As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
If you have read my earlier work, you know I enjoy Undercover Boss. I get too much joy from seeing company owners and executives struggle as they immerse themselves in work done by their rank-and-file employees. The issues they face are typically a result of suboptimal decisions made from their corner offices in an ivory tower. A common theme is that they learn the inner workings of their organizations suffer due to their lack of understanding of the challenges of their workforce. This week's focus is Accelerator 5, enabling action by removing barriers from Dr. John Kotter's change framework.
A successful company working through the change process must eliminate issues that keep employees from doing their jobs well. A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook by Dr. John P. Kotter. The steps are now known as accelerators that include:
1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Build a guiding coalition
3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives
4. Enlist a volunteer army
5. Enable action by removing barriers
6. Generate short-term wins
7. Sustain acceleration
8. Institute change
Transformational change is not possible if we do not eliminate these obstacles.
So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. —Peter Drucker
Dr. Kotter would agree with Drucker, who has found that leaders agree that they have employed management practices that are bureaucratic nuisances that impede employees' freedom to create real impact. He suggests that:
• We can only eliminate barriers if we can identify them. The evidence may come from past failures to implement change that never got off the ground, stalled along the way, or was put in place only for abandonment to occur.
• It requires overcoming legacy obstacles where barriers exist due to the mentality of “that is not how things are done” or “it did not work the last time” when attempting to implement an initiative.
• We should look for the common barriers of complacency, legacy rules, limited access to key stakeholders and leaders, parochialism, pressure to achieve numbers, and silos.
Kotter recommends looking for tangible evidence of eliminating barriers that should yield new ways of working together and former silos collapsing. Only then can innovation occur by allowing new ideas to become a reality.
Dr. W. Edwards Deming developed 14 Points for Management, which are as relevant and essential to creating a systems perspective today as when he designed them in his 1982 book Out of the Crisis. Deming's comprehensive theory of management is a model of wisdom and simplicity consisting of his 14 points. Those of importance to the topic of removing barriers include:
• Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
• Remove barriers that rob the hourly paid worker of his right to pride in workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
• Remove barriers that rob people in management and engineering of their right to pride in workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and management by objective.
Deming's philosophy saw the importance of removing barriers to improve efficiencies and reduce time wasted on dealing with them as an opportunity to enhance employee motivation and promote collaboration.
When making a complex decision, using a multi-step process can help us overcome the issues that have been potential barriers. The following is a seven-step process:
1. Identify the problem – Using the 5 Whys where the question "why" the problem exists, repeatedly asking a new question until it does not generate another one. Usually, by that point, the actual root cause has been identified. It is also advisable to follow the Toyota Production System "Go and see" philosophy to see what happens in the workplace in person.
2. Research – Further digging deeper allows the opportunity to collect additional information to understand all relevant information better. The analysis can include gathering other data, historical background information, and interviewing production team members.
3. Determine data relevance – Evaluate the reliability, significance, and recency to determine its appropriateness.
4. Ask questions – Step back from the process and challenge current assumptions to lessen potential bias. Determine if there is a need to consider additional variables. Evaluate the information from multiple perspectives. Consider the need to bring in different viewpoints.
5. Identify the best solution – Use the facts gathered to draw connections to the best solution to determine the best approach to solving the problem. Consider both the short and long-term impacts of the chosen option. Look at it from the triple-bottom-line of environmental, financial, and social effects.
6. Present your solution – Run the identified approach to solving the problem by all relevant organization members, including representation from all levels. Develop an environment where everyone is comfortable sharing honest feedback.
7. Analyze the decision – After the solution implementation, follow up with all relevant parties, review the data, the triple-bottom-line impact, and any other relevant information to determine the approach. Determine if there is an opportunity for continuous improvement in future decision-making.
Adopting a robust critical thinking process will allow for improved business operations by eliminating barriers when adopted across and at all levels of the organization.
Leaders agree that they have employed management practices that are bureaucratic nuisances that impede employees' freedom to create real impact. It is essential to remove barriers to improve efficiencies and reduce time wasted on dealing with them as an opportunity to enhance employee motivation and promote collaboration. Adopting a robust critical thinking process will allow for improved business operations by eliminating barriers if adopted across and at all levels of the organization.
I encourage leaders currently not doing so to go to Gemba to see if bureaucratic nuisances exist that impede employees' freedom to create real impact. Leaders should roll up their sleeves and engage in the work of their rank-and-file employees. They will soon understand the challenges their workforce faces each day.
I am grateful to the creators and producers of Undercover Boss, Stephen Lambert, and Eli Holzman. They tell beautiful stories of the many executives that have donned a disguise and gone to the front lines of their organizations. By humbling themselves a bit, the profiled leaders have gained significant insight into the inner workings of their organizations.
Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by looking at his recommendation to generate short-term wins integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.
I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations. The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers. You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.
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