Thursday, October 4, 2012
Many good ideas have been advanced since 1980 but the earlier theories are the foundation that a manager needs to understand before taking on newer concepts and strategies. In fact some of these newer ideas are incorporated in this course, e.g. ideas on learning organizations from the 1990's and on knowledge workers that emerged after 2000.
Attempting to study post 1980 concepts without a foundation in the principles would be the equivalent of taking graduate level courses without an undergraduate degree. It would be rote learning without having the in depth understanding necessary to judge good ideas from bad ideas. Often, new management ideas are narrow in scope and need to be understood in the context of the basics covered here to be useful. The reason for new work often being narrow is that much of it comes from academics that have to specialize to be recognized in academic culture. Managers do not have the luxury of being able to focus on specialties. They have to work within the broader context of their work environment and business culture. Understanding the basics discussed in this course enables a manger to critically study newer materials and have the understanding to separate useful new concepts from fads and ineffective ideas.
The process improvement principles developed primarily in manufacturing organizations and were intended to make products cheaper and better quality. After WW II there was a large demand for new products in the USA and other nations due to the limited production of consumer items during the war. USA manufactures could sell nearly anything since the manufacturing infrastructure of the rest of the industrialized world was essentially destroyed. Therefore USA manufactures focused on producing as many goods as fast as possible with limited regard to quality or the cost of poor quality. Process improvement was pushed aside and forgotten in this environment.
Manufacturing in post WW II Japan started with such poor quality that “made in Japan” was interpreted as junk in the rest of the world. W. Edwards Deming and others introduced process improvement principles to Japan so that Japanese manufactures could improve their product quality. Japanese manufactures were good students and by the 1970’s “made in Japan” came to signify high quality.
US industry responded by reintroducing quality improvement methods in the 1980s to stay competitive. The US manufactures found catching up is very hard because Japan continues to improve. The US efforts to improve quality led to growth in quality improvement gurus and consultants. These knowledgeable people soon realized that the principles behind process improvements apply to any organization. Quality improvement then spread to health care, education, service organizations, and government organizations. In spite of the many demonstrated successes of implementing modern quality improvement methods many organizations still do not practice effective continuous process improvement.
• Managers are typically promoted from effective worker positions without training for their new positions
• Untrained or poorly trained managers typically follow their boss’s and their organization’s cultural practices
• Organizational cultures are firmly entrenched –it’s hard for new managers to change the culture or behave contrary to the culture
• Organizational change is extremely hard to achieve
• Many organizations look for instant results (“fad of the year”)
In your organization, does every manager get thorough management training before being given management responsibility? Not likely. It’s more likely that many get promoted on the basis of good job performance in a non-management position. Our society doesn’t allow plumbers, electricians, doctors or lawyers to work without proper training but we often promote workers to management positions with no preparation. Is it any wonder that many organizations have ineffective leadership and our government agencies are burdened with ineffective bureaucrats?
Untrained new managers do what they have seen bosses do because that is the only “experience” they have. As a result organizations tend to develop management cultural practices independent of the effectiveness of these practices. Many times the practices are a continuation of the practices of some earlier revered leader who may or may not have been truly effective. It’s easy to see why new managers who have little understanding of management theory just do what their supervisor does. It would be nearly impossible for them to introduce something new without the knowledge or experience to justify it.
In cases where new managers have the knowledge and experience to introduce more effective practices the organizational culture often works against any change. Studies have shown that it takes three to five years and an expenditure of about ten percent of payroll to change an organization’s culture. (See Corporate Culture, by Terry Deal and Allan Kennedy) You can choose to conclude this means it’s too hard to change your organization’s culture or you can conclude that, although it will be hard, it only takes about two percent of payroll per year for five years so it can be done and it will be well worth it. If you take the optimist’s view you may want to study methods of change. Good sources include:
Changing Ways-A Practical Tool for Implementing Change within Organizations by Murray M. Dalziel and Stephen C. Schoonover
And Our Iceberg Is Melting-Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John P. Kotter, Holger Rathgeber, Peter Mueller, and Spencer Johnson
A warning is needed here to encourage you to resist the fad of the year, which will be available and you may even be pressured to consider it. Dalziel and Schoonover, in their book cited above, warn that there are many people offering quick fixes for organizational problems and these people make generalizations and claims for success that are unwarranted. It is always tempting to believe there are simple solutions but if there were there would not be so many organizational problems.
What Dalziel and Schoonover, and this course, encourage is to follow proven “best practices” even though it’s hard work. Finally, some managers argue that their organization is unique and therefore a more effective management style or continuous process improvement doesn’t apply. This is a lame excuse and is simply not correct so don’t let yourself fall into this trap.
• Identify candidate objectives to improve the effectiveness of your organization
– e.g. reduce (), improve (),
– try to be specific, identify the process that needs to change
• List the objectives
• Choose one objective that you believe is the highest payoff
• Determine if achieving your objective is worth your investment in this course
• Estimate cost of course: study materials + your time at $(your wage)/hour (include study time for the lectures and 50 hours of self-study for one year)
• Add any capital investment and training costs if you think it is likely to be necessary to achieving your objective
• Estimate the savings each year for five years if you achieve your objective.
• Calculate the internal rate of return (IRR)
• Is the IRR greater or less than what you might expect from other opportunities for your time and money?
• Was the IRR satisfactory?
• If yes, proceed
• If not, did your goal assume at least a 20% improvement in the effectiveness of your organization?
• If you assumed less, recalculate with an assumed bigger improvement.
• If the IRR is still unsatisfactory you need to consider a more ambitious objective
If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
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