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QUALITY MANAGEMENT: Building an Elevator Speech for Quality Using the 5Ps Model

In his November blog, Paul Borawski makes reference to having the “elevator speech” ready to go when it comes to talking about quality.  We thought our contribution to November World Quality Month (#WQM12) might be to help people construct their elevator speeches in a way that’s easy to remember and engages other people.

At New Directions we coach people on what we call the 5 Ps:  Purpose, Picture, Plan, Performance Measure and Part.  When these are all put together into 5 sentences they can frame your elevator speech.  Let’s dig into each one and see how it works.

1.  Purpose:  When we are implementing quality standards or raising the bar on quality performance, people often don’t understand why the old way doesn’t work anymore.  They think we are criticizing what has been done in the past when, in fact, we are simply saying the past was fine but it won’t work anymore.  Creating that “case for change” or purpose for why we need to change is a critical first step.  It might sound like this:  “To stay competitive we need to consolidate our services into one department and still support our customers’ quality expectations.”

2.  Picture:  People remember visuals more than they do words.  So our next step is to create a metaphor or example that sticks with the person after we’re gone.  “Initially, it will be like seeing the prices rise in the grocery store and still trying to feed your family well.”

3.  Plan:  People generally can only remember clusters of three or four concepts at a time.  And most people will forget 90% of what they hear one hour after hearing it.  So we need to keep our plan simple and memorable.  “Our first step will be to analyze the problem – then create some options – just like we do in the grocery store and then decide on the best option and see if it will work.”

4.  Performance Measure:   It’s important that our elevator speech let people know what success will look like.  “If we can step one and two and get something going in 60 days, we’ll be on our way to success.”

5.  Part:  Here is the most critical piece of the elevator speech.  We need to give the person a specific task that they can do that will help move the quality change along.  “So Fred, I’m wondering if you would be willing to be on the team that analyzes where the failure costs are occurring in our current process.  You know the process well and probably know where it’s broken.  Would you be willing to do that?”  Now I’ve recruited Fred into the quality change plan as a helper or even a champion and have moved him from bystander status.

The beauty of the 5Ps when giving your elevator speech is that they are very easy to remember and construct:  purpose, picture, plan, performance measure, part.  Many times quality tools focus on the analytical components (cause/effect diagrams, 5 whys, inter-relationship diagramming) – all good but not the full picture.  As quality experts we also need to have a fist full of interpersonal tools we use to recruit others into the quality initiative.  The 5P elevator speech should be at the top of this tool list.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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