Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs – May 2021

Welcome to May 2021 edition of the IXth volume of Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs.

We recapitulate that the 2021 theme for the IXth volume of our Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs is Future of… as the basis for Creating and Maintaining Sustained Success.

We base our discussion on the subject for the present episode on A TED talk, Back to the future (1994), from the playlist The history of the future. In the talk, Danny Hillis outlines an intriguing theory of how and why technological change seems to be accelerating, by linking it to the very evolution of life itself. The presentation techniques he uses may look dated, but the ideas are as relevant as ever…. In essence, the talk has this to state on its key theme of accelerating changes –

The humanity has started abstracting out. We’re going through the same levels that multi-cellular organisms have gone through — abstracting out our methods of recording, presenting, processing information….In the process, we have speeded up time scales. The process is feeding on itself and becoming autocatalytic. The more it changes, the faster it changes.

There is an equally strong school of thought that thinks otherwise.

‘If the pace of change really were unprecedented, then conventional wisdom holds we’d better darn well slow it down, so no one gets hurt.  Either way, the commentators warn, “buckle up.” Here is one, by Alvin Toffler in 1970.:

‘ “It has become a cliché to say that what we are now living through is a “second industrial revolution.” This phrase is supposed to impress us with the speed and profundity of the change around us. But in addition to being platitudinous, it is misleading. For what is occurring now is, in all likelihood, bigger, deeper, and more important than the industrial revolution. Indeed, a growing body of reputable opinion asserts that the present movement represents nothing less than the second great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude only with that first great break in historic continuity, the shift from barbarism to civilization”.

‘Why have people long believed that their eras were unprecedented when it came to the rate of change? There are two reasons. First, at least today, it is hard to get attention if you say that “there’s nothing new here, at least in terms of the pace of change.” Second, it’s simply human nature. Most of us overestimate change in a few things around our lives and ignore most of the rest that changes very slowly, if at all.

‘None of this is to say that technology-driven change isn’t happening. Of course it is—and it’s making our lives much better. But the pace of change appears to be no faster than in prior eras, and just as economies did fine despite Luddite impulses then, ours will do fine now. So, let’s all take a deep breath and say together: “Technological change is not accelerating, but it would sure be nice if it would.” ‘[1]

Scott Brinker has formulated Martec’s Law, which states, Technology changes exponentially, organizations change logarithmically…..there have been hundreds of best-selling books written on the difficulties of personal and organizational change. Empirically, the limit of change for humans is less than linear. In other words, it’s not feasible for an organization to change faster than that. But it’s certainly possible for an organization to change more slowly — or not at all. In fact, in the absence of good leadership, stagnation seems like the default outcome. But even with great leadership, an organization can’t win by outracing technology. It needs a more nuanced strategy….In A.G. Lafley’s book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, he drives home the point that strategy is choice. It’s decisively choosing to do certain things and to not do others….That is the crux of technology management. We can’t adopt all technological changes, but we can consciously choose some. Great technology management is choosing which changes to absorb — ideally those that are best aligned with the organization’s overall strategy….In the graph, it’s intentionally deciding what’s in (the red shaded area) and what’s out (the blue shaded area)….. To succeed, technology management must explicitly address how those technologies will be absorbed into the operations and the culture of the organization.

A successful tech-enabled transformation requires organizations to make progress on several paths simultaneously. … Only by following a structured, comprehensive playbook can companies translate their transformation priorities from strategy to action. A two-step methodology supported by several enablers can provide companies with the direction, priorities, and organizational capabilities to maximize the value of such investments. Indeed, companies that took a comprehensive approach to their transformation generated more than twice as much value as organizations focused solely on technology improvements. [2]

Charlie Feld, in his article, Change Management: Leading Through Technology Changes, states: There are three major competencies that great IT leaders need in order to get the lay of the changing landscape: pattern recognition, technical savvy and street smarts.

One may tend to conclude that one should consciously map the change and act in accordance with the organization’s long-term strategy of maintain its competitive advantage.

We will now turn to our regular sections:

We now watch ASQ TV, wherein we refresh our viewpoints about–

The Quality Professional’s Changing Workplace – This episode investigates how the global pandemic and digital transformation are changing the quality professional’s workplace.

We have taken up one article from Jim L. Smith’s Jim’s Gems this month:

Commit to Improvement – Most continuous improvement programs are treated as the latest management fad; therefore, people look at it as just another “program of the month” being pushed by management. …This is not the way the organization conducts its other business. In fact, the continuous improvement effort is often at odds with the existing processes and metrics, so it is destined to limp along on its way to mediocrity and eventual failure…. Continuous improvement is more about rigor and discipline than it is about technique.

From the Editor (of Quality Magazine) – by Darryl Sealand, we have

Rules: Good or Bad? – English actor and author Alan Bennett once said, “We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t obey the rules.” … We equate rules with the difference between order and chaos. We often, quite negatively, associate rules as being an obstacle to success. …Depending on your perspective, those seen breaking the rules are either bad people or trailblazers and pioneers…These quotes express more accurately captures the essence— “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” (Pablo Picasso ) or “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” (the Dalai Lama)…. Although much has changed in the last year and the near future can look a little daunting, understanding the rules of before, what is happening now, and how it may affect us moving forward is always good practice.

I look forward to your views / comments / inputs to further enrich the theme of Future of… as the basis for Creating and Maintaining Sustained Success.

Note: The images depicted here above are through courtesy of respective websites who have the copyrights for the respective images.

[1] Technology Feels Like It’s Accelerating—Because You’ve Been Watching Too Many TED TalksRobert D. Atkinson

[2] Accelerating the impact from a tech-enabled transformation By Venkat Atluri, Aamer Baig, and Satya Rao