We are in the midst of paradigm shift in the area quality improvement. Application of the quality technology (with technology being defined as the practical application of knowledge) provides a better way of addressing the threats, challenges and opportunities we face as a nation.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, believes that the nation’s debt is the biggest threat to U.S. national security. The current chairman, Army General Martin Dempsey, provides a context for this threat by referencing the elements that determine a nation’s powerfulness, which include diplomatic, information, military and economic elements. According to Dempsey, America’s global power and influence are derived from a powerful military, effective diplomatic relations, and a sound economy. “You can’t pick or choose,” he said, adding that none of these three elements is paramount.
In fact, the elements are interrelated. A weak economic system results in fewer resources for the military. A military that doesn’t have the capability to support national interests reduces diplomatic leverage. So, where does the information element come into play? A nation must also be able to transform information into knowledge to become powerful. It’s not a coincidence that the word intelligence is synonymous with the term knowledge in the military.
America’s degree of success in achieving optimal results for all the elements of national power directly correlates to how fast we can affect the shift to a better leadership model within the next 25 years. The foundation of this model includes an understanding of the interrelationship between globalization, transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, morality and variation.
“Holy mackerel, the world is becoming flat.”
An early paradigm was the accepted belief that the Earth was flat. Then the experiences of an increasing number of sailors, ship passengers and other people throughout the world provided evidence supporting the theory that the Earth was round. Slowly, the prevailing belief changed among the population – until it was recently challenged by Thomas Friedman.
In his book The World is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Friedman uses the flat versus round metaphor to make the case that globalization, better communications, connectivity and competition has led to forces that have flattened the world. He states:
“I was in India interviewing Nandan Nilekani at Infosys. And he said to me, ‘Tom, the playing field is being leveled.’ Indians and Chinese were going to compete for work like never before, and Americans weren’t ready. I kept chewing over that phrase – the playing field is being leveled – and then it hit me: Holy mackerel, the world is becoming flat. Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance – or soon, even language.”
Globalization is having a direct impact on economic prosperity, which influences political and military systems. Thomas P.M. Barnett, an internationally recognized strategic analyst and leader as well as a prolific communicator, defines globalization as “The worldwide integration and increasing flows of trade, capital, ideas, and people.” Barnett believes that the U.S. support for globalization coincides with the “greatest reduction in global violence ever seen” and credits the U.S. for bringing about a more peaceful world.
In his book The Pentagon’s New Map, Barnett divides countries and regions into two categories:
- Core/Functioning Core – Those parts of the world that are actively integrating their national economies into a global economy and that adhere to globalization’s emerging security rule set.
- Gap/Non-Integrated Gap– Regions of the world that are largely disconnected from the global economy and the rule sets that define its stability.
Globalization, along with the successful application of all the elements of U.S. national power, would contribute to a stronger core and fewer people in the non-integrated areas.
Transparency, Effectiveness and Efficiency
Transparency is the sharing of information – information that can be used to explain and support effective and efficient decision-making – with stakeholders. Transparency is an objective that has worldwide interest. Effectiveness is doing the right thing, and efficiency is doing things right. Excellent quality is the result of doing the right things right, and reducing variation is the key to quality.
Transparency directly supports efforts to improve quality and provides the needed checks and balances on power. An optimum balance of power among stakeholders is one of the better predictors of peace and prosperity. Stakeholders include anyone affected by an action or inaction in the near, mid or long term.
In a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies, President Obama stated his aim for transparency and open government in the U.S.:
“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness [emphasis mine] in Government.”
Tools that support transforming information into knowledge can help reduce the gap between perceived, expected and actual quality. These tools include:
- Customer satisfaction surveys, such as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government survey. The ACSI E-Government survey includes an assessment of transparency.
- Prediction markets and other crowd-sourcing related software tools that leverage the “wisdom of the crowds.” Examples include Challenge.Gov, We the People, and Federal Voices.
In addition to the president’s memorandum, there are several government laws that specifically direct agencies to be effective and efficient, including the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (which was updated in 2010) and the Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA). FMFIA requires the active involvement of all federal employees.
Effectiveness and efficiency are common terms. What’s new or not common is knowledge about the relationship between effectiveness and efficiency and morality.
Moral Leadership in a G-Zero World
“There is no agreement on anything. We are in a world where there is no leadership.”
oral refers to the principles or rules of the right conduct or behavior. A moral leader is someone who does the right thing, as defined by the stakeholders. The “right thing” is improved effectiveness and efficiency, as defined by the stakeholders.
During the proceedings of the World Economic Forum in January 2011, global economist Nouriel Roubini questioned the leadership effectiveness of the G20 on major global issues. “There is complete disagreement and disarray,” said Roubini. “There is no agreement on anything. We are in a world where there is no leadership.” The new buzzword for this disagreement and disarray is “G-Zero.”
In his column “World Politics Review, The New Rules: The Race for Global Leadership in the Age of Anger,” Barnett responds to the global leadership challenge:
“In the context of G-Zero world facing no shortage of urgent challenges, the race is now on for which nation’s system can progressively reform itself most intelligently, with the contest including great and rising powers throughout the world. Nonetheless, it will in all likelihood remain a three-way competition between China, India and America for the top rungs of global leadership.… bet on America to process it all the most quickly.”
Barnett’s response to this situation provides an excellent example of the role individuals can play in a G-Zero world. Working with the Center for America-China Partnership, Barnett and his colleagues came up with a collaborative course of action to improve relations with a country that some people consider one of our greatest potential adversaries.
Too Much Information, Not Enough Knowledge
As the world becomes flatter and enabled by better communication technologies, a greater volume of information is shared with more people. The amount of information is staggering. When you add in the religious, political and economic philosophies introduced by a variety of cultures, making an assessment as to what is right, just or fair and what is wrong challenges the traditional frameworks that people use to filter and make sense of the world.
An interest in philosophers’ perspectives on current and timeless issues is a welcomed emergence in the media. For example, The New York Times’ The Stone blog features the thoughts of present-day philosophers. The definition of “philosophy” varies, but a common characteristic is trying to understand or make sense of the world, which includes the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.
In his article, “Justice Goes Global,” Friedman notes that political philosopher Michael Sandel of Harvard University was named the most influential foreign figure of the year in China. Sandel offers a course titled “Justice” at Harvard and states “in a way, its subject is citizenship.”
Sandel’s view is supported by James Madison. In The Federalist No. 51 “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between Different Departments,” Madison states that justice is the aim or end state of government and civil society. Madison writes:
“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”
In his article “How China Can Defeat America,” Chinese political science professor Yan Xuetong emphasizes the importance of philosophy and morality in optimizing power. He notes that moral leadership provides humane authority, that leads to political power.
Both Dr. Walter A. Shewhart and Dr. W. Edwards Deming were influenced by the work of philosopher Clarence Irving Lewis and frequently referenced Lewis’ book Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge. Deming consistently reinforced that “there is no substitute for knowledge and there is no knowledge without prediction and theory.” Knowledge is gained though repeated cycles of the Plan, Do, Study Act cycle, which Deming referred to as the Shewhart Cycle for Learning and Development.
In his paper “The Influence of C.I. Lewis on Shewhart and Deming,” G.T. Peterson states that Lewis labeled his general point of view as conceptual pragmatism. Pragmatism “claims that truth is a matter of the usefulness of beliefs in practical action.” Lewis’ work likely influenced the work of Thomas Kuhn, who developed the concept of paradigms. Kuhn’s work was popularized by Joel Barker in “The New Business of Paradigms” DVD.
A Way Ahead – The World is Round
Transparency requires the sharing of information that supports effective and efficient decision-making among the stakeholders. Moral leaders do the right thing by reducing variation. Transformation to the new paradigm for quality improvement starts with the individual.
During the next 25 years, you can support the final and most important phase of the paradigm shift in the area of quality improvement by taking two actions anytime you see a reference to effectiveness and efficiency. First, reinforce the fact that the only way to improve effectiveness and efficiency is to reduce variation. Second, lead by example. The result? The world will be considered “round” once again.