5 Elements to Improve Speed of Change

5 Elements to Improve Speed of Change 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

5 Elements Improve Speed in Your Organization with Self-Management

Birds flock.  Why?  They are cooperating to find food, shelter, and avoid predators more quickly and easily.  How do they flock?  Hard-wired into their brains are the principles of flying at the same average speed, distance, and direction as their closest neighbors.  The hard-wired principles enable them to behave instinctively and accomplish the three goals more quickly and easily (shelter, food, and safety).  They are a self-organizing social system.  Their success depends on the cooperation of all the birds following all the hard-wired skills.

Can an organization operate as a self-organizing and/or self-management system, and should it?  Yes! Nature holds examples of self-organizing systems (birds, bees, ants etc.) and we can also find them in our economy.  WAZE, Lyft, Uber, Wikipedia and even the internet are all examples of self-organizing and self-management systems.  Can we apply these ideas in our organizations and teams?  Just as the success for the birds depends on cooperation to follow principles, success in organizations depends on cooperation of the people.

There is an important distinction between self- management and manager-dependency. Most organizations have a manager-dependent environment.  For example, in the typical organization managers are expected to know the answers and to solve the problems. They are expected to be omniscient and omnipotent.  They are expected to provide feedback to employees to create improved performance.  That is why they are often promoted to the manager.  They once did they job and so they have all the answers.

A manager-dependent environment encourages employees wait to receive ideas for improvement from their managers before making any significant changes in performance.  There is a hesitation to try new things for fear of being criticized or evaluated by the manager.    A manager-dependent environment creates fear and therefore less innovation.  Self-Management increases employee engagement and innovation.  Employees create their own feedback mechanisms and can act autonomously.  This accelerates the decisions and therefore accelerates the ability to adapt to changes.  It improves speed.

When my daughter Emily was 12, one morning she missed her school bus.  She was very upset and came downstairs to my office crying, “Dad, I missed the bus.  Can you take me to school?”  Of course I agreed but then asked her a question, “what do you need to do to catch the bus on your own from now on?’  She looked at me in a thoroughly confused manner.  At that moment I was not sure she could think of an idea.

When she arrived home that afternoon she said, “Dad, I thought about what you asked.   If you buy me a timer I will set it 5 minutes before the bus arrives and if it goes off I will know I only have 5 minutes left.  I can then easily catch the bus.”

I told her that sounded great.  I also asked her what else she could do to be prepared in the morning.  She said she would set her books out by the front door right before bed time.  For the next 2-1/2 years she used this method and always caught the bus on time.  She self-managed her ability to catch the bus by creating and following her own process.

How to increase speed.  To become more highly competitive organizations must ask employees to make more decisions on their own.  A recent book about the virtues of talent management has just been published.  It reinforces the Jack Welch management methods.  Welch insisted on providing frequent honest feedback with complete candor.  In my experience managers don’t have that kind of time to provide frequent feedback.  They lack the time and the skills to constantly be observing employees and providing feedback.   Managers should instead rely more on employee, trust them more, and facilitate them creating their own answers to their own problems just as my daughter was able to identify a way to catch her bus.

The 5 Elements

For employees to figure out ways to self-manage their own performance, a leader can clarify and communicate the key principles that will enable all employees to self-manage.  The five principles are Vision, Mission, Values, Strategy, and an effective Leadership Theory.  The leadership theory that provides the best opportunity for self-management is Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s Theory of Profound Knowledge.

A leader’s first responsibility is to create an environment that facilitates performance improvement. Those interested in accelerating results and performance need to be courageous and trust that employees can create their own solutions.  It requires a method to create an environment of trust and self-organization through the clarity of the 5 principles.

A manager-dependent environment is slow and talent management often includes a ranking of employees, rewarding the top performers and “yanking out” the poorer performers.  This policy and practice creates unnecessary competition minimizing the opportunity for innovation.  The “birds” will not naturally cooperate in this environment.

A leader can clarify the key principles which will allow the “bird” to self-manage.  Clarifying the strategic initiatives, the vision and mission enables employees to create their own objectives and methods for performance improvement.  With autonomy comes choice.  With choice comes engagement.  With engagement comes performance.   With self-management comes speed.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.