High quality innovations. Oxymoron?

dilbert_startup_innovationThinking about innovation and quality management may lead us to contradictions. Preparing to this article I have found number of empirical case studies that  describe the relationship between quality management practices and innovation performance. One of such may be found here.

[…] several scholars reject the positive relationship between TQM and innovation for the reason that it possesses principles and practices that could hinder innovation. Slater and Narver (1998) and Wind and Mahajan (1997) agree that a customer focus philosophy could easily lead organizations to focus only on incremental improvements in their current products and service activities rather than trying to create novel solutions. Consequently, this leads to the development of uncompetitive “me-too” products rather than the development of real innovation. Customer focus, therefore, could build a “tyranny of the served market” in which managers see the world only through their current customers’ eyes. In this way, such firms could fail to explore customers’ latent needs.

Authors convince that quality management practices may positively influence innovations by creating a safe environment for them.

Combining the two sections of the above analysis provides a plausible evidence and explanation on the positive and significant relationship between TQM practices and innovation performance because not only TQM itself would lead to innovation performance, but the quality performance resulting from TQM practices also contributes to innovation performance. […] This means that although quality management does not directly result in innovation, organizations that want to pursue a high innovation performance must have the capability to manage quality requirements of their products before hand, as asserted by Bolwijn and Kumpe (1990) and Ferdows and DeMeyer (1990). In other words, quality management is a prerequisite for innovation management, and, therefore, TQMis necessary although not sufficient for innovation

How it looks like from employee’s perspective? As an engineer I like discoveries, experiments and innovations. I realize that my interests may lead me to failures. In most cases unacceptable in a corporate environment.  It is a difficult task to be innovative and reliable in the same time. It is difficult to be innovative inside the well-working factory. Where is the golden mean between standardization and innovations?

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Do you like overtime?


Nowadays, companies like to connect the readiness for overtime work with the responsiblity. We are responsible if we are ready to work at night. We aren’t lazy if we are finishing our job after hours. It is an important client, it is an important product, it is an important project. How often have we heared such explanations?

I admit that people who work after hours are responsible for their work, but overtime haven’t to be treated as something natural. Instead, it may be a good ocassion to ask why we need additional time to finish our task or project? In my opinion this question and especially the anwsers are more important than the readiness for working at night. What goes wrong? Where is is the source of the delay?

Toyota give us a method called 5 Whys.


  1. “Why did the robot stop?” The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.
  2. “Why is the circuit overloaded?” There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.
  3. “Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?” The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.
  4. “Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?” The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.
  5. “Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?” Because there is no filter on the pump


Be responsible and require a responsiblity – this is my conclusion :) What do you think about reponsibility and working after hours?

Too lazy to give up on quality


Long time ago during job interview…

– What are your strengths?
– I know it may sound crazy, but I’m lazy and this is my strength!
– How is it possible?

I don’t like overtime. I hate to do the same job over and over. I don’t like to feel nervous one hour before the deadline. But…. my computer loves to work all the time, even at night!
Now I understand. Unfortunately, sometimes overtime is necessary.
– Sure, but only for people that give up on quality. Instead working more and more, we can eliminate waste. Why not to improve communication, procedures, products, internal deliveries etc.?
People are too lazy for that…

What will be your answer?