Authenticity for Quality

In Good Business, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses some insights from Robert Shapiro, CEO of the chemical company Monsanto about authenticity and job design:

The notion of job implies that there’s been some supreme architect who designed this system so that a lot of parts fit together and produce whatever the desired output is. No one in a job can see the whole. When we ask you to join us, we are saying, “Do you have the skills and the willingness to shape yourself in this way so you will fit into this big machine? Because somebody did this job for you, somebody who was different from you. Someone will do it after you. Those parts of you that aren’t relevant to that job, please just forget about. Those shortcomings that you have that really don’t enable you to fill this job, please at least try to fake, so that we can all have the impression that you’re doing this job.”… We ought to be saying, “What can you bring to this that’s going to help?” Not, “Here’s the job, just do it.”

Later in the book, this concept of authenticity – the ability to be real, and get connected to your intrinsic motivation – is broken down into two distinct parts:

Differentiation – How and why are you unique? What can you alone bring to the workplace? What skills and talents are you dedicated to developing so that you can contribute those aspects of yourself to the team? Does the team know what specialized contributions each individual is there to bring, and do they value the contributions that are expected?

Integration – How well are you connected with the needs of others? Can you relate to – and empathize with – your manager’s needs? How well, and how honestly, do you hear the voice of the customer?  Do you have the willingness and the attitude to respond to it?

Authenticity within an organization can influence quality in many ways: people will feel more comfortable recommending and implementing changes, products and services will be tailored meet customer needs and demands more effectively, egos will be tempered, and teamwork will become natural.

Although Shapiro’s example considers differentiation and integration with respect to an individual, the concept also applies to teams in the workplace, and companies and how they relate to their customers and the external environment.

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