Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs – March 2020

Welcome to March 2020 edition of Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs.

For the year 2020, we have chosen the core subject of Revisiting Basic Quality Concepts w.r.t. the sustained success of the organization We picked up

We take up Organizational Context as our first core concept –

An organization’s context involves its “operating environment.” The context must be determined both within the organization and external to the organization. It is important to understand the unique context of an organization before starting the strategic planning.[1]

The organizational context can be viewed as situational opportunities and constraints that affect the occurrence and meaning of organizational behavior as well as functional relationships between variables. Context can serve as a main effect or interact with personal variables such as disposition to affect organizational behavior.

The reasons to understand the context of the organization, essentially, are –

  • if we do not understand situations, we will not understand person situation interactions.
  • Context is also implicated in the poorly understood “missing linkages” (Goodman, 2000) that can explain how individual or team activity gets translated into larger organizational outcomes.
  • it helps us to better convey the applications of strategy at planning, implementation, review and improvement stages

The understanding of organizational context

  • Affects the observed range of organizational variables under consideration.
  • As a consequence of range restriction, context can have a profound effect on the base rates of key organizational variables across occupations or locations, or over time. In turn, such variations in base rates will have a marked impact on the imputed importance of these variables, their meaning to actors and observers, and the inferred significance of their correlates.
  • Can affect the cause and effect relationships
  • Can help understand the likely effect of the strategic directional change that may take place in response to the dynamics of the context
  • Helps in understanding the interacting and interrelated ripple effects of any trend or an isolated, black swan, event. The mechanics of context can be quite subtle, and small changes in context often matter greatly.
  • Can affect the validity of the organization’s purpose[2]

The following graphic is used to understand any and all organizations, no matter how simple or complex, large or small.  It is used to clarify the relationship between this way of understanding context and our way of understanding content – the actual collaborative action that drives the organization forward day in, day out.

The “roof” and the “foundation” can be understood as the organizational context – who we are, where we’re going, why we’re going there and how we’re going to treat each other along the way.  In the foundation, we find the organization’s “come from” – the solid purpose for being, the mission, the core values, the key standards, value propositions and roles and rules of engagement.  And in the roof, we find the “go to” – the vision pulling us toward the desired future, the goals, the objectives and priorities.

And the middle of the house represents the organizational content – the human beings who are collaborating and communicating and coordinating with each other… and are doing so in a way that’s guided by the foundation and in service to the roof.  [3]

It is vital to design processes in the context of all the dimensions of the organization (mapped out in our Eight Dimensions below).

It is useful to view organizations as webs of relationships and processes in order to understand, shape and effectively work with them. Remarkably, most organizations attempt to control, restrict, or manage information and knowledge (of such relationships). Controlling information flows may appear possible when organizations are viewed mechanistically, as linear causal chains. But when viewed as complex networks (like the Internet) the only conclusion to be reached is that information is uncontrollable and necessary for the health of the system.

When an organization shares information and knowledge about the challenges it faces, the people within the organization are able to hold meaningful dialogues about these challenges, increasing their understanding of themselves and their roles. This understanding can then become the basis of a shared culture that can effectively evolve in response to challenges.

Professor Bidhan Parmar gives business leaders useful tips for implementing change. He explains the importance of organizational context and the “ecosystem” in which these changes might take place.

Understating the organizational context is an on-going activity. The organizations who aspire sustained success embed this process establishes, maintains and continually improve this process, since the organizational context forms one of the vital inputs to its quest for sustained success.

[N.B. – Detailed note on The Organizational Context can be read / downloaded by clicking on the hyper link.]

We will now turn to our regular sections:

In the series the Organizational Culture, we have attempted to look at ‘Organizational Culture  and Organizational Leadership. We have briefly explored the subject, and in the process, laying foundation for linking it up with their relationship with the sustained success later in the series.

We now watch ASQ TV, wherein we look at a few relevant videos from the past:

    • Change Management – Change is one thing organizations can count on. Learn how to lead, implement and sustain changes successfully.
    • Effective 21st Century Quality Leadership – Mike Turner, Managing Partner, Oakland Consulting, discusses the business challenges of the 21st century, and how quality professionals should respond in order to meet them.

Jim L. Smith’s Jim’s Gems posting for February 2020 –

    • Predictability – If you want to know what’s in store for your future, consider your current thoughts…What do you consistently think about? What do your thoughts dwell on and visualize for your future? What do you expect to happen? What do you believe you can cause to happen?.. The point is that it is your present thoughts that, to a reasonable extent, determine your future…The point is that although you can’t always control what happens in the outside world, you can control your inner world – your thoughts…When you do that, you unleash significant energy which translates into a tremendous drive. All that’s required is to start thinking positively. Henry Ford’s quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” still holds true.
    • Build Better Customer Relationships – A good experience is key to customer advocacy – Customers can tell you what they value about your core products and the surrounding support services. Combining external measures from your customers with internal quality metrics has the potential to improve business performance and continuously outpace your competitors…To be successful, companies must commit to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers and turn loyal customers into advocates…Even before prospects (stage 1) become customers (stage 2), you need to start addressing their expectations. Once they become customers, your goal is to deliver what you promised and ensure that they’re satisfied (stage 3). Beyond satisfaction, you must strive to ensure that you deliver consistently positive experiences and build a strong relationship that develops loyal customers (stage 4) and, ultimately, advocates (stage 5)… It means delivering a positive experience each time the customer interacts with your organizations. On the rare occasions where customer experiences don’t go as planned, your organization must do whatever it takes to quickly make it right. ..Delivering positive customer experiences involves everybody in the organization. It’s the reason your business exists.

I look forward to your views / comments / inputs to further enrich the subjects of Basics of Quality and Organizational Culture and their role in 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] Organization and its context

[2] The Essential Impact Of Context On Organizational Behaviour – Gary Johns,

[3] Context vs. Content, Part 3 of 3

The Organizational Culture and The Organizational Leadership

[One would find very detailed commentaries on the subject of correlating the organizational leadership with the organizational culture.  In order to remain within the scope of our present series, I have picked up three representative articles here to briefly touch the subject, and in the process, laying foundation for linking it up with their relationship with the sustained success later in the series.]

Leaders play a significant role in shaping and maintenance of the culture in an organization. It is in the leadership process that the effect of culture becomes most perceptible. If it is the leadership that mobilizes attention towards a new vision, it is the corporate culture that confers legitimacy on that vision. Thus, it can be said that leadership and organizational culture are strongly intertwined and share a symbiotic relationship.[1]

Strategy and culture are among the primary levers at top leaders’ disposal in their never-ending quest to maintain organizational viability and effectiveness. Strategy offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them. Culture expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms. Of the two, culture, however, is a more elusive lever, because much of it is anchored in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns.

Leaders may lay out detailed, thoughtful plans for strategy and execution, but because they don’t understand culture’s power and dynamics, their plans go off the rails. It doesn’t have to be that way. Culture can, in fact, be managed. The first and most important step leaders can take to maximize its value and minimize its risks is to become fully aware of how it works.[2]

Attributes of organizational culture

In order to understand the organizational culture, one approach is to understand four generally accepted attributes:

    • Shared – Culture is a group phenomenon. It cannot exist solely within a single person, nor is it simply the average of individual characteristics. It resides in shared behaviors, values, and assumptions and is commonly experienced through the unwritten norms and expectations of a group.
    • Pervasive – Culture permeates multiple levels and applies very broadly in an organization; sometimes it is even conflated with the organization itself. It is manifest in collective behaviors, physical environments, group rituals, visible symbols, stories, and legends. Other aspects of culture are unseen, such as mindsets, motivations, unspoken assumptions, and what David Rooke and William Torbert refer to as “action logics” (mental models of how to interpret and respond to the world around you).
    • Enduring – Culture can direct the thoughts and actions of group members over the long term. It develops through critical events in the collective life and learning of a group. Its endurance is explained in part by the attraction-selection-attrition model first introduced by Benjamin Schneider: People are drawn to organizations with characteristics similar to their own; organizations are more likely to select individuals who seem to “fit in”; and over time those who don’t fit in tend to leave. Thus, culture becomes a self-reinforcing social pattern that grows increasingly resistant to change and outside influences.
    • Implicit – An important and often overlooked aspect of culture is that despite its subliminal nature, people are effectively hardwired to recognize and respond to it instinctively. It acts as a kind of silent language. Shalom Schwartz and E.O. Wilson have shown through their research how evolutionary processes shaped human capacity; because the ability to sense and respond to culture is universal, certain themes should be expected to recur across the many models, definitions, and studies in the field.

Understanding the organizational culture

Two primary dimensions that apply regardless of organization type, size, industry, or geography: people interactions and response to change. Understanding a company’s culture requires determining where it falls along these two dimensions.

  • People interactions – An organization’s orientation toward people interactions and coordination will fall on a spectrum from highly independent to highly interdependent.
  • Response to change – Whereas some cultures emphasize stability—prioritizing consistency, predictability, and maintenance of the status quo—others emphasize flexibility, adaptability, and receptiveness to change.

Culture styles

By applying this fundamental insight about the dimensions of people interactions and response to change, eight styles that apply to both organizational cultures and individual leaders can be identified.

Caring focuses on relationships and mutual trust. Work environments are warm, collaborative, and welcoming places where people help and support one another. Employees are united by loyalty; leaders emphasize sincerity, teamwork, and positive relationships.

Purpose is exemplified by idealism and altruism. Work environments are tolerant, compassionate places where people try to do good for the long-term future of the world. Employees are united by a focus on sustainability and global communities; leaders emphasize shared ideals and contributing to a greater cause.

Learning is characterized by exploration, expansiveness, and creativity. Work environments are inventive and open-minded places where people spark new ideas and explore alternatives. Employees are united by curiosity; leaders emphasize innovation, knowledge, and adventure.

Enjoyment is expressed through fun and excitement. Work environments are light-hearted places where people tend to do what makes them happy. Employees are united by playfulness and stimulation; leaders emphasize spontaneity and a sense of humour.

Results is characterized by achievement and winning. Work environments are outcome-oriented and merit-based places where people aspire to achieve top performance. Employees are united by a drive for capability and success; leaders emphasize goal accomplishment.

Authority is defined by strength, decisiveness, and boldness. Work environments are competitive places where people strive to gain personal advantage. Employees are united by strong control; leaders emphasize confidence and dominance.

Safety is defined by planning, caution, and preparedness. Work environments are predictable places where people are risk-conscious and think things through carefully. Employees are united by a desire to feel protected and anticipate change; leaders emphasize being realistic and planning ahead.

Order is focused on respect, structure, and shared norms. Work environments are methodical places where people tend to play by the rules and want to fit in. Employees are united by cooperation; leaders emphasize shared procedures and time-honored customs.

An organizational culture can be defined by the absolute and relative strengths of each of the eight styles and by the degree of employee agreement about which styles characterize the organization. A powerful feature of framework, depicted in the above diagram, integrates organizational culture attributes with culture styles. What differentiates it from other models, is that it can also be used to define individuals’ styles and the values of leaders and employees.

The eight styles can, thus, be used to diagnose and describe highly complex and diverse behavioral patterns in a culture and to model how likely an individual leader is to align with and shape that culture.

The following sketch, adapted from the article, Turnaround the Corporate Culture – Business Operations Performance Management, very vividly shows the ‘rad to do’ and easy to do’ areas of an organizational leader’s role.

The current literature that differentiates leaders from managers would place ‘hard to do’ areas into the leader domain and easy to-do’ areas in a manager domain.

In a changing society, new leadership styles are emerging. Professor Joseph E Trimble, in this TEDxWWU talk – Culture and leadership – calls out the old dominating styles and brings to light more inclusive, diverse and effective options.

In order to build a winning culture, the top teams must be seen by the organization as living the values and walking the talk.

Organizations are shadows of their leaders ….. that’s the good news and the bad news

The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.

Organizations can’t change if leaders can’t change with them[3]

To sum up., the organizational culture is a very powerful tool in the hands of the leader to accomplish sustained competitive advantage. However, to use the culture as a powerful tool, leader needs to ensure that strategy that is laid out to sustain the success, is consistent with changing context of the organization and is aligned with e organizational culture.

Additional reference:

Organizational Culture and Leadership, 5th Edition – Edgar H. Schein, Peter A. Schein (With)

[1] Examining the Relationship between Organisational Culture and Leadership Styles

[2] The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture

[3] The organizational shadow impact