Back in the Student Chair
December 11, 2010
I just finished running a Boot Camp session this week. As usual, the simulator worked it’s magic for the participants. It showed them why things are the way they are in their business today, what the future could be like and how they can get there in a fairly simple and short period of time. But, there was something different about this session. I was reminded of a few important lessons. The students became the teachers, and I was taking note.
Organizational noise distracts you from the big picture and achieving your goals.
Push Company is a black hole. It sucks you in and keeps you spinning. Chaos, confusion, poor communication, firefighting management, output focused and way too many people involved in even the smallest decision or activity. I call this noise. Its magnetism is so strong it is almost impossible to resist. And, I will admit that even my process oriented Pull self was getting sucked into this Push environment. But it’s time to don my noise-cancelling earphones and get focused on the few important things that will contribute to success. Thank you Mike for rescuing me!
People are emotionally attached to their role within an organization and therefore can react irrationally to change.
At the end of Boot Camp I asked: ‘How emotional were you about Push Company?’ The answer was more and more as the days went on and by the end I was quite attached to my role. The participants were in their roles for no longer than three and a half hours and were defending the company and their roles. ‘How long have you been working in your role within your organization?’ The answers ranged from five to 15 years. Such a strong emotional attachment is a consideration that must be made even for the simplest, logical changes within an organization.
It’s necessary to learn when and how to take a step back.
Throughout Boot Camp there were several times when the best course of action was to do nothing.
- Observe the process. Don’t justify, explain, try to change, influence or solve for anything. Take a step back and see what is happening today to gain understanding. It will likely offer insight on more than just performance issues but also on people’s behaviours.
- Take five minutes to plan how to implement a change versus slamming it into the current environment. The length of time it takes to fix the effect of reactionary firefighting is usually ten times greater than slowing down to plan.
- Stop to look at what the data is telling you before falling back on training as a solution to performance issues. Often just letting the process stabilize will solve the issues without having to do or change anything.
- When you have a capable process and you know people are following it the best leadership you can provide is getting out of the way.
The participants were open to learning a new way of thinking and their efforts did not go unnoticed. The success they achieved by the end of Boot Camp was a testament to their ability to unlearn years of training and apply the three principles above.