“I want to point out the danger in any attempt at culture change. “ So started out the first of a series of e-mails received this week from Deming Master Walter Werner. His words of wisdom are invaluable to anyone who seeks to lead a team, department or organization towards a better way of working together.
Cut and pasted this blog post from emails received from Walter Werner - Deming Master during August 2017.
I want to point out the danger in any attempt at culture change. It doesn't matter how noble or virtuous your intentions are. If you make a mess, things will blow up in your face.
The most frustrating culture is still predictable and therefore safe if you follow its rules. Change always threatens somebody and rewards somebody else. The threatened will resist. You can never remove all of the danger. It's emotional and not in your range of control.
RESISTANCE movements towards culture change reminds me of Bill Conway's comment to you about needing more executive training at Nashua. A culture reflects the people in charge. They are its success stories and its biggest winners. They have mastered the culture and know how to use it for their own purposes.
You are correct that part of the problem is learning new skills. Individual contributors have to learn how to behave in multi-functional groups. Individual contributors have to learn how to teach and mentor other members when they become managers. These new skills didn't make them successful in the past but their lack will cause future failures.
Profound Knowledge comes from outside the organization and in fact nearly all new knowledge comes from outside. Therefore, every manager and executive is in need of retraining when you change the culture. Can you teach yourself to play golf, dance or play an instrument without any guidance? Executives don't wear super hero costumes under their dress clothes. They are just human beings. They need to be taught the new way of leading.
Maggie wrote a piece recently about students understanding the HOW but not necessarily the WHY of a new method or technique. Why would executives not be just as vulnerable?
We can spend a lot of time on HOW but WHY is a personal journey. I can explain why in a single visual or an entire book like Dr. Deming's. Neither will completely convince any intelligent human being. Practice and support while testing and learning about the new skill, idea, product, etc. are necessary to complete a single person's transformation.
We know that people don't retain everything we show them. We use media, voice and practice all to reinforce the same message. Even with that the student doesn't retain much less understand everything. Worse the student next to them retains a different portion of what we presented. When they speak they don't completely reinforce each other.
This leads to why do we retrain and even more why do we consult? Consulting allows us to do two things. First we get to reinforce and correct different parts of the training. Next when there is success we get to challenge the student to generalize the success. "That's wonderful, now how will you apply that knowledge to your other work issues?"
Dr. Nelson and Dr. Deming never let me escape even the most rewarding discussion of success without creating another teaching moment. By the way, your Dad would do this to me as well. Perhaps I do it to you on occasion but that's a different subject.
We are not problem solvers, we are teachers. Every conversation has a teaching moment in it. Perhaps these opportunities would be easier for people with degrees in education. I still love to get down and dirty just to see how a machine works or to get my hands on data and wonder how everyone else can't see the obvious patterns I observe.
Is it my task in life to show how skilled I am or is it my role to teach others how skilled they can become? Taking my hands off the problem and stepping back to ask what are the important goals here helps me to focus on the person I’m working with. It's easy to solve problems but it's more fun to help somebody else learn how.
I used to meet with the local USW union president and vice president at an ALCOA plant in Texas. One day they asked me: "How do you convince people to accept the new idea?"
I smiled and said: "You know the answer to that already. One person at a time and only when each of them is ready." They both nodded and said: "Yes but we hoped you had a better answer." I still don't. You can talk, you can train, you can consult, you can worry, you can pray and still that person won't change their mind until it makes sense to them.
As I was leaving Nashua Dr. Nelson told me that: "Mr. Clough believes in the value of our Deming procedures. He just doesn't understand how they work." There is never an end to training and retraining. I claim to be a statistician but it was my second time through designed experiments before I began to understand how and why this stuff works. I have taken similar courses four times with four different instructors. Each gave a unique perspective on a very interesting science. (calculus was worse) Maggie is correct, you can't assume everyone gets it after the first pass. Who mentors an executive while they learn new skills?
At Aristech we had to take a lab manager's hands off our new melt flow team because he didn't believe the process could be improved or that these people could do anything useful. For several visits I made it a point to sit with him each time and assure him the world would not end. Then the team began to produce results that nobody had seen before. Then our lab manager couldn't wait to implement each new process even before the team could run confirmation studies or write SOP's. For the first year at Aristech I did nothing but hold manager's and executive's hands while the first work was completed. They didn't know how to manage in such a different environment. Are you sure this will work is a valid question. Nobody ever taught executives how to manage in an open and free flowing culture.
When we do culture change we have to remember we are doing this for the customers in the end but it won't work if it doesn't make things much better for the work force.
Culture change happens only when the work force embraces it. Executives can speak and consultants can visit. We can run training until the hotel conference rooms burn down. Nothing changes until the work force says it has.
We are here to make this place a great place to work so we can provide exceptional products and services to our customers so they will reward us with more and more business so we can do it all again tomorrow. We are building a great place to work for today and tomorrow so our workers can build productive lives here and at home. Work should be fun so that our great work force will be happy and proud to work here.
I have a final thought and caution from Dr. Deming. There are always a few people who don't make the change. Remember the resistance to change chart and my anchor. If possible they can be moved to a different function or worse let go. I don't have a magic answer to the question of just how long do you wait or how many tries do we make first? Dr. Deming told us that the person we bring in next will be hired from the same talent pool and unfortunately by the same process we used to hire our present employee. What made us believe we could do any better? Changing out an employee is not like changing a light bulb, they are not interchangeable.
Many reluctant managers are very valuable individuals. They possess years of experience and uncounted valuable skills. Replacing them would except in the luckiest event possible mean a terrible loss to the company. There really is no alternative but to make them successful.
You need to get into their values to explain the need for change and to coach them through it. That's up to you and the others who are leading the culture change. It does require understanding whatever it is that's holding him back. Did I ever say this stuff was easy? It's fun but never easy. If it were easy everyone would do it.
To quote Dr. Nelson to me a long time ago: "You are the best we have." Now go do it.
This time I really do need to ask. Did I help you?
Yes Walter you helped me and the Innovation Engineering movement.
Your wisdom is priceless.
Your thinking genius.
Your thoughtfulness unending.