Enterprise 2.0 is the Total Quality Management of the 21st century

Enterprise 2.0 is the Total Quality Management of the 21st centuryIn the 1950s, Japanese companies began their path to glory based on a new form of thinking largely built on the ideas of W. Edwards Deming. The age of quality had begun.

In this post, I will argue that there are significant parallels between the ideals of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Enterprise 2.0, and that technology is finally ripe for an even more thorough application of many of Deming’s ideas.

The philosophy of Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management is a management philosophy according to which the entire staff of an organization should work on constant improvement of the quality of products and processes.

While not a comprehensive list of the tenets of TQM, consider the following features in light of the Enterprise 2.0 paradigm:

  • Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company
  • Respond quickly to employee feedback and implement corrections
  • Break down barriers between departments and work as a team
  • Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a cooperative long-term relationship
  • Quality is meeting the needs of the customer

All of these tenets connect nicely with what Enterprise 2.0 has to offer.

Drive out fear

Perhaps one of Deming’s most often repeated phrases, driving out the fear is vital for any Enterprise 2.0 effort. It is only in the absence of fear that people can truly connect and voice their opinions and arguments.

A genuine Enterprise 2.0 will value the opinions of all and give everyone a chance to be heard. The tools now exist that enable wide-scale discussion of improvement initiatives at an extremely low cost, such as development blogs in which employees can be presented with draft versions of planned changes and given the opportunity to comment and present their reasons for implementing the changes or amending them to be more suitable.

Respond quickly to employee feedback

This is an area where Enterprise 2.0 shines. Whereas the TQM movement had to ponder processes through which the voice from the shop floor can reach management quickly and be heard, new collaborative tools are major amplifiers and enable a much larger reach for everyone.

Implementing a social employee feedback system can, at best, solve issues without any formal involvement as I have described in my post on social employee feedback systems.

Break down barriers between departments

This is another area where Enterprise 2.0 rocks the socks off any previously available tools. Need to get people to innovate across organizational borders? Looking for serendipity? Collaborative tools greatly simplify achieving this goal.

Deming suggested that companies should look within for people with experience on statistics to recruit to their pool of process improvement experts. Social media makes these kinds of searches a whole lot easier as it can help get your experts come to you instead of you going on a long search for them.

Cooperative, long-term supplier relationships

Using common systems with major suppliers (social extranets) simplifies and intensifies supplier collaboration. Communication can happen online in real time, even directly between design engineers.

It is worth noting that this enhanced ability to cooperate with suppliers encourages reducing the number of suppliers, as it is not viable to build deep relationships with lots of suppliers.

Meet the needs of the customer

What are the needs of the customer? Well, perhaps having access to a toolkit that enables you to easily ask the customers, regardless of how many there are, would help in determining that, and this is what social media brings to the table.

Tools and processes

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at a social business design training course. The focus was on internal corporate use, and the main term of the day was social intranet. In my presentation, I focused on processes and ways that social networking tools have been used in solving various process challenges. In that brief period of time, I was unable to determine a single business need for implementing a social intranet from the audience. Granted, I did not dig very deep, so the needs were perhaps there, but just slightly outside my grasp. Still, it was a bit unnerving.

A social collaboration platform, by itself, in isolation, is nothing. A tool is meaningless unless there is a use for it. Only when the tool is connected to a process, to a task that needs to be accomplished, can its value be determined. This is something that does not seem to be widely understood. Philipp Rosenthal blogged about this recently, and I highly recommend reading his post.

The future of Enterprise 2.0

It is an exciting time to be involved with Enterprise 2.0, or social business, as some have started to call it. I believe we are taking the first steps in the productivity jump brought about by social technology.

Here again are parallels to the history of TQM. We are at the beginning of the journey. New paradigms, such as Lean and Six Sigma, evolved from TQM, and new paradigms are bound to evolve from Enterprise 2.0. It will be interesting to see where they will take us.

Picture: wilderdom @ Flickr (CC)