Huntsman Post

Dr. Stephen R. Covey speaks at Shingo Conference of cultural transformation

Stephen R. Covey poses for a picture at the Shingo Conference with Bob Miller and his wife, Margo Miller. - Photo by Steve Eaton

By Steve Eaton

Stephen R. Covey almost apologized to those attending the 22nd International Shingo Conference this year because he felt a need to continue to drive home some of the same themes he raised at last year’s conference.

Dr. Covey again talked about the importance of moving from an industrial-age model, with a top-down structure, to what he calls a “knowledge-worker” approach, where the talents of people are better tapped. He said many companies are deeply mired in the industrial age and, as a result, aren’t progressing as fast as they could.

“The purpose of the knowledge-worker age is to unleash talent,” he said.

Former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt spoke at the conference. - Photo by Steve Eaton

The knowledge-worker approach requires strong moral leaders to emerge.

“The essence of real authority is moral authority, not formal authority,” he said. “Not bossing people so that the culture kisses up to the hierarchy but developing a culture where everyone is accountable to these principles, including the so-called boss or formal leadership.”

Dr. Covey’s teachings were not out of harmony with others at the conference who were also emphasizing the importance of making cultural changes to make progress more permanent.

The May conference, with the theme of “Excellence Elevated,” drew more than 600 people from 14 countries and was hosted in Salt Lake City, the first time in years it has been held in Utah. Despite the fact that the standards have been raised to qualify for Shingo awards, some 13 organizations from the United States, Mexico, United Kingdom and India were recognized with the prestigious awards.

Ritsuo Shingo, the former president of Toyota China, spoke, as did Michael Leavitt, a former Utah Governor and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Robert Miller, executive director of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, also gave a keynote address. The Shingo Prize is part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Ritsuo Shingo talks with someone who came seeking his advice at the convention. - Photo by Sterling Morris

Dr. Covey said the key is to develop a principle-centered culture where people, including leaders, are expected to be true to timeless principles that never change.

“It takes great courage to live by principles,” he said. “Often times the pressure is to become expedient and to do what seems to be practical at the time.”

He said staying true to principles demonstrates integrity.

“Integrity is the foundation of trust,” he said. “When trust is high, costs go down and speed goes up. When trust is low, costs go up and speed goes down. Everything is impacted by trust, which flows from integrity.”

The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence is named after the late Shigeo Shingo, the father of Ritsuo Shingo, and someone who had been described as an “engineering genius.” Ritsuo Shingo used an interactive approach to drive home key principles about applying principles and setting an example.

“Knowledge is one thing and practice is another,” Mr. Shingo said. “I think most of the people here have a lot of knowledge. What you need is the practice.”

Dean Douglas D. Anderson talks with Stephen R. Covey about Huntsman student Sterling Morris. - Photo by Steve Eaton

Former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt offered the group some guidelines for successful collaborative projects. He said that all such efforts must first have strong leaders, participants who have the authority to make decisions and there must be a clearly defined purpose. He said if people feel that they can better reach their goals with the help of a collaborative group, they will stay. If they feel they can be more effective on their own, they will leave.

In his keynote address, Mr. Miller reviewed key philosophical points the Shingo Prize has been emphasizing. He said that principles and values guide our thinking and that guides our behavior and shapes our culture. He said the Shingo Prize helps organizations recognize and define their own reality. That, he said, is a key part of what a leader must do if his or her organization is to progress.