Top Six Ideas for Changing U.S. Business

THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 29, 1994 | Go to article overview

Top Six Ideas for Changing U.S. Business


A handful of key ideas are transforming business. Here's my Top Six list: No. 6. Total quality management.

Superior quality is a must for competitive success these days. Problem is, everybody's doin' it (the Indonesians, Thais, Argentines, et al.). Though imperative, topnotch quality is no more than a player's pass to the ball field. Those who raise the TQM banner above all others are making a big mistake. TQM is about stuff that works unerringly. A big deal? Yes. The whole deal? Hardly. No. 5. Re-engineering.

Today's re-engineering proponents match the religious zeal of yesterday's quality fanatics. And the idea is damned important. Decimating hierarchies via slash-and-burn strategies is one (big) thing. Linking up activities horizontally and reinventing key business processes _ i.e., re-engineering _is quite another. Even revolutionary, as the gurus claim.

But it ain't the main game, at least as the game is usually played. Like TQM, re-engineering is mostly internally focused _ i.e., streamlining. It's another necessary, but far from sufficient, weapon in the management arsenal for the '90s. No. 4. Leveraging knowledge.

Brains are in; heavy lifting is out. Thence the development of knowledge is close to job one for corporations.

Maybe one in 10 (and I'm being generous) companies gets it. Of those, only one in 10 is doing it right. The issue of the use of technology is 5 percent bits and bytes (a spiffy e-mail system that spans continents), 95 percent psychology and sociology (an organization that dotes on sharing information rather than hoarding it). No. 3. The curious, cannibalistic corporation.

In an increasingly crowded global marketplace, innovation is the sine qua non of success. Corporations desperately need an appetite for adventure, a passion for bold leaps into the unknown. That means hiring the adventurous and the bold, even when they break a lot of china, and shoving an exciting new product onto the market, even if it gores your current cash cow. It means cherishing your failures. And it may mean chopping your company into firewood before the competition does: To keep his Taiwan-based computer company fresh, Acer boss Stan Shih will break it into 21 bits, then sell off majority shares of each piece to local nationals. Bravo! No. 2. The virtual organization.

It's the real thing, the umbrella that captures entirely new ways for people to work together across time and space. …

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Top Six Ideas for Changing U.S. Business
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