Forcing Compliance or Leader Development?

“Are we trying to force compliance or develop leaders?”

The answer to this question is going to set your direction, and (in my opinion) ultimately your success.

It comes down to your strategy for “change.”

When people talk about “change” they are usually talking about “changing the culture.” Digging down another level, “changing the culture” really means altering the methods, norms and rituals that people (including leaders) use to interact with one another.

In a “traditional” organization, top level leaders seek reports and metrics. Based on those reports and metrics, they ask questions, and issue guidance and direction.

The reports and metrics tend to fall into two categories.

  • Financial metrics that reflect the health of the business.
  • Indicators of “progress” toward some kind of objective or goal – like “are they doing lean?”

Floating that out there, I want to ask a couple of key questions around purpose.

There are two fundamental approaches to “change” within the organization.

You can work to drive compliance; or you can work to develop your leaders.

Both approaches are going to drive changes in behavior.

What are the tools of driving compliance? What assumptions do those tools make about how people are motivated and what they respond to?

What are the tools of leader development? What assumptions do those tools make about how people are motivated and what they respond to?

Which set of tools are you using?

We all say “respect for people.”

Which set of assumptions is respectful?

Just some questions to think about.

4 Replies to “Forcing Compliance or Leader Development?”

  1. I believe “drive compliance” will create change (and maybe results) much quicker. In the long-term, employee can be overloaded, stressed-out and the work atmosphere can be bad.

    “Develop leaders” takes time and patience. Work atmosphere will be good but may lack challenge. In the long-term, employee can be de-motivated since every projects take so much time.

    1. Interesting perspective.

      When the work is actually structured to develop people, it is VERY challenging, just as learning to play the guitar is challenging. But things happen very fast because the challenges are the very things that advance the organization’s goals and targets as well.

      My experience is that simply issuing orders and forcing people to do things they do not fully understand may deliver fast results, but they will degrade just as fast (within days or weeks) unless the single leader who is issuing the orders micro-manages every detail, every day. Initiative is destroyed, and improvement halts very quickly.

      While leadership development may start up more slowly, in the end, it is delivering results at a much faster, and accelerating pace, and the organization’s capabilities soon overtake those of the “compliance” organization. This can happen within a few weeks or months, so it is not “a long time” by anyone’s perspective.

  2. I believe “driving compliance” requires some additional thought. Based on having worked in a 24×7 operation, the real question is “What do people do when no leader is there to see what they’re doing?”. Do they escalate when they should? Do they actually use the kanban cards to control flow? The answer to these questions is the best indicator about the true condition of the Lean culture.

  3. Mark, at what point do we decide that we have invested enough in developing and that perhaps certain leaders may not be able to develop? I have leading our lean program, sharing my lean experiences (some were with you at Eastman Kodak) for close to two years, and while we have seen great success in some areas, some of our front line supervisors wish to sit in their office with their feet on the desk saying that they are in charge. Does forcing compliance perhaps weed out those that are not willing to change or develop?

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