Friday, September 27, 2013

Sustaining Excellence

In response to an ASQ case study of the Corning Journey to Performance Excellence, recently published as part of the Next Generation Quality Leadership series, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks how does your organization stay on the right path amid changing times and leaders?

Like Corning, 3M was founded over 100 years ago. 3M has built a solid brand reputation for innovation, quality, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and uncompromising ethical behavior. 3M invests significantly in R&D and manufacturing excellence. Numerous books have been written citing 3M's culture of experimentation, collaboration and its storied "15% time".  A core belief of 3M is that creativity needs freedom. Since about 1948, 3M has encouraged its employees to spend 15% of their working time on their own projects; using 3M facilities and resources, to build up a unique team, and to follow their own insights in pursuit of problem-solving.

It is my opinion that 3M's culture of innovation and its employees are 3M's strongest competitive advantage. Much of 3M's culture was nurtured under CEO William L. McKnight who served as 3M chairman of the board from 1949 to 1966 and encouraged 3M management to "delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative."

3M leadership and management continues to rigorously apply the McKnight Principles:
    "As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

    Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

    Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow."

To compete in today's world of globalization, ever increasing rate of change, and Wall Street's demand for short-term profits the successful organization must be agile and responsive to customer needs. An engaged, customer-focused, workforce is absolutely essential to consistently deliver superior customer experience.