Thursday, November 8, 2012

MORE from Carmen Brickner-The Fall Guys

The Falls Guys – Lifting Them Up

So now that I’ve shared my ‘mother tiger’ venting with you about these favorite unsung heroes, the question remains – what can we do to help them in the transition?

Firstly, we have to be totally honest about how hard it will be.  These last minute changes are going to happen and customers are not going to just align their requirements to allow for smooth transitions.  So realism is the first order.  As Max De Pree said in The Art of Leadership “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” 

Eventually, we will build more cohesive and flexible processes to handle both scheduled and last minute jobs.  In the meantime, we all need to
·         agree on what types of ‘crises’ will cause us to shift from schedules
·         how those that we have anticipated will be handled
·         who will have the authority to make judgment calls on unforeseen problems
·         how we will efficiently track these outlier situations so we can make better process decisions as we redefine our business methods, and
·         most importantly, that we won’t take out our frustrations on each other and we will have each others’ backs.

Secondly, we have to be totally honest that every person’s job will be changed, no one will like everything they have to change, and no one is exempt.  The most important job of a consultant is to help the top ‘coach’ learn his or her new role.  Except in very unusual cultures, the top person does not get undiluted truth, especially about his or her own performance.  Someone has to tell the emperor that he is wearing no clothes.  This children’s story would be a wise CEO read…regularly.  The most difficult person to see clearly is ourselves. 

When the top changes to a role of teaching, discussing, supporting, and welcoming input it will set the tone and infrastructure for the whole organization.  This new role of servant leader cannot occur sporadically or selectively.  It needs to be consistent, dependable, and open to feedback.

It does not shirk the responsibilities of setting direction, defining and expecting standards of excellence, or making the hard decisions.  What it does is add to that the responsibilities of being the prime example of expected behavior and trusted sensei, or teacher.

And lastly, we have to be totally honest with people about what it means to be a successful member of our company in the future. With a foundation and new leadership model in place, supervisors, team leaders and other key influencers such as Quality, IT, Engineering have a defined set of expected behaviors, a model to follow, and a path to take in uncertainty.  It will still be messy, but not fraught with landmines.

A favorite image of mine is the pointed finger, with three pointing back at yourself.  Those three fingers are:
·         Did the person I am ready to accuse know what was expected of them?
·         Did I provide sufficient training and did I verify that they knew how to do what I am expecting from them?
·         Did they have the resources to reasonably accomplish it?

If the answer to these are ‘yes’, now I can hold someone accountable for not meeting expectations.  If the whole organization has defined what is expected of first line management in this process, included them in the training and provided a resource if they are uncertain, and reasonably staffed for change and training, now we have every right to expect them to make the shift. 

If they don’t it is a personal choice and they have decided for themselves they are not ready, willing or able to make the shift to a team-based environment and they may end up ‘self-selecting’ a departure in one way or another.  But it won’t have been because we have put them into an impossible position.  As I said earlier, the transition will be messy.  My experience shows we will lose two to five percent who choose not to change, even when it is a supportive environment. 

Some will prefer to find a more hierarchical structure.  It is less amorphous. The structure of hierarchy allows a more parent/child interaction or the adrenaline of being the heroic trouble-shooter or point in a never ending battle with deadlines and breaking machines. This may be their comfort zone.  If so, they should be free to go find that elsewhere…without accusation.  It is just a preference, not a flaw.  

A new environment opens minds to seeing things from many perspectives, opens doors in both directions so that everyone gets a broader view of what really happens and why decisions get made, and uses our excitement and adrenaline to figure out how we can top today’s performance rather than recover from yesterday’s disaster.

It often becomes a new place that doesn’t seem intuitively sound, but does work when done correctly.  These earmarks of change in successful organizations are seen at every level, and cross all functions in the office and on the shop floor.
·         Standards are tightened, but accusations and judgments are replaced with questions and process changes.  Standards are now ‘of, by and for’ the actual people doing the work. This includes operators, team leaders, engineers, working together as colleagues. They own them because they created them.  And they are rewarded with mature respect from demonstrating self-mastery.  Having friends with pets, I am too often reminded of dog treats when hearing concepts of ‘training’ and ‘rewards’. My experience is that people are dignified beings who enjoy the feeling of a job well-done when provided rational levels of resources and knowledge.
·         Meetings increase, but the same number or fewer people get more work done. Actually, they are following the Rule of 10s I learned 30 years ago…one hour of planning saves 10 in design, 100 in production, and 1000 if the process creates defects that reach customers.  People now meet to plan and organize, eliminate problems, and innovate.
·         Individual positions have less authority, but ownership and accountability for each person increase. There is no one person to blame because silos have been exploded.  Team leaders across the organization meet to share concerns and what they have learned. Facilitators cross departments to help run effective meetings in other areas, and learn in the process. Supervisors receive kudos when they develop people who are valuable in other areas and can be productive helping. Whenever someone sees a problem or hazard, they are expected to mention it, even if it isn’t their area and people don’t get territorial.  If it doesn’t apply, explain why and learning happens.  If it does, be thankful and keep an eye on that future leader.
·         Information is no longer about control of power but allowing people to empower themselves.  It is designed for access when needed (JIT – what a concept), where needed (point of use – what a concept), and how it is easily understood (all learning styles and not dependent on language – visual controls – what a concept).

To hearken back to my initial piece, I get cranked up when we expect first line management to live with one foot in a team culture on the floor and then be ripped up by a top management who thinks they can still live in the old hierarchical culture.  This is a mixed culture that cannot sustain the pressures of today’s economic environment.  Also, it is not honest.  A mixed culture says “I believe in change, just not for me” and “I believe you know what to do best at your job, unless I see it differently.” The whole organizations needs to move conscientiously in synch, one step at a time.  At each step, we intentionally identify the knowledge, skills and changes needed at every level to stay aligned.  What needs to be given up, what added, what shifted. 

By now you will have recognized a pattern – we need to be totally honest, even when, or even more when we don’t know an answer. New is hard enough.  Adding smoke and mirrors only makes it harder.  As Stephen R. Covey said in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Maturity is the delicate balance between courage and consideration.”  We need mature interactions, in which we have the courage to speak our truth and expose our uncertainties, and the consideration to allow others space to do the same without retribution.

I am laughing at myself as I just realized I could have done this whole piece in five words you may have heard before…honesty is the best policy!

CLEARbrick, Inc. is dedicated to working with individuals and organizations willing to create healthy relationships and develop the culture, skills and processes necessary for sustainable innovation and financial success for all stakeholders.

Carmen Brickner is the founder and principal of CLEARbrick, Inc. and has recently expanded her service area by opening an office in Tampa, FL in addition to her current CT based organization.
(860) 478-9465

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