What are the Three Phases of Action?

The following article is excerpted from a lecture by Prem Chopra at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in September 2006. The text of the entire lecture can be found in Masters of the Game: Reaching Beyond the Nexus to Success and Happiness.

Three Phases of Purposeful Action

To review what we’ve just talked about, the first of the three parts of purposeful action is to form your purpose and commit to it. This is Phase I. Quality starts here. Deming talks about commitment to quality as well. You must be committed right from the start. In an organization, commitment to quality must come right from the top. If you are acting for yourself, then it is up to you to be the driving force. So, first you must commit to your purpose. Using the metaphor of an archer on a hunt, this phase represents the selecting of the target.

In Phase II you perform the action to which you are committed. The action could be designing a software application or building an airplane, whatever you commit to doing. Each action, by every individual in the organization, must fit into the overall plan for the action. This is when the archer aims and releases the arrow.

As the action proceeds, in Phase III you assess and renew the action and distribute rewards equitably in order to reinforce the quality and results you expect. In this phase, the archer examines where the arrow has landed and distributes the rewards equitably while re-adjusting the aim for the next release of the arrow.

Most people talk about quality in terms of the four parts of: planning, doing, checking and renewing. That is a meaningful way of looking at quality improvement, but it becomes superfluous when you apply the three phases of purposeful action. With these three phases, continuous quality improvement, or Kaizen, becomes automatic. Once you set your purpose to provide the best quality possible, pursue it ethically and measure your progress continuously, assessing and renewing the action to improve it. That is Kaizen. Finally, you must reinforce success with just rewards. Rewards can be positive or negative, but they must be equitable and just. Sometimes managers have difficulty in giving negative rewards, especially to themselves.

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