A “Total Quality” Loser

August 27, 2007, 1:13 PM UTC
Fortune

A reader from Illinois writes…

Almost 20 yrs ago I worked for a manager who was completely out of sorts in his job as the manager of quality in the technology center of an old-line company. The customer of the tech center were a few in-house business units, who used system created at the tech center for production. The manager implemented the boiler-plate quality processes meant for commercial systems used by external customers. Constraints in the name of quality were put in place, but they added little or no value to the customer, who would rather have a beta now to meet the business window than a flawless system later. With just a handful of in-house customers, betas actually could be supported quite cost-effectively, compared to the millions spent on complex tools and trainings that facilitated a different set of business objectives.

No one knew how to spell out the problem of the quality processes he implemented – that it caters to a completely different business model – although everyone knew in their gut it was a disaster. He became isolated from the other managers reporting to the same VP and spent his days playing solitaire at his desk. I heard that he called support to fix his desktop computer when it froze in the middle of a solitaire game.

Unfortunately for his reports everyone in his organization had to work without any support or direction from him. Each of us tried to make things work in anyway we could, mostly by customizing the process to suit each project. Then once we made any inroad, Mr. Manager stepped in to dictate changes to be made his way. None of us got anywhere. As we became discouraged and transferred out, his responsibility got scaled down. Finally, he joined the ranks of the “individual contributors” and gave up his corner office for a cubicle. Yet that’s not the last we heard of him. A couple of years later, he became the VP with quality responsibilities for one of the big six accounting firms.

What do you think? Did this boss learn anything from his failure? Or is he now at the Big Six accounting firm, still screwing things up in the name of Quality?