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Clause 6, Identity of an organization, is probably the most important feature of ISO 9004:2018, "Quality Management—Quality of an Organization—Guidance to Achieve Sustained Success." It includes (Clause 6.2) the organization's values and culture, which are supported by the motivation, empowerment, and engagement (Clause 9.2) of the workforce. These factors have proven historically to convey an overwhelming competitive advantage in any civilian or military—the original application—enterprise.


Most organizations do not motivate their employees, and even most managers are not engaged in their work. Disengaged managers cannot expect engagement from their workers. This creates an enormous opportunity for your organization to achieve an overwhelming competitive edge, and without the need to spend money on new plant or equipment.


Organizations frequently look to new technology, new distribution channels, and new sources of financing, and so on to achieve a competitive advantage. While all are important, none is as decisive as an organizational culture of motivation, empowerment, and engagement. Napoleon Bonaparte wrote of this, "An army's effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than any of the other factors combined," while the one army that could have stopped him long before Waterloo engaged and empowered its enlisted soldiers. Napoleon's results spoke for themselves, as did those of the Ford Motor Company during the first part of the 20th century. Most of the company's productivity improvements came from the shop floor rather than from management, and this presentation will show exactly how all these results were achieved.


Morale and motivation, which are part of an organization's culture, were cited as decisive factors long ago by Napoleon Bonaparte, Ardant du Picq, and Ferdinand Foch. Much more recent interviews with more than 130 CEOs of high-performing companies cited culture as the most important element of organizational success (Coke, Soyina. "Five Levers for Building Your Desired Culture." Quality Digest, July 11 2018.)

2.    Culture includes employee engagement. Disengagement is estimated to cost $500 billion a year in absenteeism, workplace accidents, and health problems (Keegan, Paul. 2014. "The 5 New Rules of Employee Engagement." Inc Magazine, Dec 2014-Jan 2015). It may cost more in opportunity costs, i.e. the value of improvements that are never made because disengaged employees never think of making them, and cannot, therefore, be quantified by the cost accounting system. Engagement is the exception rather than the rule (Gallup Inc. 2013. State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders) while morale tends to deteriorate six months after most employees are hired ("Stop Demotivating Your Employees!" by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer. Harvard Business Review).

3.    The presentation will cover the definition of engagement, as well as evidence of its presence, and how engagement can be part of an organization's culture. Commitment (an aspect of morale, and a product of motivation) is a prerequisite for engagement.

4.    Stories, whether good or bad, play an enormous role in both reflecting and changing an organization's culture. Greek myths and legends taught the world how to think inventively long ago, while modern stories about (for example) successful kaizen events can make kaizen part of an organization's culture. Stories about how an organization treats its customers and employees (relevant interested parties) also are important, and some stories can teach entire concepts in single sentences. Shigeo Shingo's admonition to paint parts rather than air (Robinson, Alan (editor), 1990. Modern approaches to Manufacturing Improvement: The Shingo System. Portland: Productivity Press 101-102) teaches in a few words the need to recognize the waste of consumable materials; the kind of waste that can hide in plain view for years or even decades.

5.    The Russian commander Aleksandr V. Suvorov (1729-1800) created the one army that could have probably stopped Napoleon long before Waterloo. His practice of what we now call Gemba leadership made his soldiers the best trained in Europe, and he encouraged enlisted soldiers to exercise judgment and initiative (he empowered them) in an era when few soldiers would dare do anything without an order from a superior. This is why he won 63 battles, including against some of Napoleon's future Marshals, and lost none. The leadership lessons carry over into modern businesses; Henry Ford spent most of his time on the shop floor (Gemba) rather than in his office.

6.    Management must earn commitment (and motivation) through actions rather than words.


  • All Managers
  • Executives
  • Human Resource Professionals
  • Quality Management Professionals


William A. Levinson, P.E., is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. He is an ASQ Fellow, Certified Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor, Quality Manager, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also the author of several books on quality, productivity, and management, of which the most recent is The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford’s Universal Code for World-Class Success.

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