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Who needs QSM? Everybody

By Dr. Dave McIntyre

I frequently contract work for one of the largest “three letter agencies” in the Federal Government. Recently I was asked the following question: “The individual parts of our department work pretty well. But we don’t get the efficiency and effectiveness we desire out of our program as a whole. What can we do?”

Here was my answer: “There is a well-established way to approach your problem and develop solutions. It is called Quality Systems Management (QSM). Use it to systematically improve your organization.”

The first thing QSM would tell them to examine is, who exactly is their customer? The President? Their cabinet secretary? Congress? The American people? Quality is defined by the customer. QSM teaches that if you can’t identify they customer, you will have a hard time identifying success.

And secondly, what exactly does the customer want? Lower cost? Better security? A larger presence in American life? A smaller presence? QSM offers some tools for establishing this answer – and thus defining the problem.

Now when the organization says that its internal components work well individually, what does that mean and how do they know it is true? Frequently, just defining the elements of the system will show relationships – and bottlenecks – that no one previously recognized. Exactly which elements of the organization are responsible for creating the desired product, and how well do they do when benchmarked against other similar organizations inside the government and out? Which elements are not involved in the core business but exist for some other reason – perhaps as part of a legacy system that nobody has thought to update or revise . . . or eliminate. What claims do the legitimate components of the organization make on resources overall, and what return do they produce? What is their ROI (Return on Investment)? And what should it be?

Here is the good news: they don’t have to guess at any of these answers (and neither do you). There are techniques (many taught in QSM academic programs) for investigating these questions, and collecting hard data to determine the answer. You can actually measure the success of the elements of your program and estimate the value of changes before you institute them. Your solutions can be driven by facts and data. You can have better efficiency AND better effectiveness. And this can all be accomplished by using proven tools that have produced outstanding results all over the world.

Finally – and here is the big point – the QSM tools for measurement, data collection and calculation can actually show how well (or how poorly) the elements of a program integrate to produce an end product that the customer wants at a price they can afford. The striking thing about studying the integration of the system as a whole is how frequently results show parts of the system working at cross purposes, or consuming resources out of line with the work produced, or even people working to maximize their own productivity at the expense of the system as a whole. These are all problems that can be identified and fixed by analyzing the hard data produced by QSM examinations and projects.

And by the way, over and over students pursuing QSM projects at the National Graduate School have found that workers within the system they are exploring already know about the problems, and have great ideas for solutions. There was simply no mechanism for them to contribute to real change within the organization. QSM addresses that problem too.

I do a lot of traveling for business, and almost everywhere I go, I find business and government and educational institutions that desperately need the improvements in efficiency and effectiveness that QSM provides. I hope the government agency I am advising takes this lesson in the utility of QSM to heart. And I hope those who read this blog will consider this lesson as well.

Who needs QSM? Everybody who wants to change their workplace and their product for the better.

Dr. David McIntyre
NGS Faculty