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Social Media Ninjitsu | Social Determinants Of Successful Change Management
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Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end. -- Robin Sharma

Social Determinants of Successful Change Management

We as humans are social creatures, born with basic needs for love and esteem, and the need to relate to each other. We are driven by curiosity, joy in learning, and accomplishments. In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” Abraham Maslow, proposed a hierarchy of needs as a way to explain motivation. He subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. This groundbreaking work was undoubtedly known to Dr. Deming, but he went further in his effort to understand human motivation.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs defined in a nutshell:

  • Physiological needs (food, shelter, clean air and water)
  • Safety needs (job security, affordable housing, equity, social justice through equal opportunity in educational and vocational training opportunities)
  • Belongingness and love needs
  • The esteem needs – self-confidence
  • The need for self-actualization – the need to reach your full potential

“As Maslow back in 1965 presciently predicted in his key business text, EUPSYCHIAN MANAGEMENT, the principles of what he called enlightened management–involving team decision-making, personal fulfillment, and organizational productivity–would gain mounting importance as workers became more autonomous, self-respecting, and highly educated. Maslow saw this promising trend already underway in the USA, and expected it to spread eventually throughout the entire world.”

And it certainly has…

What are the determinants of quality products and services?

People are motivated primarily from intrinsic – not extrinsic – needs.

“The rewards people get from such actions are intrinsic and intangible; a warm feeling and a sense of joy. Work is natural and can be a source of satisfaction when aimed at higher order human psychological needs.”

When intrinsic motivations are harnessed, quality is a natural by-product. Or- to quote Deming, “Quality is pride of workmanship – the feeling of satisfaction and joy found in a job well-done”. For more on Deming’s model of total quality management, click here:

Knowing Your Constituents

The constituents of your company are the stakeholders (not only the stockholders) in your company.Stakeholder is defined to include all the people affected by your organization – both inside and outside.

Let’s begin by redefining constituency and let’s be clear about what it is. Conventional models would include these categories:

  • Stockholders
  • Management
  • Customer base

The list wouldn’t be complete it this was all, and this is a lesson too often lost in American-style corporate management because that’s where they often end. Here is more:

  • Employees including the rank and file at the bottom, the mailroom clerk, or the “foot soldiers”.
  • The external community or ecosystem, physical (virtual) or otherwise, within which the company works and operates, completely excluding employees, customers, or stockholdersWe’re referring to something else entirely.

No definition of constituency is ever complete or whole, that would exclude any single one of these 5 categories. Whether that community happens to be a small town and you happen to be the biggest employer, or you are a college providing education to a large portion of your town, or are a county health care agency tasked with ensuring your area gets the quality health care it needs, to generate goodwill in such “communities” – the chances are you will have an army of loyal brand evangelists who will sing praises about your company, vouch for your brand, even stand up to critics or unfair criticism on your behalf – even if they aren’t asked to, even if they are not actual customers at all. From a marketing and PR perspective alone, the value of such a die-hard loyal base of supporters is incalculable.

Quality is the product of a loyal constituency, or stated differently, a loyal workforce, a community favorably disposed to the company, and a loyal (and growing) customer base that naturally follows. So who ever said it was anything about pleasing stockholders? Happy shareholders are simply the natural side effect of real value, not the end all, be all of that is profit, and what makes it possible is clarity about who your stakeholders are.

How can we better the bottom-line naturally?

Create “quality control circles” – Deming style

For a moment forget everything you’ve learned about quality control audits and inspections. Imagine for a moment that you were the CEO of a company and you’ve decided to do things differently, and that means to get rid of all outside quality control auditors. No more people brought in to do quality inspections any longer, whatsoever. As farfetched as it may sound, this exactly what Dr. Deming is suggesting. Save the money you would pay an outside party to do these audits and hold onto it. Save the money for something further down the line that may come in much more handy. Chances are, if you ensure that you do this one thing and ONE thing alone, you won’t need quality inspections or outside audits ever again.

Think of a quality control circle as an informal (as opposed to formal) “committee” – a grapevine if you will, spanning all layers of the company. This informal committee’s only purpose is to keep at the forefront of the company’s awareness, sparking vigorous discussion – around these key questions:

  • What needs to be improved?
  • What improvements can be made right away?
  • What actionable steps can we DO now, not later, no matter how small it seems in the overall scale of the project, that is within our ability, that if maintained consistently – will pay huge dividends down the road?
  • What change (no matter how small) can be immediately implemented?
  • Most importantly – which of these immediately actionable steps can be feasibly maintained over a long duration, with ONLY the current resources at our disposal (“feasible” means – without exerting undue strain on any essential component or personnel) without sacrificing consistency?

In fact – Deming would suggest that it is often these “small”, often intangible, sometimes invisible little things, these baby steps that are often ignored and overlooked –  that when done in “good faith” –  earnestly and consistently, acquire – like a round stone rolling downhill – unstoppable momentum.

Employees are allowed, even encouraged to step forward and voice their concerns and critiques without fear of retribution, as constructive critique is, welcomed and embraced, as all who give voice are invited to participate vigorously in brainstorming various scenarios in implementing improvements and changes throughout the system, the company. These are issues that normally only involve the top leadership. People from the rank and file and above are now given a voice. Passionate involvement in such quality circles is lavishly rewarded – not feared.

Start with Transparency

The conventional wisdom holds that improving quality costs, so if certain standards are met (product passes inspection or meets a quota) there’s no need to go further. This was the prevailing modus operandi amongst American car companies until the 1980s.  “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”, was a popular maxim at Ford before the 1980s. According to Deming – not so. Process is never optimized, it can always be improved.  Quality always costs less.

The purpose of quality control circle is to invite direct participants in brainstorming, creating, and implementing solutions together. In short – this means “transparency”.

Fail to be transparent, and deprive many a potential contributor of a meaningful way to contribute to the team’s success. Worse – risk under-utilizing your human resources, and create a workforce that is apathetic and demoralized. Left out of the loop, the creative potential of individual employees is squandered, turning them into gophers for hire, whose only job is to mindlessly follow orders, and whose desire is to do only what is required to keep their paycheck, and nothing more. Call it “learned helplessness”, and watch it translate into absenteeism, apathy, dulled job performance, low morale, and high turnover, placing further strain on the company’s bottom line.

Limit “formal” corporate meetings

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to involve them directly in discussing and solving problems that normally involve only top management. Ironically this often happens through informal, or virtual dialogue – not excluding social media, online chat boards, workplace gossip, or simply “chatting around the water fountain” – but rarely through the regimented talk often relegated to formal meetings. Formal, structured “corporate” meetings are overrated.

Understand variation and manage accordingly

The simple statement that “people are different” highlights one of many shortcomings in the current style of management. Fail to account for this variation, and risk degrading job performance in your employees.

People are different. Each person is a diverse constellation of unique abilities, traits, interests, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and talents. Cease isolating departments from another by delineating clear and definite boundaries. Allow, even encourage and reward cross-training. Someone working in one department will never know that a better use of their talents exists in another area of the company otherwise. An employee may be a follower (rank and file worker) in one department and a leader (supervisor) in another. Variation not only exists, it is a fact of life that is often overlooked and ignored. Punishing poor performance due to variation is hitting the wrong nail with the hammer.

Understand that true quality begins – or ends – in the boardroom

“Victories are secured in the general’s headquarters, not out on the battlefield.”

-Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

The term “layoff” is really an euphemism for the shortsighted actions of cutting the very workforce whose loyalty and wellbeing is essential to run the company. Giving “golden parachutes” to failed CEO’s is also another way of saying that when the top leaders fail, the people who suffer as a result are those (the “foot soldiers” at the bottom). Ironically, and chances are that the workers at the bottom had no hand in creating them in the first place, because these are problems inherent in the “system”, not any one particular “individual”.  The wrong people are rewarded, and the wrong people are punished, only to satisfy the shareholders for short-term gain. The downside of the quota-driven mentally (Deming calls it “managing by the visible numbers”) rears its ugly head.

A common practice in American management is the tendency of firms to blame top management’s failures on those below. If not outright blame, at least penalize them with layoffs and pay cuts.

The wave of management practices instituted in Japan in the 1980s was a derivation of Deming’s model, and “focused on increasing employee loyalty to the company by providing a job for life with a strong focus on the well-being of the employee, both on and off the job.”

In Japan, when the firm was faced with losses, the stockholders were the first to get their dividends cut, then top management, then middle management. The last people to be asked to take the pay cuts were the people at the bottom. Does this sound unthinkable? It shouldn’t be. Imagine the difference in morale and employee loyalty that would result?

Stop blaming the wrong people

“As long as management is quick to take credit for a firm’s successes but equally swift to blame its workers for its failures, no surefire remedy for low productivity can be expected in American manufacturing and service industries.” [1]

– Edwards Deming

When things go wrong (quarterly losses are posted, customers leave, worker absenteeism is rampant, or turnover is high), they are due to failures in management, not the workers at the bottom. Failures in the system are management’s – and only management’s responsibility.

Systems – not people – create the problems. But people create systems. That is management’s job.

Reward based on merit, not seniority – by redefining accountability

“The purpose of leadership is not to gain more followers. The purpose of leadership is to produce more leaders.”
-Ralph Nader

Let people rise in the company based on their initiative, willingness to take a role, and a track record of commitment and dedication, rather than how many years they have been at the company. Reward initiative, not the length of employment history.

Dump the dichotomy between people in charge and people taking orders. Cease making gophers out of your employees, and make them stewards instead.

There are essentially two types of delegation.

Gopher delegation
It’s delegating by giving commands, without really imparting any sense of the larger goals being pursued or involving them thinking about what the mission is. It’s saying “go do this, and when you’re done come back and I’ll give you something else to do.”

Micromanagement” is the word.

Stewardship delegation
Stewardship delegation, on the other hand is agreeing upon a result that should be achieved, but leaving the methods open to the person who has been delegated to. The person becomes a steward and is responsible for choosing the methods they employ to achieve their goals. Ideally, they have even been involved in the decision about what they have stewardship over.

Involvement encourages commitment.

This is how leaders are made.

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Leave A Reply
  1. January 8, 2017, 1:14 am

    This was a very well thought out article. I enjoyed reading it. The article made me contemplate my own work environment and how I’m might implement some of the theories of quality and management introduced here.

  2. November 4, 2017, 4:50 pm

    […] Profound knowledge is defined as knowledge universal to all organizational endeavors, large or small, profit or nonprofit. Beyond the principle that quality always costs less, and that quality begins in the boardroom, profound knowledge also means a clarity in the very definition of quality itself. Finally other aspects include “knowledge of variation, some psychology, and knowledge of the need for cooperation.”[1]. I have written about and expanded in depth in article here. […]

  3. January 3, 2018, 4:15 am

    […] written more about the concept of stakeholders ownership in a separate blog article in more […]


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