Treat Every Defect as a Treasure

"All that is gold does not glitter."  — J.R.R. Tolkien
Defects in a system can be seen as thorns or roses. While some managers fear the unearthing of defects, enlightened leaders welcome their discovery and, in fact, encourage staff to seek them out proactively. Defects are treasures to be valued because they present opportunities for improvement. Only by identifying flaws in the system can we identify — and fix — the fundamental or systemic root causes of errors.
Drive Out Fear
A culture of fear will stifle creativity and innovation, and halt continuous improvement by enabling defects to remain undetected — or unreported. Fear fosters gaps between "what we know" and "what we do." To close this gap, managers must create a culture that searches for defects, where staff continually seek and eliminate the flaws in the system.
In his landmark book, Out of the Crisis, famed quality expert, W. Edwards Deming, teaches:
"Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company. Many employees are afraid to ask questions or to take a position, even when they do not understand what the job is or what is right or wrong. People will continue to do things the wrong way, or not to do them at all."
When people are afraid, productivity suffers. Fear drives people to remove the source of fear, not the source of the problem. When there is an environment of fear in the workplace, employees often feel that preserving the status quo is the only safe way to do things. "The economic loss from fear is appalling," Deming says.
Improved performance cannot occur unless staff members feel comfortable to report defects and speak truthfully, and are confident that their suggestions will be taken seriously. They cannot perform their best unless they feel secure to point out problems and suggest process improvements. Management must create an environment in which employees, free of the fear, view defects as "gold" which, when continually mined, contribute to the overall improvement of the enterprise.
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