When is this constant state of change and upheaval going to end and everything return to normal? One political party says the return is underway and things are getting better. The other says to trust them, help is on the way. Who is right? What is normal? Well, here is some uncommon sense: There no longer is a "normal." The only constant is continuous, life-altering change. Look at the economies, politics and constant turmoil in most of the European, Middle Eastern and Far East countries for proof.
Companies in the United States have been relatively complacent for many years. Suddenly, a series of bad years have hit us. Instead of confronting the situation, manufacturers have run for cover. We think that we have to wait until the time is right to make changes. Productivity improvements have been put on hold until the situation improves. News flash: We are now part of the global family. The events of the past years have brought us into the fold. The right time to make change happen is now, or we will be way behind the power curve when the economy moves forward again. The good news: Many improvements do not require a large capital investment, and many will drive a payback in a relatively short period of time.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Following the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, a group of Japanese scientists and engineers invited Dr. W. Edwards Deming to Japan to lecture on the principles of quality control. Some Japanese companies that applied his methods increased their productivity and earned large profits, and his ideas spread. His teachings were considered a leading influence in the revival of the Japanese economy. Meanwhile, U.S. companies sat there-fat, dumb and happy-with their old-school methods. Not until the 1980s did a few U.S. companies start to implement some of Deming's philosophies.
"Deming developed a quality management system that emphasized joy in work and pride in the outcome," says Howard Seth Gitlow in the entry about Deming in the World Book Online Reference Center. "Deming said that quality should be stressed at each step of a process and not by inspecting the product or service once it is completed. In addition, Deming maintained that most product and service problems result from faults in management rather than from the carelessness of workers."
These simple principles are as valid today as they were when Deming began teaching them in Japan 50 years ago. However, if U.S. companies do not start acting now, they will continue to fall further and further behind. Quality and lean principles need to be ingrained as core competencies. Instilling the basics of management is more critical today than ever before. The value of simple and logical methods has remained constant. The problem remaining in U.S. companies, however, is the fear of doing something at this time. Money, people, timing and many other fears rear their ugly heads and prevent management from doing what must be done.
Now is absolutely the right time to make change happen. We must not wait until "the time is right." The time is right today and the changes needed are simple, direct and logical. Quality, lean principles, management operating systems, metrics and numerous basic management practices must be implemented. None of these will require large capital investments. But they will require better managers.
Don't wait! Do it now! The time will never be more right.