Using KAI in the ‘Quest for Quality’

– Major Sam Crouse

The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) has used the KAI for about four years. Over the last two years we made it an integral part of our quest for a team based culture. The Quality Air Force (QAF), which is the Air Force version of TQM, shares many of the same tenets as private sector efforts. While many challenges lie ahead, we have many small success stories. The KAI is one of them.

Early on when QAF was still TQM, the universal potion was: order 10,000 pounds of TQM, hire a few creative people to shovel it, buy a bunch of flip charts, hold a few classes; then, once people were thoroughly confused and the expectations were high, organise them into teams, sprinkle some “Pixie Dust” (hey, we’re close to Disney World!) and like magic – instant success! NOT!

Actually, this formula is what many organisations use. However, when we first put people together in teams we had instant problems. Besides the inherent problems of our “stovepipe” organisation and its consequential turf issues, we are populated with more than our fair share of technical personnel (hence the organisation’s name). Both of these factors combined to make a challenging scenario.

The initial courseware purchased to “preach the TQM gospel” was state of the art and the best the taxpayers could afford. As I look at what my colleagues in other organisations use, we are truly fortunate. However, we felt there was one thing lacking. That was a simple interpersonal “tool” to get our people thinking about the “soft” side of quality. It’s the kind of stuff us “stoics” are not supposed to talk about, you see. Luckily, we were already using the KAI in a limited setting. That was what I like to refer to as our “Dead Quality Society”. This was a volunteer course that obviously only “subversive or curious” personnel attended. The two-day course offered every six weeks was literally the only game in town! After the course, everyone went back to work with almost no application. When TQM was finally mandated in the military, all were ordered to attend a 2½ day “AWARENESS COURSE”. The AFTEC “TEAM TRAINER” had the foresight to add KAI to the course and it then became a three-day course. The KAI is administered on the morning of the first day and the feedback is given during that afternoon. Throughout the course, exercises are used to support KAI insight and build tolerance between individuals. With over 600 KAIs administered to date, acceptance continues to be overwhelmingly positive. The beauty is the simplicity in opening an avenue toward interpersonal actions: insight, tolerance, collaboration and success in that order. Pretty basic “KAI 101” stuff, but I, for one, do like simple things!
Quest for quality image
News of AFTAC success spread to the base environs and we were quickly summoned to the “General’s Court” to explain our deeds. Once convinced, our host organisation had to have it. Dr. Kirton was contacted and he certified 10 of their noblest trainers. They then ordered what still seems to be the world’s largest single shipment of KAI forms and set up mass innoculations of the instrument at an unprecedented rate. AFTAC continues to extend our KAI expertise to them as they continue to grow in their use of the instrument.

At AFTAC we carefully nurtured KAI and infused it into three other courses and have an additional course on the drawing board. In those courses we further explore applications, and, as Dr. Kirton puts it, “ah-ha’s”. We plan to start using Team KAI in January ’94 and may also delve into SO, E, and R scales a little more. The applications almost seem endless in a team-based scenario, and it seems our only limiting factor is time (and of course taxpayer dollars!).

The QAF journey provides an absolutely fascinating laboratory for highly researched psychometric measures such as the KAI. The real challenge is to maintain the integrity of the instrument in an environment afflicted with the constant transfer of personnel (including certified KAI administers).

Major Sam Crouse , Director of Total Quality, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida

Originally published in KAI News, 1993