A Key Reason Why Total Quality Management Worked: Trust

January 24, 2012

A colleague shared the following instructive story with me.  It has apparently been circulating around the internet via email so I can’t identify an author, and while it may be completely fictional or simply exaggerated, the story suggests some key reasons why Total Quality Management (TQM), prevalent in the 1980’s but mostly forgotten today, actually worked.  First, the story, taken verbatim (with spelling errors) from my email: A Short Story for The Engineers Read the rest of this entry »


Finding the Roots of Organizational Incompetence

June 15, 2011

First let me define my term “Organizational Incompetence”.  Sometimes in business you sit in a meeting and hear people grousing and struggling, and perhaps arguing and talking over each other in their frustration.  The problems they describe are almost always not of their own making, nor do they have the wherewithal to remedy them by themselves.  You begin to perceive that on some particular aspect of business the organization just doesn’t do well, and it keeps posing problems to groups and individuals and holding up productive work.  The appearance is that the organization is incompetent, at least in some particular way or area, and is suffering from needless cost, waste, and widespread frustration and stress.  In essence, the organization or a system within it is dysfunctional.  So how does this occur and what can you do about it? Read the rest of this entry »

Replace Pay-for-Performance and Annual Reviews with Leadership for Meaningful Improvement

May 25, 2011

Pay-for-performance, merit pay, and annual reviews have not worked out well.  W. Edwards Deming started as a statistician but became one of the greatest business thinkers in human history. His ability to penetrate common business issues and get to the fundamental truths and fallacies behind them was amazing. His research clearly illuminated what most of us had already felt, if we took the time to think about it: pay-for-performance and periodic performance reviews, while often yielding us pay increases and other rewards, almost always left us feeling mistreated and angry, and sometimes in competition with our colleagues – not a good feeling.  Why is this? Read the rest of this entry »

Why Leave Annual Performance Reviews Behind?

November 14, 2010

Performance reviews have long been known to do more harm than good. I have written on this topic before (link), but I’m not alone: here’s National Public Radio coverage of a new book on the topic.  Why are annual performance reviews still around? Read the rest of this entry »

Annual Performance Reviews Do More Harm than Good

July 13, 2010

An NPR story today on a new book reminded me how little value there is in annual performance reviews.  In most cases the annual performance reviews I’ve witnessed, carried out, or been subjected to have produced more demotivation and outright anger than positive value.  I can think of a couple of examples: Read the rest of this entry »

Pay for Performance Revisited – It Still Has Problems

April 24, 2010

Pay for performance sounds good, until you think about it. I added a comment to an item on HRM Today this week suggesting “pay for performance” may not be the best way to manage people’s compensation.  This is a complex area and sometimes what seems simply intuitive turns out to be a poor approach under closer examination. Read the rest of this entry »

When and Why Does Total Quality Management Work, and Why Isn’t It Still Prevalent?

November 9, 2008

Total Quality Management, or TQM, was prevalent in business thinking in the 1980s, and improved the work lives and productivity of many people as well as the fortunes of some major corporations in that era.  I won’t try to describe how to implement Total Quality Management here, as there are a great many publications on the topic. I will instead describe the most important and fundamental elements I believe an organization needs to achieve the full benefits of TQM, and discuss why I think it fell into disuse. Read the rest of this entry »