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.