Being only slightly more then a year into our Strategy Deployment process we are still living and will continue to live for a while longer with a hangover from our long history of Management by Objective (MBO). I heard a quote recently from a Lean leader from outside our organization that said if Strategy Deployment is not driving your leadership team completely crazy then you are not doing it right. I guess time will tell if we are doing it right, but we sure have passed the crazy test. Stepping back it is not difficult to see why this process is so challenging. As leaders for our entire career we have been taught to focus on results, that when things are not going as expected to bring forward flashy solutions and that too much emphasis on process is a waste of time.
I have had several coaching opportunities with senior leaders in the organization that are struggling with this transition. They are committed to making this new process work, but are often catching themselves either in the midst of old behaviors or unclear of how to reinforce new behaviors. I tell them that it will take time and that they need to “stay the course”, ask for help when they are unclear, and probably most importantly they need to call out when they see that the process is being worked around. The last point being the biggest risk we face right now. I am confident that over time they will master this process, but only if they continue to use it. As soon as senior leaders no longer follow the processes that they create a great skepticism will be created in the organization and it will singnle a green light to others that the process is not that important. This is probably most at risk when new problems arise that require new work to be started. If this new work is not vetted through the PDCA process we will lose the focus we are trying to create.
Another key coaching point I often make relates to teaching leadership how to think and see process. Across the organization we have several improvement targets tied to cost, quality and delivery metrics. It is often unclear what actions will be taken in order to achieve these targets. Since I have been with the organization I have often watched leadership set measures on our dashboard and then month after month track the measures without hitting the targets. Why? Because by just tracking the measure it does not mean you are going to achieve a different result. That is the flawed logic from the past based on the belief that we need to set targets and then set people lose to achieve them without concern for the means. We have a whole lot of data that suggest show this does not work
Leaders in the organization need to get good at asking their peers to “please show me the process you will change that will lead to this result.” In fact, unless they can go out into the workplace and see how the process will change and understand the process measures that will be put in place to support the change they should have very little confidence that result will ever follow. This might sound simple, but it is a question that can do a lot to help bring clarity and sort out whether we are solving a problem or just jumping to a solution. For example, we have several strategies right now that are focused on either structural changes or adding resources as the solution to getting better results. If we asked the question above would we come to the same answer? Would we add resources to a current process that is not working or would we focus on improving the process first? Additionally, we have set several targets that it is unclear which processes we will focus on improving in order to achieve them. It is clear there is still a lot of work that needs to be done starting with asking the question.
Overall, please don’t take this post as being negative. Sure we have lot of problems. The good news is that we have always had these problems and for the first time there are more then just a handful of people that recognize them. That means we got a good shot at solving some of the them.
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