LEADING THE TRANSITION
There are four steps in the leading the transition.
Step One: Çommit to Quality
- The first step for any company president, chairman, or CEO is committing himself or herself, and the company, to the process. Jamie Houghton took this step in 1983, shortly after he became chairman.
- Fred Smith and his top executives founded a company on the idea of providing the highest quality of service, then participated in quality training in the first year of FedEx's existence. Ray MarIow initiated a systematic approach to quality improvement in 1987.
- All did it thoughtfully and deliberately, knowing that such a commit-ment would redefine their roles for as long as they remained leaders.
- "When you start things as a leader," says Houghton, "you've got to make up your mind, then you've got to do it—even though you may not have one clue how effective it's going to be." in speeches, interviews, and articles, Houghton talks about leadership as a lonely art.
Step Two: Know Your Company's Systems and Values
- Being "out front" can make you vulnerable to questions of substance about your new management system.
- The second step in leading the transition is to knovv your way around your system, because you will be looked to as the point person for continuous quality improvement.
- That is what quality leaders are asked to do every day. As the embod-iment of their company's values, they are under constant surveilîance to see whether they will "break stride."
- If they do, people become cynical about the value of the quality improvement process, and that cynicism poisons the process.
- We have all had leaders who say one thing and do an-other, and vve are smart enough to know that what they do is what is really important.
- Leaders who talk about quality and actively participate in the quality improvement process leave no doubt about vvhere their company's priorities lie.
Step Three: Participate in Your Company's Quaîity Processes
- Active participation, the third step in leading the transition, can take many forms.
- At FedEx, Fred Smith has been directly involved in the de-velopment of every quality process and system the company has imple-mented. He founded the company on a belief that customers would value a time-definite express delıvery service, then used on-time delivery as the company's primary measure of performance. in the late 1980s, he helped develop a more comprehensive, proactive, customer-oriented
- Good leaders know that a customer focus is critical. At FedEx, each officer is assigned responsibilîty for the majör customers in a sales dis-trict. Smith and his staff talk to customers continuousîy at the executive level to make sure their needs are being met.
- Quality leaders reinforce a customer focus by investing their own time in improving customer relationships.
- SteOnce a leader is committed to management by quality, understands its basics, arid physically participates in the transition, the fourth step is to instîtutionalize systems management as the company's business management model.