Robert Cenek offers up a succinct “check” for the level of a leader’s commitment to a change initiative on his blog.
The element that resonates with my own experience is the first on on his list: Intellectual curiosity. I cannot say enough how much core difference there is between a leadership team who says they “want to be lean” (or “world class” or any other buzz word) and a leadership team who digs in and does book studies, discussions, and generally works to learn about what they are supposed to do in the work environment they propose.
In the later case, they are acknowledging two critical things:
- They must play a different role than they have been in the past.
- They have to learn how to play that role.
Acknowledging that they have to learn how to play the role acknowledges, further, that they aren’t doing it today.
While this seems all touchy-feely, if it is done with the true intent to change, it is actually application of improvement methodology.
- They are working to develop an understanding of the target condition.
- They are working to understand the gap between their current behavior and that target.
- They are working systematically to close that gap.
But I added the italics around “if it is done with the true intent to change” for a reason. I have also run into leaders who had a deep intellectual understanding of how the process works, but that understanding for some reason never translated into actions and directives that pulled the rest of the organization along. At a further extreme, resources are expended to make sure everyone in the organization is educated – sometimes extensively – yet nothing actually changes.
There is a commonly held misconception out there that education alone will precipitate change in the way people behave on a daily basis. Truthfully, it will cause that change, but traditional classroom education, and even participation in kaizen traditional kaizen events, is not going to do it.
Education, by itself, does nothing other than cause frustration as a few bright people “get it” and then see that it is business as usual as the “change initiative” fades into the background noise.
Changing a culture is about changing how small groups of people interact with one another. Getting this into place at the operational levels of the business was the topic of my talk in Prague yesterday. But at the leadership team level, they are usually left to their own devices, and have to make a conscious effort to take awkward and incompetent steps among themselves before they are any good at it. Without those first steps, there is no reflection, and without reflection there is no learning.