Monday, 24 November 2014

Community of purpose

A client runs a large team conducting several complex projects in parallel for an international company in the US. He has been going through a difficult personal time and was saying that his management had slipped as a result 

To wit: his team recently invited him to attend a project management meeting. This is the kind of meeting that he would normally call and lead himself, but which he'd uncharacteristically not organized for a while. His team saw a need and did it for him. 

He was, in his own words, hurt and upset that his team had felt the need to "do [his] job for [him]". His managerial mojo was being challenged, but he put on a good face and ultimately thanked his team for taking the initiative for this much-needed meeting.  

Upon reflection, we came upon another reading of this situation. His team allowed itself to take a risk: to call a meeting and thus signal a need (and a minor slip on his side). They were able to take this risk, albeit small, because they know that he trusts them and their motives, and because they trust him, his fairness, and goodwill. Further, they respect him and thus wish him well, as they perceive his success to reflect positively upon them. They know he respects them and would react accordingly. 

In other words, the carefully crafted mutual trust and respect that he has fostered over time has created a community of purpose and goal. It is within this community that his team could reach out to him, to help him and themselves simultaneously. As a manager, building such a community is significantly more difficult, long lasting, and valuable than tracking projects on a spreadsheet, or running team meetingsthat is the mark of a true leader.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What is your takt time of change?

We've grown up with bureaucracies who's main purpose is to fend off change. We love the thrill of new, but we hate to have to change our habits on anything to do with daily logistics. We've been told change is external, something to be managed, something supposedly good but to which we're naturally resistant.

And yet, we're now building a world of transformation. Google, Amazon and Apple think in terms of how many lines of code changed by second. Transformation is not a machine in which I change this or that - it's constant, messy, on-going change.

In the old xeroxed Toyota manuals, they hit it on the nail. They said the purpose of standardized work was to train people to change - by knowing what we know, and seeing where we fall short, we can kaizen small step change, regularly. Learning to kaizen is the best training to constant change.

What was the last specific thing you changed in how you work or live? What is the next? How can we learn to see ourselves as work in progress, as non-complete beings in becoming and not as finished machines with broken parts that need to bee fixed? What is your takt time of change?

Friday, 14 November 2014

What's the point of it all?

I've been asked: what's the point of teaching companies to make a profit? Shouldn't we help people who really need it instead?

When companies make a profit they do something or other than is profitable, and they're more likely to create jobs.

People working in profitable companies feel better because, by and large, motivation comes from success, not the other way around.

Profitable companies are also likely to be doings something their customers like, and are ready to pay the asking price for.

But in the end, it's not the profit: it's how we achieve it. Human beings crave meaning and purpose in what they do, to varying extent. Keeping a boring or unpleasant job for the cash is never much fun. Teaching companies to be more profitable by putting purpose back into every job is the aim - this is where individual fulfillment aligns with the company's destiny.

This is the point of it all: how can we create the conditions so that every person sees the point of their job and leads in putting purpose ahead of procedure.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Nothing is ever solved

A man works and then walks on, turns around, starts again, works some more goes left, goes right, stops, thinks, goes back, does the same work again. Inefficient? Badly organized?

Picture this man as a gardener: every move makes sense as he tends his various different plants. He is not building a bridge. The is not digging a ditch or paving a road. Going from A to B is not always a straight line.

We were taught to be bridge builders, not gardeners. We want to solve all problems with definitive solutions to move on to the next thing and never have to go back. But the forces that create problems are still there.

No process is ever perfect, yet people are locked into processes by the computer or the procedure. So problems will always come back. Every new customers has a new concern - and is a new opportunity to either excel or piss them off. Like a garden, processes are full of weeds and uneven earth. They need to be carefully tended across the vagaries of weather and bugs.

No problem is ever solved, but we learn to deal with some issues better, faster, more confidently. So the garden can grow and prosper.