Hostile Assumptions - 7 out of 10 organizations which attempt to implement TQM fail


Don Winton

Hostile Assumptions

Found this the other day and, although it may be old news to some, I found it interesting still.

Quality Hostile Assumptions
Management consultant David Nadler and other writers have noted that as many as seven out of ten organizations in the private sector that have espoused Total Quality Management have failed to incorporate it into their operations. They have, in other words, only given lip service to quality without altering their cultural values, dooming themselves ultimately to failure. Nadler cites the following 'quality-hostile' assumptions he finds in such organizations (adapted by D4 to government settings):

[*]We're smarter than our customers, we know what they really need.</LI>
[*]Quality is not a major factor in customer decisions, they usually can't tell the difference.</LI>
[*]Our primary and overriding purpose is to log near term achievements that this administration can point to at election time.</LI>
[*]Our market is our bosses and the Congress, not the American public.</LI>
[*]The primary way to influence agency and department performance is through skillful budgeting and creative accounting.</LI>
[*]It costs more to provide a high quality product or service, and we won't recover the added costs.</LI>
[*]We will never be able to compete with the private sector in anything; we're not good enough.</LI>
[*]Managers are paid to make decisions; workers are paid to do, not to think.</LI>
[*]Strategic success comes from large one-time innovative leaps, rather than from continuous improvement.</LI>
[*]The job of senior management is strategy, not operations or implementation.</LI>
[*]The key skills for senior managers are political know how, knowing how to compete and win, and budget manipulation.</LI>
[*]To err is human, perfection is not an attainable or realistic goal.</LI>
[*]Quality improvement can be delegated, it is something that the top can tell the middle to do to the bottom.</LI>
[*]Never spend time looking at failures; there isn't much to be learned from them, and it's demoralizing.</LI>
[*]If it ain't broke, don't fix it.</LI>[/list=a]

Provided by Tom Glenn, TQM BBS, 301-585-1164


Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!

I enjoyed the post. This topic can really get my blood hot!

To the top 15 assumptions:

1) How do they know? Born with this knowledge I suppose.

2) What are the key factors then? Again, must be born with this knowledge.

3) Short-term Financiers running the show.

4) Who is buying the product or service?

5) The Financiers strike again!

6) Quality is FREE!

7) The AIM is low, or the organization lacks AIM.

8) Only an arrogant fool believes this!

9) Making money in spite of themselves.

10) Strategies without plans are merely suggestions.

11) More fluffing of the numbers and a winner-loser philosophy.

12) Nothing about studying the process..."no hope for improvement (Deming)"

13) Quality is EVERYONE'S job!

14) More of #12

15) Caretaker syndrom (Crosby). This is how a dinasour is created!

Well, a good topic. It tickles my fancy. What are others thinking?

Back to the group....




Super Moderator
All this is pretty much in line with what I'm used to on a daily basis. I've tried coining a phrase that is para-phrased from something I learned when I was a cop in Arkansas.

"Situational Quality"

Kind of like "Situational Ethics" (something else we use here).

The Quality Program is whatever you say it is at the time, regardless of what is written and agreed to, to suit or justify whatever the product or service is and how its turning out.

Bottom line -- do or say whatever it takes (within reason) to make the product (and us)look good.

[This message has been edited by Randy (edited 23 September 1999).]

Don Winton


I like it. Situational Quality is exactly as you describe. I described it as <FONT COLOR="RED">off the cuff</FONT> quality, but yours is better.

Lets start with hostile assumption #1: We're smarter than our customers, we know what they really need.

To which Kevin replied: How do they know? Born with this knowledge I suppose.

Most of the 15 really get my goat, but I think this one is really too much.

Kevin, that is the point. They do not know. It is obvious. They know (think they know?) what their customers need, but do not know what they WANT.

Companies assume that the customer is someone who needs their product. A customer is someone driven by wants. Examples:

Need: A car. Wants: Reliable transportation.

Need: Fast lunch. Wants: Lunchtime meal.

Need: Low price. Wants: Value.

The list goes on, but you get my point.

Comments on #1 and then lets discuss #2.


Just the ramblings of an Old Wizard Warrior.

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Super Moderator

Thanks for the comment. This whole topic is something that aggravates eveybody, but few really have the appendages to attack.

I could go one for hours, but I'm the apprentice here.

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!

Needs and Wants. Interesting separation. I like the car analogy best, so I'll start there.

Conditioning I suppose, paradigms of old control the way we look at things. From an individual perspective, the 'need' maybe all that I see (or conditioned to be able to see). On a subconsious level, I may reach several different conclusions and address the 'wants'.

I need a car to get to work. I reach this conclusion because I have done so forever, and because I see many, many, folks doing the samething. Are there other ways to get to work? Might they even be more reliable than a car? Have I given this a second thought? Nope! Took on face value, I need a car!

What I have also done is to treat a 'symptom' and have not addressed the root need. Addressing the root need might actually expose better solutions or alternatives. But unless I recognize that there are other ways to skin a cat, I will be forced to fall back on what I think I know. I must retrain how I view things, change the way I think if I am to identify the hidden desire.

As an organization, spending the additional time to truly identify the goal, you may do better to hit the actual target. Preconceptions must be dropped, or used with caution, and objectivity should override the process. Then you might have a fighting chance.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Back to the group...




Super Moderator
The ultimate on this topic is the Challenger.

Classic example of "Situational Quality".

Cold but true.


Fully vaccinated are you?
The airlines use the cost payout factor in deciding what upgrades they do to aircraft.

Roger Eastin

Hmmm,makes me wonder what "payout" the airlines are looking at. Is the payout safety -related or whether to serve a meal on 2.5 hour flight! With life being so good for the American economy (for now, anyway), are we looking at a return to the pre-Deming days of "just razzle them and dazzle them" products and services? (I say this knowing full well that the philosophical discussions on this forum could go on for a long time!)
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