The 3 Conditions of Quality

Minimize Fear and Coercion

Instead of relying on traditional methods of "motivating" those whose work or learning the she or he is responsible for, the lead manager creates the conditions for the work or learning to appeal to intrinsic motivation as illustrated in Douglas Walker's Motivational Triangle, below:



  1. Clear - What we ask workers / learners to do must be clear. We must provide explicit criteria for quality, preferably with input from the workers / learners: models, examples, rubrics, prototypes, pictures, etc.
  2. Attainable - The workers / learners must believe that what we are asking them to do is attainable. We must provide them with the resources and subskills needed to accomplish the task at hand.
  3. Useful - The people with whom we are working must understand how what we asking them to do will bring quality to their lives. In the short term or long term, completing the work we are asking of them will help them meet their basic human needs.

Focus on Quality

In any high quality product, whether it is a tangible product like a car, or a more intangible product like a relationship, the following characteristics seem to be present:

1. Best Effort :

The people involved are doing their best to produce quality.

2. Usefulness:

The people involved perceive the usefulness of what they are working toward and/or how they are working toward it.

3. Time:

Quality work takes and investment in time. Time is the variable, not the degree of quality involved.

4. Flexibility :

There is more than one way to achieve quality. Those involved in producing quality must be allowed to explore a variety of avenues toward achieving their goals, whether that involves students being given flexibility in the ways they can demonstrate mastery of certain content or workers looking at altering their work space to be more efficient.

5. Good feelings:

When people produce quality, they feel good. When we achieve something we perceive as quality, we are meeting our Basic Human Needs very effectively.

6. Continuous Improvement:

As Robert Sullo says in Inspiring Quality in Your School, "There is almost no job that cannot be improved, and quality seeks to constantly improve. . . When John Lennon was once asked if there were any Beatles songs he would do differently if he could he laughed and said, 'All of them.'"


Think of a personal experience that you would say produced something of quality. It could be work-related, something you did in school (a play, a concert, a sport), or something in your personal life (a hobby, a home-improvement project). Share that experience with a partner or small group and discuss how many of the above characteristics were present during that experience.

Emphasize Self-Evaluation

Traditional "boss-management" uses external evaluation. The boss examines the work, evaluates it based on often unclear, highly subjective criteria, and provides "constructive criticism" or praise. From a Choice Theory perspective, the flaws in this approach are obvious. When we are evaluated externally, our need for survival and power are undermined, and in order to regain balance, what most of us do is to behave in ways that are in accordance with the wishes of our bosses (in order to meet our survival need), but we do just enough to "get by," we don't pursue real quality. For if we go above and beyond in a boss-managed system, we are perceived (and we perceive ourselves) as "sucking up" or "brown-nosing" which would further deprive us of meeting our need for power, or self-esteem.

Since the picture of quality that drives us is our own, not our bosses, self-evaluation is essential to continuous improvement. But, self-evaluation based on unclear, subjective criteria is no better than external evaluation. The picture of quality must be clear, specific and as objective as possible. The question that must be answered in determining the criteria for quality is: If we were to produce quality regarding ____, what would we see, hear, etc.? How, specifically, will we know it is quality?

Self-evaluation alone has it's drawbacks. That is why Glasser says we should emphasize it, not rely on it exclusively. People do have blind spots, and even the most conscientious person can't assess what he or she cannot see. Ideally, self-evaluation is part of a concurrent assessment, where the lead manager has a conversation in which the worker or student is asked to self assess, based on a set of clear, objective criteria, and is asked if they would like feedback from the manager. At this point, assuming the invitation is accepted, the manager can give the worker or student information in a non-critical way, that will be much more likely to be perceived as helpful, rather than threatening information.

Ideally, the criteria that is developed to describe quality in any situation would also be done concurrently, with the worker or student having input and ownership regarding the criteria by which his/her work ultimately will be evaluated.

To the Summary Points on Lead Management



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