ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

January 1998


Have Faith In Your Future
Popcorn Discusses Consumer Trends, Effects on Business

Success Comes From Breaking New Ground - Not Plowing The Old

Taking It To The Public
Business Community Works With School Leaders to Turn a District Around

A Marriage Of Convenience
Unions, Management Team Up to Counter Takeover, Redesign Organization

The Baldrige Award: Winning Isn't Everything, Improving Is

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face


Caring About Place
by Peter Block

People Powered Organizations
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


People-Powered Organizations
By Cathy Kramer

Our book review this month on Starbucks highlights that it's success is driven by a belief in the primacy of people in creating a successful organization. While this hardly seems like a revolutionary idea, it has profound implications if taken seriously. If this is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, then why do many managers and staff fight so hard to be taken seriously if they act on this belief? Why is training for employees cut first? Why do staff have to justify their training requests by showing 'how this training will result in bottom line benefits the day I return?' Why indeed are employee cuts made throughout an organization before the executive levels even take a pay cut?
Because many managers/leaders do not really believe, as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz does, that "our first priority is taking care of our people."

AQP has been supporting this revolutionary idea for 20 years, and although many organizations are acting on this belief, many more are not. When the single most common request of AQP over 20 years has been: convince my management that participation is worthwhile, then we know that most organizations must believe that effective customer service, excellent quality products, then profitability must come from something other than people's efforts! I wonder what it is.

I am reminded of a call I received years ago, when we were all younger and more naive. AQP had developed a one line ad that said something like: 'want to increase your organization's productivity?' My caller was a company president and wanted to know how to do that. I pitched him, "By involving your workforce differently in the work that gets done." He replied, "No, I'm looking for something that doesn't involve me working with my people." I hope he found something, because we all know that technology has not yielded the productivity gains it promised, as almost all studies have shown.

Fran Rogers, CEO of Work Family Directions, Boston, Mass., says it beautifully when she discusses the value of people to organizations. She notes that what is called 'hard' in most organizations is what you can count easily; what is 'soft' is what is hard to measure. She goes on to say that "the day we put employee commitment on the balance sheet is the day we will take it more seriously."

The articles in this issue, as in every publication and conference which AQP produces, try to illuminate the most difficult and elusive competency anyone in an organization has to master and live out. That is, creating an organization in which people, at whatever level, can do their best work. Whether it is forming self directed work teams, as Owens Corning did, or understanding that the personal lives of workers always affects their organizational lives, as Faith Popcorn observes, believing that anything other than putting your people first will help you be more successful, is what is hard to justify.

When Kodak announces its plans to lay off 6500 people and the stock price goes up, something is wrong. As long as we hold people and profitability as opposing forces, quality will suffer, our quality of products, quality of life and the quality of our society.

January '98 News for a Change | Email Editor


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