Could “Living” Quality Be The Route To Sustainability?

culture of quality, corporate culture, Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan KureyA colleague and I were recently discussing whether there was truly an increase in the speed of technological change and turbulence in the business world now versus any other time in history. The twentieth century certainly saw huge leaps in technology and you could even argue the the Industrial Revolution (approximately 1760 to about 1840) was a time of change and turbulence. But one thing is true. When there is great change,  there are philosophical shifts that accompany technological changes. Corporate culture is certainly an expression of those philosophical shifts.

Philosophical shifts change how companies produce

The current workplace trends are showing how these philosophical changes are taking place. Assumptions about customers have been challenged by social media and Big Data. Leadership and the ways companies are organized are focused on ways to increase employee engagement. There is more movement to remote working, flatter organizations and fostering more ownership by everyone in the company. Still, there is tension between seeing world as potentially open and constraining.

In all of these trends is the pursuit of quality

Seeking differentiation in the marketplace in the short term and sustainability for the long term, companies are looking to define quality.  According to Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kurey, consistent quality may be elusive at times because

“…the likelihood of error has risen. In many industries, cycle times are compressing. During the recovery from the Great Recession, output gains have outpaced employment growth, and employees report straining to keep up with demands.

Due to these factors, Srinivasan and Kurey say that a new approach to quality is necessary.

So what is a “true culture of quality?”

Srinivasan and Kurey wriite in their Harvard Business Review article that when employees “live” quality as a personal value rather than being told to comply, companies create an environment where there are fewer mistakes and a healthier bottom line. While it is tempting to see this through a lens of kaizen or other total quality management, it is more than this. There are four factors that support quality as an overall cultural value.

  • leadership emphasis
  • message credibility
  • peer involvement
  • employee ownership of quality issues

Moving towards sustainability

It seems that making quality a part of the corporate culture would naturally lead to sustainablity. Yet, it is clear from the research done by Srinivasan and Kurey that the corporate culture has to be part of everyday behavior, a living reality. One thing that is less clear is how quality is defined. Is it like kaizen and involves incremental steps towards making things better? Or is it more about taking pride in one’s work? But perhaps creating a culture of quality is both and more. According to Jim Dougherty, corporate culture has to be part of the business model. The emphasis on quality seems akin to the search for excellence. It takes all levels of the organization to make the four factors work on a daily basis. This is how corporate culture is expressed anyway. If this alignment is complete, it is more likely for a company to be sustainable.

This is merely the beginning of this conversation so please join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. We welcome your thoughts and insights about how “living” quality could be the route to sustainability.

 

How would you define a “culture of quality?”

Who is best suited to define what is quality? Why?

What types of obstacles might prevent a “culture of quality” from developing?

How would you hire to create a “culture of quality”?

What relationship do you see between “culture of quality” and sustainability?

 

 

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Headline Convo – Gender Pay Gaps, Resume is Dead and CEO Pay

KaizenBiz , Twitter chat,This week is our monthly “Bring Your Own Headline” discussion. This conversation is usually much more wide ranging and even better when someone from the KaizenBiz community shares something that caught their attention. What are you reading or viewing that made you stop and think? This week, we are going to move from topic to topic and see what big ideas are popping up. So, check out these stories and bring your own this Friday to the live Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Women entrepreneurs pay themselves less?

We often think of how entrepreneurship can be totally designed by the individual entrepreneur. He or she can designate their hours, their rate of pay and the products and services that are offered. Arecent Babson College study discovered that women entrepreneurs pay themselves approximately 80% of their male counterparts. While the study does not explain why this occurs, it seems rather interesting that there is a gap.

It is easy to focus on the US since this conversation about salary gaps has been going on for some time. It even made a mention in the 2014 State of the Union address by President Obama. However, there is a bigger picture. There is gender wage gap all over the world (here is an infographic from Time). While there are some who will argue that it has everything to do with the types of businesses women found. After all, some work is valued more than other work. There is always the argument that women take time off from work due to family obligations. Still, there are questions about what the disparities mean in real life.

What are the possible business reasons women entrepreneurs pay themselves less?

How does looking at men’s pay as the standard skew our perceptions of what are appropriate salaries?

If we make the picture more global, what sorts of socioeconomic reasons exist for women entrepreneurs to pay themselves less?

Just when you thought job hunting could not get more complicated

There are always reports that something is “dead.” Now it is the resume (or the CV, curriculum vitae) that is passe. With the global economy growing (albeit sluggishly), many companies are hiring new staff. While this Forbes post is self-serving the author, he does point out how different things have become in the job hunt. With potential employers looking at social media, search engines and in-person networking, the resume simply confirms information about you. This certainly puts the resume fairly low in importance. Interestingly, in a post by BlueGlue (a managed recruitment service firm based in the UK), the cv is described as less important than the online information and digital portfolios. If the resume and the cv are being phased out, this may become a stumbling block for many job seekers.

How much weight do recruiters and human resources professionals put on resumes/ cv’s versus online information?

If resumes and cv’s are less important, what social ramifications are there for job seekers?

LinkedIn is mentioned as a resource for both job seekers and recruiters. To what degree is this social media site used around the world?

 The relationship between CEO pay and performance

Periodically, there is a conversation about CEO pay. There are often huge gaps between what the CEO is paid compared to others in the company. Another area that gets people talking is how CEOs are never really punished for failing as they get golden parachutes. The connection between these two conversations is whether or not there really is a relationship between CEO pay and performance.

It certainly seems that CEOs of large companies are much like the manager or head coach of a sports team. When things are going well, the CEO is praised and when things are going badly, well, the CEO is at fault. They are paid very high salaries which makes one wonder if they truly have the skills to merit such a reward and do they really matter that much to their organizations.

Gilles Hilary, INSEAD Associate Professor of Accounting & Control, states that CEOs do bring quite a lot of value to their organizations. In a HKUST Business School study, they discovered that if there is good governance and strong shareholder rights, CEO compensation is a good predictor of success. But as Rick Wartzmann asked in his Forbes post, how do you define performance? There is a temptation to aim for increased revenues and profits but that could result in undermining the long term health of the company, discouraging innovation or weakening the overall vision and strategy of the company.

What criteria must a CEO meet in order to be described as performing well?

How is the pay of CEOs of smaller organizations tied to performance?

To what degree are CEOs involved with the actual performance of the company?

 Time for your suggestions

The above topics are my suggestions for our lighting roundtable discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. If something caught your attention this week, bring it the discussion on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. Remember to include the link and even  one or two discussion questions

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Is Freelancing Becoming More Permanent Way of Working?

Are you entrepreneurial in your career? Do you work for yourself? Both of these questions have become more common over recent years. There is a sense of both disillusionment and frustration with the traditional 40 hour a week job model. For knowledge workers, in particular, this job model does not reflect how work gets done. For others, shift work has changed or extended unemployment has made it necessary to find alternative sources of income. Frankly, there are a number of workplace trends that add to how freelancing has become much more common.

So, what’s going on?

There is some interesting information globally about freelancing. According to a Elance survey, the top freelancing countries are

  • United States
  • Indiana
  • Ukraine
  • Pakistan
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • China

So this is not just a US phenomenon, according to Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, freelancing is disrupting the workplace. He writes that the trends for 2014 are

  • Freelancers will gain recognition as part of the workforce
  • Teams will be like movie crews
  • Voluntary job quitters will abound
  • Reinvesting in being people-focused rather than tech-focused
  • Careers will launch virtually

In a CNBC article, Elaine Pofeldt writes that the unemployment rate is dropping despite the slow job growth rate. Although she focuses on the US experience of freelancing, there are similar reasons across countries as to why people choose freelancing over a traditional job. According to “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, there are strong attractors. In our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we’ve talked about how people are seeking more meaning and autonomy in their work lives.

So perhaps success is being redefined?

With the recent movie, The Wolf of Wall Street,  we are reminded of how success has been defined (and may be still defined). Traditionally, people who became successful are wealthy, connected and have a certain level of power. Freelancers could certainly have connections since networking is a key part of their marketing plan. But what about wealth or power? It seems “value” is more about work/life balance. Although wealth, power and fame are desires for some people, these often are also accompanied by working excessive hours, health issues and complicated personal relationships. This way of life is being rejected with more frequency.

More permanent way of working?

This is a curious question. Most people think that working for an organization is a more secure way of working due to regular pay and benefits. However, the last several years of economic turbulence has combined to make organizations more skiittish about hiring and employees less certain that they have job security or even that they want the day to day of workplace politics and a lack control over their time and energy.  Yet, it’s not all a bed of roses for freelancers. It is difficult to clock out when you are your own boss, there is often a feeling of feast or famine regarding work load and clients as well as difficult making sure that there is enough income to pay for health insurance, taxes or other financial obligations.

What do you think? Is freelancing the next trend in how people work? How will it change employment or even unemployment? Join us Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What does “freelancing” mean to you?

As freelancing becomes more permanent way of working, is it a variation of small business or something separate? 

How does freelancing change how work gets done?

Freelancing is often touted as positive way to manage & live life. What are downsides?

How does freelancing affect how we define success? 

 

 

 

 

 

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Connecting Profit and Doing Good – Possible?

Which is more important – profit or doing good? For most corporations, profit has been everything. “Doing good” has been charitable donations, programs or other community engagement has been the window dressing for many companies so they can say they are socially responsible. And yet, there are so many times we hear of questionable or unethical practices such as credit card companies are charging fees even when you have a zero balance, manufacturing processes that release dangerous (even lethal) substances into water systems or mistreating their employees. Often these behaviors stem from people in a particular company seeking to save money and increase profits so they can expand, pay bonuses and/or dividends.

 Harish Marwani’s perspective

In his TED talk, Harish Marwani, CEO of Unilever, proposes that corporate social responsibility is a standard part of any 21st century business. He proposes that there is a fourth G in his growth philosophy:

  • Consistent
  • Competitive
  • Profitable
  • Responsible

Marwani explains that:

Companies cannot afford to be just innocent bystanders in what’s happening around in society. They have to begin to play their role in terms of serving the communities which actually sustain them. And we have to move to a model of an and/and model which is how do we make money and do good? How do we make sure that we have a great business but we also have a great environment around us? And that model is all about doing well and doing good.

It is more than making the product or service you are known for. In Marwani’s case, Unilever is known for making soap. He spoke about the programs sponsored by Unilever as part of their sustainability model. He also said Unilever was also looking for sustainable sources for ingredients in their products. For Marwani and Unilever, doing good is about finding sustainable sources for their products and sponsoring programs.

John Paluszek, Pioneer of Corporate Social Responsibility

It has been the practice of companies, particularly larger companies, to focus on increasing profit as well as value for shareholders. More recently, there has been a trend for companies to ask if there is some sort of relationship they should have with the community in which they are based and maybe even beyond with vendors and charitable groups. John Paluszek is one of the drivers of this conversation.

In a  Forbes interview, Paluszek explains five areas of corporate responsibility:

  1. “Natural” accounting dilemma and environmental impact
  2. Noticing which framework(s) provide the best way of accounting and set the tipping point for corporate social responsibliity to become mainstream
  3. “Business for peace” (UN Nations Global Compact)
  4. Inequality will be a driving force for new thinking about a greater commitment to ethics, morality in business decisions and capitalism
  5. The next generation of leaders will be more committed personally and professionally

Not entirely clear yet

It is difficult for some people to adjust to the idea that business can be a force for good. There are people who are willing to buy from companies who actively engage in sourcing sustainable ingredients, attend vigorously to environmental concerns and sponsor charitable programs. But other questions arise. The very definition of “doing good” is fraught with the history of one group coming in and telling others what is good for them without regard to what might already be in place. There is also the question if mainstream consumers care more about price or the reputation of the company. And maybe most of all, there are serious questions about capitalism and how it influences human behavior.

What do you think? Could a company be more sustainable if profit and doing good are connected?  Join us Friday, March 7, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What differences exist between smaller organizations and large corporations embracing corporate social responsibility ?

Who defines what is “doing good”?

What sort of definition(s) are we giving to “sustainability”?

How is the desire for meaning and purpose of the individual employee influencing organizations engaging in corporate social responsibility?

How would you measure how companies make a profit and do good?

 

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