What Would Ya Say Ya Do Here?
Lean Performance Pyramid: Part 6
A Board of Directors invited an elite consultant to help them change their organization.
“What is this organization you want me to help you change?” enquired the consultant.
The Chairman produced the glossy company annual report, full of graphs and pictures of Directors shaking hands with the workers.
“So you want me to redesign this report for you?” said the consultant, who was always ready to help.
“No, no,” interjected the Finance Director, “that is just what we tell the shareholders. Take a look at these company accounts. These will give you the real picture.”
The consultant flicked through the pages, each full of columns and columns of figures. “So am I to understand that your organization is made up of figures, all neatly lined up in rows on paper?” he enquired.
“Not at all,” replied the Operations Director. “Take a look at this organizational structure chart. This will show you how we are put together.”
“I see,” said the consultant, and the board thought that at last they would get some sense from him. “The company is made up of a series of boxes, each joined to the others by straight and dotted lines.”
The Human Resources Director said, in exasperation, “all right, the organization is not the propaganda, the accounts, or the written structure. I understand the point you are trying to make. Unlike my colleagues, we in HR fully understand that the organization is really the people. If you like, I will clear the car park and get all our four thousand employees out there. Then you will really see our organization.”
“So,” said the consultant, “your organization is a large crowd, in an empty place, wondering what the hell they are doing there.”*
Thus spake the mentor. Rather than tossing out “the answers,” mentoring via the right questions drives powerful thinking and forces both diligent examination and better answers. This . . . is how we want our leaders to be from now on.
This Ain’t Your Granpa’s Mentoring
Given the goal to transition to systems thinking, deep cultural shifts have to happen first:
- Instead of the sole objective of making money, the goal of the organization shifts to delighting customers (both inside and outside of the company).
- Instead of the talent reporting to bosses, work is done in teams; instead of managers checking on the talent to make sure the right things are done, they enable problem solving, and help remove obstacles.
- Instead of coordinating work via bureaucratic rules, plans, and reports, work gets done using PDCA with direct feedback from all customers.
- Instead of efficiency and control metrics, the system is designed around transparency and collective knowledge.
- Instead of top-down command and control, communication is dispersed through low-tech visual methods, and mentoring.
And those shifts aren’t going to happen just because someone mandates it from the top down. Nor can they be. Those shifts are foreign to the talent AND they’re foreign to executives, so it’s a learning experience all the way around. Mentoring is the only way it can possibly work. The good news is that, starting in the C-Suite, vigorous mentoring can drive relatively minor behavioral changes, yielding a tidal wave of cultural shift that results in elegant execution of all five elements listed above.
And there’s really not much more to it than that. Executive focus on systems thinking, combined with a process focus and visual discipline as the primary foundational blocks, delivered through vigorous mentoring, yield the very changes that everyone’s been seeking for years. Previous efforts just haven’t been aimed in the right place; or at least not in the right way.
Lean Failure’s Clarion Call: Our Management Just Ain’t Bought In
Oh, you think? Presenting an executive team the intimate details of scientific management, mixed with counterintuitive concepts and a foreign language loses their interest quickly, regardless of how much they understand and/or believe? Shocking. Top it all off with the absence of a codified “here’s your exact steps to take” method for executives to return to work with, and you’ve got a formula for failed lean implementation attempts that landed in the common refrain – “top management ain’t bought in.” We never really did the right things to get them bought in, so no, they didn’t buy in. They didn’t know WHAT TO DO, so they kept doing what they knew.
I’ll Ride Up and Save the Day!
Well no, even though Andy Kaufman’s ditty is funny, it’s actually the opposite of what the next foundational block is designed to solicit. Which is team oriented problem solving: management’s main job. As management is mentored in systems knowledge, process focus, and visual discipline, the next block on which lean management rests is team problem solving.
The entire system is part of the online course Instant Lean Leadership, and you can learn more about it by clicking here. In the meantime, look for the next post to dissect team oriented problem solving in detail and reveal the next building block of systems thinking.
*Excerpt from Peter Hawkin’s book, The Wise Fool’s Guide to Leadership