Monday, May 09, 2005

Your Company's Secret Change Agent

Harvard Business Review, May-June 1996
Reaching and Changing Frontline Employees


"We have watched employees turn the slogan Quality is Everything We Make into Quality is Everything We Fake... The frontline workforce is not sprinkled with a handful of cynics; it is cynical through and through.": T.J. Larkin and Sandar Larkin

Harvard Business Review, May 2005
Your Company's Secret Change Agents

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves": Lao Tzu


"Newton was right: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In organizations, that reaction comes in the form of avoidance, resistance, and exceptionalism ... The trick is to introduce already existing ideas into the mainstream without excessive use of authority. Why use a sledgehammer when a feather will do? ... People are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.": Richard Tanner Pascale, Associate Fellow, Oxford University, and Jerry Sternin, Assistant Dean, HBS

Fresh out of college when I first started working, one of my first bosses Darrell told me, "Yeah, go ahead with your proposal. But make sure you work with the operators. First explain what you're trying to accomplish, then ask them if your solution would work."

As a fresh engineer then, I could not possibly out-think the operators. So you could also say that I was following Darrell's advise more out of necessity than anything. I listened to each of their opinions and worked really hard to get those that make sense implemented. And those that didn't? I explained to them the potential problems of those ideas and hinted alternative solutions that were (made to sound as if) built upon the operators' originial ideas. Somehow, the operators were adapt to change.

But as I grew comfortable to the processes, I began to overrule the operators a lot more often. I began to get lazy and stopped pushing hard on plant management to get things done from their part. While I still drove these initiatives to completion, somehow these changes never sticked. Lesson learned.

1 comment:

Milonguera said...

Hi Cup'o. I must've stumbled upon your blog serendipitously. I'm quite impressed by what appears from what I read to be your youth.

Your involvement with iSixSigma is something that has caught my attention and as an employee of a large company, I would be interested in learning your opinion about how iSixSigma processes benefit employees as well suggestions for getting the organization to utilize the process.

One of your pages suggests employees prefer recognition to raises and I'd really enjoy a discussion about that, too.

Thanks,

DP