Thursday, March 03, 2011

Good management principles and guiding ideas for the quality integration

Quality Integration implies professional quality practices that are integrated seamlessly with normal business management activities in any kinds of organizations. Quality integration takes place in practice on the cornerstones of guiding ideas, managing infrastructure, and theory, methods and tools (figure).

The aim of the quality integration is excellence in organization’s business performance and sustained success.

The Fifth Discipline Field book (1995), the book of P. Senge, C. Roberts, B. Ross, and A. Kleiner considers principles and examples for organizational development in a natural way of learning. The following text quotes and summarizes the core ideas of the book.

Guiding ideas or governing management principles can be developed and articulated deliberately. This is a central function of genuine leadership. Guiding ideas for organizations’ quality integration start with vision, values, and purpose: What the organization stands for and what its members seek to create.

Every organization is governed according to some principles. They are not necessarily benign. A typical but often pernicious guiding idea of the traditional Western business management is that the purpose of the enterprise is to maximize return of the shareholders investment. If people come to believe this, then whatever ideas are articulated will be subordinate to making money. The new modern view is, however, that a company a living organism, and, much like an individual, it can have collective sense of identity and fundamental purpose. This is the organizational equivalent of self knowledge - a shared understanding of what the company stands for, where it's going, what kind of world it wants to live in, and, most importantly, how it intends to make that world a reality.

Often attempts to articulate guiding ideas in organizations result only in mission or vision statements. What distinguishes powerful guiding ideas? The first distinguishing feature is philosophical depth. Agreeing genuinely the fundamental purpose of a company requires a lot of time (investment) in study and conversation among the key persons of the company. This is the contrast to only traditionally having short meetings where the management team drafts mission or vision statements.

Traditional organizations are designed to provide for the first three levels of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs - food, shelter, and belonging. Since these are now widely available to members of industrial society, these organizations do not provide anything particularly unique to command the loyalty and commitment of people. The ferment in management today will continue until organizations begin to address the higher order needs: self respect and self actualization. That articulates a larger context within which to consider the specifics of an organization’s mission, vision, and values. It suggests that changes in the world offer new opportunities for organizations to reach for higher aspirations. These views arise from considerable thought, and they carry a sense of passionate conviction not captured in most mission statements. Years are needed to develop "a guiding philosophy" for the organization and that means patience and perseverance.

The second distinguishing feature of powerful guiding ideas follows from the first - seeing the process as ongoing. Guiding ideas are not static. Their meaning, and sometimes their expression, evolve as people reflect and talk about them, and as they are applied to guide decisions and action. This, of course, is the central tenet of the discipline of building shared vision - that shared visions live in our ongoing conversations about what we seek together to create.

Are there guiding ideas relevant for all efforts to build quality integration through organizational learning? One example offers three interrelated ideas which constitute the philosophical core of the systems perspective. All three of these ideas question bedrock tacit assumptions of the Western cultural tradition.

The primacy of the whole suggests that relationships are more fundamental than things, and that wholes are primordial to parts. Our world is interrelated.

In our organizations, we normally tend to think the opposite. We tend to assume that parts are primary, existing somehow independent of the wholes within which they are constituted. How we define "parts" is highly subjective, a matter of perspective and purpose.

In the realm of management and leadership, many people are conditioned to see our "organization" as things rather than as patterns of interaction. We look for solutions that will "fix problems", as if they were external and can be fixed without "fixing" that which is within us that led to their creation. Consequently, we are inevitably drawn into an endless spiral of superficial quick fixed, worsening difficulties in the long run, and an ever-deepening sense of powerlessness. In organizations, articulating the primacy of the whole as a guiding idea may be the first step in helping people break this vicious cycle.

The community nature of the self challenges us to see the interrelatedness that exists in us. However, we tend to see the individual primordial to the community in which the individual is embedded. The self is a point of view that unifies the flow of experience into a coherent narrative - a narrative striving to connect with other narratives. More over, the narrative is deeply informed by our culture. The stories we construct to make sense of our experience, to give meaning to our actions and thoughts, are stories that we have learned to construct.

When we forget the community nature of the self, we identify our self with our ego. We then assign a primordial value to the ego (part) and see the community (whole) as secondary. We see the community as nothing but a network of contractual commitments to symbolic and economic exchanges. Encounters with others become transactions that can add or subtract to the possessions of the ego. The resulting loss is incalculable - isolation, loneliness, and loss of our "sense of place". On the contrary, consistency with a systems view of life suggests that the self is never "given" and is always in a process of transformation.

The community nature of the self opens the door to powerful and beneficial changes in our underlying values. When we do not take other people as objects for our use, but see them as fellow human beings with whom we can learn and change, we open new possibilities for being ourselves more fully.

The generative power of language illuminates the subtle interdependency operating whenever we interact with "reality" and implies a radical shift in how we see some of these changes coming about. We participate more deeply than we imagine in shaping the world that we perceive.

"Naïve realism" is the worldview which holds rigid positions like the primacy of the parts and the isolated nature of the self. This worldview takes reality as a given entity outside our perception, and sees language as the tool through which we describe this external reality "out there". We have no actual way of ever knowing what is "out there". Whenever we articulate what we see, our language interacts with our direct experience. The "reality" we bring forth arises from this interaction.

The alternative to "naïve realism" is recognizing the generative role of the traditions of observation and meaning shared by a community - and that these traditions are all that we ever have. When we are confronted by multiple interpretations of the "real world" the alternative to seeking to determine which is "right" is to admit multiple interpretations and seek those that are most useful for a particular purpose, knowing that there is no ultimately "correct" interpretation. The alternative to seeing language as describing an independent reality is to recognize the power of language that allows us to freshly interpret our experience - and might enable us to bring forth new realities.

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