Total Quality Management and Music That Stirs the Soul

By Peters, Tom | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 23, 1992 | Go to article overview

Total Quality Management and Music That Stirs the Soul


Peters, Tom, THE JOURNAL RECORD


There's a moment in the movie "Amadeus" that always makes the hairs on the back of my neck bristle. Young Mozart plays the piano before Emperor Joseph II. Salieri, the reigning musician of the day, is disguised by a mask in the background. Mozart sits and begins a Salieri score. Then he starts to improvise, and a voluptuous burst of trills and arpeggios fills the air. The stolid music is wondrously transformed.

I thought about "Amadeus" after reading a Newsweek story (March 1992) which quoted Robert D. Knoll of Consumer Reports: "The Americans are building nice average cars but few `geeizok-atis' cars." The Japanese, on the other hand, have "upped the ante in what the experts call the more subtle `sensory' side of a car's quality," Newsweek claims, such as a "turngnal lever that doesn't wobble (and) the feel of a climatentrol knob."

I offer these observations as an indictment of total quality management as it is generally practiced. Doing things perfectly (TQM) is important. Doing things well may be ever more important.

Salieri composed "zerofects" music _ that was deadly. Mozart played Salieri's work flawlessly. But had that been all, none of us would know Mozart's name today. Likewise, in our day, perfectly produced cars that roar to life at 20 below zero don't win hardre loyalists _ unless they also score well on the "geeizok-atis" scale.

Creativity guru Edward de Bono's latest book, entitled "Surtition: Creating Value Monopolies When Everyone Else is Merely Competing" offers some lessons. He claims there are three "stages of business."

In the first, "Attention is on the product and on production." That is, get it right.

Stage two focuses on the product relative to the competition: "How can we do better or at least keep up?"

Stage three, surtition (beyond competition), emphasizes "integrating into the complex values of the customer." Huh?

De Bono illustrates: "The Swiss watch industry invented the quartz movement, but did not use the invention because it felt (it) would kill their existing market. Anyone could use the quartz movement, whereas only the Swiss had the skills to make little cog wheels and balance springs.

They were right in their thinking. . .but wrong in their strategy. Watchmakers in Japan and Hong Kong eagerly grabbed the quartz movement, and in one year the sales of Swiss watches dropped by 25 percent.

"What rescued the Swiss watch industry was a very unSwiss concept of the Swatch. . .(It) signaled that telling time was no longer the most important thing in a watch.

A $5 watch tells time every bit as well as a $30,000 watch. …

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