ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

November 1999


Boeing Flies High

Fostering Creativity: An Early Start

Are We There Yet?

If It Ain't Pretty - I'm Outta Here


Large Ideas Expressed In Small Amounts
by Peter Block


Brief Cases

Diary of a Shutdown

Views for a Change


Views for a Change
Consultant Q & A

David Farrell responds:

Having worked extensively with implementing continuous quality processes in health care organizations, I notice a number of similarities with the challenge you are facing. In the typical hospital setting there are four distinct constituencies rather than the three you mention at the university: the board of directors, administration, service providers (physicians and nurses) and often the union. As in academia, these groups have diverse and often conflicting values, priorities, needs and interests. I recommend you survey that field in your search for potential approaches, and I will draw upon that experience in responding to your question.

Your professors have much in common with the physicians; educational levels, compensation and - yes - egos, tend to set them apart from the other groups. Molding all your constituencies into one culture will never be fully realized, but it is possible to significantly strengthen the organizational culture within which those sub-cultures exist.

The foundation of that culture is, or should be, the one thing they all have in common - their customer. The stakeholders who are all too often lost in the shuffle are the two stakeholders to whom the organization owes its very existence, the students and those paying the bills. Meeting the needs and expectations of those customers should be the one objective upon which all groups can all agree. Further, it should not escape anyone's mention that there is a strong correlation between customer satisfaction (academic excellence) and revenue potential from tuition, grants or gifts, which are benefiting everyone.

We have had significant success when beginning by forming a tripartite council composed of the leadership of each constituency. The highest priorities and the responsibilities of this group are to:
· Articulate and reinforce the primary organizational goal of meeting student and payer needs
· Define and communicate a vision of the future state and its impact on each constituency
· Assess the level of commitment needed for success, then identify and nurture key sponsors at each level of the organization
· Anticipate and manage the resistance that is the natural human response to the changes being introduced
· Evaluate existing cultures, then develop strategies to build on strengths and mitigate weaknesses, then;
· Develop a long term (3-year) implementation strategy and plan, and a
· Rolling 90-day plan to define and manage short-term specific actions

Managing the culture by aligning people processes and organizational systems with the desired behaviors is critical to success. In most organizations, culture has evolved over time without conscious planning. In cultures that have been proactively managed, subcultures remain, but operate synergistically to support one another and are variations of the core values and objectives.

Focus on behavior, not beliefs. A high priority for creating the necessary alignment includes assessment of the degree to which organizational structure, management style and communications impact the culture. The organizational systems to be aligned include: compensation, benefits and rewards, performance management and employee education and development.

Above all, throughout the entire implementation process communicate, communicate, communicate!

Jamie Showkeir responds

November '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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