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Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest

Quality Insider

The Outstanding Organization Receives 2013 Shingo Research Award

You work hard enough. Why not learn to work smart?

Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 08:55

Karen Martin’s The Outstanding Organization (McGraw-Hill, 2012) is a 2013 winner of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award.

Martin provides well-researched, practical advice on how to become aware of the self-inflicted chaos within your organization that cracks the foundation for outstanding performance. This chaos is due to a lack of:
• Clarity
• Focus
• Discipline
• Engagement

Martin’s conversational tone makes it easy to reflect upon your own performance as well, and she thoroughly explains how the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) improvement methodology applies to individual performance excellence.


In six easy-to-read chapters, you learn how to instill behaviors into your organization that foster:
• Clear communication
• Prioritization
• Effective problem solving
• Creating a rewarding work environment

Martin provides direction on what to do and what not to do, as well as many case studies and examples. Her findings are researched with academic rigor and supported by collaboration with quality experts and her 20-year career coaching organizations to excellence.

If I had to sum up in three points what I take away from The Outstanding Organization, it is that an organization must have clear communication, everyone within the organization must master problem solving, and the company culture must be one of respect that provides an engaging work environment.

Clear communication is void of sugar-coated half-truths and documentation with confusing acronyms and jargon. It means not having to decipher what an executive meant, or do research to clarify what a customer wants.

Problems are avoided when you’re able to focus on and accomplish work in a specific and reasonable time frame. And a can-do strategy is possible by learning to prioritize, to say no and not take on too much.

Martin writes, “When organizations are faced with too much to do, given the resources, they typically do one of two things:
• Place excessive stress on a functional area that’s already stretched too thin
• Increase expenses by hiring more people

“But outstanding organizations focus on fewer priorities at a time.”

Martin list three Cs for employee engagement: connection, control, and creativity.

Connection. Employee engagement is easiest when the person is hired. That’s when alacrity abounds and employees are eager to connect with the organization’s vision, with the customer, with their supervisor. But this window is often missed due to poor orientation and training processes.

Employees need to connect with their managers to know how they are doing and what they need to improve on, says Martin. They need to know their work matters, that they are respected, and feel they have trustworthy leaders.

Control.  Control is about giving the experts the opportunity to influence decisions and have a say in which projects they participate in and the process to get the work done. Who are the experts? They are the people who do the work, not the leaders.

Creativity. A creative environment means being able to use one’s full skill set, or better yet, receive cross training. Broadening responsibilities and providing the opportunity for employees to become proficient in improvement methodologies such as PDSA enables employees to think creatively more often.

For downloadable resources and webinars on clarity, focus, discipline, and engagement, visit www.ksmartin.com/the-outstanding-organization.

Outstanding performance begins with awareness, and the KarenMartinGroup provides an organizational self-assessment you can download for free at www.scribd.com.


About The Author

Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest’s picture

Laurel Thoennes @ Quality Digest

Laurel Thoennes is an editor at Quality Digest. She has worked in the media industry for 33 years at newspapers, magazines, and UC Davis—the past 25 years with Quality Digest.