"We often fall into the trap of looking for what's new and trendy in leadership techniques and don't spend enough time understanding and applying what works." -- Jim Clemmer
The more things change, the more they remain the same: let's go back 20 years
Recently, I've had a sad, increasing sense of deja vu. Twitter has become even more vacuous* and LinkedIn has quickly devolved into a business version of Facebook.
* [Literally right after I finished this draft, I read a newspaper headline: "Twitter Use Eroding Intelligence. Now there's data to prove it"]
Peter Block suggested a radical solution 20 years ago: new conversations. From a 1999 article:
"I would like to see a six month moratorium on the following conversations:
• The importance of having the support of top management
• How workers do not want to be empowered
• That leaders need to provide a good role model
• How to hold people accountable
• How to get people on board and aligned
• The need to be customer focused
• How to do things faster and cheaper
• How to give more choice to the people close to the customer
• The need for a clear and common vision
• The ground-rules for dialogue, consensus, teamwork, decisions and feedback
• The importance of systems thinking and whole system change
• The call for servant leaders and the end of command and control
• The need for continuous improvement."
To which I add:
• Dramatic and/or humorous demonstrations/discussions of Dr. Deming's Red Bead Experiment.
All of this is now being recycled and repackaged in the context of the latest buzzwords Agile, Big data, AI, and "Joy in work!" (and current stalwarts Lean and Six Sigma). In today's dizzying "Bigger... better... faster... more... NOW!" atmosphere, people can hardly wait to "share" them as innovative, profound thoughts, then see how many "likes," "retweets," or "So true!" comments they get.
Bob Emiliani has two observations that capture this perfectly:
- Dilution widens acceptance. Acceptance widens dilution.
- Overproduced affection bears underproduced results
Peter Block saw the potential damage long before Twitter and LinkedIn existed:
All of these points are true. It is just that they have become useless to talk about. They have become habitual language and we have become anesthetized to their meaning and depth. These words, because of their popularity, now belong to someone else, not to us. The phrases get used for persuasion and political advantage, not for their capacity for human connection. They have become the party line and evoke unconsciousness and keep us frozen in the comfort of
routine." [My emphasis]
John Dew, in "Root Cause Analysis: The Seven Deadly Sins of Quality Management" (Quality Progress, September 2003), came up with seven root causes buried and lurking in most cultures...and tolerated.
--Placing budgetary considerations ahead of quality
--Placing schedule considerations ahead of quality
--Placing political considerations ahead of quality
(Cultural tolerance of manipulation for personal gain)
(A perceived attitude of: "I have nothing to learn" or "I'm so smart that I just need the 15-minute overview" or "I'm so busy that I only have time for red...yellow...green...' traffic light summaries"),
--Lacking fundamental knowledge, research or education
(The deep knowledge of (quality) improvement principles beyond the 15-minute overview -- especially process-oriented thinking and common / special causes of variation
--Pervasively believing in entitlement
--Autocratic leadership behaviors, resulting in "endullment" rather than empowerment
(Many executives unwittingly create a culture of "learned helplessness"
through their need for control and power. It takes a concerted effort to create an empowered workforce that takes true "Joy in work!"
I attended what may have been my best conference ever in 1989. One speaker gave a simple criterion for a transformed organization: The words statistical and quality will have been be dropped as qualifiers because they are "givens." How is your organization doing?
As Block also said in 1999:
"Too often we try to change a culture by focusing on the structure, on the rewards or on the roles and core competencies. These carry a certain logic, but are best preceded by an effort to talk about things that matter in a way that we have not done before. It is the newness of our words to each other that creates the groundwork for changes in practices.
"The first step is to agree to stop having the old conversation. When you are in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging."
Have Peter Block and I convinced you to "stop digging?"
I am going to take the U.S. summer off and hope to be back in September (correspondence gladly welcomed any time, though!). I now issue you the "Balestracci belt" 2-1/2 month challenge:
Use the following QBQ!
to get out of the hole: "How
can I create new conversations
- Start here, "plot the dots!", and watch the conversations change, while going through...
- ...the following suggested reading list, in this order:
- QBQ! The question behind the question (very easy and to be revisited often)
- Brian Joiner's Fourth Generation Management (easy, but career changing)
- John Heider's The Tao of Leadership (deceptively easy and to be revisited often)
- Data Sanity, chapters 1 to 4 (couple this with Joiner and you've got dynamite!)
3. Reduce time on Twitter and LinkedIn by at least 50 percent
I would love to get feedback from any of you who finish this "curriculum," as well as your success stories in implementing it. Sorry, no certifications or belts available, but, as I hope you will discover, you will neither want nor need them. As for those of you who have them, you will be amazed at how this modest time investment enhances your effectiveness.
If you finish the curriculum and want to co-facilitate a transformation (and get CEUs for participants): I have developed a 1 to 2 day leadership retreat based on Data Sanity
that was tested and enthusiastically received
by the Idaho Hospital Association and qualified for their CEU process.
Reduce confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos
for a recent podcast interview I did with Lean expert Mark Graban.
Chapters 1 to 4 of my book Data Sanity teach an improvement mindset (not tool set), common language, and leadership skills to create productive dialogue with executives -- use the 10 examples of Chapter 2 as a guide to get results that will truly engage them while moving their "big dots" on key goals.
- U.S. Amazon has currently discounted Data Sanity 32 percent with free shipping
- An e-book format is available for all e-readers, including iBook, Nook and Kindle (available only through publisher MGMA, includes downloadable .pdf)
- It is available on Amazon UK for £69 with free shipping.
Please contact me directly for a copy of the Preface/Introduction and chapter topic summaries