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Visionary leadership needed by all managers.

Visionary Leadership Needed by All Managers

The world has become a global marketplace. No longer can industrial nations hide from the impact of this global market. America's attempts to compete in the global market have produced the following realities:

* The U.S. share of its consumer electronics market has dropped from about 90 percent in the sixties to less than five percent in 1986.

* Basic core industries such as autos, steel, and tractors are being replaced by foreign competitors.

* America's share of the U.S. market in TVs has dropped from 90 percent to 10 percent, and the worst is yet to come with HDTV.

* With VCRs, the U.S. is not even at the one percent level.

* In the 1960s, the U.S. was a net exporter of machine tools; in the 1980s it became a net importer.

The United States still relies on technological innovation alone to remain an economic power, but vision and leadership will be the requisites for corporate survival in the 21st century. Thus, visionary leadership must be exhibited by all managers in an organization. But visionary leadership is easier called for than achieved. Developing visionary leaders requires a plan or model. We must know where we're going to get there. We have developed a model (Figure 1) that shows the components and elements of visionary leadership.

I (Fechter) produced training models for the knowledge worker and the technical worker. After presenting these models at several conferences, I realized that a leadership model also was needed. My first premise was that this model should be developed for CEOs; but upon completing the model, I realized that for an organization to survive in a global market, visionary leadership must be exhibited by all managers, not just the CEO of an organization. The model is best viewed in pairs: strategic mission/managing change, continuous improvement/innovative culture, and cooperative performance/innovation.

Strategic Mission

In the past, mission statements focused on specific projects and corporate growth. Customer orientation was seldom mentioned. Today, corporations are beginning to realize that customers count; without them, there is no business. To achieve a customer-oriented outlook, corporations must initiate and promote this approach through strategy deployment. Such strategy deployment must be more than top-down, one-way communication by a CEO. It is deployment by consensus, a methodology that allows input on organizational goals and objectives from all managers and supervisors. This is a time-consuming endeavor but, nevertheless, a necessary prerequisite for all involved to gain ownership of the business strategies. As a consensus approach, strategy deployment gains shared commitment from the entire workforce because each manager and supervisor must secure consensus from their employees. Buy-in and ownership by all departments is accomplished with this consensus approach, which promotes fast implementation of organizational goals.

Many companies in Japan use this consensus technique to their fullest advantage when implementing new technologies like JIT or TQC. While we in America pride ourselves on our fast decision-making process when introducing new strategies, our competitors in Japan are slow (by our standards) to gain consensus. Once consensus is reached, however, implementation is thorough and fast because of the shared commitment.

It is little wonder that so many U.S. manufacturing strategies such as JIT, TQC, Quality Circles, MRP, and MRP II fail. In the U.S. we are obsessed with short-term results. Bob Galvin, chairman of Motorola, sees the key to corporate success as "a willingness to take long and major risks." He suggests that in the 1990s, management in the best companies "will be better anticipators of change, willing to commit resources freely and determined to stay the course".

Strategy deployment is staying the course, gaining consensus that leads to shared commitment, and relating an organization's mission statements and strategies to customer needs. Anticipation and satisfaction of customer needs are the keys to corporate success.

Managing Change

Managing change must be considered in conjunction with strategic mission on the visionary leadership model. Change is inevitable; yet everyone resists it. Managing change is theory-oriented because we cannot predict the future with 100 percent accuracy. But those corporations with the best predictions (theories) can better anticipate customer needs. As we approach the 21st century, a corporation's ability to exceed customer needs as opposed to merely meeting them will mean the difference between success or failure.

If everyone does indeed resist change, then people empowerment is an absolute prerequisite for change. Employees will change, especially in an individualistic culture, when they are empowered to change. They must have ownership of the change process. For the change process to be successful, visionary leaders must have consistency of purpose. The thought process in many corporations goes something like this:

We tried some job enrichment and that didn't seem to work so let's try quality circles. Result: The quality circles didn't seem to have focus, so let's create autonomous work teams. Result: The work teams always seemed to lack direction, so let's inject some TQC. Result: Well, that was hard to measure; let's try JIT. Good, we've reduced our cycle time; now let's try continuous improvement.

And the list will go on

The point is the ideas were all good ones, but the consistency of purpose and people empowerment were lacking. Only by excelling in strategy deployment and gaining shared commitments will a corporation be able not only to meet customer need but also to exceed customer expectations. We believe that only those corporations with the best theories and predictions, coupled with consistency of purpose, will survive in the 21st century.

Continuous Improvement

In the 1950s and 1960s, Japan sent thousands of Japanese managers to America looking for our productivity secrets. They must have found them because during the 1980s, American corporations sent thousands of their managers to Japan to discover Japan's manufacturing secrets. Americans have been looking for tools that offer quick solutions, impact the bottom line, and show up on next quarter's return on investment. The truth is we should look for the mentality that drives continual improvement.

Instead of searching for quick-fixes, American industry needs to ask: What are the concepts, strategies, structures, tools, and skills that have propelled Japan to become a world industrial leader? We may find their secret is a continuous improvement mentality in their employees. The question then becomes: How do we teach a mentality? Maybe we cannot, but we can design systems and support strategies that nourish a continuous improvement mentality.

Quality involvement such as TQC seems to support this mentality of continuous improvement. The process of continual improvement becomes more of an asset than the improvement itself--the journey is more important than the final destination. Management's belief in this axiom makes them very process-oriented in their management approach. If the processes are excellent, will not the result be excellent?

If we become process-oriented, then we have learned to reinforce not only results, but also employees' efforts. This reinforcement of efforts is difficult for Americans to understand because we are so results-oriented. This same mentality that made us a great industrial power now stands in our path to global competitiveness.

Innovative Culture

Paired with continuous improvement on the visionary leadership model is innovative culture. If we are going to have an innovative culture, then we must be people-oriented. To be people-oriented, we must have knowledge of our employees' needs. The carrot and stick approach no longer works as a motivator. If we are going to ask our employees to be innovative, then we must develop a trusting and supportive environment. When something goes wrong, a visionary leader must ask why the error was made rather than who is to blame.

Many articles and publications have statements from managers and CEOs on the reasons that corporations must support participative management. Much money is spent on participative management programs by U.S. corporations, but how many of those corporations have achieved the level of employee participation and ownership to survive in a demanding global market? The visionary leader must understand this relationship of ownership, participation, employee needs, and people as assets. When customer orders are slow or the return on investment suffers, layoffs and downsizing should be the last resort. But the history of many U.S. corporations shows downsizing as the first avenue of defense, not the last. This response sends a clear message to employees: employees are liabilities, not assets. When employees fear dismissal or layoffs, how can management expect a participative work culture?

Whether we work as technical trainers, first-line supervisors, middle managers, or CEOs, to be visionary leaders we must understand the realities of:

* Ownership through participation.

* Knowledge of employee needs.

* Employees as assets.

* An environment conducive to an innovative culture.

Customers in the future will want more than goods delivered on time (JIT) with high quality (TQC). They will demand innovative products. R&D laboratories alone will be unable to meet these ever-increasing consumer demands. Everyone in an organization must be creative and innovative. Creativity must become a passion for all employees, not a select few in the R&D labs. Inventing new products is only one battle. The other battles for high quality, low cost, and fast delivery must be fought by the entire organization.

To reduce time from invention to market, organizations must achieve simultaneous engineering and manufacturing. They must gain control of all processes in all functions such as finance, materiel, personnel, purchasing, and marketing to achieve the critical competitive edge in cost, quality, and delivery. Organizations must be able to remove non-value-added activities on an ongoing basis to be cost competitive, and this ability requires a culture with a mentality of continuous improvement. Developing and nurturing that continuous improvement mentality requires a leader with vision and understanding.

Cooperative Performance

Merit increases for individual performance are an interesting concept. But if delivery, quality, cost, and innovative products are indeed the competitive edge, then participation by employees in cross-functional and participative work teams is the key for an organization to be competitive. An employee's ability to work as a productive team member in a functional and cross-functional environment will become a necessity in the service or industrial organization of the future. To accomplish this level of participation and flexibility, merit increases should reflect team performance, not individual performance.

The most powerful tool an organization has is its employees' ability to work in a synergistic environment. Two years in a total team approach to manufacturing in the early 1980s at a Midwestern engine manufacturer convinced one of the authors that the challenge for Americans is to remain individuals and at the same time be productive, synergistic team members.

Emphasis at this engine plant, after the initial training, was on individual results, rather than team results. Employees learned this standard very quickly, which meant they found less and less time to work in group settings. This was a greenfield satellite plant, and the startup was falling further behind the company's schedule. As a result, management at the home office soon replaced team-oriented managers with autocratic managers who were very successful in staying on schedule. Short-term results did improve. The downside of this experience was that employee morale and employee-management relations suffered tremendously. "Us against them" found new meaning. However, long-term results could never be fully measured because the plant shut down. But that experience proved that trust, morale, and culture can be destroyed very quickly in an attempt to achieve short-term results.

Creation of a cooperative performance culture can be results-oriented, but realistic expectations must be set and team recognition must take precedence over individual recognition. Much has been written in recent years about setting high expectations, but care must be taken not to set expectations so high that most employees become losers. In our experience, employees, under the right conditions, set higher expectations for themselves than managers set for their employees. How many of us have set our own goals for the next year and found it difficult to complete all of them? Changing conditions, time constraints, and new commitments always seem to interfere.

Human resource development of a flexible, knowledgeable, and synergistic workforce will be the premier competitive factor as we move toward the 21st century. We in the manufacturing and service community must shed our mass-production, busy-people mentality and replace it with a process-oriented, customer-driven mentality. Visionary leaders must create and nurture a culture that promotes cooperative performance and allows synergism to achieve spectacular results.


Last, but certainly not in order of importance, on the visionary leadership model is innovation--paired with cooperative performance. Innovation is technology-oriented. How often have we read rave reviews about some new technology and what it can do for American industry. The buzzwords MRP, MRP II, CNC, CIM, CAD, CAM, DNC, TQC, JIT were sold as saviors. They are all very good strategies, but they are not quick-fixes.

CIM is an excellent example. CIM to most manufacturing engineers means computer-integrated manufacturing. CIM could also be an acronym for continuous improvement mentality. Unfortunately, the two are usually separated and promoted as different entities. Why not CIM squared (CIM2)? Computer-integrated manufacturing, coupled with continuous improvement mentality, promotes exponential results. Supporting several strategies to gain the competitive advantage will be another characteristic of the visionary leader.

If innovation equals technological advancements, then integrating those advancements becomes a crucial issue for survival and maintenance of the competitive edge. Integrating islands of automation and technology is no easy task because department walls exist. Many stories are told in U.S. industries about the failure of some new technology or system that management believed would solve their problem or problems. Process control within and between departments must be established before system integration and automation is installed. Automating chaos only gives you more chaos.

Directed automation means achieving process control and maximizing your present resources before turning to automation. The reality is that automated factories and service centers are coming (some already exist), but automation should follow process control, not precede it.

Richard Schonberger, a prominent manufacturing consultant, agrees that "Manufacturers must beware of undue haste in adopting advanced technology. Otherwise, they are only automating bad practices."

Visionary leadership means a passion toward customer satisfaction. Visionary leaders must be futuristic in their organizational strategies. They must understand that their role is to drive and manage change. They must be able to nurture a continuous improvement mentality using a process-oriented management methodology that reinforces employee efforts to maximize results. They must develop an innovative culture that recognizes employees as assets and allows ownership through participation. Visionary leaders will understand that results are a necessity to survive in a capitalistic global market, but they must set realistic expectations to make employees winners, not losers. The visionary leader is technologically literate and realizes that time is the competitive factor. He or she must be able to accomplish the integration and near perfection of all functions to reduce invention to market cycle times, produce near perfect quality, and be cost competitive.

From this summary, one can see that achieving visionary leadership is not easy. But unless we as a society work toward the traits, knowledge, and understanding shown in the visionary leadership model, we will soon become a second-rate industrial nation.

William F. Fechter recently completed his Ph.D at Arizona State University with a dissertion on JIT implementation and how it impacts the perceptions and judgment of employees. As a consultant, he works with a number of industries nationwide to improve quality and market cycle times. Renee B. Horowitz is an associate professor and coordinator in the Department of Manufacturing and Industrial Technology at Arizona State University. She teaches Technical Communication and Management Dynamics. Previously, she was a Senior Documentation Engineer at one of the Allied Signal companies where she specialized in proposal writing.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Institute of Industrial Engineers, Inc. (IIE)
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Author:Fechter, William F.; Horowitz, Renee B.
Publication:Industrial Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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