MBAs and Quality issues
Mon, 28 Nov 94 15:22:00 PST

I saw a message from Norman Frank to this list. I'll respond to some
of his comments and then add my own. His comments will be preceded and
followed by asterisk lines.

Let me throw out a quote that got me thrown out of a meeting
comprised of managers with B-school credentials and see how it
washes here.

You can have good quality without good management, but you
can't have good management without good quality.


It depends how you define management. A sharp, well-trained,
caring technician can "manage" the flow of a system, and excel at
getting the job done with "good quality." This can be happening
while you have an inept plant "M"anager who got the job by
marrying into the owner's family.

Let's take the other approach, as in "M"anagement executives. If
Management is not "good", eventually your organization will
deteriorate (people will leave, bankruptcy, poor employee morale,
etc.), leading to chaos and possible shutdown. You still can
have the same technician from para. above, but the fact that he
can produce "good quality" will not mean a thing.

I say you need BOTH.

1. There is a tendency for the B-schools to take credit for the
work done by the quality field since the 1960s...[deleted
text]... You see, up to that time "quality" was not real big in
MBA school. Those of us who have been in the field of quality
all that time found it interesting that the MBAs finally got the
message, but they had to overcome the "black ink barrier" by
first going into the red ink so deep that many failed to recover.

The MBA explosion really does coincide with the rise in
productivity, but it is coincidental with, not because of the MBA
explosion. The rise in productivity coincided with the rise in
emphasis on quality, not with any rise in the quality of MBAs.
Many B-schools are only now adding quality to the curriculum.
Harvard and Mellon have just adopted the 1994 book by Bill Creech
as a text for TQM.

I do not believe that Professor Johnson's assertion is
tenuous at all. It is proven in even management books by Drucker
and popular magazines (e.g., Time, US News), let alone the many
books in the quality field that document the fall of American
business because of the outmoded methods of B-schools and the
subsequent rise brought about by adherance to the methods and
beliefs of quality.


Having an MBA, I accept that it is not the panacea for management
that many thought it was. But isn't it presumptuous (the same
"quality", as in "distinguishing attribute", "property"
[Webster's II, New Riverside University Dictionary]) you
criticize when you say that "the subsequent rise brought about by
adherance to the methods and beliefs of quality" is the reason
American business has rebounded?

I applaud the resurgence of quality. But, is that all it takes
to be successful? How about making the right decisions on
how you will finance the expansion of a factory? What is the best
ROI given a multitude of projects to choose from? For profit
organizations, what is the best structure to minimize taxes and
improve shareholders' return? These questions are not addressed
by quality concepts. They are business concepts that are learned
in B-school, and they are essential for survival in a constantly
changing world market. I understand Norman Frank is addressing the
issues of "productivity" and "quality" (various contexts), and that
the MBA degree is not perfect (or anything near that! ), but quality
(as in "Superiority of kind", "Degree or grade of excellence") is not the
ONLY thing that makes a company successful or competitive. The world, the
competitive forces, and the rate of change, have changed drastically since
the 1960's; "good" management techniques from back then can not
produce the same results today without adjusting.

The following is an example of my claim; I do NOT claim here that
defects are "good." I know of a car company (which shall remain
nameless here; this is not a "plug") which had a problem with the
seats of one of its first models. They decided to recall ALL
units; my dealer arranged for someone to pick up the cars from
the owners at the owners' convenience, fix the seat, tune the
engine, wash it and return it to the owner. Now, that impressed
me; someone in management was taking care of the customer. You
may call that part of "quality"; I say that it was smart, savvy,
and responsive management, providing customer satisfaction. It
earned a tremendous degree of customer loyalty. Without the
defect, problem, or "lack of quality" of the seat, they would
have never produced that degree of customer satisfaction;
management devised a way to have a "win/win" situation.

Did the generator of the idea have an MBA? Beats me. Who cares?
What is important is the fact that someone saw an opportunity to LEARN
how to take care of the customer when quality faltered. (Actually, I
would prefer to say: LEARN how to take care of the customer
when the team faltered.)


"It is true, "the emperor has not clothes" with the emperor being
business run by the MBAs and the observers being the MBAs. The
MBAs fail to notice their problems.

Has anyone run into a Quality Inspector whose only concern is
whether a system or part "passes" the acceptance test checklist?
I have. And there is no way to talk to SOME of them at this
point to resolve the issue; their reaction is that "it is not
their problem." So, you see, MBAs are not the only ones prone to this
syndrome; it afflicts QA personnel, engineers, doctors, attorneys, etc.

I thought that in a Learning Organization, people can provide
their own contribution (CPAs, Engineers, MBAs, Quality
Inspectors, etc.). Let's not slam each other down; if I have
done so here, it was not my intention. I have yet to see anyone
in this list (anywhere for that matter) state that MBA programs
are "the" solution; many did at one point, but not anymore.

4. Robert Glitz asks how to read a book in one night. The
answer is to PhotoRead the book at 20,000 wpm. Senge can be read
in about 10 minutes. Naturally, there is a technique to doing
PhotoReading that can be taught in class for "only" $800, or you
can buy a book "The PhotoReading Whole Mind System"...

I'll look into this. Seems implausible, to say the least, BUT I
am open to learning new things; I AM wrong regularly. I can't
understand how someone can read, understand, digest, and "learn"
(make your own definition of this one) at 20,000 WPM.

Luis Mederos