• August 2010

Alice Waagen talks about the rise and fall of Total Quality Management

By Dr. Alice Waagen
Founder and President
Workforce Learning

The 1990’s love affair with Total Quality Management (TQM) empowered work teams, process improvement, and other business buzzwords killed the professional manager.

Organizations flattened themselves, removing layers of managers, while distributing their responsibilities to key individual contributors.

This new breed of manager retained its full individual contributor duties while picking up the job of overseeing the work of staff. This concept of “working managers” permeates organizations today and has resulted, in my humble opinion, in a poorly run, overly stressed mess.

Nearly two decades later, we are still reaping the fruits of this flawed logic.

In most organizations, managers have a full plate of their own work to produce, while overseeing the work and assignments of staff.

And how does this really work? It is quite simple: The performance plans which guide a manager’s personal allocation of time and attention are chock full of his or her individual goals with scant mention of the management responsibilities.

These responsibilities, such as coaching, motivating, and assessing staff, simply drop off the plate. The manager’s function has shrunken to little more than occasional ad hoc conversations supplemented with a myriad of poorly written emails and a very painful event called the year end appraisal. (More on performance appraisals in the June issue of Be Inkandescent Magazine.

But here is the irony of it all.

Organizations have achieved little true cost savings by killing the middle manager.

Why? The work being done by the professional manager has not gone away. People still need direction and correction to successfully complete work assignments. Without this guidance, work is completed with errors and needs rework.

In my scan of organizations, I see lots of people working hard and putting in long hours. But the efficiency of this work is abysmal. My colleagues in Human Resources mostly pick up the slack when managers fail to manage. HR folks spend endless hours mediating disputes, coaching performance short falls, and calming down irate employees who clearly don’t know what’s expected of them.

What’s the result?

Managers aren’t managing, HR serves as de facto managers, and what happens to the HR work?

It gets delayed, causing more employee problems. It is enough to give anyone a headache.

I strongly encourage organizational leaders to rethink the concept of the flat organization and reinstate the profession of management.

Here are some simple steps that can push organizations closer to a better balance of management and work:

  • First, take a handful of your best and brightest managers and, over time, reduce their individual contributor goals to 50% or less of their current workload. At the same time, increase their number of direct reports by one or two positions to handle their individual assignments.
  • Second, augment managers’ individual performance plans with solid and detailed performance objectives that recognize and reward fundamental management skills. People are conditioned to focus on the goals in the plan. If there is no goal around management practices, time and attention will be focused on work goals.
  • Third, provide managers with many opportunities to develop and enrich their skills as managers. Since they’ve never been held accountable for truly managing, they probably do not know the fundamentals of how to allocate work, provide feedback, coach and correct.

I vote that we revive the long dead professional manager and use this valuable resource to create workplaces that are effective and efficient, as well as healthier and happier places to work.


About Alice Waagen

Alice Waagen, Ph.D., is president and founder of Workforce Learning LLC, a leadership development company she founded in 1997. In the past three years alone, more than 125 leaders from 24 different organizations have graduated from Alice’s unique leadership-development workshop series.

Previously, Alice served as senior director of corporate training for Amtrak in Washington, DC, and director of education, training and development for Freddie Mac in McLean, VA. In both of those positions, Alice created and implemented workplace development programs that served clients from the shop floor to the executive suite.

For more information, contact Alice at alice@workforcelearning.com

http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1202/3-ways-to-become-more-empathetic http://www.inkandescentpr.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1918/dr-andrew-weil-s-tips-for-achieving-emotional-well-being http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/501/lee+woodruff+tips http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/561/starbucks-rules http://beinkandescent.com/back-issues?q=2011-10 http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2041/PR+Rules http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2147/andy-hines-shines-a-light-on-the-future-of-the-workforce http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2100/Montpelier http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1897/mob-rules-what-former-heist-expert-louis-ferrante-can-teach-you http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/2229/science-of-gratitude http://www.weaversway.coop http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/863/ridley-pearson-lights-up-the-sky http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/954/martha-beck-helps-you-find-your-way-in-a-wild-new-world http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/653/guy-kawasaki-s-journey-to-enchantment http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/781/alan-webber-s-favorite-rules-for-2012-and-beyond http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/2201/can-lsd-and-ecstasy-help-us-harness-the-power-to-heal http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1288/do-you-have-the-barefoot-spirit-here-s-are-11-ways-to-harness-it http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/893/Maria+Bartiromo http://www.beinkandescent. com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/586/ I%27ll+Mature+When+I%27m+Dead http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/2230/what-can-entrepreneurs-do-to-fight-for-human-rights-karen-hanrahan-explains http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/620/unleash-your-potential http://inkandescentnetworking.com/index.php?s=host-directory http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/205/muhammad-yunus-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://inkandescentpr.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2163/holy-bagumba-kate-dicamillo-s-flora-ulysses-takes-readers-on-an-incandescent-adventure-costco-connection http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1058/michael-gerber-takes-us-inside-the-dreaming-room http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/401/robert-s-rules-for-non-profits-businesses-volunteers-and-donors http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/359/steven-schussler-s-5-ps-for-business-success-personality-product-persistence-people-philanthropy http://www.inkandescentspeakers.com http://www.andyhinesight.com/ http://artatlargeinc.com/ http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/102/the-bognet-way http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/183/ted-leonsis-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://www.pr-rules.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2055/the-fun-of-paying-it-forward http://www.currysauto.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/articles/?c=hiring http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1702/marketing-professor-raj-sisodia-on-the-future-of-business-success http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1819/mansour-javidan-s-tips-for-successful-global-leaders http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/690/good-ideas-optimism-and-a-healthy-splash-of-doing-good-success www.bartlettpearinn.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1007/the-science-of-healing http://www.sharonarmstrongandassociates.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1924/michael-franti http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/323/the-magic-of-blackboard-inc http://trulyamazingwomen.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/653/guy-kawasaki-s-journey-to-enchantment http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/426/insights-on-business-from-the-rosetta-stone http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/650/guy-kawasaki-s-enchantment-the-art-of-changing-hearts-minds-and-actions http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1081/Pamela+Hartigan http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1163/what-it-means-to-have-it-all-insights-from-52-truly-amazing-women-and-some-amazing-men http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1462/government+rules http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/818/reebok-s-president-uli-becker-jumpstarts-the-shaping-up-of-america http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1272/Seth+Goldman http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2082/what-will-your-second-act-be http://www.inkandescentnetworking.com http://www.theinkandescentradioshow.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1870/dr+ruta+aidis http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1737/Zieglers+7+Tips http://www.crewscontrol.com http://www.theessentialhrhandbook.com http://inkandescentnetworking.com/?s=network http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1966/selling-with-noble-purpose-what-you-need-to-know http://inkandescentnewsletters.com http://www.beinkandescent.com http://www.weaversway.coop http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1849/Charting+the+Course http://www.inkandescentnetworking.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/270/jonathan-alter-s-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/2100/Montpelier http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/236/nell-merlino-s-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/714/wannabe-fools http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/447/a-look-inside-the-nature-conservancy http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/461/business-tips-from-the-love-doctor http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/152/tactical-tips-from-gina-schaefer http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1763/how-to-create-a-lean-in-circle www.houseofsteep.com http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/299/dr-ben-carson-offers-advice-for-entrepreneurs-on-how-to-conduct-a-best-worst-analysis http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1127/entrepreneurs-in-education http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/530/to-everything-turn-turn-turn-roger-and-camilla-mcguinn-s-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/1791/7+Top+Dog+Tips http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/1987/darrah-cloud http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/736/the+four+generations http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/974/dont+sweat http://www.beinkandescent.com/tips-for-entrepreneurs/21/julie-s-tips-for-entrepreneurs http://www.beinkandescent.com/entrepreneur-of-the-month/650/guy-kawasaki-s-enchantment-the-art-of-changing-hearts-minds-and-actions