Those of you who have followed our blogs since their origination will likely be surprised by the title of this post. I have not changed my view that we are involved in a new era where change is not only a fact of life; it is mandatory for the survival of our businesses.
We firmly believe that Toyota and its associated Toyota Production System had it right when they stated that when we discover that the organization has some problems how we resolve the issue is not the desired end result. The end result is how we go about resolving the issue. Chip and Dan Heath in their most recent book, Decisive and Joshua Berger in his book Contagious have expressed the concept that in order for us to gain the results we expect we need to go through three successive steps.
First we need to see the problem. We need to look at the total organization and identify where the process in place creates obstacles. These obstacles slow the organization down from meeting their ultimate goal – meeting the demands of the voice of the customer (internal or external).
Second, we need to feel the problem. It is fine to know that we have a problem that is creating roadblocks in the efficient operation of the organization. But it is also necessary that we understand how those obstacles affect the organization. Are you experiencing cancelled client orders? Are you seeing a rise in customer complaints due to delayed delivery times? Is the obstacle causing a decrease in employee productivity? We could go on forever with potential ways we feel the problem.
The third and final part of the equation is that once we see the problem and feel the problem we need to change the corporate culture. We are forced into creating a new normal, which will govern the way forward. It is here that we have to discuss the title of this post.
So if we see the problem and feel the affects of the problem on the organization, why did the process improvement efforts not meet the organizational expectations regarding the outcomes? The answer lies in the final option above. We may have very well seen the problem and felt its affects, but the organization has introduced turbulence into the formula. The organization looks at the solutions that have been recommended and introduced reasons why the solution does not work.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You have proposed a way to improve a process and are met with these responses:
- It is a manufacturing thing
- We tried that and it did not work
- It is too complex for most organizations
- That is just not the way we do things around here
Each of these responses is the reason why process improvement fails. They fail because we have upper management that still relies on command and control. The way they operate believes that the ground level of the organization is to act like robots. Management lays down an edict and there is no room for variation from the edict. They fail to realize that in the global marketplace the key to stellar performance is the involvement of the entire organization resulting from cross-functional teams. Management is still embedded in using performance reviews as punishment for trying something that fails. They fail to understand that the problem solving method is a business version of the scientific method they learned in the high school science classes. We are taught that the way we solve a problem is to experiment with solutions until we find the near ideal solution. When we state that it is not the way we do things here we fail to understand that the reason it exists in the first place may not have any creditable verifiable nature in reality. It very well might have been introduced to the organization on the whim of a member of the management team.
To summarize let me return to my critical message. Every organization, from mom and pop to Fortune 1000, are based on the completion of processes. Each of these processes has obstacles within them, many because no one has ever looked for them. The only way we can resolve the obstacle is to change the corporate culture. The organization and the HR function, in particular, are at a crossroads. This choice of direction determines whether each has a future in the global workplace. This choice determines whether they become like a dinosaur and become extinct or by changing the way we do things and view potential organizational solutions as an incentive to become strategic, innovative and aligned with all aspects of the organizational mission, values and objectives.