QUALITY AS  A WAY OF LIFE  John Jay Bonstingl   Quality is a way of being. It is a lifelong journey of the spirit, body, and mind that permeates all aspects of one’s life. Quality grows first inside our hearts and souls. Then it grows in our relationships with others. Whenever Quality becomes the essence of our being when we are alone and when we are with others, it naturally thrives in and defines our families and other groups to which we belong. Ultimately, Quality becomes the essence of our schools, our work-places, and our communities, and then of our society, and eventually of the global village of which we are a part. When the number of Quality-oriented people reaches a critical mass at a particular level, the Quality Philosophy naturally becomes the way of being at that level. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an early proponent of the Quality Philosophy, maintained that Quality cannot be delegated. It must be led and managed from the top. Everyone is at the top of something. What are you at the top of, and what can you do right now, today, to begin your Quality journey or to advance it within yourself and with those in your spheres of influence? People of Quality know that the Quality Philosophy adds immeasurable richness and value to their lives. Only by becoming dedicated Practitioners of Quality in all aspects of their being will they advance the quality of life within themselves and within their environments. The daily practice of Quality focuses on five essential disciplines, which I call my Five Personal Practices of Quality:  1. Personal Leadership. The first Personal Practice of Quality is Leadership with gratitude, integrity, respect, and the courage of one’s convictions. Management can be practiced without these attributes, but true leadership requires all four. The word gratitude comes from the Latin root gratia, meaning “thanks” or “appreciation.” The effective leader has a healthy appreciation for himself or herself and demonstrates sincere personal appreciation for others, publicly and behind the scenes. Gratia is also the root of our English words grace and graciousness. The most effective leaders create in the work environment a state of grace, or forgiveness, in which people know that it is safe to take wise risks and to fail occasionally on the road to continuous improvement. The Quality leader establishes a gracious and hospitable place for people to work together. The exercise of true hospitality requires extending a warm welcome to everyone, even those whose company you may not particularly enjoy. This practice certainly holds true in the workplace. And, for those who wish to live their Quality journey with the greatest possible integrity, the disciplined exercise of graciousness and hospitality extends to every facet of life — at home with their families, on the road in their cars, in the shopping malls, in their places of worship — a commitment that permeates every waking moment. The personal practice of Leadership also requires integrity. The word integrity comes from a Latin root word meaning “one” or “whole.” Leaders of integrity work to unite in common purpose and action those people who are in their spheres of influence. They strive for unity and wholeness within themselves and in their dealings with others. In their derivations, the words whole and heal are closely related, and the most effective leaders are those who are truly healers — healers first of self, then of others, and of the environments in which they work and live. Leaders who seek to impose the Quality Philosophy upon others without first consistently and overtly exemplifying the Philosophy in their own lives set themselves up for frustration and failure, and they unwittingly create the circumstances in which cynicism, divisiveness, and mediocrity thrive. Here are three questions to guide your daily dedicated practice of Personal Leadership: • How can I best lead my own life with gratitude, creating a gracious and hospitable environment for myself and others? • How can I best lead my own life with integrity and respect, working toward wholeness and healing within myself and in my relationships with others? • How can I be courageous in the face of adversity,  as I honor my convictions by putting my ideals to work in all aspects of my life?   2. True Partnership is my second Personal Practice of Quality. True Partnership is not about winning and losing. Partnership requires us to reject the impulse to win at our partner’s expense. Whenever we seek an advantage over our partner, a part of us loses in the bargain. “Who wants to be married to a loser?” Deming mused. Indeed, who wants to work with a loser? Be friends or lovers with a loser? Who wants their kids to be losers? Whenever we cause another to lose so we can win, we betray our partnership. Likewise, whenever we establish win-win relationships with our partner, we run the risk of unconsciously setting our partnership against the external world. If both of us win, then who shall lose? may become the unstated assumption. When things go wrong in win-win relationships, the tendency is to think: Well, I’ll continue to let my partner win while I’m winning too, but I’m going to make sure he (or she) doesn’t win more than I’m winning! True Partnership focuses on the essential questions: What are the two of us really about together, here in this moment?  In whose service are we called to be here? This essential focus on the Personal Practice of True Partnership creates the physical-mental-spiritual space in which possibil-ities can be created, suffering can be reduced, and life can best be served.  Here are three questions to guide your daily dedicated practice of True Partnership: • How can I best work with others to build our capacity to improve the processes and products of our efforts together? • How can I best communicate my needs to those people whose work I use? • How can I best communicate with those people who use my work, so I can meet (and even anticipate) their needs on a constant basis?   3. Systems Focus is my third Personal Practice of Quality. People who practice this daily discipline are alert to the surrounding world. System thinkers pay attention to the ways in which people and things are inter-connected, and they work to understand the many levels on which these relationships are built. They seek to identify cause-and-effect relationships, with the clear understanding that the most proximate, observable causes may not be as directly related in time and space as circumstances suggest. The daily practice of Quality requires us to acknowledge that 85 percent or more of all the things that go wrong in any system result from the way we set up and perpetuate our patterns of interaction. It asks us to be patient with one another, to lend a helping hand rather than to point an accusing finger, remembering that systems most often fail people before people fail within their systems. There is far more disability in our systems than there is disability in the people in our systems, more ability in our collective efforts than in our solitary efforts. As Deming was fond of saying, “Don’t fix blame. Work together to fix the system. That’s where your problems are!” Here are three questions to guide your daily dedicated practice of Systems Focus: • How can I best discover how people and things are really connected? • How can I best demonstrate my dedication to fixing the system rather than fixing blame, with a deep understanding that systems most often fail their people before people fail within those systems? • How can I best create positive changes in my spheres of influence, so everyone — including myself — can succeed with greater happiness and prosperity?   4. Process Orientation. My fourth Personal Practice of Quality is Process Orientation. The process-oriented person knows that it is vitally important to have an aim. “Without an aim, you have no system,” Deming reminded us. And, without a system, you have no way to chart your progress. An aim is therefore necessary, but an aim by itself is insufficient. If the aim is to be realized, it must be supported by appropriately devised processes within systems that optimize human potential. “By what method, by what method?” Deming hammered home the point: How are you going to get where you want to go? Blind insistence on the attainment of goals without the necessary investment in systems and processes required to bring about those results is naive at best, deceitful and polemical at worst. In any case, it is ultimately counterproductive, resulting in frustration, bitterness, apathy, and burnout. Practitioners of Quality, by comparison, know that every high-quality product is the result of constancy of purpose and action, to the continuous improvement of processes and systems designed to bring about specific results. They know that the integrity of end-products depends on the integrity of their processes and systems. If you want Quality at the end, you must front-load Quality at the beginning and maintain it throughout the process. Here are two questions to guide your daily dedicated practice of Process Orientation: • How can I best understand the meaning of my life and its significance in changing the course of events within myself, in my family, in my community and the larger society, and in my world? • How can I intentionally infuse Quality into every moment of my life, so my life will have greater integrity and meaning in all of its processes and products?   5. Ongoing Learning, Growth, and Improvement. My fifth Personal Practice of Quality is a disciplined, constant focus on continuous improvement for oneself and those who are in one’s sphere of influence, through the exercise of Personal Leadership, True Partnership, Systems Focus, and Process Orientation. This focus is the essence of the Quality journey. Here are two questions to guide your daily dedicated practice of Ongoing Learning, Growth, and Improvement: • How can I best use my time and talents to improve myself every day? • How can I best help others in my spheres of influence — at home, at work, and in the community — to do the same?   I firmly believe that life offers each of us only two options. The first option is to be forever a victim, convinced that your ideas don’t count, that no one really listens to you or appreciates you, that nothing you do will ultimately make a difference, that you are the reflexive object of other people’s actions upon you. If you affirm your victimhood in the presence of others, you will always have company. The second option is to be a real-life champion, actively working to build a better life for everyone — a true Quality World — by bringing people together in pursuit of good ideas that make it possible for everyone to experience greater and greater success and happiness. Each of us must make the choice: mediocrity and victimhood, or championship and Quality? Which will it be? Former Texas governor Ann Richards tells a story that illustrates this choice. She calls it her “Drop the Rock” story and it goes something like this: Mary is drowning in the sea. A boat comes alongside her, and people reach out their arms to help her. “Mary!” they shout, “Grab onto our hands and we’ll help you to climb on board!” Mary responds, “I’m drowning, I’m drowning! I can’t reach that far!” Mary sinks lower and lower in the water. “Mary!” one of the lifesavers shouts, “We can help you to be saved, but first you have to drop your rock!” “Rock? What rock?” Mary shouts back. “The one around your neck!” the lifesaver replies. Mary feels around her neck. She touches something hard and solid and heavy and she says, “Oh, you mean this? Why, I could never let this go. This has been with me for years!” “Mary, drop the rock, or you will surely drown!” cries the lifesaver. “Hurry, Mary! There’s not much time left!” End of story. Will Mary drop the rock and save herself from going under? Or will she cling desperately to the very thing that is defeating her best efforts? Will Mary choose the comfort of victimhood and certain demise? Or will she choose to own her own life and discard that which, little by little, pulls her down? Are there any rocks around your neck? Around the neck of your family? Your co-workers? Your friends? Your community? What will you choose to do about those rocks, beginning right now, today?   Through the daily practice of Quality, we become role models for others to observe and emulate. Our life experiences become richer and more fulfilling. Relationships become healthier and more substantial. Our organizations become more humane, more effective, more prosperous. When Quality becomes a way of life, we rise to a state of being characterized by what Deming called a natural “pride and joy” in the processes and products of our lives. We develop a yearning for learning that is lifelong, life-wide, and life-deep. This is a journey without end, an invitation to participate in a lifelong adventure to seek out the very best that life has to offer!   Adapted from the best-selling book Schools of Quality by John Jay Bonstingl (3rd edition., Corwin Press, 2001). Copyright © 2001, John Jay Bonstingl. All rights reserved worldwide, including all forms of duplication and trans-mission. For permission to reproduce or distribute this material, please contact the author by e-mail at info@Bonstingl.com or by telephone +1.410.884.7800.  Schools of Quality is available for purchase from the publisher Corwin Press or from Amazon.com.


Copyright © 2006, Bonstingl Leadership Development