Saturday, June 28, 2014
The Organizational Excellence Journey – A Marathon, not a Sprint!
The new CEO of ASQ, Bill Troy, recently informed us about ASQ being awarded the Excellence Level of achievement for the 2014 Wisonsin Forward. With this recognition ASQ has reinforced that it can practice what it preaches. Needless to add, this is a journey for ASQ. It takes years to get where ASQ has got. But like in all journeys, the key is to start.
The Wisconsin Forward Award is the state level framework of the Malcolm Baldrige framework. I have had some experience using the Baldrige framework with companies in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt, Australia, and the USA and confirm that it takes a lot to progress on the Excellence journey.
The excellence journey is like running a marathon. The first mile hurts. Your body aches and screams. This part is very physical. You have to overcome this phase to get to the next. Most people quit here. Similarly, in an organizational excellence journey the first phase is the most chaotic. People challenge what you want to do. There is pain all around. You will try various methods and some will fail. But as a change agent and leader if you patiently manage to overcome this phase, you will be on your way.
Once you are through with the intense physical phase while running your body gets into motion. It is warmed up and your feet and arms fall in sync. You breathe comfortably and before you realize you are cruising. Pain reduces and you begin to enjoy the view. The same happens in an organizational excellence journey. Your detractors have either joined you or quit. There is not much pain. Your plans are working and slowly but surely results are showing. You will find a winning method here. This is the phase where your mental strength pulls you along.
A lot of people who overcome the physical part manage to finish the mental part. But to kick into a higher gear you need emotional strength. This is where your body doesn’t fail but your feelings could fail you. You have doubts about completing the run. Similarly in the organizational journey this is where the struggle to accelerate begins. You know you can run the course but your mind is failing. There are doubts from the few setbacks on the way.
If you are able to overcome the emotional churn during the run you could find yourself on a spiritual last phase. You cruise in a state of Zen. You are not too bothered about competition. The last few miles seem no effort at all. This is what happens in the organizational excellence journey as well. In this spiritual phase you get the results you want. You are patient if you don’t get results that you hoped. You are happy for others in the industry.
Let’s take the long distance running and organizational excellence analogy a bit further. Just like you cant just get up one day and run a marathon, you can’t just decide to be on the organizational journey all of a sudden. If you have to run you have to make sure you prepare yourself with small daily drills, warm-ups, getting fitter, and motivating yourself. You will do the same in an organizational excellence journey – get fitter using Kaizen, reward mechanisms to motivate people, communicate to clarify your goals, involve all around then. Then you start practicing.
Remember, like in running, you can’t just run long distance on motivation. You got to be in shape as well.
At Infosys, while I was heading the Baldrige implementation across the company there were some who did not buy in. But others did. I focused on those who bought in. While consulting with the Aditya Birla group I was able to use a steady deployment approach over two-three years to help four companies win the Deming Application Prize. All these companies gained financially as well.
In my experience in implementing Baldrige framework I realized that patience and persistence are just as important as knowledge and motivation.