The answer to doing more with less is not in doing the same things we have always done faster or cheaper but finding new ways. These solutions do not come from the top down or outside in but from the inside out. As I hope you can see in the briefest of examples I have included in the three previous sections there are tremendous pressures at play to maintain the systems we have in place. Described by Kurt Lewin as “Force Fields”, it is helpful to imagine an old episode of Star trek where apparently passable doorways are protected by invisible forces capable of debilitating any who attempt to escape their incarceration.
We are all subject to these invisible force fields both personally and professionally. They cannot be blasted though with determined commitment or circumnavigated with short-term training. To liberate ourselves from these cultural confines we must learn from the escape artists within our midst. It is those few who refuse to comply with convention that show us what is truly possible.
People like Tony Hseih, who walked away from $8 Million for sitting on his fanny to build a company where 1000 people will stand in line for each position. Or Vineet Nayar who overturned ideology turning a 30,000 employee company upside down making supervisors accountable to “Value Adding” employees while growing their customer base fivefold in just four years. Or the largest tomato producer in the world, Morning Star, which completely eliminated all coercive control by replacing supervisors with a society based on mutual commitment, trust and collaboration. All of these leaders recognize that sustainable solutions do not come from the top but from within.
The problem for most is not what solutions to apply but where to look in the first place. Once leaders begin to understand that they not only cannot but do not need to solve all the problems they will have the time, energy and resources to support those who want desperately to contribute. This letting go of control is both incredibly powerful and remarkably difficult.
As I am writing this one member of a senior leadership team I have been working with has written me that he believes Red Shoe Solutions is “not a good fit” for Xyz Company. He may be absolutely right but I have also received a string of messages from employees at the same company with the consistent refrain of “truth and honesty are not welcome here” Around here squeaky wheels learn to keep quiet or start looking for new employment. Whose perspective is accurate? The truth is, neither leadership nor the front line employees of any organization have a complete and unbiased view of the whole picture.
It does not matter how objective you believe yourself to be, you are not.
You may be sober as a judge, but are you hungry?
Consider the tremendous responsibility of a judge reviewing parole cases. This would certainly demand a fair and objective evaluation of each case. Would you then be shocked to know that something as innocuous as a meal break could alter their decisions by 65%? If a simple snack can be the difference between freedom and imprisonment, how easily will our less significant deliberations be derailed?
When do you schedule time for important deliberations? Several years ago our board “discussed” and voted on an important chapter rebate policy change just before “Happy Hour”. The unhappy part came in the years to follow as the ROI for this momentary misstep was never even considered. Even if this topic had made its way on to the agenda retrospective thinking is a poor match for our system one subterfuge. Once an anchor has been dropped subsequent decisions are chained to the original idea. Freeing ourselves from this weighty whitewashing requires that we are not just open to all viewpoints but vigilant of all the ways our minds succumb to misperception.
There are unhappy employees who do need to find a profession they truly enjoy. There are also managers who believe their own “not on my watch” egotism. The solution is to bring both sides out into an open transparent discussion. How can any organization (or relationship of any kind) survive without honesty? And why are people so afraid to hear what people are saying? Do they think ignoring, avoiding and excluding are effective management practices? Wouldn’t it be more help-full to hear what people from all sides really think?
Transparency does not breed anarchy it fosters inclusion