Today's leaders can and should draw on 'new' management knowledge accumulated, tested, and found to be true repeatedly since World War II. Though the current information-based economy is distinct from the manufacturing economy that preceded it, the management lessons learned since WWII continue to deliver results for 'new' leaders who apply them.
The strength of American industry during WWII was based on the tremendous scientific advances that had taken place during the preceding 50 years, and on the innovations of a generation of managers such as W. Edwards Deming who pioneered the use of statistical methods to maximize production while simultaneously improving quality controls. The American victory in WWII was to no small degree heavily influenced by America's strong industrial base and the innovative management knowledge that encouraged it to thrive.
After WWII when General Douglas MacArthur was struggling to rebuild Japan he remembered the miraculous transformation of American industry during the war and invited people such as Deming to Japan to work with its industrial leaders. The Japanese, convinced they had been defeated by industrial might rather than military prowess, wholeheartedly embraced the new techniques. Japan was able to use the new management techniques to transform itself from a second-rate industrial producer known for poor quality into an industrial superpower that soon after dominated many global manufacturing industries for decades.
American industry rested on its laurels after WWII and by the 1980s outlooks for American manufacturing were not promising. Faced with strong competition from abroad, companies as diverse as Harley Davidson, Ford, and Motorola rediscovered Deming and the approach to leadership he and his colleagues had pioneered. They applied the 'new' management methods with great success, producing better products more cost effectively and allowing them to regain market share. By the 1990s, even skeptics such as Jack Welch of GE were applying these proven methods, now referred to as Six Sigma (the same information in a new wrapper). Success for GE and similar firms became the third confirmation that the new leadership knowledge worked.
Just what are these leadership principles that work so well that entire countries embracing them have been rehabilitated? In a nutshell, Deming-style 'new' leadership requires that the following commitments must be true for companies who wish to thrive in a competitive marketplace:
- New leaders must insist on an intense focus on the customer and develop ways to bring the customer's voice into the organization.
- New leaders must insist the entire organization focus intently on developing methods that produce high-quality products and services.
- New leaders must insist on continuous efforts to innovate and further improve the way services are delivered and products created.
Leadership based on these three key commitments and on a continuing effort to develop and grow in the other ten areas introduced in this web-based program will have a solid foundation on which to rest.