Change Driven from the Top

Managers who want quality from their workforce need to hold themselves to the same high standards of quality. To borrow an old saying, “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” – or it should be.

You see, in the quest for total quality and continuous improvement, many managers forget about the role that they themselves play in bringing these things about. They don’t see the baggage they bring to work every day, but expect their employees to be totally focused on their jobs. Or they announce a new corporate ethic, but continue to behave as they always have because they don’t really think the new standard applies to them – or worse yet, they think their behavior already is in line with the corporate ethic.

There is no doubt about it. The companies showing the others how it’s done are characterized by leadership that is more receptive to change and more receptive to new ideas. The organizations that will lead us into the future are the ones led by men and women who can do what is currently considered unusual, and do it comfortably.

These leaders typically are risk-takers in their personal as well as professional lives and they see themselves – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, economically – as current experiments in continuous improvement. In other words, they consider themselves as always “Under Construction,” and then they walk the talk.

In organizations, change typically starts at the top, but it can also be stopped there unless leadership makes a sincere effort to take its own standards of excellence to heart. Members of the organization are watching what leadership does, not what it says. Leadership credibility comes from those doing the watching, not from the leader’s position title.

So, what can you do as a formal or informal leader, as an executive, as an employee, or as an owner to encourage continuous improvement?