Re: Examples of L-O's and TQM-O's

Tue, 29 Nov 94 13:14:30 PST

This message addresses multiple threads, I'm sort of sounding out some
of my thoughts on this list. It starts with TQM and moves through
learning level models into the natural steps issues. If this sounds too
wierd for you just delete it before you go further.

First, Charles Barclay noted that he can't define a TQM organization
to his own satisfaction, after asking what defined a learning
organaization. Don't feel too badly, Charles -- Joseph Juran, arguably
the leading TQM expert alive, has the same difficulty. Training
magazine (from Lakewood publications) printed an interview with Mr.
Juran in the May 1994 issue. Their editor Jack Gordon did an excellent
job of summarizing concepts like the Pareto Principle ('the law of the
vital few and the trivial many'), quality ('fitness for use') and TQM
('quality understood not just as a matter for engineers ensuring that
hard goods conform to certain specifications, but as a force that
ought to drive all of the management practices and business processes
in an organization'). But in the interview Juran doesn't have such an
easy time nailing down specifics. He says that the best way to tell if
a company is pursuing total quality is to compare them to the
Baldridge criteria, and notes that these criteria continue to change.

It's an interesting interview; he doesn't give many these days. Gives
his opinion of BPR, which some folks new to this list might want to
read (heh-heh). I suppose it's something of an obscure magazine but I
hope you can find a copy and read it.

If so you would probably also like the case study of Remmelle
Engineering by Bob Filipczak. It sure sounds unusual in today's
environment, but this is a company that puts employee training and
empowerment at the center of its strategy and remains committed to
full employment. i.e. they are walking the L-O talk. This is the way
they've always done business, they aren't into faddishness. In fact
they refuse to use the "team" terminology, although you can't find a
better example of self-directed work teams.

Reading this study of an old-fashioned learning organization (they
still call it apprenticeship but it includes things like prepaid
college courses, no questions asked -- the employees are trusted to
choose courses that they really need -- how many companies show that
kind of commitment?) made me think about some of the conversations on
this list of late. We've talked about the different levels of
learning. The Bateson model was discussed, which is pretty linear.
This fits for some things. But we humans don't normally do a lot of
logical, linear progression. If we did, we'd all be CEOs hauling in
the big bucks and living like Richie Rich, or whatever our dreams may
be. The real world somehow seems to work out much differently. We are
always learning something. Sometimes we're learning how to do a new
thing, or do something better. I guess that's performance learning.
Sometimes we're learning new things about the world. Discovery? Then
there's times we think about ourselves, and the rest of the world, and
how we fit, or what it all means. Reflection or meditation fall into
this realm of learning. There's probably more, I'm still just a
sorcerer's apprentice, no guru yet.

All these kinds of learning are important. Some people spend more time
in one mode than another. We're not all gurus, and we're not all
drones, and we're not all clever. But there is something to be gained
from each type of learning, and we can all benefit from a balanced
diet of learning/experiences, I think.

Maybe we need to think about a natural cycle for learning, to link
with the discussion about Senge's talk concerning the Swedish
scientists. I happen to be a chemist, and you'd be amazed how many
chemistry teachers don't want to talk with their students about the
carbon cycle or the nitrogen cycle because "that's biology". Yeah,
right, but some biology teachers don't understand chemistry, so they
don't teach it either. And what of the student who majors in chemistry
and never takes a biology class? No wonder we got so far along this
dioxin issue before anybody stopped to consider the consequences.

IMO, we've gone too far sometimes in our specialization of tasks for
the sake of efficiency. We have performance technologists who use
motivational strategies to increase productivity with no thought of
the consequences of employee burnout: you can always hire a new
person. We have quality specialists who focus on meeting the
customer's expectations without considering the values of the people
in the organization. Yes, you can make high quality nuclear weapons,
but isn't there some ethical issue there? Learning organization
rhetoric is also sometimes out of touch. Perhaps this is just a
natural offshoot of using the phrase as some kind of label, anything
that sounds so simple just can't be true.

Does anyone have ideas about how organizations learn in the different
ways mentioned above (performance/discovery/reflection)? I've read
Argyris and D.H. Kim's models for individual and organizational
double-loop learning, but what I'm thinking of is something that could
be used to spur desired outcomes from an organization. I don't think
the double-loop model is useful for describing all these types of
learning, but then I haven't given it that much scrutiny, I'm sort of

How do you get the people in the organization to really reflect on
their values and the organizations goals and values? How does an
organization discover and create, innovate? How does the organization
develop a sense of self-worth, faith in its own future? How do you
reconcile differences of values? Is it right to cast aside a person
whose values are not aligned with the organizations? Is it right for a
person to work in an organization whose values are at odds with their
own? Which values should that person follow? These are not just
rhetorical questions, we are becoming fairly obsessed with gaining
people's understanding and commitment to a shared vision of the
future. So what shall we do when the vision is not shared? It can be a
big problem in a big organization.

Sorry for the wandering thoughts. By the way, I for one would like to
hear more about that 20,000 wpm reading method. But I rather suspect
such parlor tricks are part of the reason why some B-school grads are
missing that "profound knowledge" of which the gurus speak.

PS - I'll be looking for that Deming show on Discovery channel
tomorrow. (that's 11/30/94, check your local listings)

Sean Gawne,

"The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution,
which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skills. To
raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new
angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science." --
Albert Einstein

Charles Barclay writes:

Keith Cowan asked if there were recorded instances where the CEO did
not buy in first before transition.

Perhaps we should identify which firms are known as a Learning
Organizations and what specifically designates a Learning
Organziation at some point soon.

I for one do not know of any such instances asked by Mr. Cowan nor
do I yet know what parameters of the organization constitute it as a
Learning Organization. To make matters worse, with about 7 years of
implementation, study, research, publication, and consulting on TQM
issues, I cannot firmly state what is a TQM organization and what is
not to my own satisfaction. Phone: 808 956-8545