This is a rewrite of an unpublished article I wrote in 1994, when many businesses had recognized the importance of their internal culture and its impact on their business. I believe the principles still hold, though the understanding of culture and how to create lasting business success seems to have slipped in the intervening years, at least in the United States.
Where were we going in the TQM era?
The intent of the Total Quality Management (TQM) cultural change effort of the late 20th century was to achieve maximum organizational effectiveness, meaning maximally effective people. To be highly effective, people must be deeply committed. This requires that people care about their work, employer, coworkers, etc., for they will only be committed if they care about what they are doing and whom they are doing it for. Fortunately, people have a natural tendency to care about their work. The sense of accomplishment available through work gives people reason to feel better about themselves, and makes caring and contributing possible and even pleasurable. The positive self-image that arises in this kind of environment is a far more powerful motivator than any externally applied influence and results in far higher quality of work. By comparison, fear is also a powerful motivator, but its effects are detrimental to the quality of work produced in many ways, and they all increase cost without a matching increase in value. But how are business systems involved? Read the rest of this entry »