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Allan Sayle's Comment

Column 12: 08 March 2006.

Effective team creation

Owing to the rapid pace of change, fickle markets, fearsome competition and highly dispersed supply chains, business problems are becoming more complex. And, the need for effective interaction across national boundaries, time zones, cultures and intersecting technologies is an associated challenge. Customizing solutions demands rapid assembly of the most appropriate experience and abilities. Tackling that can only be accomplished by skillfully selecting the right combination of talent and resources. Even though the modern organization encourages greater communication by providing email, video-conferencing, cell phone, Blackberries and other facilities and tools, their first use requires some idea of who to contact: who is the right person? Depending on the size and complexity of the business, managers might not know. Someone needs to know where those people might be found.

At first blush, one might think the human relations department is the right place. However, my first choice would be – the quality department. It is better placed than is HR, which generally has but little idea of the internal and external capabilities and resources available. HR people are seldom found “on the factory floor” interfacing directly with process owners as they work. (Indeed, I sometimes wonder why they the title, “human resources,” is conferred upon them when so often they know little more than quantities of the staff and hearsay about them. It seems their knowledge of the people is mostly paper based - annual appraisals, outdated resumes etc. - and frequently pitiful.) That choice is good, though, only if the quality department is providing the modern day service it should.

In its January 21 2006 Special Feature “A Survey of The Company”, The Economist describes “knowledge mules” (p.15). These are people who cross various team and other organizational boundaries carrying ideas and information with them such that what is going on in the firm is effectively transmitted thereby reducing the likelihood of different places reinventing the wheel or repeating work already done.

Of course, while this may seem new, it is a function the competent management auditor should be undertaking and in doing so it delivers one of the benefits of management auditing. (1) An additional and most important benefit is that the auditor comes to know where are the experts who can contribute their skills and experience in dealing with problems or opportunities confronting the organization. In an age when the ability to rapidly assemble the right team for processing a particular need, it is obvious the diligent auditor can be a valuable consultant within the firm.

It is sad to note that over the years the audit tool has become so degraded by a combination of incompetence, inappropriate selection of auditors, bad training delivered by inexperienced certified panhandling plagiarists and certification schemes, the ISO 9000 digression and deflection, and, in particular, the common failure by auditors to deliver a value-adding service, that management is unaware of the true worth of this essential tool. That damage is not totally irreparable but will take time to undo. Unless, that is, quality directors are willing to change their own business model for what their department is supposed to provide and start anew.

Some guidance and aspects of what is needed have already been outlined. (See the hyperlinks at the end of this article). There is more: a lot more to be said on the subject. The essence, though, is that quality departments must be engaged in the business and serving its needs rather than sitting on the sidelines. That is to say, quality departments must be built into the enterprise, not bolted on. And as the importance of correctly assembling teams is appreciated, the department’s understanding and input of what is available and going on in the organization will be a valued service. Assuming, of course, it has that intelligence. Could you be a knowledge mule or are you an ignorant jackass?

Destructively testing quality’s services.
March 2005 keynote address to the QAD.
Adding Value for Your Future.


1. It was described in the 1st edition of “Management Audits” when I wrote that in 1978 and has appeared in its subsequent two editions.

© 2005 Allan Sayle Associates. All rights reserved.

Web: www.sayle.com



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