Hello Lean Leadership Nation, this week we are starting something new.
As many of you know I recently got married. During the week after our wedding, we spent the week down at Bald Head Island, NC with our family and close friends. I was able to spend some time for some deep personal reflection about the podcast and what value I am able to provide to you through this media and content that I’ve been fortunate to produce.
I’ve had speak pipe on the homepage of the podcast for a few weeks and I’ve received some awesome questions and comments. So then it hit me…I always talk about how questions or problems are opportunities, so hear I am with a chance to help others. I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this realization, Lean Leadership Nation. Sometimes the slow hunch is the one that sticks with you the most when you finally figure it out.
This week’s listener feedback question come from Jim.
“How do we change the culture of the organization where problems are jewels and things that we want to see so that we can fix them?”
The short answer is it depends.
Every situation is unique. I think the first question you should ask yourself is do I have management buy in? What I mean by management buy in or support is not just does my manager sanction my activities, I mean do you have multiple levels of leadership engaged in the practice of daily improvement.
I like a metaphor from Rich Sheridan’s book Joy, Inc., where the leadership is compared to being a ventilation system that pumps out fear and pumps in an environment that supports creativity and experimentation.
The next question is do you have a practice of daily improvement. I don’t want to be prescriptive here, but I do think it’s a good practice to walk the value stream as a leadership group and observe the work being performed, engage with the people performing the work and asking them what problems did they solve yesterday and how did they solve them. There are multiple types of tools that you can use to support this like A3 or Improvement Kata but it all starts with going to where the value is being created determining what the target condition, what they actual performance is and if there is a gap, why.
Another key point related to this is often raised by a lean leader I strive to emulate, Mark Graban. Mark points out when he is teaching kaizen that as leaders we have to thank employees for pointing out problems or opportunities for improvement and that they need to do so even if the proposed solution is not ideal or might not work.
It’s important to focus on the process, not on the people. People typically feel uncomfortable because leaders have allowed a culture of naming, blaming, & shaming to develop. Not addressing this is complicit to actually participating in these behaviors.
Finally, you have to leverage all six sources of influence when you are trying to affect human behavior. I always love to recommend the book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Joseph Greeny and Kerry Patterson. In this book they explain that there are Six Sources of Influence that are divided into two types, Motivation and Ability, and three categories Personal, Social, and Structural. I’ve posted a diagram of this on the show notes page for this episode.
Sadly, most of us only know how to use and employ only two of these: Personal Ability, “Help them do what they can’t” or in laymen speak provide adequate training and Structural Motivation, “Change their economy”, or again in laymen speak, do it or I will terminate you and train someone else.
Think for a moment, would anyone go to a basketball game if there wasn’t a scoreboard? No, you wouldn’t know if your team was winning or losing, how many points they had, or how much time was left. Yet, often as leaders we often ask our employees to do that every day. People like to be on a winning team, Social Motivation, provide encouragement and Social Ability,