I suggest that both Bezos and those interviewed for the Times article are honestly and accurately portraying the culture as seen through their eyes and their experience. Amazon is straddling the Barbarian and Builder/Explorer stage of my life cycle model. This is a good place to be in an external environment that is filled with rapidly emerging competitors and changing technologies. If you aren’t conquering you are probably about to be conquered!
In this post I would like to discuss the cultural root of obedience in the great church of our organizations and how we need to rethink the assumptions of loyal followership. Or to put it another way, a bit more disloyalty may be advantageous to the leader’s reputation and bank account.
As companies implement lean management the responsibility of leaders is critical to successful change management. All significant change in the culture of the organization requires strong and dynamic leadership and this must come from not only the single leader, but the leadership team as a cohesive model for the organization.
If one is in pursuit of the role of leadership one would do well to study the lessons of both Nelson Mandela and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. Both participated as outsiders seeking a revolution against dictatorial and oppressive rule. Both witnessed the success of the revolutions they advocated and both came to power to face the challenges of internal division and the need to build a new and democratic culture. There the similarities end and in the difference there are significant lessons for leaders of all organizations.
There are two words that are keys to eliminating invisible waste in organizations. These are adaptation and alignment. The failure of organizations to adapt to the dynamics of the external landscape and the failure to align internal systems and behavior both result in wasted energy. They both cause friction, friction between the organization and the environment and friction between members of the organization. Whether it is in a mechanical system or in a human system, friction is wasted energy. Too many leaders and change agents fail to address this form of waste.
Michel Baudin, a fellow blogger and author, posted a video link of a panel discussion that included Jeffrey Liker (The Toyota Way, Toyota Leadership) in which British consultant John Seddon makes the comment that “This respect for people stuff is horse shit.” Seddon argues that what leads to improvement is the system and not an intervention to respect or deal better with the people. Respect for people is the result, not only of personal patterns of communication, but also the result of the nature of the system.
The behavior of Congress and getting to the edge of the cliff is no mystery. It is a phenomena well known to freshman college students and every mouse or pigeon subjected to behavioral psychology research.
Some companies have engaged in what they think are “lean implementations” by reducing lean to component parts and experimenting with one component over there, another over here, and a third somewhere else. That is guaranteed to fail. The very idea of reducing lean to its component parts fails to “get it.” I believe that the first principle of meta-lean is what I called in a previous book, The Unity Principle. Honda took this principle to heart and sought to apply it in their U.S. operations.
The Hawthorne studies have been a frequent source of misinterpretation over the years. It happens that they also have significant implications for the implementation of lean practices in organizations.
Understanding the research can help one develop a system that is sustainable and not merely a short term boost in performance. The power of feedback, reinforcement and teamwork are the real lessons of Hawthorne.
Lean Management Systems: The New Modern Management Lean management systems are becoming the twenty-first century standard. Many years ago one of the first books I read on management was Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management. In it Drucker defined and extolled the virtues of the management profession and gave credit to Alfred Sloan the longtime CEO of General Motors for developing the model of professional management in much the same way we speak of Toyota today. The system that Alfred […]
The best methods and the best of intentions can easily fail unless we take into account how adults learn in our organizations. During World War II a process that has become known as Training Within Industry (TWI) and its component Job Instruction (JI) was developed and was then adopted by Toyota as it developed its system of production. For management development Toyota and other Japanese companies added the role of the sensei or coach. These methods are effective because they […]
Lean is a strategic initiative that will require at least three to five years for any organization of size. It is a lifestyle change, not a diet. There are too many false promises of quick and easy gains and too many consultants selling executives what they want, and not what they need.
Rupert Murdoch’s first remark in his testimony before Parliament was that this was the most humble moment of his life. No doubt true. Hubris, rather than humility has led many companies over the cliff of disaster. The quality most required of those leading continuous improvement is the opposite of hubris, it is humility, the antecedent to learning. Lean leaders develop an attitude of science, the ability to experiment, learn from the data, and try again. Lincoln’s victory over General Lee was a victory of humility over hubris.
Eighty-two lean implementers contributed their opinions to this survey. I have processed the data from this survey and written a report, which I hope you will find interesting and useful. You can download a report and analysis of the data and you can download the complete survey results and do your own analysis. I think the data on both importance and execution of lean cultural factors will help you in your efforts to convince your managers about the importance of their leadership behavior to your lean journey.
Changing the culture requires both behavior and belief. C.S. Lewis said “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering [determining] whether you [believe you do or must] ‘love’ your neighbour; [simply] act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”