How can serving leaders embrace better opportunities? We live in changing times. Every day a new crisis becomes today’s headline. So what can we do to change the way we evaluate crises? Many of you leaders may recognize the title of this blog, but can’t remember where you read it last.
It was the title of the book that was written by one of my earliest mentors, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. His book was called Out of the Crisis. I added opportunity because I believe he would see today’s economic environment as a tremendous teaching opportunity for today’s serving leaders.
Dr. Deming seldom missed a chance to share his leadership philosophy with leaders around the world. I was lucky enough to co-write a book with his team when I worked with him. I was blessed to interview 12 men and women, his inner circle who knew him for many years. They shared a side of Deming that many people forget.
Most of my engineering clients remember his ability to make difficult concepts easy to understand through a wide range of practical exercises that could be shared across the organization. I remember watching in utter amazement as he simplified management to a simple red bead demonstration.
Now what would Dr. Deming do when talking with leaders today? My guess is he would be as blunt as he always was. Ever the teacher, he would teach leaders to change how they looked at their workforce and customers. His ability to be direct with fellow leaders sent more than one famous CEO to the corner of his corner office.
As young man, I remember wondering if there might be a better way to make a point than pointing your finger at a leader and challenging him. Today, we face similar conditions Dr. Deming faced. I thought I would try a different approach to get and keep your attention.
Dr. Deming was the champion of workforce education. He invested significant time travelling the world sharing a leadership philosophy that went against conventional wisdom in management and leadership development. He believed a flatter organization could be a more successful organization. Today, many layers of middle management have been removed from both large and midmarket organizations. So why are we not more productive in these organizations?
I believe it’s because many organizations don’t provide training for much of their workforce. Smaller workforces doing more things with less time leave little room for management and employee development. Did we just throw the baby out with the bath water? Successful organizations today must invest in their workforce and their management. There are very few organizations that invest in employee development today. The ones that do should have a more engaged workforce, but do they? Why is employee engagement still at crisis levels in so many of these organizations?
Many people forget the second part of Dr. Deming’s management philosophy; drive fear out of the workforce. How many times have we heard about how disconnected management is from their employees? It’s not only about compensation, many of today’s leaders give lip service to how important employees are, but do little to show it. It’s like their leaders are robots doing just what is needed to stay in their role while looking towards retirement. In a CYA (cover your assets) leadership environment employees feel out of control. It manifests itself in lower levels of productivity and performance. If you’re worried about what’s happening in your environment, you are very unlikely to invest in your future there.
Finally, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Dr. Deming would suggest another solution for our employee disengagement problem. With over 70% of the workforce unengaged, he might suggest a radical solution to this growing problem. Increasing training and development budgets has not produced the intended results for many of the organizations who still invest in employee development.
I believe he would have suggested there needs to be a new form of employee development. It needs to be more about personal responsibility, up and down the organizational chart. Every person who is employed must take responsibility for their own future. Now, I know what you’re thinking, I do my job well, it’s my manager who lacks commitment to me.
Here’s the radical part of lifetime employment; we must be the change we want in the world. It’s not enough to be trained to do a job; we must receive training that helps us have the life we want. Your financial freedom comes from your strengths, not the government. Don’t worry, I have several ideas on how you might do this and you can start reading them here on Friday. I talk about what you and your employer can do to empower your dreams now. See you Friday.