Do you remember those days from your elementary school days? Or better yet do you remember that from your kid’s elementary school days? (Sorry, I do not mean to put the getting older trap on you)? Well we have show and tell days in the workplace too. The purpose of the assignment was to have each child come to class to tell his/her fellow students about something that was important to them. The presentation was made and that was the end of the process. On rare occasions, another students got excited about the presentation and began to investigate the topic, themselves. Other than that there was no seeing a problem and feeling the problem. The student’s lives were not changed.
The business world is no different. We have our show and tell assignments. They are called process improvement teams. Consider this scenario for a moment. You have thrown together a cross-functional team and have begun the process of resolving a problem facing the organization. You do everything you are supposed to do. However when everything is said and done, the report ends up on a shelf somewhere and never visited again. The team then returns to their old responsibilities and nothing has changed. It becomes an adult version of show and tell. But why does this happen? The above paragraph was not meant as a blanket condemnation of cross-functional teams or process improvement. It is a condemnation of process improvement for the sake of process improvement.
In order for any continuous process improvement effort to have validity we must be able to see the problem, feel the affect of the problem and from that change the culture of the organization. If we truly look at our organizations we can see the problems. They are right under our very noses if you look for them. When we do look for the problems they become obvious. The tougher part of the equation is the other two steps. Once we see the problem or the organizational issue the next step is that we need to feel that problem and then we need to change the culture of the organization because of it. In that lies the problem.
We play corporate show and tell unless both the organization as a whole and management see it, feel it and understand that we need to change the way we do things. If the organization decides that so what if you found these problems and never changes the workplace, then the effort is for nothing. That is when we hear from potential clients that “we tried that and it didn’t work,” or “that is just not the way we do things here.” Continuous process improvement means a change of culture. It is a required outcome. GE created the GE Workout and the Change Acceleration Process because they understood that change is necessary. They required management to see the problem, feel the problem and mandate change take place. It required management to change the way the organization functioned. As a result the culture changed. It is a requirement for future success of our organizations in order to become strategic, innovative and aligned with the corporate mission.
Final question for you – are you providing corporate show and tell or are you changing the way the organization operates and therefore changing the culture of the organization? It is your decision along with management’s decision as to whether you move the needle in the right direction.