Barnee Breeskin, who used to lead the band in the Shoreham Blue Room, is in public relations work now.
When he gets in his office at 7:30 a.m., he is "coffee hungry." There is a Peoples Drug Store nearby at 17th and I, but Barnee thought its coffee was awful. So Barnee called Peoples to complain and was put through to vice president Jack Manton.
Jack called Ray Orndorff, director of food operation, and Ray asked Barnee to meet him at 17th and I the next morning at 7:30. They met at the counter and ordered coffee.
"Before we parted company," says Barnee, "Orndorff thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention. The next morning, at the same Peoples counter, the coffee was the best I have tested in a long time. P.S.: I don't stock for Peoples or own any stock in the company. I just want to give you an example of how the system is supposed to work in a well-managed company?
Barnee's report brings to mind a recent agreement between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers. Washington Post Staff writer Peter Behr called it "an unprecedented effort" to improve the production quality of Chrysler's new line of K-body cars that will make or break the company.
From now on, production workers will be expected to report any defect they see. If a supervisor says, "Forget it," the production worker is under enjoinder to report both the defect and the supervisor.
There is much common sense inherent in this move that the average person is likely to wonder, "What's the big deal? Why is this news?"
It is news because although it is generally recognized that quality control is the key to profits, hundreds of companies pursue that goal in vain.
A company's success depends upon its ability to put out a product that won't infuriate buyers because of its malfunctions, won't result in government-mandated recalls that cost millions, and won't create a bad impression among careful shoppers.
The problem has been that top management, middle management and ordinary employees are often on three different wavelengths.
Attempts have been made to minimize manufacturing defects through inspection systems, quality control programs, contests, prizes, bonuses, and even profit-sharing schemes. No plan or combination of plans has been consistently successful. Some companies do conspicuously better than others, but it's hard to explain why.
One reason for differences is the pressure on middle management to cut costs. In some firms this is done prudently, in others it is done by sacrificing quality.
Another reason for variations is that some employees do not see the relationship between the quality of their work and their own self-interest. These workers do not associate their company's bottom-line profits with the amount that will be available for distribution among those whose sweat turns raw materials into automobiles, or early-morning coffee for Barnee Breeskin. Or, alas, your morning newspaper.
Ultimately, the blame for everything that goes awry lies with top management. Where careless attitudes and sloppy work are tolerated, one must ask: "Why?"
Top people draw top salaries because they are supposed to have better decision-making abilities than we peons have.
It is therefore management's responsibility to make production workers understand that it is in the employee's interest as well as the company's to keep quality standards high.
It is rather futile to expect the average production worker to lead a crusade for zero-defect quality. The average man on a payroll is more likely to think, "The front office doesn't even know my name. To them, I'm just a pattern of holes in an IBM punch card. Why should I knock myself out for them?"
It's up to management to show him why. And now his union will also play a role. The billion-dollar question that will soon be answered is: Does the UAW hierarchy speak for itself or for its rank-and-file members when it says pride of craftsmanship is about to become a meaningful term again?