variation matters

A Blog for Philippine Development and Competitiveness

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Government Bureaucracy Should Practice Quality

Where does Government start with the "Quality of service" Program ?

It should start with people. Not hardware nor software but "humanware".

Again let me quote a French anthropologist named Levi-Strauss :

" In order to produce better systems, a society should be less concerned with producing material goods in increasing quantities than with producing people of a better quality--in other words, (human) beings capable of producing these systems."

In short, as Masaaki Imai said, an organization that is able to build quality into its people is already halfway toward producing quality products or services".

A few other important quality principles should be included in the education and training (aside from the Fourteen Points) of people in government.Before they even start improving systems or processes, they should know these vital principles which they should come equipped to use in their jobs :

1. 85-15 Rule or the Pareto Principle.

2. Know Thy Customer

3. The PDCA Cycle ( Plan, Do, Check, Act)

4. In God we trust ; All others must use DATA. Do it with data.

5. Decisions must be based on facts. Speak with data.

6. The people who know the work best are the ones who perform it.

7. Groups of people working in teams can have more success than individuals working alone. Teams need to be trained in a structured problem-solving process.

8. Know the use of the 7 Statistical Tools of Quality.

It is said that to solve a huge problem, one should break it down into small components and start solving the tiny manageable components first. The steps for Process Improvement or problem- solving are outlined below (source : Deming Management at Work - M. Walton) :

select a process to improve
Organize a team that knows the process
Clarify current knowledge of the process
Understand causes of Process Variation
Select the Process Improvement
Plan the Improvement and continue data collection
Do the improvement, data collection and analysis
Check the results and lessons learned from the team effort
Act to hold the gain and to continue to improve the process.

There is always the danger that managers, department heads or cabinet secretaries for that matter will delegate these important tasks to their quality professionals or departments and go on with business as usual or "ningas cogon" treatment. This is a BIG COP-OUT and if these guys should get caught giving important responsibilities mere lip service, they should be sanctioned or even replaced with the more deeply committed and serious professionals or public servants.
It will probably take 10 years of iron discipline to get the Philippine government bureaucracy to adopt the Quality culture. But we have to start now.

Philippines : How to get things done

An article in Newsweek in 19 January 2009 titled "WHY CHINA WORKS" reads in parts as follows :

"Once Chinese leaders signal a new direction, they rarely waver....The leadership's faith in its own ability to mold markets may derive from the fact that most are engineers, trained to build from a plan. Eight out of the nine top party officials come from engineering backgrounds..The ruling engineers preside over a system that is highly process-oriented and obsessed with performance metrics."

"Leaders who don't meet internal performance standards are, more often than not, held accountable, and do get sacked, which is still unusual in many developing economies."

"A command and control system run by relatively skilled technocrats allows China to get things done quickly. Experts are struck by the ability of the Chinese state to move in a coherent manner and to marshal its people and the resources of the country to a common target.

In the Philippines, lawyers more often than not, dominate the political and government landscape. I have nothing against the profession but the results are quite easy to discern when Philippine competitiveness is measured to be lagging in the global competitiveness index.
Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in his Memoir described what he observed about what was lacking about the Philippines in the 50's which remain eerily relevant today : "Something was missing, a gel to hold society together. People at the top, the elite mestizos, had the same detached attitude to the native peasants as the mestizos in their haciendas in latin America had towards their peons. They were two different societies: those at the top lived a life of extreme luxury and comfort while the peasants scraped a living, and in the Philippines it was a hard living. They had many children because the church discouraged birth control. The result was increasing poverty.

Mr. Lee goes on to say that the culture of the Filipino is a "soft and forgiving" culture which allows former leaders removed by people power, to return and engage in politics.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Government for Quality


1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.
2. Adopt the new philosophy.
3. Cease dependence on mass inspection.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the price tag alone.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service.
6. Institute training.
7. Institute leadership.
8. Drive out fear.
9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
10.Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.
11.Eliminate numerical quotas.
12.Remove barriers to pride of workmanship.
13.Institute a vigorous program of education and retraining.
14.Take action to accomplish the transformation.

Government leaders will find that in public service Points 1,2,4,5,6,7,9,10,12,13,and 14 applies most relevantly and should be adopted vigorously.

Everyone in the Executive branch of government from Barangay leaders to the President of the Republic should be made to undergo an intensive, rigorous,disciplined and serious training in the Quality Methodology.

1. Elect a president of the utmost moral integrity and character. (Never mind if his competence is less than top notch.)
2. He should be a strong-willed and decisive president.
3. The President shall form a cabinet of skilled and competent technocrats who shall immediately be subjected to a rigorous program of education and training in the Total Quality Methodology. The aim is distinction in govermnment service and the elimination of VARIATION in the process quality of their services to the citizens.
4.All cabinet members should then initiate reform in their respective departments and implement the Quality Transformation with a top down approach. Total Customer Satisfaction should be the new dominant mantra. And Who is the customer ? The Filipino Citizen !
5. All members of the Executive branch of the government should marshal their people and resources to achieve the Quality Transformation.
6. Execute "KAIZEN" or continuous process improvement in all areas of the government. Bureaucrats should now focus on a mindset of being process-oriented and data-driven as part of their management practice.
7. Execute the fourteen points for quality with the same intensity as how Manny Pacquiao and his team trains to prepare for his huge fights,
or how China as a country executes its export-driven, economic growth recently of up to 11 % at such a blistering pace.

It is a fact that in the Philippines implementation of laws and programs is a weakness in government.Corruption, patronage, "ningas cogon" in the execution of projects has become an art form. Can things change ? I believe so. It all takes a president and his technocrat team to grab the bull by its horns and execute without agenda or ulterior motive to make money from government. In my next posting a clear lesson of how a country executes its programs will be found in China and the former prime minister of Singapore indicates where differences in our political will and culture with his country lie and may illuminate the issues why it is so difficult to get things done in the Philippines.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Absence of a Culture of Quality

Go forward to YEAR 2009 in the PHILIPPINES.
What do we see ?

33 % of the Population lives in Poverty. More than 50 % of the population say they have always been poor. (Based on various sector surveys)

National leaders losing credibility and accused of corruption.

The Philippines ranking 87th out of 133 countries in world competitiveness

The Philippines Ranking 141st out of 180 countries in the Global Corruption index

The Philippines ranking 105th out of 182 countries in UNDP Global development Index

8-10 % of the population work abroad or find livelihood there.

Government and Business well-stocked with Filipino bureaucrats, technocrats and managers trained in the world's best Ivy league schools.

Filipino school children excelling in international math and science competitions topping even students from advanced developed countries.

And yet why do common Filipino Citizens still grapple with the following issues affecting their lives ? :

Frequent interisland ship accidents and sinkings in domestic sea lanes

Government investigations which fail to pinpoint ROOT CAUSES of these sinkings and therefore don't solve the problem and prevent recurrence.

Severely lacking disaster prevention protocols, equipment and preventive actions worsening first responses to disasters.

Security breaches in Public places-where police and security agencies blame each other of faults

High incidence of vehicular accidents and deaths in roadways all over the country

Factories and Plant fires where root causes are not identified and pinpointed

Lack of equipment in weather forecasting despite sufficient government budget allocations

Long queue lines in Government offices in public transactions irritating citizens

Public garbage clogging flood waterways

Lack of or slow government action resulting to large population (informal settlers) build-up along rivers and bays.

Government agencies shipping audits which are opaque and lack insight to real root causes of shipping disasters.

Decades of social unrest and lack of development in the southern Philippines, e.g., Sulu, Basilan- contrast to the progressive and prosperous neighboring Malaysian enclave of Sabah just next door.

Unregistered and dilapidated cargo planes continuing to fly unrestricted resulting to crash and burn incidents.

Poor quality roads in many parts of the country ( bad asphalt or cement quality)-contrast to the world-class quality of roads in Singapore or Malaysia.

Lack of government attention to the development of the coconut industry such as the expansion of the coconut downstream industry - contrast to the agressive development of the Palm Oil upstream and downstream industry by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Provincial governments who lack accountability some reportedly purchasing huge swaths of land later discovered to be partly underwater and resulting to blame fixing and charges of corruption.

Local government heads who act like juveniles bickering with each other and calling each other names grabbing media headlines.

Local bars serving alcoholic beverages to minors in front of schools without local government monitoring or oversight.

Some national legislators showboating on national media over unproductive issues.

Several firetrucks reportedly under repair while a huge fire rages on in a central Philippines province and the local fire department unable to respond.

Does it look as if these several examples are completely unrelated ?
Maybe not. All of the above are concrete proof that Philippine society has so far failed to acquire a culture of QUALITY.

Sound simplistic ? Not so. The Philippines as a society needs to rediscover QUALITY. Quality as espoused by Dr. W. Edwards Deming-the man who introduced the concept to Japan and later propagated it in America. (Don't know Deming ? Google him and learn what he has done for Japan and the USA)

Sadly, for a country which practically worships the USA and people mimicking the latest American trends, the Philippines until now has not,collectively as a nation, caught the lessons learned from what Stephen Covey described as "the (20th) century's most profound,comprehensive alteration in management theory and practice."

Let me quote from a book I read a bit of Dr. Deming's revolutionary ideas about quality : Dr. Deming developed a philosophy of quality management that is rooted in an understanding of the power and pervasiveness of VARIATION and how it affects the process, that delicate interaction of people, machines, materials and the environment.
All systems are subject to some amount of VARIATION that leads to inconsistency and, eventually, to an erosion of both process and product quality. Inconsistency makes it difficult for management to predict how its systems and strategies will perform....Deming's teachings on VARIATION give management the vital knowledge it needs to recognize when a problem is the result of an isolated glitch in an otherwise well-run organization and when it is the result of deep-rooted systemic problem. Thus, an understanding of VARIATION is vital to MANAGING CHANGE.

VARIATION is the Prime enemy of Quality.

Management's job, and this applies to government leaders, is to "work on the system" to achieve continual product and process improvement. The Deming-style manager/leader must ensure a system's consistency and reliability, by bringing the level of variation in its operations within predictable limits.

"A central tenet of Demingism : Decisions made by management or workers must be based on DATA and the theoretical knowledge needed to know how to use it, not on instinct."

More quotes :* True improvement will ultimately result only when the causes of
problems, which usually come from deep within the system, are identified
and eliminated. For example, improving Chernobyl involves more than
cleanup and damage control at the site. It must involve dealing with
policies, practices, and technology in the Russian nuclear power system
that caused the Chernobyl accident and could cause other disasters like
it. When we are content with culprits, we will never look for systemic
causes and the problem will be likely to recur with a new culprit.

" There is a new paradigm of leadership. Managers must
reformulate what it means to lead.
* Leaders must have a customer's point of view.
* Leaders must have a systems' point of view.
* Leaders must have a statistical point of view.
* Leaders must have a worker's point of view."
(From Scholtes, Peter R. )
It is perhaps a great step in the right direction if our future elected leaders change their governance paradigm to adopt the principles at the heart of QUALITY as part of their platform of government.

By absorbing and assimilating the core Principles of Quality transformation and understanding how it works, government leaders now possess concrete strategies for making their platforms of government work instead of grasping at abstract concepts and motherhood statements about eradicating poverty and improving Philippine productivity, etc.

Undermanaged not Underdeveloped

A blog for Philippine development and competitiveness.

Two of the world's greatest management gurus of the twentieth century
reached a common conclusion about what it takes to be a developed country.

PETER F. DRUCKER : It can be said that there are no "underdeveloped countries". There are only "undermanaged" ones. Japan a hundred and forty years ago was an underdeveloped country by every material measurement. But it very quickly produced management of great competence,indeed, of excellence.
This means that management is the prime mover and that development is a consequence.

W. EDWARDS DEMING (The Man Who Discovered QUALITY ) : Need any country be poor ? Japan had in fact in 1950 negative net worth. Japan was, as now, devoid of natural resources. If Japan be an example, then it is possible that any country with enough people and with good management, need not be poor. Abundance of natural resources is not a requirement for prosperity. The wealth of a nation depends on its people, management and goverment, more than on its natural resources. The problem is where to find good management.