Culture: A Decisive Competitive Advantage


Instructor: William Levinson
Product ID: 706309
Training Level: Intermediate

  • Duration: 60 Min
In this Quality Management webinar attendees will learn what their organizations must do to realize a condition in which "The health of every organization depends on every member (whatever his place) feeling that everything that happens to come to his notice relating to the welfare of the business is his own job" and what the culture played an enormous role in the success of the Ford Motor Company in the first part of the 20th century, and it can play a similarly decisive role today.
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Why Should You Attend:

Organizational culture is an overwhelming and decisive, but often overlooked, competitive advantage that most (five out of six) organizations lack. "But in about 85% of companies, our research finds, employees’ morale sharply declines after their first six months and continues to deteriorate for years afterward".

Organizational culture is a shared but often unwritten set of values and expectations that define "the way we do things about here." It is often not documented but its operation and effects can be observed and recognized. More to the point, culture can be developed to deliver an overwhelming competitive advantage.

  1. "Stop Demotivating Your Employees!" by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer. Harvard Business Review Results are based on a survey of 1.2 million employees at 52 (primarily) Fortune 1000 companies.
  2. Ford, Henry, and Crowther, Samuel. 1922. My Life and Work. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company.

Areas Covered in the Webinar:

  1. ISO 9004:2018 (Quality of an organization — Guidance to achieve sustained success) clause 6.2 includes "Mission, vision, values, and culture." This has not yet carried over into ISO 9001:2015 so most organizations are not familiar with it. Napoleon Bonaparte and others recognized its importance long ago, however, and achieved decisive and tangible results with it.
    • Napoleon stated, "The moral is to the physical as three to one," and this is a major reason his armies won most of their battles.
  2. Employee engagement, which is lacking in most organizations, is a combination of employee commitment and empowerment. Commitment must, however, be earned. Commitment will be lacking when management looks for ways to give the workers as little as possible but Henry Ford realized substantial results by looking for ways to pay workers as much as possible.
    • Commitment corresponds to what Sun Tzu's Art of War called the Moral Law, also known as the Mandate of Heaven; the leader's right to be in charge as earned through service to his or her stakeholders.
    • Employee disengagement, which is endemic to most organizations, costs the U.S. economy up to $500 billion a year (Keegan, Paul. 2014. "The 5 New Rules of Employee Engagement." Inc Magazine, Dec 2014-Jan 2015.)
    • Recognize engagement versus disengagement. Colonel Ardant du Picq's Battle Studies (1870) was ahead of the Hersey-Blanchard model of situational leadership by decades.
    • Key ISO 9004:2018 clauses on culture and engagement
    • The principles for earning buy-in and commitment are extremely simple, but leaders must put them into practice.
  3. Stories have enormous power to reveal culture and also transform it.
    • Greek myths taught the world how to think and break through limiting paradigms. Stories about Alexander the Great, and also a scene from India's Mahabharata, teach exactly what leaders must do to earn and keep their followers' commitment.
    • A brief story told by Henry Ford's security chief Harry Bennett illustrated how Ford could identify waste that hid in plain sight and went unnoticed by anybody else. Upton Sinclair's The Flivver King (1937) meanwhile exposed, in one paragraph, why the Ford Motor Company developed labor relations problems after Ford was essentially no longer running the company. This story is highly relevant today because it can help us avoid making the same mistakes.
    • Modern stories about kaizen events teach the workforce how to think and encourage the workforce to emulate the improvement process. Shigeo Shingo could tell one-sentence or two-sentence stories that teach entirely new thought processes about waste, and even teach entire concepts in single phrases.
  4. Leaders must walk their talk.
    • Lord Byron's Don Juan dismissed as a waste of time Aleksandr V. Suvorov's (1729-1800) practice of drilling soldiers personally, a job most armies delegated to noncommissioned officers. Byron overlooked Suvorov's success secret that stood before him in plain sight; his actions made it clear that training was the most important thing the Russian Army did, which was why Suvorov defeated everybody he fought.
    • A modern CEO, on the other hand, brought in W. Edwards Deming to teach Total Quality Management (TQM), and then walked out of the room. Even Deming could not gain buy-in once the CEO's actions proved he did not think it was all that important.
  5. Keep it simple. Suvorov's Science of Victory was written to be understandable by enlisted soldiers, while Henry Ford's books are similarly easy to understand by high school graduates. Suvorov and Ford could convey entire concepts in single sentences or even simple words.

Who Will Benefit:

  • Managers, executives, and others with responsibility for organizational business systems, as well as those who want to gain buy-in from upper management.
Instructor Profile:
William Levinson

William Levinson
Principal Consultant, Levinson Productivity Systems

William A. Levinson, P.E., is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. He is an ASQ Fellow, Certified Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor, Quality Manager, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also the author of several books on quality, productivity, and management.

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