CITY HALL JAPANESE STYLE

“Theory Z,” the participatory management philosophy grounded in Japanese industry and embraced whole or in part by such American companies as Eastman Kodak, Rockwell International and Texas Instruments, has found a following at City Hall.

City Manager Charles Anderson was putting Japanese-style consensus management into practice at Lakewood, Colorado and Liberty, Missouri, long before “Theory Z” articulator Dr. William Ouchi’s best seller hit the stands last year. An important Ouchi premise is that corporate survival in the Eighties is keyed not so much to what management tells employees to do as it is to what employees tell management needs to be done. Anderson professes to be an Ouchi fan of the first order.

“The most valuable resource in any organization is its employees,” says the 41-year-old captain of 13,000 city shipmates. “The employees hold enormously creative potential for improving work, increasing productivity and improving performance. You need a strategy to unleash that potential.”

Anderson’s strategy is manifold, but its most visible manifestation – to city employees – is the Quality Control Circles, or “Q-C Circles.” The City of Dallas has 16 of them at present- will probably have 45 to 55 this time next year-and the seven to 10 volunteers in each circle are hoping to dramatically improve the efficiency and delivery of city services.

“The employees meet regularly in the groups to identify, discuss and resolve work-related problems,” Q-C coordinator James Mongaras says.

“Their incentive is a material say-so in the way they work; their one-hour weekly meetings have more pull than any suggestion box.”

Since the Q-C Circles began meeting last June, ideas from employees have saved several hundred thousand dollars in time, labor and paper work. A Q-C Circle at the Convention Center designed a checkout procedure to reduce cleaning equipment loss. It saved the center enough money to replace a 25-year-old forklift. Other Q-Cs in the police department data processing unit and the municipal courts have streamlined traffic-ticket handling procedures.

The team spirit that Q-C Circles tend to promulgate is as valuable as the monetary savings, Mongaras says. Adds Anderson: “We expect improved morale, less absenteeism, better productivity and improved service and delivery of city government at lower cost. You start from the premise that employees who are doing the work have the best opportunity to suggest how that work is to be done.”

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