Quality transformation truthfulness pq systems – quality blog

As I considered truth as the topic for this month’s blog, I remembered when I first started at Ford Motor Company in the early 1970s, when truth was not such a valued characteristic. For example, it was not uncommon to rip off reject tags before shipping parts to our assembly plants. My sense is much of that changed in the late 70s when “Quality [became] Job 1.” Many reexaminations of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis show that it could have been prevented if more people had told the truth. My experience tells me that truthfulness varies widely among organization cultures and even within organizations.

Few practices are more powerful in increasing self-awareness and strengthening our relationships than telling the truth in at least four different ways.


When we are honest with ourselves, we come to be more fully aware of the motivations behind what we do, while telling the truth to others builds trust and loyalty among family members, colleagues and peers. Being open to the truth of others leads to greater shared understanding and decision-making, while being seekers of the truth is a tried and true pathway to our wholeness as human beings. As humans, we are prompted to grow and develop when we encounter new ideas that disturb us or shake us out of our comfort zones. When that happens, we have two choices: we can do our best to go back to sleep or we can welcome our discomfort and use it as a way of shifting our perspectives and shaping new worldviews.

What would it be like to live in a world in which truth-telling was not the common practice? In such a world, you could never trust anything you were told or anything you read. You would have to find out everything for yourself, first-hand. You would have to invest enormous amounts of your time to find out the simplest matters. In fact, you probably couldn’t even find out the simplest matters: in a world without trust, you could never acquire the education you need to find out anything for yourself, since such an education depends upon your taking the word of what you read in your lesson books. A moment’s reflection of this sort makes it crystal clear that you benefit enormously by living in a world in which a great deal of trust exists – a world in which the practice of truth-telling is widespread.

Some would say that practicing truthfulness is simply a matter of making an unfailing commitment to telling the truth. Practically speaking, however, many of us confront situations in which we may believe that telling a lie is justified – to avoid hurting another’s feelings or revealing more information than another can handle, for example. Sissela Bok offered a two-step process for solving this dilemma that she called a Scheme of Applied Publicity. The first step is to consult one’s own conscience by asking questions such as, “What goods and bads will be brought about by your lie?” and “What are the arguments for and against your lying?” The second step is consulting with friends, associates and peers, especially those with different experiences and perspectives, in order to apply a more public test to the justification for lying. Given that following this process may not always be practical, Robert K. Fullinwider’s interpretation of Bok’s work suggests a simpler alternative. “You want to lie to someone?” he asks. “Well, what if you were the one being lied to? Would taking up that perspective change your view of the lie?”