have looked if the CNO said: "Listen up. We are going to improve on the good work we already do daily, and have been doing for years. We'll take the successful methods from the engineering and aviation communities, and apply them everywhere it's feasible. You already have the basics down, so let's make it better!" What would the outside world have done? Oh, well, that's my long pent up rant about how the Navy blew their chance to make a TQL thing fly fast and far in the "culture." Just know that if I had been CNO, I'd have don it differently! ;)

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