Articles and Reports by George E.P. Box > George Box Articles Quality In The Community One City's Experience

Quality In The Community One City's Experience

George E. P. Box, Laurel W. Joiner, Sue Rohan, and F. Joseph Sensenbrenner
Copyright © June 1989, Used by Permission

Practical Significance

Interest in community‐based quality efforts is rapidly in this country. Many communities have found that starting a network or "excellence council" enhances quality improvement efforts and education. These networks have realized the benefits of sharing their experiences with each other, and especially with those interested in starting their own organizations. This paper describes the evolution of the quality movement in Madison, Wisconsin, and what it takes to start a quality improvement network or similar organization.

Keyword: Quality improvement

This paper was presented at the 1989 Annual Congress in Toronto, where it was voted the best management paper.

Financial support was provided by the National Science Foundation through Grant number DDM-8808138, and by the Vilas Trust of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I. Introduction

It sounds like a fantasy novel: Citizens pulling together to create a community where quality is a way of life, not just a buzzword. Businesses thriving as workers and management cooperate to gather data, solve problems, and serve customers. Government agencies becoming responsive to people, and providing increasingly better service at ever Iower costs. Students learning effective, practical skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Yes, it's still a dream – but one that many cities in this country share. The vision of America as a place where quality matters is an off‐shoot of the quality revolution taking place in our offices and on our factory floors. More and more often, people who have been exposed to quality improvement principles at the workplace have begun to wonder if these principles can also be used on a broader scale. After all, if quality improvement can tum around an organization, why can't it help a community?

The answer, of course, is that quality improvement can help. Private and public organizations around the country – Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Washington – are benefitting from community‐wide efforts to share quality improvement resources and information. People in these locations have discovered that quality moves ahead farther and faster when they work together than it does when they work separately.

Existing community councils or networks are also starting to think in broader terms, hoping to make our nation's economy healthier and more competitive. This paper was inspired by the efforts of community networks across the country to share experiences and knowledge.1

We in Madison thought other people interested in starting a community council or network would benefit from learning about what we‐ve done, and by comparing us with organizations in other places.

Madison's quality movement is still young, but there are signs of success already. All the major employers in the city at least beginning to talk about quality and think about getting involved – and several key organizations have large‐scale, quality‐focused training and education programs underway.

In Madison, you can take a taxi ride and see a copy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's Out of the Crisis on the dashboard; be admitted to a hospital by someone participating in a quality‐focused time study; walk into a room where the mayor, the police chief, a university dean, a chancellor's assistant, a state legislator, and several business leaders are meeting with world‐renowned quality experts to find ways to improve the business environment.

Yet even with the success Madison has enjoyed, you could poll 10,000 people and find perhaps a handful who had never heard of the quality movement, and fewer still who appreciate its importance for economic survival in the coming decades. We hope that by sharing our experience we can learn from each other and find more effective ways to enhance cooperation at the community level and involve more people and organizations in quality efforts.

II. Madison's Quality Efforts

A. The Early Years

It has been said that people will only turn to quality improvement if they are staring down the throat of disaster. That wasn't quite the situation when key Madisonians first became aware of Dr. Deming's message for America – though later economic shifts made it more true than they would have liked. Prior to the 1980s, Madison had a stable economy due to the large service sector component, as well as the city's position as state capital, country seat, and home to the state university and a handful of large manufacturing firms. Madison's population has grown slowly, remaining close to 170,000 for many years.

Despite this outward stability, Madison's economy was about to change. By 1983, the baby boom years were over, which meant decreasing enrollments for the university and other schools, and other threats to established businesses. California's Proposition 13 had recently passed, a signal of citizen insistence on restraining government spending. Legislators at the city, state, and national levels were predicting massive cuts in funding, predictions which soon became reality.

It shouldn't be surprising, therefore, that the initial thrust for quality improvement came out of Madison's government and service sectors. A core group of Deming followers began meeting in 1983/84, and focused their efforts on three fronts: (1) sharing their experiences and knowledge with each other to further educate themselves, (2) making contact with people throughout the community and getting them involved in quality efforts, (3) starting demonstration projects, including one in the city's Motor Equipment Division.

Though the names of these core group members may hold little interest to people outside of Madison, the positions they held and influence they wielded around the city and even the world later proved crucial for sustaining and expanding Madison's quality efforts. Under‐standing the chemistry between these people and the nature of their involvement is critical in examining this history and trying to glean lessons useful to people outside Madison. So, acknowledging the risks of sounding like a testimonial, we offer a quick Who's Who:

City Government...

Mayor F. Joseph Sensenbrenner, who attended a Deming 4‐day Seminar and committed the resources needed to support a demonstration project undertaken in the City Garage (even meeting personally with the mechanics several times during the project).

David Miller, then the mayor's Aide for Economic and Business Development, and an early Deming convert. He introduced the Mayor to Deming's ideas, and was a focal point of activity in the early days. He had help from two Public Policy interns, Carol Wallen and Jan O'Neill, both enthusiastic supporters who helped with the leg work.

Peter R. Scholtes, then the Organization Development Coordinator for the City. His expertise in group process and helped the early projects overcome many traditional barriers to working cooperatively.

State Government...

Sue Rohan [Magnuson], who was a city council member when interest in quality first caught fire, but soon afterwards became a state representative. She was the only Community Council member who knew about quality improvement, and was therefore an important voice during the budget deliberations that led to funding of the initial city project. When she moved to the state house of representatives, she got a bill passed to initiate an effort called "Wisconsin First in Quality," though funding was later cut.

Michael Ley, then Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. His department was the first state agency to undertake quality improvement projects, and has since served as a model for other state agencies following in its footsteps.

University of Winsconsin-Madison...

William G. Hunter, known to many ASQC members as the founder of the Statistics Division. Bill was a brilliant man and humanitarian, who would pull whatever strings he could to make time available for helping with the city's projects and working with the students in his quality improvement courses. Before his untimely death, he worked tirelessly to generate excitement about and support for these ideas.

George Box, a world‐renowned statistician, and, along with Bill Hunter, co‐founder of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Quality and Improvement. The wealth of statistical expertise available at the Center has been a key resource for the city.

Private Sector...

Bill Steinberg, then a Senior Vice President with one of Madison's largest banks, and also the head of Downtown Madison, Inc., a non‐profit organization interested in the city's economic development. Bill is in business circles, and his opinions are highly respected. Bill had first been exposed to Deming's ideas when attending an M.B.A. program at the University of Chicago. He was instrumental in bringing business leaders together.

Brian L. and Laurel W. Joiner, founders of a firm engaged in quality management consulting. Brian, a former university statistics professor, is one of only a handful of people whom Dr. Deming calls upon to help with the 4‐day and 2‐day Deming seminars. He and Laurie were part of the knowledge base that kept this early group from "going off to the Milky Way" (in Dr. Deming's terms). Their extensive contacts with other quality experts and practitioners brought many visitors to Madison (adding greatly to the prestige and credibility of the early efforts), and opened doors for Madisonians traveling elsewhere.

Mary Zimmerman, then a Human Resource Specialist at Meriter Hospital, one of the largest local employers. Mary devoted a lot of her time to getting both the city's and the hospital's efforts off the ground. Meeting rooms at Meriter Hospital have been home to Madison's efforts from the earliest ad hoc meetings with a dozen or fewer participants to the local network's bimonthly meetings that now attract 150 or more people.

Ignoring for the moment these people's names and personalities, it's clear that this core group (along with others not mentioned here) provided visibility to the quality efforts and expertise in quality issues. To have the mayor and his top aides verbally and fiscally supporting the efforts of city project teams had inestimable influence over city employees – few were outright enthusiastic, but many at least thought it had a better chance than other initiatives since it had the mayor's support. To the mechanics in the city's Motor Equipment Division, being coached by people the caliber of Box, Hunter, and Scholtes sent a very strong message that quality improvement was important, and that they were important to the success of the projects.

The core group of supporters continued meeting informally for over a year, sharing their experiences, knowledge, and frustrations. Eventually, it became apparent that a more formal networking structure would allow even more people to get involved with quality efforts around the city in both public and private sectors. In response to this need, the Madison Area Quality Improvement Network (MAQIN) was formed in December of 1985, and incorporated as a not‐for-profit organization in mid-1987.

MAQIN's founders designed it to support local quality improvement efforts and to build the critical mass necessary to make continuous quality the management method in Madison. It was and still is primarily a forum for the exchange of information, as opposed to, say, a training institution. MAQIN's purpose is to promote awareness of and participation in quality management, not to compete for business with local schools and businesses that provide training and consulting.2

MAQIN's first activity was a series of bimonthly programs featuring local and national speakers talking mostly about fundamental principles or success stories. In response to many requests from its members, MAQIN held its first national conference in the fall of 1987, which attracted over 500 people.

B. Where We Are Today

The early improvement projects in the city and the state Department of Revenue are long since completed, having provided important lessons and impetus for the projects that followed.

The results of some projects have been documented elsewhere.3,4 Interest in quality improvementcontinues to expand. Increasing numbers of companies, government agencies, and schools are getting involved and creating an ever greater demand for support, knowledge, and training.

MAQIN is now the focal point for community‐wide efforts, and its expansion reflects the growth of the quality movement. The organization now has over 300 members (some of which are corporate members, where the entire company receives membership benefits), and it has added services such as discussion groups, tutorials, videotape lending, a newsletter, and special meetings. MAQIN's second national conference took place in April 1989, with a line‐up of world‐class quality experts that includes W. Edwards Deming.

III. Essentials Of A Solid Foundation

Madison's quality efforts began with a few individuals who were committed to the ideas, and grew into a widespread community endeavor. Though there does come a point where the number of people involved plays a critical role, there are other elements initially more important than body‐count. We've identified 12 factors we think are essential.

1. Energetic Champions

Numerous barriers stand in the way of quality improvement: complaisance about our competitiveness, resistance to change, suspicions about motivations, to a few. It takes enormous effort to overcome these barriers, and that's why your community quality movement will need strong, energetic champions. There has to be a person or a group of people who will actively organize and coordinate efforts, communicate between participants, and inspire others to become involved.

2. The Right Mix of People

Having champions is crucial to the success of your quality efforts, whatever form they take, but energy and commitment are not enough. We were in Madison to get involvement early on from key decision makers (such as the Mayor), and the world‐renowned experts. We think it's important that your group collectively has the following characteristics:

Power Access To Power.

Anyone who has started implementing quality improvement in his or her organization realizes that commitment (and leadership) from the top will ultimately determine the success or failure of the effort. The same is true at a community level. You must have people who have the power to get things done: to make budget appropriations, to gain the ear of influential people, to attract the interest and of others.

Education In Quality Management And Related Disciplines.

As Myron Tribus says in his paper "A Template for Creating a Community Quality Council"5 "The local quality movement should not fall under the dominance of people who do not know what the quality revolution is all about." Madison's quality pioneers were fortunate to receive guidance from Bill Hunter, George Box, Brian Joiner, and Peter Scholtes: experts in statistics, group dynamics, and Dr. Deming's management principles. But this expertise in a few people is not enough. Many people here went to seminars, extensively, and took every opportunity to educate themselves in these new ideas. In‐depth knowledge of quality improvement helps you avoid the pitfalls that await anyone trying to change the way America does business.

Risk‐Takers With Action Orientation, An Openness To Trying New Ideas, And A Willingness To Learn From Mistakes.

Quality management is still a new field in this country, and was barely fledged in 1983 when people in Madison first became interested. Though more resources are available nowadays, no quality effort will get anywhere if the participants want only tried‐and‐true, cookbook recipes for using these ideas. Even if you follow someone else's guidelines, much of what you'll undertake is experimental, and you have to be willing to try new ideas and plan how you will learn from your mistakes and successes.

A "We" Orientation, A Mindset Of Collaboration Not Competition.

One of the most important lessons we've learned in Madison is summarized in the point Dr. Deming emphasizes so much: having a Win‐Win Strategy. Collaboration – a sharing of ideas, information, and experience' is a win‐win strategy, a way for people to learn faster and use resources more effectively and to expand the circle of involvement. There are times when competition only fractures a community. Madison's quality efforts grew steadily, largely because the people involved naturally tended to think in terms of "Who else could benefit from what we′re doing? Who else would be willing to help? Who has the expertise we need?" Their thoughts were "I can help make a difference" not "I am the difference."

Perseverance And Commitment

Every quality success story has one lesson in common: quality management will not happen overnight. You're dealing with fundamental changes in the way people do their jobs, and it's seldom an easy switch. If anything, this problem is even more severe at the community level because the magnitude of change is even greater.

A Belief That Breaking Down The Barriers Of Parochialism Will Best Serve The Community

This may be a truism among people starting a community‐level quality effort since few people would even think of getting involved unless they were broad thinkers. You need people who look beyond personal interest to see that their companies or agencies will flourish best when the whole community does well.

3. Synergy Building

A handful of people working independently cannot accomplish as much as a handful of people working together. The first participants in Madison's efforts together recall that the early meetings helped build their knowledge, create a desire to learn more, sustain their enthusiasm through personal Iows, and make them more open to sharing their successes and failures. This synergy empowered the group to accomplish what they could not have done individually: involve more people in the quality movement, spark the interest of leaders in their own organizations, speed their learning curves, and put together the proposals and projects that provided early success stories.

4. A Need, Frustration, or Opportunity

No one's going to jump on the quality bandwagon if they think everything is and will continue to be working well. In Madison, the imminent threat of revenue cutbacks was sufficient impetus to spur a desire to improve the effectiveness of city operations (and the city's problems in the Motor Equipment Division were an early focal point for these feelings). Work with the people involved to identify:

  • What is and is not working right in your organizations and the community; where there are imminent or existing crises.
  • Where there is a gap in services, or even just a feeling things could be better.
  • What resources and skills are available, and how you can capitalize on them.

5. A Vision

The people involved in your quality efforts will probably all have opinions on where they think their organizations and the community should be headed. Though you need not agree on all the specifics, it will save time and energy in the long run if you work to develop a common vision around what it will mean to have quality infused in your community. If nothing else, this vision will help create constancy of purpose. People will have a guidepost for determining their own priorities and those of your community effort.

6. A Strategy For Involving Others

One lesson of quality management is the importance of planning. We hesitate to say that you need a full-blown plan right off the bat, but you do need some strategy that will create the critical mass you will later need if quality management is to take root in your area. Think about questions such as:

  • In five years, what kind of participation will there be in quality efforts? Who are the people that can make your vision come true?
  • Who are the influence wielders in your community?
  • Who are the "willing workers," the people likely to have the time and ability to carry the movement through the early stages?
  • What people or organizations will benefit most from your efforts? Are they already interested in quality management? What will grab their interest? What's the best way to bring them into your group and develop their ownership in the efforts?

7. Something Visible, Concrete, That Will Give You A Success Story

It's a fact of life that people will never believe in anything new until they see concrete results. So one element of your strategy should be a demonstration project – something that you can point to and say "This is the way its done. That is what you can accomplish."

In Madison, the project in the City's Motor Equipment Division served this purpose. It began in late 1984, and was based in a facility called the First Street Garage, the central repair and maintenance location for over 900 municipal vehicles ranging from squad cars and garbage trucks to the machines used to groom the city's skating rinks. At that time, the garage had a bad reputation. City employees complained that municipal vehicles kept breaking down and that it took forever to get repairs. An internal city audit showed a host of other problems as well. Morale was at Iow ebb, and relations between management and labor were antagonistic. The presence of a strong union led to fears that implementation of quality management would run into resistance. As it turned out, Terry Holmes, the President of Local 236, became a staunch supporter, and is now an active and articulate spokesperson for quality management.

Two problems were targeted initially: reducing turnaround time and improving customer relations. The team received training from Bill Hunter in statistics and problem‐solving and from Peter Scholtes in group skills. Coupled with dedication from its members, the team succeeded in cutting average turnaround time from over 9 days to about 2.5 days, and instituted a policy that brought representatives from other city agencies into the process of setting priorities on repairs.

Did the successes of this team bring about a revolution in city government? Hardly. But the project was a source of pride for the workers, of inspiration for other city divisions, and was something tangible that we have pointed to time and time again as evidence that these ideas really do work. As Mayor Sensenbrenner said early on, "The pulpit of government is not a particularly good place to preach about management". Having this project, and the ones that followed, gave him and other government officials the evidence and experience they needed to be able to talk authoritatively with other people interested in trying similar ideas.

8. An Event

Another way to generate excitement around quality efforts – not to mention revenues to support them – is to have some event that brings people to your city. Many cities have held conferences to officially kick‐off their efforts and/or to show off what they have accomplished. Madison's network, MAQIN, put on its first conference in the Fall of 1987, and it was a huge success by most standards: there were 500 participants (most of whom gave it good reviews), it generated lots of enthusiasm around the city, it brought many new members into MAQIN, and generated revenues that sustained MAQIN's operations throughout most of 1988. It also enhanced Madison's reputation, particularly around the state, and to some extent around the country, too. People still call MAQIN saying that they heard about the conference from someone who had attended, and want to know more about what MAQIN does.

9. Publicity

What if you gave a party and nobody came? What if you put together great projects and a smashing conference and nobody heard about it? Publicity helps because press coverage is one of the best ways to get your message out to the broader public, and it adds prestige and credibility to your efforts – attaching press clippings or other articles to funding proposals, business plans, annual reviews, invitations, and so forth makes them more impressive.

Unfortunately, with press coverage, the more you want it, the harder it is to get. We have had only patchy success in this area; and recognize that it is probably what we need to work on most3,6 The depth of the problem can be characterized by what one newspaper reportedly told one group: "their efforts wouldn't be news until some big company moved to the area because of them." By necessity, most networks or other community groups are more concerned with helping local business than with attracting new business to the area.

Through trial and error we've found one way to improve our leverage in the press: reporters are naturally skeptical of the potential for self‐promotion when talking to local so they tend to pay more to outsiders. This is why you must develop connections to people outside your community especially nationally recognized experts. Have them come and give interviews, or testify before committees or management teams. Though it doesn't guarantee media exposure, it does improve your chances.

10. Money

What more powerful challenge do we have than "put your money where your mouth is"? It's all well and good for leaders, department heads, and high level officials to support quality management verbally, but the rank and file are not going to believe a word of it until two things happen: (1) they see top management using the principles themselves, and (2) money and resources are allocated to help support improvement.

We're not necessarily about huge amounts of money, at least at the beginning. Madison's pilot project in the First Street Garage was started with only $5,000. (Eventually another $6,000 was raised from private and public sources to "buy" some of Bill Hunter's time from the University of Wisconsin – a 1/2‐day a week for six months – time that could have cost five or six times as much had they directly hired Bill as a consultant.)

Similarly, MAQIN's efforts were supported for a long solely by donations‐in‐kind from local companies. Meriter Hospital, for example, has donated office space, use of their conference rooms for bimonthly meetings, use of their printing services, and a host of other essential administrative support services.

Still, there is no way to sugar‐coat the bottom line: conversion to quality management will require substantial budgetary support for all the training and education that must take place up front. On the bright side, the long‐term payoff of quality improvement efforts, training, and education is often self‐evident by the time significant monies and people are required. What has happened in several government agencies and large private firms in is that the results from judicious use of seed monies convinced upper management that investing in quality efforts is in the best interests of their organizations.

11. Interaction With Other People And Communities

We have already alluded to the need for reaching beyond city limits for support and guidance. We cannot overstate the importance of not only having other people come to see what you're doing, but going to see other places as well.

  • Bringing in outsiders can provide you with expertise that may be missing in your community. As stated above, it also increases your prestige with local media and other people. For instance, a state committee debating the Wisconsin First in Quality proposal supported by Sue Rohan got to hear testimony from Tim Fuller (of "Eliminating Complexity" fame7), a visitor from Hewlett‐Packard in California. Later, Tim Ball, a statistician with New Zealand's Division of Scientific and Industrial Research, met with the Mayor, members of his staff, and other key figures in the city. In some ways, it didn't matter who these people were. Just the fact that they were here showed that (a) Madison must be some place special for them to come all that way, and (b) this stuff must be real if even people in New Zealand knew about it.
  • Going to see other places where quality management principles are being used has the same benefits as sharing with your neighbors. You can get good ideas for what might work best in your community, learn what mistakes to avoid, and make important contacts that you will be able to draw on continuously. Of course, as Dr. Deming always reminds us, you must have at least some people who have a deep knowledge of the underlying theory; else you may end up repeating past mistakes that will take you "off to the Milky Way."

12. Chamber Involvement

Really what we have on our list is eleven essentials and one "nice‐to‐have" – we must admit that Madison's efforts do not have much support from our Chamber of Commerce, though they have let us use their mailing list and put notices in their newsletter. Other networks – such as the Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum, the Erie Excellence Council, the Philadelphia Area Council for Excellence (PACE), the Tri‐Cities group in Tennessee, and the Milwaukee First in Quality group – do have Chamber support. Being able to work with the Chamber provides better access to the business community (an area where Madison's efforts are less successful), and it seems to make some things easier, such as getting at least minimal staff support and possibly financial assistance.

IV. Putting Together a Network

The listed above will aid you no matter what form your community individual efforts take. The natural evolution seems to be from informal meetings between the movers and shakers to structured programs that atract people throughout a community.

If you really want a cohesive, broad‐based community effort, we think you will inevitably have to create a network or other organization. As we discovered here in Madison, once you get involved in quality management, the desire for information, support, and administrative help quickly outstrips what informal get-togethers can provide. Besides the formal functions a network or community council can serve (such as promoting use of quality management, or providing opportunities for education8), it:

  • Gives you the leverage to offer educational opportunities to individuals or small organizations who could not otherwise afford to get the education they want.
  • Frees up the time of those already involved by providing "administrative support (keeping up-to-date mailing lists, sending out notices, arranging for speakers, organizing and keeping track of meetings and seminars). This administrative support increases your ability to respond to spur‐of‐the‐moment opportunities. For example, with only a week or two notice, MAQIN has been able to notify and attract 100 or more members to meetings with visitors such as Lew Springer (formerly a senior vice president at Campbell Soup) and Masaaki Imai (of the Kaizen Institute).
  • Is a convenient focal point for collection, dissemination, and sharing of information.
  • A place to interact with people from many walks of life who are also applying quality principles.

It is possible to do this without creating an organization, but all too quickly you use up whatever goodwill and dedication the people you have can supply. What follows is a summary of what we've learned from our experiences in setting up a network.

A. Issues Confronting Any Network

  1. Focus and Purpose.

    In today's parlance, you're most likely to find the focus and purpose of an organization listed under "Vision". By whatever name, our message is that you'll do much better in the long run if you have some idea of where you want to go. You'll be better equipped to make strategic decisions, and to channel resources into areas that will best you and your customers. Some of the questions you need to answer are:

    • What are you setting out to do?
    • Who are customers? Private sector? Public Sector? Service? Manufacturing? Education?
    • What geographical area are you going to serve? City? County? State? Nation?
    • What will your organization be known for in five years?
    • Where Will your champions come from?
  2. Services.

    The range of services or products an organization could offer to the community is endless. What we did was identify which ones would complement – not compete against – services that were already available in Madison. Key questions at this stage are:

    • What activities will this organization organize, coordinate, undertake, or otherwise support?
    • How do you want to be able to describe your function? Do you want to be advocates for quality management? A clearinghouse of information? A training center?
    • What do your customers need? Education? Training? A place to share what they've learned?
    • What resources are lacking in your area? What gaps are there that this organization will fill?
  3. Structure

    This may be the hardest area to tackle because there are as many workable models as there are cities. As you address the questions outlined below, all we can advise is to be attuned to your local environment, to think about what structure will best support the activities you propose to undertake, and to consider what type of organization will be accepted.

    • For‐Profit vs. Not‐For‐Profit – which will work best given your circumstances? The issues surrounding each choice are very different. If you are a For‐Profit organization, what services or products do you intend to sell? How many employees can you afford? If you choose to be a Not‐For‐Profit organization (which most cities around the country have chosen to do), then how will you be funded? Can you get support from your Chamber of Commerce? Local business or funding agencies? Will you need to charge dues?
    • What administrative structure will best suit your needs? Will you have a Board of Directors? Who should be on it? Do you need officers? Staff? Will they be paid employees or volunteers?
    • Where will your office be located? How will you get furnishing, equipment, and supplies?
  4. Philosophy

    There are a lot of people out there preaching quality management under its various guises (total quality control, creation of total quality, quality improvement, continuous improvement, statistical process control). Will your organization be aligned with any particular camp? What will that mean in terms of what kinds of members you attract?

B. MAQIN As A Model

As we stated above, we hope that others can learn by seeing what choices we made in creating the Madison Area Quality Improvement Network. If you would like more detail than we present here, you can refer to our business plan and by‐laws.2

  1. Focus and Purpose

    MAQIN's original mission statement (currently being reviewed) was:

    The Madison Area Quality Improvement Network promotes awareness of the opportunities in quality and productivity management by: exchanging ideas, experience, and expertise; learning new tools and techniques; advocating the widespread use of quality productivity improvement. Our goals were built around increasing awareness understanding of quality improvement principles in the Madison and Dane County region.

  2. Services.

    MAQIN's founders felt that the biggest gap in the Madison area was a way for people to share information and learn from the experience of others. We wanted to be involved in transforming our culture to create an environment supportive of quality principles, not just doing projects. This belief shaped our programs in that we focus on bringing people together to learn from experts and from each other. As described briefly in Section II, MAQIN holds bimonthly meetings (generally used for success stories or for talks about fundamental quality issues), bimonthly user groups (focused on specific topics such as flowcharts and nominal group technique), a monthly open‐forum discussion group, and a yearly conference.

    We recently started publishing a newsletter have expanded our Resource Center to include more videotapes (which we lend to members) and other commonly requested materials. MAQIN's board members are also active in working with other community leaders in trying to create educational and training opportunities through our schools, colleges, and university.

  3. Structure.

    MAQIN's structure and operations were shaped by:

    • The desire to represent our diverse economic sectors (government, education, service, manufacturing).
    • The lack of support from the Chamber of Commerce or other existing organization.
    • Early participation by influential, cooperation-minded people.
    • Madison's moderate size (currently about 175,000) and limited geographical area.
    • Support from four key area businesses: Meriter Hospital, the City, the Center for
    • Quality and Productivity Improvement (on the University of Wisconsin‐Madison campus), and Joiner Associates, Inc.
    • Limited funds.

    MAQIN ran for two years as an informal network (with no legal status), operated by an all‐volunteer Steering Committee. Meriter Hospital donated meeting space and administrative support for the Steering Committee. As we grew, however, the volunteers got stretched very thin, and the decision was made to incorporate as a not‐for‐profit agency. After incorporation, we formed a Board of Directors, and started charging dues so that we could increase our services to members, open an office and Resource Center, and hire staff to meet our ever‐growing administrative needs (thus far, we have hired only an Executive Director and one half‐time secretary). The Executive Director works with the Executive Committee of the Board (whose are volunteers) to run the organization. We deliberately chose to have the Board composed of a mix of high‐ranking, influential community leaders and less-well-known but enthusiastic workers.

  4. Philosophy

    MAQIN's stance is that the answers to the complex questions facing our country cannot be found in any one person or philosophy, and that our organizations Will do best if they seek knowledge wherever they can. Many of our efforts are focused on the principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, but most of them also heavily from other influential thinkers (Walter Shewhart, Joseph Juran, Kaoru Ishikawa, among others).

C. How to Get Started

If you decide that forming a networking organization will help your community, what do you do next? Every community is unique and there is no defined process that will work best in all situations. One thing we advise is that you connect with other organizations around the Country.9 Find out what they are doing and how they are doing it. Compare the many different models, looking for ideas that seem particularly applicable to your area. At the same time, the steps below may help you get organized at home:

Identify the Needs and Opportunities in Your Community.

Identify the Movers and Shakers

Myron Tribus has offered one list of key people and organizations to contact, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, local chapters of engineering societies (or other professional organizations), local industries, junior or vocational‐technical colleges, and unions.10

We certainly recommend that you pay attention to his list, but also broaden your thinking to include others in your community. What organizations will benefit from your efforts? Are there people at these organizations whom you could involve? How can you best appeal to these people? Would it help if you obtained endorsements from people outside the community? Are any of the companies big enough to support your efforts through donations of funding or services?

Organizational Meetings and Develop a Plan

Once you have a core group of people interested in getting involved, bring them all together for a meeting or series of meetings. Develop a plan that will let you on the elements we listed as critical for a good foundation, and on the issues described above that face people getting a network started. Try to come up with processes for identifying needs in your community, gauging support for your ideas, and creating a plan or strategy. Some key questions are:

  • What is the next step? Do you need a formal network right away, or would informal meetings suffice for the time being? Be attuned to what your community would be prepared to accept at this point, and what timing will work best to coordinate with other events in your area.
  • Who are the next people you would like to reach? What will appeal to them? For example, you could hold a public kick‐off meeting and invite local CEOs to participate or attend.
  • You can also begin to think about what types of services you would like to offer: meetings, training programs, roundtable, discussion groups, CEO sessions, workshops, conferences, newsletter, resource center, etc. What resources and support do you need in order to offer the services you want to offer?
  • Do you have ongoing guidance from experts in quality improvement and related disciplines (statistics, organization development, planning)? How can you get access to them?
  • What are some immediate educational needs? How can you meet them? Look at outside sources if there is no one qualified to offer seminars or training programs in your area.
  • What activities would grab the attention interest of others, especially your local media? Are there particular projects in a local organization that you could support?
  • How will you monitor the success of your plans and identify areas that need to be improved?

Act On Your Plan.

Follow the Plan‐Do‐Check‐Act Cycle. What we now appreciate is the importance of being flexible: Try out your ideas, but build in check points. If you have data and information that show things are not reshape your plans and your organization accordingly.

V. Reflections: How Our Experience Can Help You

We are very proud of Madison's position and status as a city with a quality movement. Taking to heart our lessons about continuous improvement, however, we can easily pick out places where either we failed to meet goals or missed opportunities for improvement.

  • We were slow in growing beyond the initial core group of supporters. Better coordination and long‐range thinking early on may have brought us to current state much earlier.
  • We haven't worked with our local vocational‐technical schools as much as we could, despite a very strong quality improvement effort among vocational‐technical schools elsewhere in Wisconsin. We have helped create the huge demand for training in statistics, team‐building, policy deployment, and so forth, without having done much to ensure that it would be available.
  • Our efforts to involve more CEOS and Other business have not been as carefully planned or executed as some of other activities, and it has hurt us in terms of local support. We need to do a better job of identifying the concerns of our business executives and finding ways for our Network and other resources to help meet these needs. The lack of involvement by the Chamber of Commerce has probably been felt most in this area.
  • Our ability to meet our members' needs was limited for a long time by reliance solely on a small circle of volunteers. We are addressing this problem both by hiring additional staff, and by working to recruit more volunteers from our membership. Our vision for MAQIN remains an organization with a high level of member participation – we just need to do a better job of seeing that our members know what volunteer opportunities are available and how they can get involved.
  • A key issue in 1989 is getting more coverage by the local media. Again, it is partly a matter of paying attention to this problem, creating a plan and following through on our ideas; though educating the media to the importance of these issues to our community is also key.
  • Other improvement areas for this year include targeting our outreach activities where they will do the most good, interacting with more people around the country, and providing training for board and administrative staff.

VI. Conclusions

There remain years of hard work before we will be able to tell whether Madison's community efforts to make continuous improvement a way of life will pay off. Thus far, there are only two questions by which we can judge our actions to this point: (1) Was it worth the effort? and (2) Are we helping the community?

We think the answer to both questions is "Yes." We have succeeded in creating an organization whose membership and influence continues to grow, evidence that we are filling a need in the community. We have helped plant the seeds of quality improvement in almost all of the major businesses (public and private) in Madison. We are helping people improve their jobs, and, in so doing, the competitiveness of their company or agency. Customers of the organizations involved are getting better services. In one case, this involved all taxpayers in Wisconsin, who now have simpler state tax forms to fill out.11

The one thing above all else that has brought us dis far is the sharing that has taken place: sharing of knowledge and expertise, of frustrations and successes, of time and effort. MAQIN's doors are open to any groups wishing to learn from us; and we hope that they will, in turn, open their doors to us. To repeat Dr. Deming, let's make this a Win‐Win strategy for improving everything we do.

VII. Footnotes

  • In May of 1988, Myron Tribus and the Society of Professional Engineers sponsored the first multi-network meeting in Washington, D.C. Since then, there have been other meetings sponsored by the same group, as well as meetings in November of 1988 at a conference put on by the Philadelphia Area Council for Excellence, and a recent meeting in April 1989 associated with MAQIN's 2nd Annual William G. Hunter Conference on Quality.
  •  A copy of MAQIN's first business plan and its bylaws can be obtained by writing to them at the address given above.
  • Hunter, William G., Jan O'Neill, and Carol Wallen. "Doing More With Less in the Public Sector."Quality Progress, July, 1987.
  • Monroe, Marsha‐ "City of Madison/Quality and Productivity Program Review." (Available by writing to the Mayor's Office/City‐County Building/210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Madison, WI 53710.) September, 1988.
  • Tribus, Myron. "A Template for Creating a Community Quality Council," page 8. Presented at the Dr. William G. Hunter Conference on Quality, November 1987. (For copies, write to the American Quality and Institute/Washington Engineering Center/King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.)
  • Occasional articles about quality initiatives have appeared in the Capital Times, a local evening newspaper (the first being April 17, 1985) and Touchstone, a publication of the University‐industry Research Program at the University of Wisconsin‐Madison (e.g., July 1985). Controversies over the success of the Deming's approach in the city government surface with increasing regularity as awareness of the issues has grown.
  • Fuller, F. Timothy. "Eliminating Complexity from Work: Improving Productivity by Enhancing Quality." National Productivity Review, Autumn, 1985: 327-344.
  • See note 5, page 14 of Dr. Tribus's paper.
  • Several organizations have started compiling lists of Deming User Groups, Excellence Councils, Quality Improvement Networks, etc. Both MAQIN and AQPI (addresses given above) can provide you with and addresses of people to contact.
  • See note 5, page 16 of Dr. Tribus's paper.
  • See "Kinder, gentler way to do taxes" by Dennis Hetzel, The Wisconsin State Journal, Sunday, March 5, 1989. Page 18A.


We would like to thank all the people who have worked behind the scenes to make the Madison quality effort come alive. Special thanks to Tim Kramer for organizing the drive to put together this presentation, and to Sue Reynard for doing an excellent job of putting our thoughts down on paper.