What Works To Achieve Success
Published on December 21, 2003 By Larry Kuperman In Business
I've been in business for about 25 years, as a middle or senior manager for about 20 of those years. I've worked for some pretty successful organizations and some unsuccessful ones. Successful organizations have a number of qualities in common, whether in healthcare, finance, telecommunications or technology.

When I worked for Henry Ford Health Systems, managers received training in the Edward Deming method of Total Quality Management or TQM for short. I've been through a lot of training seminars before and since, but the lessons of the Deming method is something that has stayed with me for 15 years. The first principle was the Willing Worker. People in general derive a lot of satisfaction from a job well done. They are internally motivated to do the job well. But the corallary of this is that management must provide the tools to do that job well and reinforce that motivation. If you want to change an outcome, look to change the process first. The example used at the TQM class was that we were all handed Tic-Tac shakers, filled with red and white beads. We were told NOT to open them, but to only shake out the white beads. Since we couldn't open the shakers, the natural consequence was that some red beads came out. The TQM instructors addressed the problem as if it were one of worker motivation. They explained over and over that red beads were bad. The held motivational meetings and gave us tee-shirts and coffee mugs with a red bead with a line through it and the slogan "No red beads!" printed on it. Naturally, nothing changed and some red beads came out anyway. They "fired" the worker with the highest percentage of red beads. Nothing about the outcome changed, management looked silly (well, stupid actually) and we workers became more dissatisfied than ever. A great example of what NOT to do, but I have seen real companies assume that if things didn't go right, it must be the workers fault.

So, what then are the qualities of successful companies and successful management teams in particular?

One of the most helpful exercises that I have ever engaged in was to have an inverted table of organization next to a traditional TO. If someone reports to you, what are you responsible for giving them? Most relationships are transactional, you give things and you get things. What are you responsible for giving and are these the tools for success?

Number 1 is Vision. Has top management communicated the company's goals and direction in sufficient detail that managers can make day to day decisions that are consistent with that vision? Successful companies do this well. This is the key to delegated responsibility. If a manager knows their role in the corporate scheme of things, they are capable of autonomous action. If, instead, they need to check before each decision they are not real managers.

Following from vision is ownership. A self sufficient employee can make good decisions on their own and gets the pride of owning a process. They can point to revenues that they have generated, to improvements that they have made. This grew out of having a shared vision, being able to make decisions and having the tools to implement those decisions.

Good organizations can adapt to change. Thats because they have many parts that all work together. Again, a prerequisite is the ability to make decisions.

Success has to be recognized and appreciated. Not just financially, but through praise and public pats on the back. This is team building and creates an organizational elan.

The final point is that no manager or organization is going to be successful 100% of the time. So, do you learn from unsuccessful outcomes how to be more successful the next time around?

Thats been my experience, you are welcome to comment.
on Dec 21, 2003
Micro-Management is the worse. I worked for White's Boots for 5yrs and the first couple of years it was great because we had been puting out a quality product for 75yrs. Then one day they bring this banker-bean counter in and next thing you know they want to push out ten times the boots and buy lessor quality leather. The actual bootmakers get paid 40+ K a year and everyone else starts out at minimum wage. Besides the quality of the product going south for the last 3yrs. I realized that some poeple who had been working there for over 12yrs. without the chance to ever be a bootmaker, and in no way were they compensated for their time and effort, and were barely making ends meet. Not too mention once the bean counter got in there our insurance went from $33/month for my family to $120/month because they weren't in the red. I tried to start a union because several people said do it, but when I did everyone cowered like sissies and the other branch of the business the seamstresses got a 25cent raise each to shut their mouths. And the union well it didn't do anything for me because there is no union anymore. Just a bunch of small unions who only give a crap about themselves. But overall it was a good thing because they were forced to pay me unemployment while I went to school. ~snickers~ which inevitably raised their unemployment insurance. Bottom line White's boots are pieces of crap now because of the ruthless and terrible micro-management that goes on there. If you want to buy some good leather boots whether work or dress look for a small compnay named Nick's Boots in Spokane he refuses to adhere to greedy business practices and shabby workmanship. I do not work for Nick's but lots of people from white's boots left to work there and they love the management there which I guess proves your point about management which can be the one at fault overall ~smiles~
on Dec 21, 2003
Good point of view. GCJ
on Dec 31, 2003
Aye, a viable union would serve as a defense mechanism against bean-counters and so-called efficiency experts. Alas, as you know, Unions are ghosts of the past and today's workers know nothing of the good they contributed to make this country a thriving[not so now]middle class.
on Jan 18, 2004
Your article was so interesting for me. I used for a homework (I study Industrial Engineering) but I read it twice because it tells me many issues that books do not talk about.

Experience is the most difficult subject and it is never teached at school.

Congratulations for your article and thank you to put it on the Web. It is pretty helpful for many people.

Greetings from Mexico.
on Jan 18, 2004
I am really glad that you found some value in the article.
on Jan 19, 2004
Thanks to you Mr. Larry Kuperman for sharing your expierence with us.

I'am attending to a subject called "project management" and I need to find a project (industrial o some thing like that) because we are going to do the simulation of the management of that project. The main problem is that I have not been able to find any material. Would you be so kind to share with me any of your projects? Let me tell you that this information will only be used to academic porpouses and I will put your name in the Bibliography of my work.

If you have any one (with economic data such as investment, expenses, costs, etc.), please send it to me by mail.

Thanks again for your soon aswer.