Magazine article Management Review

Tennant Company: Instilling Quality from Top to Bottom

Magazine article Management Review

Tennant Company: Instilling Quality from Top to Bottom

Article excerpt


Tennant Company is a classic niche business; we dominate the area we're in, which is industrial floor cleaning. We have been in the sweeper, scrubber, and floor coating business for a long time, and if there is one idea I would like to leave with you, it is that a good quality effort starts with a clean floor.

Tennant Company has been working away at that quality effort since 1979. We have increased our training a great deal, have implemented statistical process control, and have changed our recognition programs considerably. We have also totally changed our attitudes toward small-group participation. Now we're at the point of trying to stand back and ask, "Where have we been? What have we learned? Where do we go from here?"


Of the things we have learned about quality, three points stand out in my mind. Obviously, the first is management commitment. About four years ago, I was asked to give a lecture on management commitment to a group of top managers for a very large company in Minneapolis. I arrived at the office of the general manager, who said to me, "Roger, we've got to get our top managers committed and involved in this whole quality process. I want you to sock it to them at this luncheon today." And I said, "Well, that is what I'm going to talk about." And he said, "Really, these guys have got to get on board, they've got to get committed to this thing. I'm also really glad that they're videotaping your talk because my boss from New York is in town, and he likes me to drive him to the airport. I'll catch your speech later on the videotape."

Well, that told me the whole story and indicated to me the direction that company's fortunes would take. Management commitment was only being paid lip service by the top people. For those of you who are not at the top, I urge you to help your senior managers commit themselves. Don't be afraid to send them articles about outstanding examples of quality programs.

People at the top are very isolated, much more than you think. Tell your top people one way or another where they are letting you down and what they can do to help the quality effort.


Measuring quality is also very important. …

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