Friday, February 6, 2015

High Performance: Is It a Management or Cultural Issue? {Blogging of Previously Published Comparative Analysis}


By Kevin and Jackie Freiberg

This is a book that was recommended by an administrator while I was working in Facilities Planning and Management

TGIF - Bundling up in the cold to read is not the easiest thing to do - My fingers still get cold...LOL So until I finish the book I'm reading right now, I thought I would share an earlier review that I'd never included here at BRH. It was previously published in the Journal of the Society for College and University Planning, Planning for Higher Education... 

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg present a provocative challenge to higher education administrators in NUTS! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. The challenge is to consider the tremendous success of a small airline, which dared to compete against all odds; learn from it; and explore not only whether it has value on the higher education campus but also whether priinciples therein should be incorporated into the academic curriculum to help stimulate future leaders.

There are no new management or organizational ideas in this book, nor does it provide "new and improved" total quality management (TQM), reengineering, or empowerment techniques. What there is, however, is truth. The story is real--the authors document the financial expansion and success of the airline, including testimony from employees and customers alike. Southwest Airlines has successfully created and maintained a culture that is rare, if not incomparable.

The book NUTS! evolved from the dissertation work of both Kevin and Jackie Freiberg. Kevin Freiberg, working on a doctorate about leadership at the University of San Diego, explored the extraordinary leadership qualities of Herb Kelleher, Southewst's chair, president, and CEO. Four years later, Jackie Freiberg, also working on an educational leadership doctorate at the University of San Diego, delved behind the leader to get more of the story.

The organization's culture, not management techniques, leads to success...

The more they learned through their relationships at Southwest Airlines, the more they wanted to share their knowledge through a book that would reveal "how a company that defies conventional wisdom, industry norms, and fashionable management programs can keep setting performance records on so many fronts: financial performance, work force production, safety, customer service, and more."

In the fall 1998 issue of Planning for Higher Education, George Keller provided a critical review of The Responsive University Restructuring for High Performance. Titling his comments "What Exactly Should be Restructured?" Keller proceeds to review each essay, negatively highlighting that few specific restructure proposals are found. this is true. Yet readers of this book or NUTS! should not miss the articulation of common principles:

It's difficult to change someone's attitude, so hire for attitude and train for skill.

  • We exist to "do" good things for people.
  • Workers want to do a good job.
  • Successful business emphasize those we serve.
  • Joy and "fun" can exist concurrently with pursuing a serious interest.
  • The culture of an organization is created through collaboration and communication.
  • employers are looking to universities for students with not only technical skills but also high motivation; a sense of professional responsibility; the ability to work effectively in teams; and character values such as being caring and loving, speaking and acting truthfully, and showing respect.
  • The organization's culture, not management techniques, leads to success.
  • Cultures do not change quickly; they do not change at all without conscious and consistent leadership behavior.

Those who do not consider the underlying principles in The Responsive University of interest should probably not bother to read the Freibergs' book. But if you have a nagging feeling that it is not reorganization, management by objectives, TQM, or any other technique that is being taught in your university's college of business that will improve performance at your institution, then NUTS! may inspire the excitement and enthusiasm recessary to risk change. And if, after reading this book, a Herb Kelleher came to you and said, "I want to see your university offer more courses and more programs than any other, and I want to see them offered at the lowest cost possible so that more of your state's citizens can enjoy the benefits of higher education," you would understand the culture at Southwest Airlines--that of a successful business--and perhaps be able to apply its strengths to your own institution to meet Kelleher's requests.

This book could easily be called a how-to that includes many ideas for recognizing and commending employees and for finding fun things to do in the workplace. What the ideas boil down to, however, is a very old principle--the Golden Rule (do to others as you would have them do to you). Care and love, truth, freedom, joy, laughter, and happiness--all of these complement the particular management technique chosen at Southwest Airlines (whatever it is, for this book does not talk much about hierarchy or salary schedules, for example). These values are either a part of your culture or they are not. You as a leader must decide. Reorganization, TQM, or other management techniques will not affect or create such a culture.

Kelleher is described as crazy, courageous, fun, irreverent, loving, and proud--nuts! The corporate culture he helps to inspire includes attitudes such as:
  • Employees are number one. The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.
  • Manage in the good times for the bad times.
  • Irreverence is okay.
  • It's okay to be yourself.
  • Have fun at work.
  • Take the competition, but not yourself, seriously.
  • It's difficult to change someone's attitude, so hire for attitude and train for skill.
  • Think of your company as a service organization that happens to be in the (airline/higher education) business.
  • Do whatever it takes.
  • Always practice the Golden Rule, internally and externally.

By putting faculty and staff first, we can improve performance.

NUTS! is a positive-thinking type of book, and the enthusiasm at this airline is indeed contagious. Can we are higher education administrators read NUTS! and realize that success is an outcome from something that we can teach in our university classes? Can we accept that present and future faculty and staff may hold the key to the success of higher education--that it is by putting them as first priority that will improve performance? Can we forget about using flip charts, training new facilitators about TQM principles, or delay making one more reorganization long enough to consider the culture of our own institution?

The Freibergs have found through their work that, on an "individual level, there is an emptiness, a lack of spiritual and psychic gratification, that stems from meaningless and exhausting work." Obviously, high turnover of fearful, stressed, and undervalued people will not improve performance. This book documents the difference; it requires a different culture--where collaborators, who are also senior administrators, faculty, secretaries, technicians and carpenters work together to fulfill the mission and vision of the institution. If this is achieved, those we serve, our students, communities, and the nation, will know it and reap the benefits.

Yes, if the culture is right, you'll know it. You'll already be an administrator at a highly successful higher education institution. And you won't need to read NUTS!

Yep! For the record, I'd still say what I said then...

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