Quality Magazine

Face of Quality: Manage for the Future

December 1, 2009


From earlier columns, people have asked questions about how organizations might more effectively engage their employees so that they develop an “ownership attitude.”

The most successful companies get excellent results year after year-not just for a string of years under one stellar CEO. At these companies, the leaders expect change and manage it well.

These successful companies know where they have been and where they want to go. They know there is no formula for getting there, only guidelines for nurturing their people and ideas that lead to consistent excellence.

Successful companies have a game plan that balances long-term goals with short-term results. The most successful corporations achieve both. Once the general direction is set, the management team does not concentrate on strategy and ignore getting the job done well. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Producing profits is difficult.

It is critical that manufacturing companies have an efficient system for managing information pertaining to customers and internal control. Companies realize that no form of organization is perfect; conflicts between corporate goals are inevitable. Changing organizational structure does not eliminate these conflicts, it only rearranges them. The only solution is good management.

In addition, successful manufacturing companies realize that people have qualities they were born with and developed in their early years-they cannot change their core. All that management can do is recognize valuable traits and encourage them to flourish. It’s important to remember that employee behavior is given its direction by the corporate culture and by leadership.

If these companies don’t set a course for top producers, the companies will just take us where they want to go and not necessarily where the organization must go in order to be successful. They develop entrepreneurial managers. Even though most innovations fail, firms that do not innovate die! Middle managers lose their initiative if they are hung because of their failures, but don’t get the glory of their successes.

The most profitable businesses nurture people to have an equity interest in making them profitable. Since they have a stake in the results, they exhibit an “ownership attitude” and they take responsibility for decisions geared to the company’s success.

Successful companies never fail to reward excellent performance, in both tangible and intangible ways, to show that outstanding performers are valued by their organizations. Positive reinforcement is sincere, displayed consistently and delivered fairly throughout the organization.

While controls are necessary, tight controls do not always ensure quality. By trusting their line organizations to run the company, successful companies ensure that they share accountability for the hard decisions.

Successful companies believe they must be mentors to their promising people, rather than allowing an atmosphere of every person for themselves. They must foster their people’s careers and see that they make the right connections. Belonging is a human need and can be a valuable business asset.

Leadership is for the future, not the past. An effective team can almost always outperform an individual, but a group of talented people, including executives who don’t play as a team, will seldom measure up to one good mind working on its own.

Decision making must be speedy, but not reckless. If managers defer a decision, it can encourage infighting and costly duplication of effort.

Good managers are not afraid to be somewhat autocratic. In spite of what some might say, management is not a popularity contest. Running a company democratically only means that people are free to express opinions and management should honor that spirit and right by careful consideration of the facts. However, in the end, companies must act for the betterment of all its stakeholders.

The elements of good management often sound simple and obvious. In practice, however, they can be difficult to execute, but rewarding to achieve.