ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - November 2001


Issue Highlight — Actions That Might Matter
- In Actions That Might Matter, Peter Block challenges us to rethink our well-intended and often automatic urge during difficult times to just "Do Something!" Think instead, he asks, about authentic change, shifting consciousness, relationships, and reconciliation.

Views For A Change

 In This Issue...
Global Quality from Johnsonville, WI, to Durban, South Africa, with Jennifer James
The Drugs Are in the Mail
Virtually Amazing
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along
What Did You Just Say?

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

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Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds:

Management that gives orders and thinks of their employees as slaves who follow blindly, does believe in teamwork. It is just that their view of teamwork is the team works just as they are told to and only as they are told. This type of management style was appropriate when the work force was illiterate and was content to do repetitive jobs day after day. Unfortunately for these types of managers and fortunately for the rest of us, the world we live in has changed. These misguided managers are still psychologically wearing heavily starched, high-buttoned collars with shiny, button-down shoes. It is very difficult to get these managers to give up their obsolete habits and dress up in today’s business casual clothes.

  This is a problem that all consultants have faced and often with poor results. As consultants, we have a big advantage over the people in the organization. Top management pays a lot of money to get our advice and, as a result, they are more inclined to listen to us than to their own people. Even then, the consultant fails to convert some sinners over to a brighter way of life. It is a lot like smoking or drinking; being a dictator is addictive. It gives the individual a feeling of importance and power. It is hard to change their behavioral patterns unless they are faced with an earth-shaking event.

The real question to ask is: What can you do in the environment you find yourself in?

Management changes for three reasons:

  1. It is better for management.
  2. It is better for the organization.
  3. Someone higher up tells them they must change.

The problem that we have is selling management on changing their behavioral patterns. It is much more difficult than it was in the past. No longer are they willing to invest money in motherhood and nickel beer justifications. What they need is an explanation of why it is better for them and the organization if they go to a different style of management. That means you need to supply them with quantitative data that define what the impact on them will be if they make the change. This means collecting enough information that will allow management to understand that it is worth the resources and effort that will be expended and that their new role will be more satisfying. The four critical performance measurements and the one personal measurement that need to be considered are:

  1. Return on assets
  2. Value added per employee
  3. Profitability
  4. Customer satisfaction
  5. Personal job satisfaction (personal measurement)

Don’t rely on nebulous terms like “improved morale” or unquantified terms like “customer satisfaction.” Instead, determine that by changing to the new management style they will increase customer satisfaction by 5 percentage points, which will increase sales by $8.9 million per year, thereby increasing profits by 18 percent.

Preparing a value proposition backed up with solid, validated data from other similar organizations that project a degree of improvement in each of these four business measurements and the one personal measurement is the best way to convince your management that they should change their behavior.

H. JAMES HARRINGTON has written seven books including the best selling The Improvement Process, Business Process Improvement, and Total Improvement Management: The Next Generation in Performance Management. Harrington is the CEO of The Performance Improvement Network in Los Gatos, Calif. He is considered a leading authority in process management.


Vince Ventresca Responds

Question for Consultants

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