Traditional change methodologies designed for the mechanistic model are typically “rational, top-down, expert-driven, and planned.” And even though nearly three-fourths of change initiatives, such as total quality management or reengineering, fail, most organizational change initiatives still operate under these models.
Total Quality Management
Total quality management (TQM), for example, is defined by the International Organization for Standardization as “a management approach for an organization, centered on quality, based on the participation of all its members and aiming at long-term success through customer satisfaction, and benefits to all members of the organization and to society.” “One major aim [of TQM] is to reduce variation from every process so that greater consistency of effort is obtained.”
This approach is based primarily on the philosophy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, pioneered in the 1930s and 1940s. However, he later abandoned the terminology of TQM “because he believed it had become a superficial label for tools and techniques.” “The real work, which he simply called the “transformation of the prevailing system of management,” lay beyond the aims of managers seeking only short-term performance improvements. This transformation…required “profound knowledge” largely untapped in contemporary institutions.”
In a letter to Peter Senge, Dr. Deming (then almost 90) wrote:
Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers—a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars—and on up through university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.
Business Process Reengineering
Business process reengineering (BPR) is based on a theory by Frederick Winslow Taylor that variation is waste. It actually makes sense for areas within a business that are highly linear and measured. Originally conceived as a way to reshape processes, it became the rationale for the massive layoffs in the 1990s that had such a disastrous effect on the economy. “Its bias toward static, written rules means it cannot handle the abstract, dynamic thinking and actions of humans in a knowledge based economy.” By imposing actions from outside, it ignores the knowledge of the people within the system and undermines their value in the process of realignment.
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