The World Recession is Great for Quality Professionals Or Is It?

May 12, 2009 by

I recently attented the Annual Quality Congress Middle East in Dubai hosted by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University. It was clear that I was in a Dubai much different to the one I visited a year previous. The economic recession had hit Dubai hard – much of the construction work had stopped, many of the foreign workers had been forced to return home.. I visited a few companies there – one company whose Head Office had previously been bustling with people was now quiet – there were mostly empty desks and one of their first departments to experience lay-offs was their Business Excellence Dept – deemed to be expendable in hard times.

At the conference many of the presentations addressed the recent downturn.   

One of the most interesting presentations was by Steve Unwin of AssesstoExcellence – titled "Role of Paradox and Uncertainty in Success".  The general theme of the presentation was on "change" and "perception" – informing us that we all perceive situations differently based on our experiences, our culture and how we filter information and that  when a potential learning event occurs (e.g. a quality problem or a recession) can we really learn from it and is it useful to do so? The point here is that we never find ourselves in exactly the same situation as every moment in time is different – time is constantly changing, we are changing, our perceptions change, the business environment and associated variables are changing etc etc..     

Whether you agree or not with Steve's views he certainly got everyone thinking – something many of us don't usually have time to do!

To highlight Steve's thought provoking views on life I have provided a snapshot of his recent newsletter below. He begins his newsletter by sharing his experience at the conference in Dubai …

 "Much of the conference reflected the current 'exceptional' times. I was struck by one speaker's plea from the heart. 'I wish we had tools to deal with the unexpected'. In my hotel I noticed the fire buttons. My mind wandered and I imagined an Emergency button for Improvement Tools.

In a fire we'd all be breaking the glass, yet I don't see anyone breaking my imagined glass..

I am sure many quality professionals would argue this is precisely what we should be doing. And that we aren't because we don't understand, or "we lack management commitment", or vision or the good sense to realise the power of the tools.

I can't help thinking that if these worked we'd be deafened by the breaking glass in times like these.

The real explanation I think is much simpler. The tools don't work. That isn't to say that they can't work, just that they very seldom do, and even when they appear to work, it's only briefly and always by accident." 

So do you agree with Steve? Why is it that quality professionals do not become more valuable in times like these? Is it because the tools don't work? Your thoughts please..

Dr Robin Mann

Co-owner, BPIR.com Limited.  

PS. The American Society of Quality published a report on How The Economic Recession is Affecting Quality Activities in December 2008. This report presented the views of 47 individuals offering comments on ways that the economic recession is affecting them and the companies where they work. The results show companies paying more attention to cost cutting, waste reduction, efficiency, and downsizing, and somewhat less attention to growth through either new product introduction or acquisitions.

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