I don’t know who coined the phrase so apologies for not citing them. However, the adage is true and in a recent blog post by Dan Markovitz he argued we shouldn’t spend so much time on change management & introducing change but focus on getting people to solve problems! That rang true to my beliefs & one of the arguments he put forward was from a TED talk by Dan Pink which has been a favourite of mine since I first saw it back in 2009/2010. In it, Dan Pink talks about how autonomy, mastery & purpose are necessary to intrinsically motivate people in the modern economy.
As leaders & managers (there is a difference) many of use spend our time trying to solve the problems of those within our teams but in doing so we end up imposing our thoughts & plans on them which almost inevitably ends in frustration and quite often failed attempts at making the required improvements. What Dan Markovitz argues, and I have to agree, is that we should be enabling our people to make the necessary changes and in many cases helping them to identify the need but not telling them what needs to be done, only that the current situation is unsustainable or needs to be improved.
This comes from working with our people and not convincing them of the need for change or even, as Dan Markovitz says, telling them what’s in it for them. It comes from coaching them to be able to identify problems and see how things as they are will not provide the necessary outcomes for the business or organisation. It comes from setting up our processes to enable problems to be quickly identified and then as leaders we should be working with our teams to develop their capabilities in solving problems.
Like Dan, I am a fan of the A3 approach, but it doesn’t matter which approach you use, as long as you are developing both your operation by improving it, and your people by engaging with them and letting them “get on with it”. I recently had a discussion with a front line technician who told me “things changed too much & too fast around here”. I had been at that site for over 2 months and had not seen a single real change. I suppose it is my assumption, but I am fairly certain that he felt that way not because of the volume of changes, but because of the way any changes that did happen, were imposed, and thus opposed.
As we embark down the road to perfection (a destination we’ll never reach), one of the keys to success is to ensure that any and all changes we make are driven and owned by those that are affected by them. In addition, we should be coaching our people to make the changes so that they are easily changed again, and again, and again. Continuous improvement is not a 1 time project or a single change that happens once. If we want to be successful, we need our people to become expert problem solvers, and comfortable with the idea that things will change frequently. We learn from the successes & failures when we complete the PDCA cycle, but we go again and again. Setting a new standard each time, but knowing that the change we just made, will most likely be changed again. Getting that change to come from the front line, rather than the management means 2 things, you will probably have more successful changes, and opposition to each will be significantly less. Remember, change imposed, is change opposed.