ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — May 2004

In This Issue

In the Spotlight
Living Strategy

Integrating AQP
Letter From AQP’s President

Living Community Model Member Categories

Living Communities Model Questions and Answers


News Bites
In a Nutshell
Moving the Elephant
NFC Goes Electronic
Resources for Success
May 2004 News For A Change — Home Page

NFC Index

AQP Home

Empowering Change in an Unempowered Environment

Part 1: Understanding Organizational Maturity
Some organizations can successfully change the way they operate and reap the benefits of improved business results, while others seem to struggle endlessly. What are the ingredients needed to develop an empowered environment, one in which change is not only possible, but also probable?

While there are many factors that can affect an organization’s level of readiness to change, most people would agree that the following key areas are essential:

  • Vision: The company has a clear sense of purpose and direction that guides its activities.
  • Management involvement: Managers are actively and personally involved in improvement initiatives.
  • Employee empowerment: Employees’ input and contributions are valued and recognized.
  • Customer focus: Employees understand their relationships with internal and external customers.
  • Process base: The company has a repeatable, evolving process to ensure its continuing success.

To understand your organization’s readiness for change, you first need to determine your company’s level of organizational maturity. Here are descriptions of the three levels of organizational maturity—firefighting, emerging, and total commitment.

The “firefighting” organization is struggling with daily battles resulting from poor quality, lack of leadership and vision, employees who feel helpless, and relationships with customers who are adversarial at best. Without a change in direction, this type of company is headed for serious trouble.

There may be one or two people who recognize the need for change, but their voices are drowned out by the sounds of people running from one crisis to another.

The “emerging” organization is beginning to see the positive outcomes of change. Instead of just a few lone voices calling for improvement, intact organizations with strong local leadership are willing to take tangible steps toward business improvement.

Total Commitment
In the “total commitment” company, focus on the five key areas previously mentioned is the normal mode of operation. Strong visionary leadership leads to empowered employees who understand how to serve their customers. Processes are defined, documented, and improved to make the most of the organization’s cumulative experience.

What Level is Your Organization?

Your group may be at different levels for each of the five characteristics of high-performance organizations. Figure 1 describes the three levels of organizational maturity in table format so you can begin to understand your organization’s level of readiness for change.

Improvement Strategies
Looking at the three levels, we can understand how these companies would require vastly different approaches to successfully implement their business improvement initiatives, as follows:

  • Clearly, because of the circumstances facing firefighting organizations, they will not be able to make significant progress until the situation stabilizes enough for the company to stop putting out fires. Only then can they begin implementing a problem-solving approach to resolve their major issues.
  • Emerging organizations are ready to start laying the groundwork for significant organizational change by taking small first steps that produce tangible business results.
  • Total commitment companies can take the actions necessary to make a broad-based business improvement culture part of the normal operations in their organizations.

Organizational Needs

Figure 2 provides additional detail on the needs and goals of organizations at each level of readiness, as well as recommended approaches to achieve the most effective results. The key to successfully incorporating major new initiatives into your business is to understand your level of organizational readiness and tailor your implementation strategies to that level.

In the June issue of News for a Change, we’ll review how to match your organization’s approach to change with its maturity level.

A nationally recognized customer service expert, author, and trainer, RON ROSENBERG, CSP, recently founded, a Web site dedicated to helping people get the service they deserve and to teaching companies how to provide it. He has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Smart Money, and Real Simple and has appeared as a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows including “Dateline Washington” and the “Gary Nolan Show.” For more information, visit his Web site at .

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