Trust Is Essential for the Health of an Organization – Part 4

Trust Is Essential for the Health of an Organization – Part 4 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

This final blog in a four-part series about trust is important because every C-Suite leader needs to accept responsibility for creating environment that makes it safe to tell the truth and safe to trust. Managing the variation in trust within an organization must be everyone’s responsibility but the C-Suite leader needs to make it possible. And, I am very sorry to say many are not.

It’s still too easy for C-Suite leaders to blame their people for results that don’t meet expectations and/or budget.  What is the C-Suite leadership contribution to the poor results? If trust is less than optimal, that leader needs to withhold any blame. The ability to meet expected results starts in the C-Suite. The responsibility of managing the variation in trust (which leads to the desired results) starts in the C-Suite.

“Quality starts in the boardroom.”

-Dr. W. Edwards Deming

THINK – BEHAVE – IMPROVE (TBI) is a set of ideas which help us to appreciate how an optimum leader thinks, how an optimum leader behaves and how an optimum leader acts to improve the system within which they operate.  In this blog we will expand and clarify the IMPROVE portion of the structure.

“Where the rubber meets the road” is a popular phrase that means ‘there is a point where a theory is applied’.  In part 2 of this series we discussed ‘systems thinking’.  We identified ‘systems thinking’ as the desired leadership theory for optimum trust. In part 3 of this series we identified certain behavior required by leaders who want to demonstrate trust.  The rubber meets the road in this blog because we answer these questions:  What does a leader do when there is a mistake and/or poor results? How does that leader facilitate improvement?  What does that leader do to protect trust and address the problem?

We need a problem-solving model that addresses problems and still protects trust.  C-Suite leaders need a problem-solving model that gives them total confidence the problem will be solved without them needing to get in the middle and micro-manage.  As stated earlier, C-Suite responsibility lies in creating an environment which optimizes people to tell the truth, to manage trust, and optimally address problems.  A ‘systems thinker’ asks ‘system’ questions.  They avoid asking blame questions.

As in most situations in life, when we see a problem and it needs to be resolved, there are often two choices, an easy choice and the difficult choice.  One easy choice is to absolve ourselves from the problem.  When a leader blames their people for the problem they are absolving themselves from all responsibility and that does nothing for trust.

Another easy choice is to solve it quickly and hope it doesn’t return.  Matchbooks have been around since the late 1800’s.  The first ones had the striking strip on the front of the book along with a warning “Close cover before striking”. Careless consumers would often catch the entire book on fire because the other matches were easily exposed to a spark when one match was struck.  The warning was an ‘easy’ way to solve the problem.  It put the responsibility on the consumer to follow instructions and to be careful doing it.

It wasn’t until 1962 that a true resolution was found.  The manufacturers moved the striking strip to the back of the match book thus preventing a spark from igniting the other matches.  This was a true resolution to a problem. The resolution was not an easy one to create. It required thought and a change in the manufacturing process.  It required innovation and an investment in time and money.  It required thought and a predictable problem-solving method.  This method is known as Plan-Do-Check-Act or the Scientific method or the Learning Cycle.

The learning cycle can be traced back at least as far as Galileo who developed the idea of making observations, creating a hypothesis and then conducting an experiment. Edison used the method to test 6,000 materials before finding the one that proved to be most practical and cost effective for the filament for a light-bulb.

Plan-Do-Check-Act is the recommended problem-solving method for leaders who want to protect trust.  It requires the creation of an action PLAN including the steps of knowing what to improve, the identification of the current condition of the problem, and how to measure the success.

The DO portion is carrying out the plan. DO is about carrying out the planned experiment. The CHECK portion is about analyzing the data to see if the hypothesis was correct.  The ACT portion is about deciding to either revise the hypothesis, to revise the method, or to adopt the method just tested.  The adoption of Plan-Do-Check-Act creates an environment where blame is unnecessary.  Every member of a team can contribute their ideas and their effort to experimenting with new hypotheses and with new methods.

Adopting PDCA makes problem-solving a fun exercise that enrolls everyone.  It creates engagement and improved quality for customers.  PDCA allows for organizations to avoid the use of the typical performance appraisal because the focus becomes the experiment and avoids the evaluation of the individual.  It leads to great ideas like moving the striking strip.  The adoption of PDCA starts with the C-Suite and that is why “Quality starts in the boardroom.”

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.