Employees Centered Leadership and TQM

Some aspects of the movement towards quality are in concert with the employees centered leadership style. For example, under TQM managers’ priorities are reordered; their decision making and control functions contract while their roles as coaches expand. As the distinction between “those who think” and “those that do” is blurred, the job itself becomes less specialized both horizontally and vertically. For instance, shop-floor teams become involved with teams from other departments and units in communication and coordination of work.

Researchers have found that even the best quality programs are bound to fail if employees are not involved. At Associated Company Inc., a Wichita, Kansas based supplier of machine parts to aviation companies, management knows the value of employee involvement. In 1987 the company instituted a Work Smart quality program designed to reduce the high costs created by high scrap and rework rates and product failures experienced by customers. The plan established an attainable quality goal: a 0.5 percent defect rate. Based on the teaching of Juran and Deming the plan encouraged the employees to be innovative and take risks.

Though there was a period of trial-and-error in establishing employee commitment the scrap and rework rates declined quickly to 0.25 percent, and employee turnover decreased sharply. Specific goals were set, rewards such as dinners, movie tickets and savings bonds were used to reinforce behavior and continuous feedback on group progress was provided so that corrections could be made. Eventually the groups became committed to quality. Management attitude was important, too: The company treated its people as human resources to be valued rather than merely as a source of labor costs to be minimized. A high level of commitment and motivation led to overall increased quality and the ability to stay on course for long term goals.

The Managerial Grid:

One conclusion from the Ohio State and Michigan studies is that leadership style might not be uni-dimensional. Both task orientation and employee orientation are not only possible, but could be crucial to superior performance. The Managerial Grid, developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton to help measure a manager’s relative concern for people and tasks, reflects this bi-dimensional nature of leadership.

The Managerial Grid (republished as the Leadership Grid figure in 1991 by Robert R Blake and Anne Adams McCanse) identifies a range of management behaviors based on the various ways that task-oriented and employees oriented styles each expressed as a continuum on a scale of 1 to 9 can interact with each other. Thus, Style 1,1 management, at the lower left hand corner of the grid, is impoverished management – low concern for people and low concern for tasks or production. This style is sometimes called laissez-faire management because the leaders do to take a leadership role. Welch at GE could never be accused of this.

Style 1,9 management is country club management – high concern for employees but low concern for production. Its opposite, Style 9,1 management is task or authoritarian management – high concern for production and efficiency but low concern for employees. Style 5,5 is middle-of-the- road management, an intermediate amount of concern for both production and employee satisfaction.

Style 9,9 is called team or democratic management – high concern for both production and employee morale and satisfaction. The presence of this category contrasts with the earlier assumption that leaders had to have one orientation or the other. Blake and Mouton argue strongly that Style 9,9 is the most effective management style. They believe this leadership approach will, in almost all situations, result in improved performance, low absenteeism and turnover and high employee satisfaction. The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid is widely used as a training device for managers.

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