I have often heard that quality starts at the top of an organization. I am confident that the quality of an organization is also influenced by those who make the organization possible. This may include investors, customers, regulators, employees, suppliers and other types of key influencers or stakeholders, each of whom may also be leaders in their own unique ways. How can an organization leader hope to harness such diverse input to achieve organizational quality?

My personal method for figuring out how to tackle difficult challenges of this nature is to look around at what others are doing that seems to work for them in their worlds for their situations. I then combine what I have learned with my personal list of best practices to create a new, improved, list of best practices.

To benchmark ideas for leading an organization toward quality, I looked for recent examples of key concepts to see what others may be doing that seemed to have worked for them.

One source I looked to is a book I recently received by Curt Weeden1, a former Johnson & Johnson Vice President overseeing the organization’s $150 million corporate contributions program.2 J&J has been hugely successful and that can be partly attributed to organizational quality. Curt listed fifty life lessons he believed could help a leader achieve organizational success and enlisted two hundred executives from other organizations to rank his list from most important to least important.  He then narrowed his resulting list down to the top ranked six items.

I also found an article3 about seven organizational leadership traits demonstrated by Elon Musk, the wealthiest person on earth today, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, based upon analysis of his published biography4.

Of course, every quality professional is likely to be familiar with what does and does not work according to the infamous ‘quality guru’, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  Deming presented 14 Points for Management and 7 Deadly Diseases of Management, in his book “Out of the Crisis”5, to help leaders achieve transformational management for the purpose of organizational optimization.

Lastly, my own independent research about what makes teams successful6, based upon a study of employees working within process improvement teams for each of six large corporations, led to a list of approaches for achieving organizational quality, albeit one improvement project at a time.

When I parsed these lists together with a focus upon leadership to achieve organizational quality, I was able to place the key concepts into the seven categories listed below. You are welcome to use my list as a springboard for your own and to refine it with your unique observations or experiences.

  1. Establish an Objective
  2. Create constancy of purpose by defining what is to be achieved, for whom and why
  3. Believe the objective can be achieved and that your organization can do the work required to achieve it
  4. Communicate often, actively, openly, and constructively, in all directions, about all things relating to the objective
  5. Ask everybody in the organization to commit to doing the work necessary to achieve that objective
  • Create a Plan
  • Define how to achieve the objective, tools to be used, measures of progress and criteria for achievement
  • Establish rules for participation in achieving the objective that apply to everybody within the organization
  • Break down barriers between people within the organization
  • Advocate collaboration
  • Encourage positivity, creativity, and practical optimism
  • Discourage criticism, negativity, and irrational pessimism
  • Take Action!
  • Focus upon making the best possible decision, not on achieving a specific outcome
  • Act quickly and, if the action does not achieve what was expected, apply what you learned to your next action
  • Understand that errors can lead to improvements
  • Look for the opportunities that accompany problems
  • Solve BIG problems
  • Fix causes, not symptoms
  • Improve, constantly and forever, every process
  • Focus On What Will Last
  • Recognize that sustaining something is harder than creating it
  • De-emphasize short term gain for or loss for one or for ‘the few’
  • Emphasize long term, lasting, continual, gain for ‘the many’ or for all
  • Consider the gains or losses to society, as a whole
  • Optimize Yourself
  • Know that your character, as a leader, has profound influence
  • Have a personal mission and be crazy passionate about it
  • Know your personal priorities and fight for them (advocate for yourself)
  • Be curious
  • Optimize Others
  • Drive fear out of the organization
  • Realize that Intellect, skill, and wisdom are independent of education
  • Institute a vigorous program of self-improvement for everyone
  • Capture and share lessons learned
  • Celebrate!
  • Celebrate successes along the way
  • Celebrate achievement of the objective
  • Celebrate in ways that have lasting, deeply positive, value for each person involved with achieving success

Want help? EMMA International and I can assist you with developing a quality leadership plan for your own organization or can develop and help you deploy an entire quality management system. Contact us by phone at 248-987-4497 or by email at info@emmainternational.com.


1 6 Pathways to Leadership & Organizational Success, ©2020 by Curt Weeden, Quadra foil Press, Portland, OR

2 Curt Weeden Biography, ©2022 by Curt Weeden, retrieved on July 13, 2022, from https://www.curtweeden.com/bio.php  

3 “7 Leadership Traits Elon Musk Used To Build Tesla and SpaceX”, ©2019 by Andres Valdez, retrieved on July 14, 2022, from https://andresvaldes.com/7-leadership-traits-elon-musk-used-to-build-tesla-and-spacex/

4 Elon Musk, ©2018 by Ashlee Vance, Harper Collins, New York, NY

5 Out of the Crisis, ©1982, 1986 by The W. Edwards Deming Institute, authored by W. Edwards Deming, First MIT Press Edition 2000, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

6 Teamsmanship Among American Aerospace Engineers, Volumes 1 and 2, ©1992 by Diane G. Kulisek, California State University, Northridge

Diane Kulisek

Diane Kulisek

Ms. Kulisek serves as a Senior Quality Engineer and Senior Regulatory Affairs Specialist for EMMA International’s Technical Operations team. She has experience in technical writing, quality management systems, regulatory enforcement remediation, corrective and preventive action management, electronic data management systems, cybersecurity, and design controls for the medical device industry. Ms. Kulisek also has significant past experience in quality engineering and management for mass-produced consumer products, electronics, aerospace and commercial filtration industries. Ms. Kulisek holds a Master of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Civil, Industrial and Applied Mechanical Engineering Management from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Biology, also from CSUN. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in Program Management from West Coast University, a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt from Six Sigma Systems, Inc., and Certifications for multiple EU MDR and EU IVDR topics from Greenlight Guru. Ms. Kulisek maintained American Society for Quality Certifications for more than twenty consecutive years as a Quality Engineer (ASQ CQE) and as a Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence (ASQ CMQ/OE).

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