ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

February 1998


Business And Sports, One-On-One

Measurement On The High Seas

Scientists Develop Formula For Multinational Teamwork

Part-Time Statistics For Full-Time Results

Volunteers Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success Minded


Chasing Good Examples
by Peter Block

Individual Change Key To Org. Change
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Individual Change Key To
Organizational Change
By Cathy Kramer

Managing changing organizations. Many articles in News for a Change talk about leaders sharing power and responsibility and everyone taking on new roles to ensure business success. However, in talking with many managers and non-managers I have found that some people want to be involved less and not take on as much responsibility. If your organization is one of the 93 percent who believe that empowerment and teams are 'somewhat to extremely critical to achieving world class manufacturing status' (as reported in Industry Week); then, who can flourish in this culture and can add meaningfully to the business is crucial. In my experience, there are some characteristics of people who relish working in a highly empowered, team-oriented workplace.

Those who are willing to learn - not only about the business and the organization, but also about themselves. What a radical concept. As John Runyan has noted, change starts with oneself. We all know that change is un-changing: the transformation from one state to another is inevitable and "disruptive at best" (Jim Harrington in 'Views'). The most valued staff and those most able to make business contributions will be those who are interested in examining their own contributions to problems and solutions, and who ask "what's my contribution to the problem?, what can I do to change or improve?," rather than "why can't they change or improve this process?"

Those who can, at times, put the needs of the organization ahead of their own interests. There are always sacrifices to be made and a balance to be struck between what you want to do and what the organization needs you to do. Staff who can see the big picture and where their work fits in and how they relate to the whole are pivotal to the organization. They can make sense of decisions they aren't a part of and accept them, and educate other staff along the way.

This is a cousin to the issue of trust - which may well be the entire focus of a future News since it is a topic that permeates organizational life. As Kant has said, trust is the basis for civilization. It is also the basis for effective organizations. We are not talking about trust in the sense of trustworthy employees, but staff who can trust their peers, their bosses, and other parts of the organization to be competent, without 'watching' and judging how others work.
Staff who are able to accept that in the brave new world of team-based organizations and changing roles for everyone, there will always be some confusion and ambiguity around roles and job responsibilities. If clarity and predictability are the highest virtues for someone, a team and participation centered environment will likely be frustrating and seen as a deterrent to getting their work done.

With less departmental and hierarchical silos, more teams and shared decision making, staff had better enjoy lots of interaction. Hermits need not apply. Those who find interacting with others to be laborious (and perhaps a waste of time) either because of personality attributes or communication weaknesses, will be ineffective in the future workplace. Individualism and the lone ranger style will not get us where we need to be.

Finally, look for people who care about the purpose of the organization. Respecting what the organization is trying to achieve and feeling a part of it balances out the difficult aspects of participation. If you are part of an organization trying to change many years of both personal and organizational behavior, acknowledge that it is hard to be a visionary and on the edge, but it's worth doing.

Outside of work, most everyone participates in activities that depend upon the characteristics of trust, interaction, accountability and empathy. Organizations able to evoke these in their workplaces will have different levels of commitment and performance, which in turn, are communicated to their customers.

February '98 News for a Change | Email Editor


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