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Defining Quality: The John Tooley Way

Posted by Macie Schreibman on April 12, 2011
Although I was a first-timer at ACI a couple of weeks ago, there were so many more numbers that I found interesting. First off, attendees had 144 sessions to choose from in just 2.5 days, there was at least one person in attendance from all 50 states (and 7 Canadian provinces), there were 101 exhibitors (the largest to date), and ACI celebrated its 25th anniversary. For all of this, I have one word: Wow!
 
And as attendees heard in the opening general session, all of this made it worth it for nearly 2,000 professionals to spend the carbon to get together. Although I am local (making my carbon output fairly minor), it was made evidently clear from moment one that this event is where the passion happens in the home performance industry.
 
In all of the sessions I attended, I learned something new. One that particularly stood out, however, was John Tooley’s presentation titled “Mixing the Quality Serum.” Tooley, a well-known senior building science consultant at Advanced Energy has diagnosed and repaired more than 5,000 homes, and has participated in the weatherization of more than 10,000 homes. Needless to say, his advice is worth listening to.
 
During the session, he presented several quotes that he adheres to, one of which comes from W. Edward Deming: “Do it right the first time.” Tooley shared that quality, when it comes to home energy performance, doesn’t come from an inspection. Rather, he said, that quality must be built in, not bolted on. In other words, to see what is wrong in a house isn’t what is valuable (no offense to all the professionals who find out what’s wrong for a living), but rather, the value is in the prevention.
 
Although Tooley had more than one valuable lesson in his 90-minute session, there was one major takeaway that has stuck with me. He said that everyone should, “blame the process rather than the individual.” We are all so quick to blame each other in the workplace no matter what kind of work you do specifically.
 
For example, the door wasn’t locked when you came into the office this morning. What’s your first response? Mine is to find out who was the last to leave and blame them for it. But Tooley would say to instead blame the process. Why would someone not lock the door? There must not be a system in place that ensures that an individual could not forget to do this. He also said that he’s instituted a blame-free workplace, which means that instead of blaming John in accounting (yet again), everyone at his office must first look at the process. “When you see failure, be slow to judge,” he advised. “All work is a process, and processes fail more than people.”
 
These words have stuck with me and I believe it’s a quality move for every company to inherit such an idea. This blame-free workplace is ingredient number two in Tooley’s Quality Serum. Here are the rest:
 
1.     Define quality.
2.     Establish a blame-free workplace.
3.     Define standard work.
4.     Train for competency.
5.     Commit to continual improvement.
 
For more information on John’s quality serum, visit ACI’s website to purchase the full session audio. You can also read more about him here.

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