TQM & LOs LO11257

Wed, 4 Dec 1996 01:59:50 -0500

Replying to LO11238 --

Durval says,

> This is true, but I think it is part of the business culture. For
> instance, finacial statements are useful because they are realtively
> accurate instuments of measurement and can be audited. Quality management
> standards are a way to provide stakeholders (in this case, customers) with
> some information about the management of a business. The idea makes sense,
> but there is much to learn in this field.

It is here that I think there is a lot of room for exploration and discovery.
Whether he intended it or not, Durval intuitively made an association between
"financial measurement," and "qualitative measurement."

I'm not going to touch financial measurements because I'm not an
accountant; I think, however, that our traditional form of accounting will
have to change as we move into the 21st century. Physical resources are
simply losing their value. For instance I don't know how to measure or
account for the depreciation of old information, or the dollar value of
new knowledge. In the industrial age it was machines that allowed us to
increase performance. It is relatively easy to calculate the depcreciation
of a physical asset. Intellectual assets seem much more difficult.

The human desire to measure -- to quantify -- is a very interesting one.
Because of how proficient we've become at measuring and quanitifying our
financial performance, we naturally assume that the best way to measure
our work performance (including, in many instances learning), is through
some form of numerical analysis. Taken to the extreme, we soon allow the
numbers from both segments dominate our business decisions.

What I also find interesting is how often people associate qualitative
measurements with business processes. I think business processes are way
down on the list of things that impact work performance. After I read Mike
McMaster's book, "The Intelligence Advantage," and Art Kliener's "The Age
of Heretics," I began to think deeply about the way we quantify our work
(as well as those factors that lead to increased productivity). Here's
what I came up with:

Theory -> Language -> Values -> Culture -> Systems -> Structures ->

There is something to be said for the fact that Systems, Structures, and
Processs are emergent from the culture; but I'm not entirely convinced of
that right now. I still think there is some type of causal relationship
between each of these links in the chain.

I think that monitoring (or tracking) linguistic evolution is perhaps one
of the most powerful ways of determining if we are increasing our
capacities or not. This allows us to see if our theories are changing
(which given the rate of change in our society, our theories should be
changing at regular intervals -- how frequently I don't know). Changes in
the way we talk about our business and our environment as an organization,
allows us to value those things that will keep our organization alive;
this, then creates a culture that is conducive to change; which then
creates systems, structures, and processes that allow us to process new
information very, very fast.

I would like to think we should measure our theories -- and to some extent
the numbers we use to measure our work (including financial measurements)
are reflective of how accurate our theories are -- but I find no practical
way of doing this.

To me the purpose of numbers is to provide confirming or disconfirming
information to an organization; they should not dictate the organizations
velocity (their direction as well as their speed).

I'm not sure we're measuring the right thing. We certainly see the world
through our measurements, so we need to make sure we're measuring those
things that will let us see the world (and the natural phenomena of the
world, including the phenomena we see at work) so we can fully engage it
and constructively participate in its evolution.


Benjamin B. Compton bbcompton@aol.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>