Open, Honest and Blame Free Culture

If staff are worried by the consequences of making an error they will be reluctant to declare problems and communication will be closed. If managers are not open and honest about such issues as the financial status of the company staff will not be able to make appropriate decisions when speaking to customers and other outside parties. If there is not an open and honest culture everyone will keep knowledge to themselves because they will see it as a means of protection in the future.

With an open, honest and blame free culture, knowledge will be freely shared and the experienced gained by the team will improve the product and customer relations.

Process Driven Decision Making

Effective decisions stem from a clear process for deriving those decisions.

Identify WHAT : the aim or problem

Investigate, RESEARCH and analyse

Determine HOW to resolve

Actions and PLANS

TEST the solutions and MEASURE the effectiveness

Customers and suppliers included in Team

Traditionally customers and suppliers are seen as external parties. However, the quality of the end product and its profitability can be enhanced by ensuring that the team includes as far as is practical all the "stakeholders". Inclusion of the customer in the team will ensure that the specification is right, inclusion of the suppliers can ensure that processes are optimised across the supply chain.


The role of the facilitator will change according to where a organisation has reached in developing Total Quality methods. In the initial stages the facilitator will need to train and equip others with the necessary Total Quality skills, including the tools and techniques. In the early stages the facilitator will also be required to facilitate specific team meetings, assisting the leader by suggesting a process then helping to steer the members through that process. With time the role should change as many of those in the organisation develop their own facilitation skills. The specialist consultant facilitator is then only likely to be required where there are particularly difficult problems and the process or method are not clear or easy to determine. Facilitation and the related tools and techniques are discussed in more detail in other pages.

Problem solving teams (QIT's)

A QIT (Quality Improvement Team) is like a project team. It should have a clear aim, goal or problem to solve. Ideally the members of the QIT should have a broad range of skills between them and should be of different character to compliment each other. Typical team characters are;

•Team worker

•Resource investigator


•Monitor evaluator



•Completor finisher

•Plant (creative thinker)

•Shaper (decisive - sometimes without sufficient information)

(Information and questionnaires to determine the individual member characters is available from Belbin Associates 52,Burleigh St., Cambridge, CB1 1DJ, UK.)

The QIT requires a leader to act as a champion to drive the work through to its ultimate conclusion. The team should also have a facilitator who should act neutrally and aid the team in following the processes. Larger teams may add a chartist to ensure that the discussion is properly recorded; typically on a flip chart so that all members of the team can follow the recorded work. A team may also include an observer who can watch, listen and report to the team on the way it works. With smaller teams members may take it in turns to fulfill these roles.

It is often useful to create a team charter at the beginning. In its simplest form the team should brainstorm ideas on how it should operate and should then rank and rate the brainstormed ideas to derive a charter which can then be used throughout the life of the QIT as the basis for working. For a more complex problem or aim the charter will need to be formed out of the initial stages of the process and should identify such things as;

•Aim or problem


•Strategy for resolving the aim or problem

•The plan / actions

•Resources and finance aspects

•The team

•Working rules (eg. Dress, promptness, language etc. at meetings)

Celebration of Success

This can take many forms;

•A simple thank you to an individual member for a task well done.

•An acknowledgment of the success from one team member to the another in front of the team.

•A social event following a success.

•A bonus paid directly in recognition of the success.

Celebration of success should be seen as a key element of motivation.

Business Systems, Business Planning and ISO 9000

Once there is a culture of process driven development of ideas the use of more formalised systems and procedures becomes a natural extension. Without the process driven culture they become a chore without reason. Understanding of procedures and systems is frequently improved with the addition of process flow diagrams depicting the underlying processes. Examples of process flow diagrams are shown below for a business planning process and a typical ISO 9000 procedure.


What is Total Quality?

Total Quality is a culture change which embraces a number of elements aimed at enhancing working relationships between staff, management, customers and suppliers. Through this means the quality of the product can be improved leading to well satisfied customers and better returns on investment

The elements can be categorised into "soft" and "hard". The "soft" elements are the more important. Without the change in culture the business systems and procedures will not work. Many organisations have developed ISO 9000 procedures and sought certification only to find that the procedures are seen as a "mill stone" by the workforce and are only used on a notional basis. If the culture is right the procedures and systems will naturally follow and will then be used.

SOFT (People and Culture)

Lean, empowered and Flat teams

Open, Honest and Blame Free Culture

Customers and suppliers included in team

Process driven decision making


Problem solving teams (QIT)

Celebration of success

Hard (Business systems)

Business Systems

Business Planning

ISO 9000

Measurement and benchmarking

Competency assessments

Training to meet individual needs


Lean Empowered and Flat Teams

The concept of Lean, Empowered and Flat Teams is best described by a graphic.

The change is initially from the traditional manager and staff pyramid relationship to one where the manager becomes integrated into the team leading by example. This is known as the "Work Unit Team". Further development sees the manager loosening the ties with the team and empowering its members to undertake the work in hand. At this stage the team will be measuring its own performance and will have its own quality checks on its output. There will be little or no direct supervision by the manager.

Measurement and Benchmarking and Assessment

Both measurement and benchmarking are essential for continuous improvement. Measurement allows an organisation to monitor progress within its own environment. Benchmarking provides a method of comparing with "best of breed".

Common, agreed, accurate and repeatable measurement methods are a necessary prerequisite of benchmarking. Benchmarking is a process of identifying, comparing and learning from others with the aim of continuously improving.

Measurement falls into two distinct categories;

1.Measurement of performance, quality and quantity all of which are relatively tangible.

2.Measurement of process, culture change, behavior all of which are less tangible.

The measurement of the tangible qualities is relatively easy; counting numbers, percentages of rejects, speed of production, assessing cost per unit and so on.

The measurement of intangibles is less easy but not impossible. Probably the best known such measuring method is the EFQM ( European Foundation for Quality Management ) matrix or the Hay Group competency questionnaire for use in competency assessment of individuals. While they both look very different the underlying principles are the same. The intangible to be measured is split into a number of different elements ( such as analytical thinking and change orientation in the Hay example ). Typical actions are then determined for a series of steps from the worst to the best for each of the elements. An assessment can then be made as to far has been reached by the individual in the case of the competency assessment or the organisation in the case of the matrix.

Benchmarking can be between two or more organisations and usually involves an independent specialist to pass the key elements of the knowledge to ensure the key commercial data is not also communicated. For any two organisations in a similar field there may be lessons to be learnt in both directions.

Training to Meet Individual Needs

With regular repeatable competency assessments it is possible to identify the strengths and weaknesses of all members of the team. Obviously training should be focused on the specific needs identified.


A charter is simply a statement made near the beginning of work by a team outlining the key parameters for that work. Charters can and should vary in extent depending on the complexity of the aim or problem to be solved.

At its simplest level a charter would consist of a list of desirable behavior for a team that was about to spend a day resolving a problem. An example of this is shown below. Such a charter can be derived form a brainstorm followed by ranking and rating to determine the key issues.

When one talks all will listen individual contributions 3 min. maximum

Decisions made will be shared with others outside the team as appropriate

Individual contributions will be accurate, concise, relevant, timely and helpful

All team members will be enthusiastic and adaptable contributors.

All team members will co-operate recognising the need of the team.

The team leader will give direction and encouragement..

Skills and expertise of individuals will be recognised.

The team will keep to the timetable and the agenda.

At the other end of the scale would be a charter for a major project such as the construction of a plant, civil structure or building complex.

Such a charter would need to cover;

•Commercial case and reasoning.

•Outline cost breakdown.

•Outline plans and programme.

•Contract strategy.

•Risk apportionment strategy.