ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1997


Education 101: Redesigning Schools
Site Based Management Relocates Decision Making

Take the Good with the Bad
Positive and Negative Feedback in Creativity Sessions

Site Council Learns About Growth, Power And Communication

Knowledge Management
Taking Control of the Information Age

Etymology of a Buzzward

Investment Tip: Stay In For The Long Haul
Van Kampen American Capital Perseveres to Win AQP Excellence Award


It's About Time
by Peter Block

You Have to Be a Little Different
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Letters to the Editor


You Have To Be A Little Different
By Cathy Kramer

Apple Computer is a company people feel passionate about. This is what Steve Jobs understands. I have been cheering for Apple since we bought our first desktop computer at AQP in 1986. We agonized over our choice but chose Apple because we could relate to a company whose vision was to create computers "for the rest of us." We connected with Apple, a (then) small, vision-driven company up against great odds. AQP and its members have always felt the same way - passionate about practicing quality and participation in their organizations and up against the traditional, business as usual, 'show me the money' culture.

In his speech to the Boston MacWorld Expo in August, Steve Jobs stated that Apple's core asset is their customers - those users who have supported Apple and who believe Apple and the Macintosh is the best in the world. This is an intriguing idea - that the core asset of a company is those who know and love the company's products. Often, these early customers choose to be on the fringe - buying into the 'Macintosh dream' - in much the same way as AQP members choose work that is about bringing meaning and purpose to work in organizations. You can't judge Apple on profitability alone; they have stood for something more. And you can't judge quality and participation efforts on profitability alone.

Jobs also said that "you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer, a totally different computer working in a totally different way. The Mac opened up the computer world for a lot of people who thought differently - people who were out to change the world - using whatever great tools they could."

Isn't it the same for those of us who are committed to transforming the workplace? We passionately believe that using quality and participation practices is the best way to run an organization. Participation, involvement and sharing are values - almost spiritual beliefs. We can find the data that says participative workplaces perform better, have higher profits, shorter cycle times, better customer service. But for most of us in this field, the data is secondary. Practicing quality and participation, or whatever terms we use, gives meaning to the work our organizations produce.

It feels intuitively obvious that collaboration and creating meaningful work are the right way to run our department, our organization. And that the bottom line benefits will follow. One of the most popular requests from AQP's Information Center is 'I need some research that will show that participation works.' (And this is in a country founded on democratic principles.) Imagine calling the church (choose whatever example is right for you) and asking for the data that there is a divine presence. Yet, most of the world believes there is some kind of divine spirit (to be as inclusive as possible) and acts upon that belief. Doing something you have faith in, regardless of the profitability, is worth doing.

You may not agree with Steve Jobs about Apple, but I see a connection with what all of us are trying to do. You have to be willing to be different to have a belief in quality and participation - whether you have been working to create participative and quality-driven workplaces for many years or whether you are just getting started. Yes we want to know it works. But more importantly, we think differently about how workplaces can be organized and renewed. Maybe people think you're a bit crazy because of your passion about it. Remember, as people question and criticize you, there is some genius in working toward creating an empowered and responsible workplace.

Sept. '97 News for a Change | Email Editor
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