The problem is obvious and widespread. People do not work as effectively together as they could and most managers do not have the needed skills to help them do so. A 2006 United States Gallup poll found that of the workers studied:
• Only 27% were engaged in their work, that is worked with passion and an emotional connection to their company
• About 59% of workers were not engaged, they were only putting in time and collecting a paycheck
• About 14% were actively disengaged; these people were actually acting out their unhappiness.
Other Gallup studies reveal that upwards of 60% of workers leave an organization because they do not like or get along with their immediate supervisor.
This is not how to get the work done and get it done well.
Clearly, we must take every opportunity to improve our management and leadership skills, enhance the experience of workers, and at the same time advance quality and raise the bottom line.
This book was designed to help you do all of these things better than you ever imagined. I believe that the models presented here are the most powerful ways of productively working with others and that every manager, in fact anyone who works with others, could benefit from understanding and applying them.
I first created Harnessing the Speed of Thought, a five-step problem-solving process, to help individuals, but soon realized the approach essentially externalizes the thought process so groups of people could actually think through problems together. The success of the model prompted me to write Transparent Management.
Combining the Four-Part Teaming model with Harnessing the Speed of Thought created an exceptional management tool, one where employees work on compelling tasks and reap the rewards of doing so. However, the greatest management improvement required a better understanding of the human element of being an employee. You will see that the “Two Rules” and the “Organization-Individual Divide” provide the philosophical and moral understanding of the employee necessary for this approach to assure the best results.
The approach is straightforward. In order to unleash the collective wisdom of a group of people, you must coordinate how they work together and ensure that what any one person does, including management, is apparent to all.
I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating the concepts with fictional accounts to simplify the connection between what to do and how to do it. Proof of the value of this model will come, of course, when you use it. You will be able to do so immediately.
Be forewarned, however, that although Harnessing the Speed of Thought is logical, it is counter-intuitive. This can lead to frustration when the model and the mind diverge.
Although much of this material is original, none of it was created without the input and support of many others.
Would you entrust your livelihood to people who didn’t think clearly, communicated no better than cavemen and worked in groups about as well as sharks in a feeding frenzy?
The answer is obvious.
Of course you would.
You do that every day. Everyone does. That’s the problem.
Until now, no one has figured out how to enable individuals to instantaneously and seamlessly combine their abilities.
Until now, individuals in groups debated ideas until the strongest combatant won or discussed them until sufficient agreement was reached.
Now we can:
• Overcome the barriers that arise when individuals work together
• Coordinate how people think and problem solve
• Unite company and employee goals
• Merge these essentials into a high-functioning team.
And make this so easy a caveman could do it.
Historically, success in business meant optimal management of the three Ms: manpower, materials and machines. The quest for efficiency included reducing manpower, using cheaper and stronger materials, and creating machines that were safer, faster, and produced better quality products. This effort has primarily focused on mechanical processes, but did pay cursory attention to people.
The earliest scientific management applications, aptly termed “Scientific Management,” embraced Frederick Taylor’s methods of measuring work. Labor was viewed as a component of production; basically defining workers as cogs-in-a-wheel. The size, shape, and surface of a coal shovel, for example, were redesigned for optimal efficiency. This mechanistic approach was strengthened by management expert Henri Fayol’s focus on planning, commanding and organizing. Bureaucracies grew with attempts to standardize tasks, have logic rule the workday, promote equality and ensure clearly communicated and effectively applied decisions from the top down. In time, following the organization’s rules became as important as making a profit.
In the post World War I years, the Hawthorne experiments exploring productivity opened the black box that until then had defined the employee. Men and women were not cogs-in-wheels but living beings with dreams, children to raise, parties to attend, and desires to end the workday satisfied. More efforts were poured into understanding the newly revealed complexities. It became clear that no single management approach could work everywhere with everyone. Workers are after all, complex beings.
What enables a person to punch a time clock, contribute eight hours a day and want to return to do the same thing the next day and the day after that? What is the dynamic between people and productivity?
Over a sixty-year career, management guru Peter Drucker studied and promoted better decision-making and improved communication with a focus on outcomes. He sought to change management so that the organizational structure promoted productivity versus being a barrier to it. He believed management should be a skill rather than an expression of the person’s natural attitudes or habits acquired over years of trial and error. He said:
Management means, in the last analysis, the substitution of thought for brawn and muscle, of knowledge for folkways and superstition, and of cooperation for force.
This book introduces a management model where thought replaces effort, knowledge replaces habit, and teamwork replaces authority.
Management must constantly make good decisions, decisions that encourage cooperation and dedication by the workforce. Yet management is crammed with as many assumptions and guesses of how to influence workers as there are managers. Exactly how good does a manager have to be to assure success? Drucker had a good idea about this too.
No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
Traditional management practice is still pretty much rewarding success and punishing failure. Not much has changed since the Pharaohs built the pyramids except maybe we don’t use whips as often and tend to give more days off.
Production methods have advanced since those days but our management activities have trailed far behind. Our use of human resources is not only pre-industrial, it is pre-historic.
Can we modernize human effort, improve how we think and act, and achieve the ideal state of teamwork?
MAN AND MACHINE
Machines can be designed to deliver exactly what is needed, when, how, and how much. People are different. People have strengths and weaknesses. People are only human. No one can expect people to have the efficiency of a machine. Managers seem to believe this and act accordingly.
Here is how lean-management authority M. L. “Bob” Emiliani sees it:
The concept of waste has not yet been effectively extended to the self-defeating behaviors of individuals and groups of people in the workplace…We work very hard to improve manufacturing productivity, yet place comparatively little emphasis on improving our own behaviors.
An assembly line is a good metaphor for what is missing in the critical people areas of thinking, emotional engagement and working together. Assembly line workers contribute exactly what is needed at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. If each assembler did the job haphazardly, chaos would result. Yet this is how thinking is applied in business. Thoughts are expressed and gathered arbitrarily as demonstrated in just about any business meeting, anywhere in the world. Emiliani is right that the collective ability to produce ideas or solve problems has lagged behind our other business successes. What we’ve needed has been better-coordinated human interactions. Why hasn’t this happened?
It hasn’t happened because for modern business purposes, the human brain has two significant flaws.
The brain is a problem-solving organ that has evolved to respond lightning quick to real and imagined threats for the two main purposes of life, staying alive and adding to the gene pool. Staying alive and finding a mate rely on speed rather than studied analysis so that’s how the brain works. In milliseconds, the brain races from problem to solution a thousand times a day. Although we may believe we are logical, evolution did not design the mind for rational thought, but for quick decision-making.
To maximize speed and efficiency, the mind cannot ponder every possibility when solving a problem. Instead, the physical brain applies simplifying templates, finds good enough solutions and then moves on. The mind relies on successful protocols imprinted in brain biology over millions of years and by successful decisions within an individual’s lifetime. In addition, speed requires that much of the mind’s computation takes place without our conscious awareness.
These are the two significant flaws for modern business:
• The brain simplifies and assumes with almost every thought
• Most of our brain activity is subconscious
Unless guided otherwise, we humans will think and communicate no better than our forebears, the same bunch that had trouble standing upright.
In any group, individual differences in ability, drive, interests, personality, intelligence, background, creativity, resourcefulness, and a thousand other characteristics makes it difficult to work seamlessly together. Without a second thought, people bring to the simplest conversation a complex biological and social matrix. When one individual communicates with another, assumptions, shortcuts and vagueness lead to misinterpretations and misunderstandings. While working on a problem two people can appear as if they agree, but end up angry at one another and not know why. In groups, this inefficiency is magnified.
Yet the reality remains that every business depends on the effectiveness of human-to-human interaction. Here is how the two significant flaws cause problems.
THE DEBATING CIRCLE
Business people “working together” are often engaged in varying degrees of disagreement. For example, Mike states how he sees the situation and proposes a solution and immediately Marsha pokes holes in his observations and promotes her point of view. Susan says she agrees partly with both Mike and Marsha, and then adds a third option, the one she prefers. Often this circle of observation-conclusion-discussion-observation can go on for hours. Only after much time and effort do two or more people agree on a course of action. There are very few people who know how to express ideas and work with others so that problem solving is an additive process rather than a series of debates. Universally, people problem solve by debating points of view until someone gives in, or discuss them until a degree of consensus is reached.
For the majority of managers, this inefficiency has been almost impossible to eliminate. Few understood how to bridge the gaps between individuals and how to enable them to think more effectively together. When confronted with a problem, Joe’s brain races to a solution. When presented with the identical problem, Joanne’s brain races to an often times different, but equally good, solution.
If we assume that everyone is different, then we also must accept that people will see a situation differently. If they see things differently, they will often react differently. Where differences exist, we are right and others are wrong until they come up with a good enough argument to convince us otherwise. If someone tells us what to do without describing the entire picture, we humans will dig in our heels. We instinctively know that others do not see what we see. Experience has taught us to resist until we can trust where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. Managers have yet to learn how to manage these reactions in an effective way.
As a person advances up the leadership ladder, interpersonal skills become vital. Effective leaders must have a high degree of self-awareness and a well-developed facility in working with others. They must communicate well, develop others, have interest and impact across the organization, and think clearly for the present and the future. Transparent Management will help you and everyone in your organization enhance these abilities. It will enable you to coordinate the collective wisdom and individual motivations of your employees.
The goal is to help you maximize the efficiency of thinking, communicating and motivating of everyone, in every area, at every level in your organization.
The philosophy behind Transparent Management is:
• The simpler the problem, the simpler the model should be
• The more complicated the situation, the simpler the model should be
• The more different types of problems that need to be solved, the simpler the model should be (and one model for many purposes would be ideal)
• The larger the number of people involved, the simpler the model should be
• Employees are always people first, they do what people do and need what people need
The philosophy emphasizes controlling our lightning-quick grab for solutions. Every manager makes dozens of decisions a day. A large organization may have thousands of decisions occurring every hour. By combining thoughts in the correct way, the problem-solving process will be less haste but more speed. Transparent Management will ensure that every manager can think more clearly and apply brainpower more effectively. Management will be rational and at the same time ensure the right balance of thought and passion.
The philosophy includes the concept of honesty. In times of economic expansion when markets are opening and a frontier mentality exists, it is reasonable and even expected to take every advantage possible. This primitive approach believes that rivals outmaneuvered today can safely be left in your wake as you pursue developing opportunities. Burned out employees can be easily replaced by optimistic or needy recruits.
Today however, with instant and continuous worldwide communication, job-hopping employees and ever-changing customer demand, it is correct and profitable to forge honest relationships with everyone connected to the organization, from suppliers to customers. The same is true of relationships within the workplace: Honesty from top to bottom and from side to side. This model helps you work with others in such a transparent way that personal motives can be included or excluded as needed for the good of the organization and employees. Both organizational and individual needs can be met.
Another element of the Transparent Management philosophy is that people are not a resource, something to be used, but are capital, something that should be grown. The best way of enriching people-capital is to get employees emotionally involved in what needs to be done. You will find how to do that in these pages. This approach will help your people grow not only within your organization but elsewhere as well. The model works on the job, at home and in between, anywhere people come together.
Results should include increased productivity and quality, improved job satisfaction, improved customer satisfaction and a stronger bottom line.
The backbone of this approach is the five-step problem-solving process. Unknowingly, you follow these five steps hundreds, maybe thousands of times a day. So does everyone else. Our brains race through the thought process so quickly that few of us are aware of the individual steps. However, once identified, taking these steps at a more effective pace enables a person to become a better problem solver, an improved manager, and a more effective employee. The model can be applied in almost any situation where one person is solving a problem, where two people are having a conflict or where a group of individuals want to work together effectively.
A friend of mine, a local hospital executive, faced a conflict between two departments that was costing his organization two million dollars a year in unreimbursed expenses. The pharmacy was providing discharge medication but rarely was able to collect payment for them. In spite of this, the surgeons rightly refused to allow patients to go home without their medicine. He tried for a year to get the opposing departments to resolve their differences with no success. Then he used Harnessing the Speed of Thought to identify a mutual issue (patient safety) and within weeks was able to find a mutual solution that eliminated the problem. Everyone was happy and he saved the medical center two million dollars.
This is the kind of result we’re after.
The more everyone affected by a decision can understand and take part in the entire decision-making process, the more likely the decision will prove to be a good one. Collective wisdom beats individual knowledge. Enabling a team to work effectively together on a problem greatly enhances involvement and commitment to the decision. When management decisions are more transparent there is less management bias and greater worker input. The more transparent the process, the better. This approach works for management and labor, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, anyone who wants to accomplish something while working with others.
There is no magic in the model or specialized training to understand or use it. It will require practice to get good at it and at least a fair degree of personal awareness and honesty to listen to other’s opinions about how it is working. Trust the benefit of shared involvement and all will be well.
A successful business does whatever possible to eliminate waste. Reduce inventory. Reduce processing time. Reduce errors. Produce only what is needed, just when it is needed. Find the best way to produce a product that customers need and continue to improve the production process.
What about people?
What are we doing to eliminate waste in how people interact?
Waste is misunderstanding, taking the wrong approach, pursuing unclear goals, poor communication, need for rework, hurt feelings, diminished motivation, unresolved conflicts, uncertainty, almost anything that can cause friction between people and almost everything that a person can misunderstand.
Let’s take another look at our assembly line metaphor. The precision and control of an assembly line has been revolutionary in producing inexpensive goods of high quality. With an assembly line, products are produced exactly as designed. Each step is a known action leading to a known result. Understanding each of the steps allows constant improvement. Identifying each step and knowing exactly how it adds value is the only way to increased efficiency.
The growing interest in the concept of lean thinking is motivated by the promise of continually uncovering and eliminating waste. The idea is to create the best value for the customer by defining what adds value during the production process and what does not. What doesn’t add value is then scrutinized with the goal of eliminating it. Lean thinking also mandates that this value-added process flows smoothly by the pull of the customer as the entire process moves toward perfection, a state where only activities that add customer value are performed.
This is a paraphrase of the concept as described in Womack and Jones’ book Lean Thinking.
You can’t improve what you can’t define. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you cannot define and measure a process and if you do not understand the links within the process, you cannot analyze, challenge or ultimately perfect it.
Womack and Jones point out the necessity of identifying process elements and defining and analyzing every step of the process. Every step must be linked to others to understand the flow and progression. The idea is to identify each step of the value stream, know how it links to other steps, and be clear about the value of the outcome of each step.
Once this is done, each step, each outcome and the process as a whole are continually examined and improved with perfection as the target.
This approach is common in modern manufacturing. Likewise, our approach to improving management must have discrete steps that are identifiable and linked to outcomes. Managers should no more shoot from the hip when managing people than assembly workers shoot from the hip doing their job. Managers should have tools, clearly defined outcomes, and accountability for each step in the process of managing people.
MANAGEMENT ASSEMBLY LINE
Employee interaction, problem-solving and decision-making are activities leading to a product. It may be intellectual and verbal, but an idea, solution or behavior is still a product. Even the complexities of attitudes and emotions can be understood as outcomes of human processes.
Our quest is to establish standardized problem solving, motivating and teaming processes with clearly defined parts that will enable individual employees, managers, teams, and the organization as a whole to quickly and effectively identify and enhance each step.
Our belief is that thinking and expressing thoughts and feelings can be as coordinated as the best assembly line process, without losing the contributions of individuality, creativity and spontaneity. Finally, human efficiency can climb to the level of our other business advances.
To do this with people we have to create a system where the elements of problem solving and people interacting are separate and discrete so the process can be monitored and corrected step by step by all those involved as it is in lean thinking production. This entails a standardized approach where the steps and results are easily observable.
Since people are not machines, the method must take important and potentially disruptive human tendencies into account. One is the tendency to rush to personally (and often unconsciously) identified and rewarding solutions. Another tendency is to make assumptions. A third tendency is to invest self-esteem and emotion in both the process and the outcome. Fourth is a tendency to protect self-esteem and last is employees wanting to know, “What’s in it for me?”
If we can create such a management system, the entire organization will be more transparent, flattening decision-making to include more levels of employee input. Committees will have one voice. Each employee will know much more about the why, agree to the what, and enthusiastically contribute to the how.
The creation of a process of effective problem solving and communicating will enable you to unleash the collective wisdom of your people so that two minds are better than one and twenty minds are better than nineteen.
Our goal is this: To have a way of thinking and interacting that is a step-by-step process that is externalized so it is visible and understandable to all, that can be precisely identified, analyzed, and linked together so it can be challenged, improved and eventually, perfected.
Transparent Management begins with an emphasis on the value of individual differences and the complexity that each individual brings into interactions with others. The model makes transparent the elusive human thought process so groups can think and solve problems together. It identifies the spilt between the motivations of organizations and employees and it enables individuals to come together to form highly effective teams.
Overall, Transparent Management is an approach by which those doing the work are significantly and effectively involved in the thinking and problem-solving process to improve the outcome. The results are a combination of organizational goals and individual rewards. Everyone is included in meaningful ways toward group success and everyone benefits from the process.