Inbox: Letter to the editor

Dear editor
I always enjoy Reg Birchfield’s very thoughtful articles in NZ Management magazine. I am an unashamed disciple of Deming and the school of total quality management (TQM) which is now sadly diluted into the jargon of ‘excellence-speak’.
In Reg’s writing about leadership I can feel the quest and yearning we are all engaged in for improved productivity and productive workplace culture in New Zealand. But as nation we are asleep to the old rules of quality control which are about nothing but quality improvement – continuously, little by little, forever. But you have to know how.
There are well-founded rules, but our NZ managers don’t want to know them. They don’t want to get with programme they consider merely an old hat fad. They refuse to be, in their view, patronised.
Not just New Zealand managers, either. Deming railed against US management schools churning out graduates who hadn’t studied any of the fundamental principles and history of process quality control (manufacturing and service).
TQM had its moment, then we fell back into command and control (aka flying by the seat of our pants). Our leaders are helpless and ineffective because they don’t work within the tried and true philosophy of how to make something reliable, consistent and fit for its customer’s purpose. They don’t know what that means – but they spout the jargon willy nilly, while huddled up closely to their bankers.
It will probably take catastrophe to bring it back but it will return one day. I feel us sliding toward one sometimes, as nation, and the disease is global.
Some people have not forgotten but they are too few and we are kept outside the tent.
– Best regards, Julian McKean

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