Performance Excellence And Our Covid-19 Global Leadership Crisis: What Would Deming, Juran And Crosby Say Today?
By Dale F. Weeks
During the mid-1980’s, I had the distinct privilege, honor, and humbling opportunity to meet several of our most enduring quality or performance excellence “gurus,” as they were called then. Those three (3) well known individuals were: W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and Philip B. Crosby. This was during the “hey days” of 1985 prior to the existence of our United States Baldrige Excellence Program and related global performance excellence award programs that are currently in place 35 years later.
Now, today, in our tumultuous year of 2020, we continue to face enormous challenges such as global warming and the Covid-19 pandemic. Such challenges face every nation on our planet.
With respect to the current Covid pandemic, consider these facts and data as of September 25, 2020:
- There have been 32,029,704 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 979,212 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization. And, in the United Sates, the figures are equally startling: From January 3, 2020 to September 25, 2020, there have been 6,868,828 confirmed cases with 200,725 deaths.
Accordingly, linking these two statements together, my immediate question for all of us to ponder is:
- If these prominent “gurus” of our 20th Century quality and performance excellence landscape were with us here, in the same room, in the 21st Century or actively participating on-line with us in a Zoom sharing session, what exactly would they say, from a global leadership and management perspective?
Or, said more explicitly and directly, what would they be directly advising us to do in our leadership roles to alleviate the global suffering? I suspect it would be to use what we know works and is shared in leadership excellence models that have been validated by global research since inception in the late 1980’s. This brief article is my attempt to share some recent research and shed additional light on the matter.
Statement of our Global Performance Excellence Business Problem
Based on the results of a recent Covid-19 best practice review that I completed, here are a few of the major findings from that analysis:
Citizens globally today deserve a quantum leap in performance excellence management in the coming years across all nations. Our global need to collaborate on a growing scale and leading to our ultimate survival as a human species drives this sense of urgency. Close to 1 Million deaths world-wide in less than one year is drastic, more than many of our wars over the last 50+ years demands greater action from all of us now.
Fifty-one (51) years after the United States landed a man on the moon in July 1969, we, as global citizens, are crying out for an equally riveting and compelling vision that addresses all of the challenges we face during and after our Covid-19 era.
Moreover, to reinforce the validity of these findings, please consider two (2) recent major reviews of the current state of performance excellence. Both studies have shown that organizations across all sectors are not realizing their full potential even though such excellence frameworks have been available for several decades, since 1987 – 33 years ago!
Most organizations have not deployed the best management practices that are characteristic of a good management system or found in excellence models.
Source: Why Do We Undervalue Competent Management, Harvard Business Review, September – October 2017.
Only 10% of organizations demonstrated exceptional leadership or management of their enterprises.
Or, said another way, 90% of organizations are managing by mediocrity. We in the 21st Century can and must perform at a higher level or risk the continuing decline of our world today. That is indeed the stark Covid-19 reality we face.
As my father used to advise: “Don’t wait until the wolf is at the door!” And as I reflect on our current state, I would say the wolf (Covid-19) has gone beyond the door, entered the house, possibly devoured grandma and is coming for all inhabitants of our home! (Note: For our international audience, See Little Red Riding Hood, an American Nursery story for more detail on this analogy).
To be more direct, based on these recent studies of the state of performance excellence in the world, my added conclusions are: The mere survival and mediocrity in our organizations and our nations globally is over. Exceeding our citizen’s expectations should be our “new normal.” We need to share and deploy performance excellence best practices on a much broader global scale. And I might suggest that global partnerships are the best way to effectively and sustainably address this global performance excellence business problem that we face.
In brief, I might go further to challenge that performance excellence leaders on a global scale are not performing to the level our citizens expect in the year 2020. I believe our gurus (Deming, Juran, Crosby) would not be pleased with this level of performance in the global excellence arena in our 21st Century. They would strongly exhort and highly encourage us to “raise the bar” or face extinction in global context of having a meaningful impact on our world. To use one of Dr. Deming’s quotes, ”It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”.
Hence, let me then offer a few recommendations for our potential visionary path over the next 5-10 years or more to drastically change our direction and impact during our Covid-19 world in 2020 and beyond.
Recommendations – A Global Call for Action
The truly exceptional Covid-19 performance cases in individual countries have been (are) driven by exceptional leadership, in Germany or New Zealand, which is an obvious expectation. However, our solutions cannot, and should not, be simply focused on finding more Chancellor Angela Merkel’s across our world. On a global scale, we need an approach that is more lasting, more permanent, that will sustain that leadership on a true embedded institutional level, well beyond specific vagaries of elected or appointed nation leadership.
Or, in other words, we need a “United Nations-like” global performance excellence leadership institute to guide our sustainability for 25-50 years or more, focused on all nations, that capitalizes on the strengths from our high performing organizations (EFQM, Baldrige, GEM Council, etc.) and expands to include all organizations globally in a broad and collaborative manner.
In addition, this global performance excellence institution would be closely linked, via in-depth collaborative partnerships, funding, and focus with such current global organizations such as the World Health Organization, World Economic Forum, The United Nations, The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, Social Progress Imperative, and other similar global regional economic development entities. Our world deserves nothing less.
The Vital Imperative for Managing Covid-19 in the Context of a Proven Performance Excellence Framework.
Our recent Covid-19 Global Benchmarking Initiative (supported by the Global Benchmarking Network) has demonstrated that Covid-19 best practice implementation is most effectively done globally using proven leadership frameworks. Such leadership frameworks are fully understood and practiced at the most senior levels of national governments (elected Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc.) and span all levels of government, business, and non-profit organizations. Anything less is sub-optimal and not sustainable.
Our world needs to extend and expand that level of performance excellence on a much broader scale. Not just 50 or 70 nations practicing some form of performance excellence but 150 or 200 nations applying best practices, sharing what works and does not work, and continually improving in the broad arena of performance excellence. Such a world-wide transformational performance excellence undertaking will foster a growth mindset strategically devoted to continual improvement as we move forward.
Let us pause to consider the wise words expressed by Mr. John Gardner in his book Excellence back in 1961:
- We must foster a conception of excellence which may be applied to every degree of ability and every socially acceptable activity
- We need excellent physicists and excellent mechanics. We need excellent cabinet members and excellent teachers
- We need a pervasive and universal sense of exceptional performance applicable to everyone in every walk of life
These words remain relevant today. But the question remains, are all nations capable of striving for this level of excellence? I say yes, most certainly! In fact, I would submit we have no other choice if we are to work collaboratively toward a common vision and save our planet.