The Safety Line in the Quality Sand

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Improvement Science is about getting better – and it is also about not getting worse.

These are not the same thing. Getting better requires dismantling barriers that block improvement. Not getting worse requires building barriers to block deterioration.

When things get tough and people start to panic it is common to see corners being cut and short-term quick fixes taking priority over long-term common sense.  The best defense against this self-defeating behaviour is the courage and discipline to say “This is our safety line in the quality sand and we do not cross it“.  This is not dogma it is discipline. Dogma is blind acceptance; discipline is applied wisdom.

Leaders show their mettle when times are difficult not when times are easy.  A leader who abandons their espoused principles when under pressure is a liability to themselves and to their teams and organisations.

The barrier that prevents descent into chaos is not the leader – it is the principle that there is a minimum level of acceptable quality – the line that will not be crossed. So when a decision needs to be made between safety and money the choice is not open to debate. Safety comes first.  

Only those who believe that higher quality always costs more will argue for compromise. So when the going gets tough those who question the Safety Line in the Quality Sand are the ones to challenge by respectfully reminding them of their own principles.

This challenge will require courage because they may be the ones in the seats of power.  But when leaders compromise their own principles they have sacrificed their credibility and have abdicated their power.