Gung Ho! Improving quality by changing culture

By clearly communicating expectations for the outcome of a given scope of work, and then verifying that the work is completed as expected along the way, the end result is the formation of trust. With trust, comes respect.

My latest post for Retail Design & Construction Today is now live. The post is entitled, Strong quality assurance requires unique culture and features a reference to a movie from 1986, called Gung Ho.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it is worth watching. The basic storyline, according to IMDB:

In a town in the Midwest United States, the car factory has been shut, leaving the town economically distressed. A Japanese company, Assan Motors, has purchased the factory, but will need to be convinced that it is worth re-opening. Hunt Stevenson goes to Japan to make a presentation to Assan’s management, and the result is that Assan sends a management team to America and the factory is re-opened, although the workers will earn a substantially lower wage than they had before the factory had originally closed. Still, Hunt is a hero for having convinced management to re-open.

The culture clash is severe, as Japanese management demands far more regimentation and output than the workers are used to, and unpaid overtime is expected when output falls short of productivity standards. Management has little regard for the workers and the quality of their lives, focusing on productivity alone. The workers become agitated and their relationship with management becomes adversarial.

In order for the American workers to keep their jobs, they must prove that they can achieve the expected goals of both quality and productivity. Management is forced to respect the needs of the workers for fair wages. Once atitudes are changed, the workers regain their sense of pride, resulting in an increase of both quality and production output.

What does this have to do with the built environment?

In order to raise the level of quality without decreasing levels of production in construction, a change in the culture is also needed. How do we change the culture? I think that it starts with communication. But also essential, is verification. By clearly communicating expectations for the outcome of a given scope of work, and then verifying that the work is completed as expected along the way, the end result is the formation of trust. With trust, comes respect.

Once there is mutual respect among the members of the team, goals become aligned.

Image courtesy of bradleygee