IN TOUCH : Five pillars of wisdom

In world where science fiction is barely able to keep up with real-life science breakthroughs, thinking outside the box is no longer good enough. We have to “tear down the walls of the box and build wall-less culture”, says performance improvement guru James Harrington.
Author of 23 books and hundreds of articles on the subject, Harrington is one of the leading global thinkers who’ll be sharing his thoughts on organisational excellence with local business leaders at next month’s 11th World Congress in Wellington (see
He says for the past 50 years, management professionals and consultants have – largely unsuccessfully – tried to impose bunch of improvement systems, ranging from quality control and total quality management to Six Sigma, on organisations. But these have generally achieved only brief spurts of success before being shoved aside by the latest new offering.
“These exercises in futility stem from applying improvement initiatives, like bandages, to an organisation when what’s really needed is fundamental organisational change,” says Harrington.
After years of using many different approaches, he believes there are five key elements on which management should focus its efforts. These “five pillars of organisational excellence” are: pro-cess management, project management, change management, knowledge management and resource management. These are not new in themselves – the key is to take holistic approach to all, says Harrington.
“Top management’s job is to keep all of them moving ahead at the same time. To concentrate on one or two of them and let the others slide is surefire formula for failure.”
Currently serving as international quality advisor for Ernst & Young, Harrington is past chairman and past president of the prestigious International Academy for Quality and of the American Society of Quality Control. His global advisory stature has been recognised with honours from countries as far spread as China, the UK, Singapore, Taiwan and Argentina. His books have been published in Chinese, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
He reckons that one of the problems of the modern corporate world is that we all have “too much information and too little knowledge” and one of the keys to success is converting information to knowledge. It is the organisation’s knowledge, he says, that provides it with its competitive advantage.
And when it comes to shifting the whole organisation into more competitive gear, Six Sigma alone won’t do it, TQM alone won’t do it and ISO 9000 won’t do it, says Harrington.
“It takes fully coordinated effort for organisations to excel.”
Effectively managing the five pillars and leveraging their interdependencies and reactions is what brings about organisational transformation.
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