Make the Future a Part of Today : Awaken Long-term Thinking in Quality Management Practices

Abstract: Individuals and organisations need to consider the future since actions taken today will have implications for the future. Long-term thinking as a concept encompasses consideration of the future and is identified in both quality management and sustainable development. Theoretical interpretations of long-term thinking include a variety of different aspects, for example values and principles. Long-term thinking is also identified as necessary for organisations challenged by rapid change and societal needs but is difficult to put into practice. Leaders play a significant role in organisations’ attempts to achieve quality and sustainability goals. They are, among other things, responsible for creating positive conditions for employees and taking decisions in line with organisational objectives. The research presented in this thesis provides deeper insights into the importance of leaders in applying long-term thinking and how to awaken long-term thinking in organisations.The purpose of this thesis is to explore the concept of long-term thinking as an aspect of quality management from a leadership perspective to understand more about the praxis in making long-term thinking visible in organisations. For this purpose, the phenomenon of long-term thinking has been explored in both theory and in practice in several organisations.For long-term thinking to be relevant, organisations need to set clear business intentions for the future. These serve as an anchor to connect visions, goals, strategies and plans, and provide a guide for leaders in their work. To practise long-term thinking in organisations that apply a quality management initiative, leaders need to understand the common values that constitute the organisational culture, how these values are linked and how they contribute to organisational objectives. One of the skills required of leaders who engage in long-term thinking is managing short-term and long-term challenges simultaneously. In leaders’ quest for sustainable quality development, they have a vital role in guiding employees and customers with regard to the organisational culture. Leaders guide through their behaviour and actions, and in so doing contribute to the prevailing culture of the organisation. This requires a consensus on, for instance, definitions and communication of long-term thinking. If leaders do not behave and act in accordance to this, a fragmented picture of long-term thinking can emerge, increasing the risk that expected results will not be reached.Leaders are dependent on supporting systems and structures when practising long-term thinking, but they are also responsible for building and developing them. To develop systems and structures to support long-term thinking, leaders need deep knowledge of the concept and to act accordingly. Systems and structures do not develop themselves, and leaders need to act to make long-term thinking visible and in so doing awaken it in organisations.