Today I am not going to whine or point fingers. Instead, I am going to take my best shot at problem-solving. Stick with me.
Back in the early 1980s TQM (Total Quality Management) was all the rage in corporate America. The TQM movement started when the US Army hired Dr. Edwards Deming to take over economic development in post-war Japan. Deming applied quality improvement techniques that transformed Japan from a nation of shoddy third-world trinket-makers to a wealthy nation of world-class manufacturers. His astonishing success gave rise to the thought that maybe the world could be saved after all.
As a young executive, I was asked to select and implement one of many popular TQM programs to make sure that our company stayed at the leading competitive edge of our industry. After looking at the alternatives, I chose the Philip Crosby Theory because it just seemed so simple and common-sensible. The Crosby Theory is based on these principles and definitions and provides tools to achieve them:
- Quality is defined as conformance to requirements
- Quality defect prevention is preferable to quality inspection
- Zero defects is the quality performance standard
- Quality is measured in monetary terms – the price of non-conformance
A government, like a business, is a group of people trying to get something done together in their common interest. And in government, like in business, if there is no agreement on what the requirements are, or how to tell if we are meeting them, there is zero chance of success.
Read the list above again and imagine all the ways that our government could be improved if these principles were applied. How many problems would this solve!
By defining what the requirements are, we would stop wasting time, money and effort doing things that half of our citizens don’t want done. We are fortunate to have a constitution written by geniuses that clearly defines what our government is expected to do.
Another great way to avoid wasting time, money and effort is to prevent problems instead of dealing with them after they are discovered. This would indicate that the single most important thing to our nation’s future is the improvement of our education system. We could apply TQM to that, too.
A major problem with our system of government is there is no standard of performance. That’s why our growing budget deficits and debt seem insurmountable and inevitable. If we are going to survive, we have to have achievable expectations of our government officials and hold them totally accountable.
And how would we measure our success? The only known way to measure anything is numerical. “Niceness” is not a measurement that can be agreed upon. “Respect”. “Caring.” “Fairness”. “Equality”. None of these are objective measurements. Let’s face it, government is all about using our shared money to improve our standard of living. All adults strive to financially improve every day. And no matter how much they “care”, elected officials can do nothing other than spend – or not spend – our money. Measurement of our government’s success must be statistical, not emotional: GDP growth, per capita income, consumer financial security, etc. We want all the graphs to point upward.
Okay, I gave it my best shot. Surely government can’t be that simple. Or can it?
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
Ain’t no need to complicate it, we both know that’s overrated
We’ve been there, its safe to say it ain’t our style, yeah
It’s like one, two, three
Just as easy as can be
Just the way you look at me
You make me smile