Huntsman Post

Dr. Stephen R. Covey says many companies need to build new cultures if they are to succeed

Best-selling author, Stephen Covey, told an audience gathered at a Shingo conference in May 2009 that it’s time for a paradigm shift that will better tap employee talents and make companies more effective.

Covey was a keynote speaker at the 21st Shingo Prize conference held in Nashville, Tenn. that drew nearly 500 people and spanned four days. Covey is the author of several books that collectively have sold more than 20 million copies, including “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “First Things First,” “Principle Centered Leadership” and “The 8th Habit.Time Magazine once recognized Covey, the co-founder of FranklinCovey, as one of the nation’s 25 most influential people.

He said the world is shifting from the industrial age to the “knowledge-worker age,” and he predicts the new paradigm will eventually outproduce the industrial age by more than 50 times.

“The overall philosophy of the industrial age is control,” he said. “If you are a benevolent autocrat, we’ll call it kind control. The purpose of the knowledge-worker age is to unleash talent.”

The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence is part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, and Covey is a member of The Shingo Prize Academy. The organization promotes a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of showing respect for employees, while becoming efficient, saving money, increasing productivity and improving quality. Many of the concepts emphasized by the Shingo Prize are also central principles taught in Covey’s books. For the first time ever, the conference also featured a speech by Ritsou Shingo, the son of the late industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo. The Shingo Prize is named after Shigeo Shingo. Ritsou Shingo was president of Toyota China.

Covey said making the shift to a new culture that better taps employee talents has been difficult for some companies. He said people get their security from the top-down structures and systems of the industrial-age model. He talked of developing a committed, empowered culture that can focus on operational efficiency.

The Shingo Prize recognizes and educates companies on how to streamline their processes and become more efficient while building a principle-based culture to drive positive change through continuous improvement.

Covey said he once visited a Toyota plant in Japan where a leader offered him some insight into the challenges American car dealers are facing.

“Detroit just doesn’t get it,” the executive said. “They think the answer lies in marketing and promotion and in technology.”

Covey said he asked him, “Where do you think the answer lies?”

“Culture,” he said. “Anyone in this room can close the line down, yet it improves quality and lowers cost.”

Covey said that true leadership is not something that automatically happens once a person is given a title.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position,” he said. “Leadership is based on moral authority not formal authority.”

Leaders who have to borrow their authority from their title will not be as effective.

“People with formal authority, without moral authority, will create a discordant culture,” he said. “They will continue to use the industrial-age model of top down command and control, and the entire culture will be resisting.”

Covey said he appreciated the opportunity to speak to the group that he said is focused on developing cultures that create organizational efficiency and excellence.

Stephen Covey recently spoke with the Huntsman Alumni Magazine about his career and the principles he teaches. The insights from that interview will be included in the next Huntsman Alumni Magazine to be mailed out Sept. 2009. Ritsou Shingo’s presentation at the conference was so well received that the audience urged him to keep speaking beyond the time allotted for his keynote address. The magazine will also include a story on that speech and an interview conducted with Shingo at the conference. If you do not get the Huntsman Alumni Magazine and would like to receive it, click here.

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