The Catch 22 of the 1970s
Remember when diversity became a hot topic in business circles during the 1990s? During the decade before that, we heard very little about diversity in business.
But teamwork in the workplace and “giving workers a share of the pie” through gainsharing programs such as the Scanlon plan were a big part of university continuing education programs in the 1980s.
I was working as a vice president in a top-down management environment back then and felt we had to change our corporate culture to stay competitive in attracting both suppliers and employees. Plus, I wanted to add to my business acumen to stay abreast with my colleagues.
So, I took all kinds of “new management” workshops and courses in Madison. After all, the Japanese seemed so far ahead of us Americans in producing quality cars etc. at that time.
I felt enlightened but had little success in transferring into actual practice what I was convinced at the time would be best for Wisconsin’s rural business environment.
However, two good things came out of my dalliance with leadership and management philosophy during the 1980s:
- A realization that corporate culture does not change much without complete buy-in from the top person in charge (and perhaps a corporate shock brought on through something like a merger or buyout).
- An appreciation for the tradition of "The Wisconsin Idea," first articulated by UW–Madison President Charles Van Hise in 1904, when he declared "I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state."
* When have you felt you were out in the forefront of an important social issue?