People guided by the popular ‘feeling good’ viewpoint are ready to intervene to make the child feel better. People guided by the ‘doing well’ approach are ready to intervene to change the [person’s] thinking about failure, to encourage frustration-tolerance, and to reward persistence rather than mere success.
The doing-well advocates have two new technologies: one for changing pessimism into optimism, and one for changing happiness into mastery.
Seligman – 1995
The working presumption of this endeavor is that people will feel better about themselves and about their work if they believe that they are successfully performing an important job at a high level of quality.
The working assumptions of Total Quality Management [TQM] is that continual organizational improvements, small and large, are not only possible, but necessary. Opportunities for improvement are embedded in the personal performance of each staff person, and the acknowledgement of this fact immediately raises the status of each position within the mind of management and the individual. Three basic ideas embody TQM:
- Orient all efforts towards delighting customers and removing waste in [or constraints on] internal processes.
- Stress team efforts at all levels inside and outside the organization, including cooperative efforts with suppliers and customers.
- Use data and scientific reasoning to guide and evaluate improvement efforts and to hold the gains from past improvements.
These ideas pose a profound psychological challenge: they say that no matter what you have done up until now, we must be prepared to do better. And the process of doing better is personal. Each person has the capacity to do better. And this proposal is predicted upon the notion that as each person assumes the psychological burden of doing better and tracking their process in doing so, the job focus is improved, the performance will be improved, and people will feel better about themselves and their work.
The process is on of creating a Personal Quality Checklist and then counting ‘defects’. While this may sound contrarian, it in fact, is the key to improving employee morale. For only if the employee feels that what they do on the job matters can they gain satisfaction in doing the job well. And by tracking the number of defects, they are able to see improvement graphically in their own performance. And because the process is personal, and not corporate, they either share of not share the data that is collected. They may prefer to give themselves their own positive reinforcement for a job well done.
The issue of defects is important. The goal is always ‘zero’ defects. A defect is defined as anything that is not perfect. Therefore, while being on time for meetings may be the target, being one minute late is a defect – no excuses. Therefore, being fifteen minutes late for a meeting is fifteen  defects. In order to reach zero defects, a person will be required to get to meetings five minutes early to correct for their watch being slow. This kind of intense emphasis, contrary to intuition, does not make for a feeling of constriction since the checklist is personal. No one knows what is on the other person’s checklist or how well the person is doing unless they tell you. ‘Cheating’ and saying your checklist is perfect may gain reinforcement from others for a period of time, but is likely to increase the internal desire to actually accomplish this perfection. Incidently, once perfection is reached, the person simply upgrades the Personal Quality Checklist.
The creation of the Personal Quality Checklist is something that can, at least in part, be shared since the consistencies of the CCIU functions are something that many people consider and offer suggested ‘defect’ options and definitions. Such a discussion could help the CCIU to begin to define what values it really has concerning its services. Is being late for a meeting really something that we should be concerned with? Does it matter whether the meeting is internal or external? Does it matter whether it is a professional meeting or a client meeting? It might be surprising to find out what people think is important or not important to doing their job with quality.
It would seem that several categories could be considered for discussion:
Performance: which would include skill, style and problem solving
Attitude: which would include humor, optimism and caring
Maintenance: which would include time management and care of tools
Individuals could then add any personal items which are important to themselves such as eating well, maintaining weight, caring for self, etc.
Notice that the individual then creates his/her own checklist and monitors it him/herself. S/he does not need to include items that s/he believes s/he cannot attain. I for example, would never put a clean desk as one of my goals. The individual also has the ability to frame the ‘defect’ in his/her own way. I might define a lateness defect as five minutes, until I get perfect at getting to minutes fewer than five minutes late.
Finally, there is the question of reinforcement. The Personal Quality Checklist is an intrinsic reward system. The person does it because they believe it is important to do, it gives them satisfaction, and makes them feel better – or they don’t do it. Those who do it should also keep a checklist of self affirmations which they use to reward themselves for a job well done or a worthwhile attempt or for a good beginning. If they include on their Personal Quality Checklist any of the areas that others in the CCIU consider to be important and they are able to see trends toward zero defects, there will be other natural rewards which come their way from cohorts and supervisors. Other people see quality, although they may define it differently. But if the individual has been responsive in their List to the values discussed, they are very likely to be seen as quality staff.