THE PSYCHOLOGY OF QUALITY

American Society For Quality Control
48th Annual Quality Congress Proceedings
Pages 134-139
1994, Daniel K. Judd. All Rights Reserved

Daniel K. Judd, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University

ABSTRACT

For the most part, the management world has utilized the principles of behavioral psychology in their work. This paper questions the philosophical assumptions of behavioral psychology as they apply to quality and outlines an alternative based on building and sustaining personal and corporate relationships. Philosophical and scientific evidence is presented which argues that the psychology of quality needs to focus on relationships rather than controlled outcomes.

INTRODUCTION

Psychology plays a significant role in the process of quality, both within the organization and in the relationships the organization has with its customers. W. Edwards Deming has included "psychology" as one of the four elements of what he describes as "profound knowledge."(1) These four elements, Theory of Knowledge, Knowledge of Variation, Systems Thinking, and Psychology ought not to be separated, but integrated and understood as interdependent dimensions of a greater whole.

The traditional use of psychology in the quality context has been predominantly from a behavioral perspective which focuses on the "control" of employee and customer behavior to accomplish the goals of the organization. In the traditional organization, management identifies the goals to be accomplished and the work that needs to be done to accomplish such goals. Incentives and rewards are then established which are "paired" to the accomplishment of the work. As the employees do the work necessary to achieve the rewards and incentives, the goals will theoretically be achieved.

Similarly, incentives and rewards are identified and put into place to attract the business of the customer. As the organization identifies and provides the right incentives, it gains the patronage of customers needed to sustain the organization.

Research and the increasing collective experience of many organizations has shown these traditional methods of attempting to control behavior through incentive or reward systems are proving inadequate. As the global economy moves beyond traditional management methodology, such as "management by objective" (which is based upon a strictly behavioral approach), new philosophical and psychological insights are needed. From a practical perspective, markets are changing so quickly that it is difficult to change incentives soon enough to respond to current market demands. This problem is exacerbated by the resistance most individuals and organizations have to change. Aside from these practical and somewhat obvious limitations of "management" based upon principles derived from behavioral psychology, there are more serous philosophical limitations. A focus on external incentives and rewards to "drive" the work of the organization ins a classic form of "extrinsic" motivation, which has been demonstrated to have serious flaws.(2) Extrinsic forms of motivation represented by such strategies as incentives and merit-pay plans has been shown not only to be ineffective, but also detrimental to quality itself.(3) The seriousness of utilizing extrinsic forms of motivation is underscored by the fact that the "recent estimates of the number of U.S. companies using some form of incentive or merit-pay plan ranges from 75-94 percent, and many of these programs have just been adopted during the last few years."(4)

In response to the failure of management-based organizations, there is currently a movement away from "management" and toward "leadership." This shift in the way we look at the world invites us to re-examine the philosophy and its accompanying psychology which serves as the foundation for the redesigned processes of the organization.

This "shift" in the way we see the world doesn't necessarily eliminate all of the concepts of traditional psychology and their applications to the world of quality, but rather provides a framework within which we can properly understand them and how they appropriately fit (or do not fit) into the quality context.

TEXT

Quality is essentially a function of human psychology. Ignoring the psychological aspects of human beings in pursuit of quality leaves us with a mechanistic understanding. Financial success may be gained, but personal or corporate meaning and fulfillment will be seriously limited if not denied.

To better understand the psychology of quality, it is important to begin with a definition of quality which reflects the human psychology that quality is designed to fulfill. To say that quality is simply "zero defects" or "conformance to requirements" provides a mechanical definition which does not focus on human needs. The ANSI/ASQC definition of quality brings us closer to a definition which focuses on human needs: "Quality is the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs."(5)

The dynamic definition of quality, based on the five dimensions of quality, which will be outlined in this paper, provides insights as to the psychological dynamics which underlie quality: "Quality is an on-going process of building and sustaining relationships by assessing, anticipating and fulfilling stated and/or implied needs.(6) This definition is based on moving from lower dimensions of quality (experience and measurement) to the higher dimensions of relationships/systems thinking, inter-connectivity/paradigm logic, and value sharing. From this perspective, organizations and individuals are invited "to move from a state of limitation to a state of liberation, from a state of punishment to a state of participation, and from a state of victimization to a state of actualization."(7)

Looking at these five dimensions of quality and their fulfillment from a theoretical perspective, we find that they are consistent with Maslow's hierarchy of needs: 1) Physiological, 2) Safety, 3) Social, 4) Esteem, and 5) Self-actualization. The following Figure 1 shows these relationships.

Five Dimensions of Quality
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Dimension of Psychology
Motive for Action
Deming's Cycle
5. Value Sharing Actualization Integrative Internal Desire Aim
4. Inter-connectivity, Paradigm Esteem Conative (Intuitive) Intrinsic Rewards Plan
3. Relationships

Systems

Social Affective (Emotion) Extrinsic Act
2. Measurement Safety Cognitive (Mental) Incentive Study
1. Experience Physiological Behavioral

(Physical)

Fear; Power Greed Do

Experience, the first dimension of quality, is a behavioral dimension which relates to physical needs. The second dimension of quality, measurement, can be seen as a function of cognitive psychology as it relates to the acquisition of knowledge through intellectual capacity which provides the basis for security which satisfies the safety needs of the individual or group. Relationships, quality's third dimension, is an affective dimension of psychology which relates to the social or emotional needs of people. The desire for meaning or esteem brings our focus to the inter-connectivity and paradigm logic dimension of quality, which relates to the conative or intuitive dimension of psychology. Quality reaches its highest domain through the value sharing dimension, which enables actualization and is related to Integrative Psychology which is an integration of the previous four dimensions.

A focus on the behavioral dimension of psychology creates the appearance that the psychology of customer interaction is different from the psychology of organizational performance. Traditionally it is the marketing department's function to develop the packaging and portrayal of a product to attract customer patronage, and it is the finance and the human resource divisions who develop the incentives for employees to ensure the work of the organization is accomplished most efficiently.

A broadening of the psychological focus permits viewing the customer and employee needs through a common psychological perspective, permitting the melding of customer and employee needs into a common vision. The broadened focus is accomplished through attention to the higher needs, ensuring that lower level needs are also satisfied in the process. For example, a focus on helping employees and customers become partners and participants in the process of meeting their needs moves us from a behavioral to a social level. In place of employees merely being compensated for their work and customers simply given a standard product in exchange for their money, their human needs of meaningful social interaction is can be addressed. As employees and customers become partners, their esteem needs are also addressed.  As they become full participants they engage in actualization through contributing their own core competencies to the common good that becomes their common vision.(8)

It is this participation level which bring's quality's highest fulfillment. Quality becomes more than simply satisfying a physical, mental, or emotional need. In its most meaningful expression, quality involves not only exercising the responsibility to provide customers or employees with what is expected or required, but also being responsive to the full range of needs and assisting in the fulfillment of those needs. This response-ability, or ability to respond to the needs of employees and customers, creates an entirely new dimension in quality thinking and takes us beyond the traditional organization's preoccupation with the "control" of behavior.(9)

Extending beyond physical, mental, and emotional needs also provides insight into a powerful dynamic that is an integral part of the quality process. This is the relational dynamic. The relational dynamic helps us see quality as more than a quid pro quo process in which I give something of value in exchange for something of equal value. Quid pro quo, while the standard for many years as expressed is such phrases as "meet specifications" and "bang for the buck," is inadequate to explain the "delight the customer" dynamic, which goes beyond the equal exchange to "give the customer more than they are paying for."

However, even the "delight the customer" dynamic is misunderstood if it is not understood in its relational context. The power of delighting customers is not that they are getting more than they paid for or that you will eventually get a greater return, but that it builds relationships with customers such that they become "sustaining members" of the organization. They themselves begin to reciprocate by giving more than is required, by making repeat purchases or becoming dedicated, long-term employees. This reciprocation is also experienced as employees and customers share the vision of the organization with others through word-of mouth advertising and by sharing "moments of truth" which live on in the minds of customers long after the transaction is complete.(10) It is only at this level, the value sharing level, that the highest needs of esteem and self-actualization reach their fulfillment. It is at this level where both the responsibility and response-ability dynamics are fully operative.

Empowerment, which is so essential for leadership and quality development, is a product of the value sharing process. Only the "responsible use of resources" provides the level of trust necessary to permit letting go of control to encourage empowerment. (11)

Response-ability entails not only a responsiveness to the needs of others, but also a responsiveness to our own individual sense of intuition. While traditional psychology has lumped intuition with the affective domain, and treated it as an emotional response with discounted value, conative psychology demonstrates that intuition is a separate, meaningful function which provides a well-spring of knowledge to assist in fulfilling needs as they arise. Neither should the conative dimension be confused with the cognitive dimension, which relates to existing knowledge. Rather, the conative dimension relates to knowledge that is acquired or provided on an intuitive basis in order to assist in fulfilling a personal or overt or latent need of another. This conative dimension can be avoided and stifled, and often is in bureaucratic organizations in which there is no room for innovation and discovery. Research has demonstrated that organizations, schools and families that operate from a behavioral paradigm have far less creativity than those with a paradigm consistent with the conative perspective.(12) Research has also demonstrated that as the conative dimension is understood and lived, people are more productive, happy and healthy.(13)

It is the conative dimension which helps us understand paradigm logic and helps us go beyond cognitive logic in responding to the needs of today's ever-changing market. For example, it may have appeared illogical to eliminate the buzzer signaling the end of the break period when there was confusion as to whether the buzzer meant that the break was over and the employees should leave the break room, or that the employees should be back at work when the buzzer sounded. Movement from an "irresponsibility" paradigm to one based on "responsibility," where the workers held themselves accountable for returning to work, would in the end prove more effective because it contributed to an overall philosophy. Had the firm attempted a behavioral approach and penalized or rewarded the employees for their resistance or compliance, behavior would change temporarily, but as was stated earlier, attitudes of integrity, unity, creativity, and independence would (for the most part) be stifled.

The paradigm provides the means by which behavior can be understood. What appears to be an illogical course action from one perspective may be perfectly sound from another. But all paradigms are not created equal. Some are significantly better than others.

Paradigm logic invites the behavior. The way an individual, family, corporation or country perceives the world will greatly influence how they think, feel and behave. A shift in paradigms can be expected to create a significant shift in attitude and behavior. An organization which exists in a "competition" paradigm will experience resistance with its customers and suppliers over price, while an organization operating under a value sharing paradigm could very well adjust the price to meet the needs of all concerned. One organization reported that upon implementation of quality training based upon a conative perspective, there was a significant increase in job satisfaction, errors were reduced and sales increased. This transformation was apparent from outside the company as well, as three salespersons from a competitor approached the company about possible employment.(14)

CONCLUSION

The movement from management to leadership, from fear to participation and from focusing on the self to the other are all elemental parts of the underlying paradigms that inspire the work of the organization.

Understanding psychological needs of individuals and the function of the quality movement in fulfilling the highest of these needs provides a basis for fulfilling quality in its highest dimension. This fulfillment comes through the responsible use of resources (responsibility), but also in responding to the individual needs of others (response-ability). The responsibility and responsiveness dynamics provide a foundation for empowerment in an organization, and permit building an organization in which trust, responsibility, and value sharing paradigms inspire the behavior of the employers, employees and customers of the organization.

FOOTNOTES

1. Deming, W. Edwards, The New Economics (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), 1993, pages 110-118.

2. Deming, W. Edwards, The New Economics (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), 1993, pages 110-118.

3. Kohn, Alfie, Punished by Rewards, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993, pp. 119-141.

4. Kohn, Alfie, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and other Bribes, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993, pp. 13.

5. ANSI/ASQC. 1987 Quality Systems Terminology, American National Standard A3-1987.

6. Winder, Richard E., "Sole Sourcing Modern Management Theory: Quality as the Source," 6th National Quality Management Conference Transactions, January 28, 1994.

7. Winder, Richard E., "Fulfilling Quality's Five Dimensions," 47th Annual Quality Congress Transactions, May 24-26, 1993.

8. Within the value sharing paradigm, vision is defined as the common good among participants. See Winder, Richard E., "Fulfilling Quality's Five Dimensions."

9. Covey, Stephen R., The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, New York: Fireside, 1990, p. 71.

10. Winder, Richard E., "Fulfilling Service Quality Through Quality's Five Dimensions," ASQC Second Annual Service Quality Transactions, April 20, 1993.

11. "The responsible use of resources" is the definition of stewardship, one of the essential economic dynamics of quality. See Winder, Richard E., Lindon J. Robison, and Daniel K. Judd, "The Economic Dynamics of Quality," addendum to "Fulfilling Service Quality Through Quality's Five Dimensions," ASQC Second Annual Service Quality Transactions, April 20, 1993.

12. Kohn, Alfie, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and other Bribes, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993, pp. 49-67.

13. Judd, Daniel K., "Agentive Theory as Therapy: An Outcome Study," Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1987.

14. Personal Correspondence with Richard E. Winder, Haslett, Michigan.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ANSI/ASQC. 1987 Quality Systems Terminology, American National Standard A3-1987.

Barker, Joel A., Future Edge, New York: William Morrow, 1992.

Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, Cambridge.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1986.

Deming, W. Edwards, The New Economics, Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1993.

Judd, Daniel K., Agentive Theory as Therapy: An Outcome Study, Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1987.

Robison, Lindon J., "Deductive Implications of Social Distance Models," Appendix B, Richard E. Winder, Lindon J. Robison, and Daniel K. Judd, Value Sharing: A Foundation for Value Building, Haslett, Michigan: Leadership Press, 1991.

Robison, Lindon J. and A. Allan Schmid, "Interpersonal Relationships and Preferences: Evidences and Implications, Handbook of Behavioral Economics, Vol. 2, Roger Frantz and Harinder Singh, eds., J.A.I. Press, 1989.

Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline, New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Winder, Richard E., Lindon J. Robison, and Daniel K. Judd, "The Economic Dynamics of Quality," addendum to "Fulfilling Service Quality Through Quality's Five Dimensions," ASQC Second Annual Service Quality Transactions, April 20, 1993.

Winder, Richard E., Lindon J. Robison, and Daniel K. Judd, The Quality Leadership Plan, Leadership Press, 1991.

Winder, Richard E., "Fulfilling Quality's Five Dimensions," 47th Annual Quality Congress Transactions, May 24-26, 1993.

Winder, Richard E., "Fulfilling Service Quality Through Quality's Five Dimensions," ASQC Second Annual Service Quality Transactions, April 20, 1993.