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Developing value-based leadership for sustainable quality development: Let’s do it
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Quality Management and Mechanical Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5610-2944
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Quality Management and Mechanical Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8731-8040
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Quality Management and Mechanical Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7621-2649
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

In a report in Harvard Business Review, Grant (2016) cited that one of the most critical factors for building quality and innovation in business today is the role of values. Companies that are grounded in clearly articulated values create conditions for employees to be creative and divergent, which is a key ingredient for quality improvement and innovation (ibid). The industrial model that valued compliance and order, is being replaced by a model that values employee engagement as necessary for meeting the needs of customers and improving quality (ibid). This is possible when employees are clear about the values from which decisions are made and understand the reasons why companies choose certain practices. No longer is the “what” and “how” of business practice sufficient to ensure quality: employees need to understand “why” they do what they do to establish a sense of identity and culture for quality innovation (Pink, 2006; Sinek, 2009).

Understanding values, including what they are and how they are developed is a contemporary challenge for many business leaders. Values are embedded in an organizations culture and reflected in the behaviors, language and symbol systems used in an organization (Schein, 2004). According to Hildebrandt (1991), changing the corporate culture is increasingly recognized as one of the primary conditions for successfully developing quality in business.  At the same time research shows that the majority of quality initiatives fail due to a lack of understanding about culture (Turesky & Connell, 2010, ). Instead, many leaders remain stuck in a leadership approach that worked in the past and miss opportunities to build energy that is revitalizing (Boyatzis & McKee, 2005).

Proponents of design thinking suggest there is much to learn from designers about how to understand and develop culture (Brown, 2008). Leavy (2010) states that there is a “growing recognition that ‘design thinking’ or the creative principles long associated with the design function, may now have something very significant to offer when applied…to business management and strategy development” (p. 5-6). Design thinking offers possibilities to develop innovation in management to generate sustainability in business excellence through high engagement and high performance organizational culture.

In 2015, a project was initiated through financing from KK Stiftelsen to help business leaders develop a value-based leadership to support sustainable quality innovation in manufacturing. Design thinking was applied as part of the research and innovation approach to gain insights into the challenges facing leaders and to develop prototypes for understanding and building cultures of success through value-based leadership.  

The purpose of this paper is to present findings from years one and two of the project to examine the cultures within three manufacturing companies and the corresponding leadership practices. Specifically, we address the question: what can we learn from business leaders about the constraints and possibilities to developing a value-based leadership in manufacturing; and what tools can be applied to build a culture of innovation and engagement that resonates with company values and support strategic planning and business excellence?

 

Method

A three-year multi-site case study was conducted in collaboration with three manufacturing companies in Sweden. Data were collected through a series of workshops to gain insights into the constraints and possibilities for leaders in manufacturing to develop a value-based leadership to support sustainable quality development. Data were gathered through a 1) leadership survey, 2) interviews with three general directors, 3) focus groups with middle and top-level managers, 4) observations and cultural analysis, survey, 5) storytelling and appreciative inquiry, and 6) an employee questionnaire. The study design was based on a collaborative, iterative model using the Stanford Design thinking framework (Ling, 2015): 1) empathy, 2) framing, 3) ideation, 4) prototyping, and 5) testing the prototypes with users. Respondents in the study represent leadership teams in three Swedish manufacturing companies and their employees. Company A includes 16 middle management leaders and two production leaders, and one general director. Company B is represented by ten middle managers and one production leader. Company C is represented by three middle managers, one production leader, and one general director.

           

Findings

The findings indicated that in general there is a lack of dialogue among leaders about what is leadership, what is culture and what is meant by values in the organization. As well, there is a heavy emphasis on structure and process, yet at the same time there lacks a clear understanding about why the structures exist and how they can be used to spawn innovation. Moreover, participating leaders in manufacturing succumb to a crisis leadership model that results from the heavy emphasis on productivity and bottom-line effectiveness. Leaders in each of the companies repeatedly expressed the need to develop structures and systems of leadership that would free them to become proactive. Participants also recognized a positive side effect they believed would result in the form of employee engagement and shared decision making if they had the opportunity to focus on long-term development.

       Design thinking and the methods used to develop work culture, including appreciative inquiry, storytelling and coaching, provided leaders with new insights into the culture within the company. Leaders were able to identify both constraints and possibilities for changing the culture from disengagement to engagement. Through the process, they also began to identify values and recognized the importance of valuing employees to affect innovation and build a culture of engagement. We also witnessed increased dialogue among leaders that reflected an understanding of the importance to engage middle managers and employees in problem solving and innovation.

 

Boyatzis R., McKee, A. (2005) Resonant leadership. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Brown, T. (2008) “Design thinking". Harvard Business Review, pp. 1-10

Grant, A. (2016) “How to build a culture of originality”. Harvard Business Review. March 2016. 86- 94.

Hildebrandt, S. 1991. Quality culture and TQM. Total Quality Management, 2, 1-15.

Leavy, B. (2010) “Design thinking: a new mental model of value innovation”. Strategy & Leadership. Vol. 38, no 3., pp. 5-14

Ling, D. (2015) Complete design thinking guide for successful professionals. Singapore: Emerge Creatives Group.

Pink, D. (2006) A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the world. New York: Riverhead Books.

Schein, E. H. 2004. Organizational culture and leadership (3. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York: Penguin Group.

Turesky, E. F., Connell, P. (2010). “Off the rails: understanding the derailment of a Lean manufacturing initiative”. Organization Management Journal. 7, pp. 110-132

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Reliability and Maintenance
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-35307OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-35307DiVA, id: diva2:1272836
Conference
30th Shingo Conference, Optimize the Journey, Orlando, Florida, April 11-12, 2018
Available from: 2018-12-20 Created: 2018-12-20 Last updated: 2018-12-20Bibliographically approved

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Ingelsson, PernillaSnyder, KristenBäckström, Ingela

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