First, an apology : I probably read too much !

Second, an admission : I sometimes forget to write down the source of my references.

Third, a wish :  your comments might help me and the blog’s readers !

As I keep thinking and writing about Quality with a capital Q, I cannot resist going to another level of thinking. Didn’t Einstein warn us about this when he said :

“ One cannot solve today’s problems with the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. 

We keep on reading and hearing about operational excellence programs, OEE (overall equipment efficiency) initiatives, LEAN philosophy and what have you but I have yet to hear about one organisation promoting organizational efficiency (oh… I READ about it but I do not SEE it or HEAR about it). And I wonder…

Does it make sense to focus EXCLUSIVELY on the operational part of the organization ?

After all, what MAKES an organization ?

Equipement/processes AND the people to operate it !

Even for totally automatic operations, a few humans will take decisions, study markets, manage stocks, handle customers complaints, etc.

What makes an organisation tick ?

Machines ?

Or humans ?

Did we forget something ?

Deming, Crosby, Juran among others, all included humans in their quest for Quality.

I keep on reading their books and have yet to find the specific tools and techniques we have become so enamoured of. Oh, they do not include management methodologies either…what a shame!  They strongly emphasized the human aspect of Quality management however. All three of them.

Joel De Rosnay helps us (at least he helped ME!) to see some kind of light recently. De Rosnay writes about the two roles of an organization : function and support.

“Function” encompasses the different jobs and task that must be performed for the organization to strive and grow : operations, administration, finance, purchasing, analysis, etc.

“Support” includes what the organization provides for the people holding the jobs, performing the tasks : salary, work environment, tools, desks and chairs, cafeteria, kindergarden (why not?), development, etc.

A great analogy used by De Rosnay is a coral reef. A coral is a living organism.  More akin to an animal than a plant although we might mistakingly confuse the two !

From Wikipedia :

Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps belong to a group of animals known as Cnidaria, which also includes sea anemones and jellyfish. Unlike sea anemones, coral polyps secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons which support and protect their bodies. Reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated waters.

I looove the last part ! So typical of our modern organizations : agitated ! Unfortunately, they might not all be “clear and sunny” and some are quite “shallow”.

Oh, here I go again! Criticizing our cherished organizations!

Well…I have not encountered too many that have achieved the desired F/S ratio, Function/Support. What would that be?

Try to evaluate the kind of efforts your organization makes to achieve operational excellence.

  • Implementing new tools
  • Installing new equipment
  • Training employees to use “lean” tools  and methodologies
  • Doing weekly Kaizen
  • Pushing kanban and 5 S…even 7 S in some cases (that one works only in French but, hey, that WAS a nice touch!)

Put in the money invested in all this and add the amounts :  Impressive !!!  That would be your F variable, the efforts the organization puts in the Function role.

Do the same for  the Support role. What does your organization do to support those who fulfill these functions. After all, the coral has its calcium carbonates that protect the animals, allowing them to secret more structure. A virtuous circle.

Go on list them all.


Yes, yes… your employees are paid. Decently ? A competitive salary ? How much does it cost when an experienced employee leaves the company for better conditions ?

Work environment…

Yes, yes… there is light and heating ….and then what ?

  • Comfortable chair ?
  • Current computers ?
  • Up-to-date software versions ?
  • Contemporary equipment ?
  • Enough pens and paper (I am not kidding here !)
  • A place to eat with enough microwaves ?
  • A cafeteria service ?
  • A gym ?
  • A place to take a nap or meditate quietly ?
  • Enough training, proper training, to make them grow and develop ?

Did your organization ever ask the employees what MIGHT be required to make them WANT to keep working for you ? To make them FUNCTION better ?

If you were to evaluate the efforts made into the FUNCTION role of your organization and compare them to the other ESSENTIAL role, the SUPPORT role, how would that look ?

A coral reef CANNOT EXIST if the animals inside it stop secreting the calcium carbonate that creates the structure we love to take photograph of.

The coral reef CANNOT EXIST if it does not provide structure, support and protection to its OWN function-providers.

One support the other but which comes first ? Function or Support ? This is the chicken or the egg dilemma all over again.

Yes…I probably read too much.

Think too much too for that matter.

And although, I do not write all me references or sources down, they keep nagging at me.

I am sure there is something there….sticking its nose once in a while and asking :

“Are you sure you strive for the right thing ?”

I have this strong impression that the F/S ratio is wayyyyyyyyy too elevated and that Operational excellence is NOT the only way.

I have this strong impression that Quality will and does only occur when there is an equilibrium between Support and Function.

What is your F/S ratio ?


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