Eliminating Waste through Direct Communication
Eliminating He Said, She Said « Sharing thoughts, ideas and suggestions on hardwiring success
I really like Quint Studer's books, not just for healthcare, but as general leadership books (you can find his books on Amazon)
In his most recent blog post, Studer talks about the waste that's created by “He said / she said” communications.
If you're reading this blog, you're probably interested in creating or sustaining a culture in your organization that gets results. If so, then here's a simple question to ask yourself to see if you're on track, “If an employee at my organization is upset with another employee, who do they tell?”
If the answer is HR, or their boss, or that person's boss – actually, if it's anything other than the employee they're upset with – then your culture is at risk of being derailed.
There's really no substitute for talking directly to people… if you have a disagreement with someone (and this happens in every organization), then tis' best to talk to that person directly. Don't run to the boss and complain — doing that sucks up a lot of the manager's time and that's time that can't be spend helping improve processes and the organization.
Studer tells a story that's followed up by some recommendations for good behaviors (which you can read on his site):
When I was SVP at a Chicago-area hospital I was frustrated with another senior leader. I went to my boss, the CEO, to share my frustration with my peer (and his direct report). I stated my case and expected to hear some appreciation for sharing the story and then a commitment from my boss that he would talk to this other leader. Instead, he said, “What did she say when you shared your feelings with her?”
I was thinking inside, “She reports to you; you should talk with her! That's hard!” Instead, I did something else that is also hard for me: I kept my mouth shut. He then told me to talk with her directly, and if there were still issues after this all three of us would meet.
That day I learned one of the best life lessons ever. I learned to talk directly, not hide behind an organizational chart. I also realized how healthy this is in an organization since it can profoundly reduce the type of passive-aggressive behavior that sucks the energy out of us.
This approach, directly dealing with others (in a constructive way… and you might have to coach people on this) seems like it would fit in very well with a Lean culture and Lean efforts. How much wasted time could you eliminate in your organization if people were direct with each other?
One good thing about the Dell culture, when I worked there, was the encouragement of people to “Be Direct” with each other. This was a bit too clever, on their part, since “Be Direct” was the sales slogan (you're buying computers directly from Dell). Did direct communication always occur inside the company? Of course not, but it was a good goal.
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This is totally consistent with lean and any number of other foundational systems of thinking about work. It amounts to “going to gemba” in the context of a communications problem or conflict. Why go to the boss? That’s like trying to solve a problem on the production line without leaving the conference room.
What stops us from acting this way? Fear. Fear of conflict, primarily. Which takes us back to Deming, who said (if I’ve got this right) “First you have to drive out fear!” As usual, he had it right. Or it takes us to Patrick Lencioni (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) who presents a brilliant model (also totally consistent with lean thinking) that starts with TRUST (no fear, no blame), as the basis for engaging in CONSTRUCTIVE CONFLICT. It’s ok to disagree about ideas if we have common goals and a foundation of trust, and know that we can come to shared commitments through dialog.
This can’t happen in a vacuum, at least not most of the time. Raised voices and fisticuffs are not what we are after. Culture has to change.
We’ve all been directed to Deming’s work along the way, I think. I’d encourage people to check out Lencioni, also. Working with his model transformed our ability to do policy deployment and to overcome the impulse to bury problems and conflicts. It is as simple as talking to people directly, but as hard as changing culture.