Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Deming; Are Your Employees Afraid or Fearful?
Reminder: I'll be on “The Lean Nation” today at 4 PM (more details)
In this article about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “Inside Mark Zuckerberg's (rather run-of-the-mill) house: Facebook founder gives rare glimpse into his private life on Oprah“, there is an interesting detail about the setting of the Facebook office.One of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's most important points was the need to eliminate fear from organizations, so people can do quality work.
According to the Telegraph article:
The open plan office has a fun and creative feel. People can be seen riding skateboards, while walls are covered with inspirational phrases like ‘Fail Harder' and ‘What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?‘
Forget the skateboards and such. When I had a chance to visit the Yahoo! headquarters in 1998, it was intriguing that they had foosball tables in the workplace, but not something that every organization should go copy (or has it guaranteed success in the long-term for Yahoo!).
Now, Dr. Deming was opposed to slogans and posters in the workplace, but I think the deeper point was that “empty slogans” such as “Quality is YOUR responsibility” were damaging when not backed up by management's actions.
If Zuckerberg and Facebook are serious about a “no fear” workplace, that's a good thing. I hope they take that seriously, including not relying on “shame and blame” as an aspect of their workplace culture. I hope it's not just an empty slogan, like a Successories poster.
In the “Lean Startups” approach, Eric Ries emphasizes the need to have rapid improvement and to focus on the process, not blaming the person as I wrote about last year. I wonder if Facebook was looking to blame somebody when they had massive downtime last week?
Many workplaces are effectively crippled by fear, including hospitals (or some might say “especially hospitals”). Hospitals are notorious for having “name, blame, and shame” cultures. Dr. Deming wouldn't have liked that.
These old cultures certainly interfere with “going Lean.” If you try to implement Lean methods in a fear-based environment, people will be afraid to really try to change anything.
As I tweeted yesterday:
if your #lean efforts are struggling, ask how much fear is in the org: fear of trying, fear of failing, fear of blame or punishment?
I know some might say “well, people shouldn't be afraid.” That's not always realistic. Lean is difficult, you're really asking people to change their mindsets and their approach to things. You can't just ask front-line staff to change and to be creative if senior leaders aren't also willing to change.
That's why it's so important that Dr. John Toussaint worked so hard as CEO of ThedaCare to eliminate the old fear-based shame and blame culture (as are Patrick Anderson and other leaders). You can read about Toussaint's work in the book On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry.
What are you doing to help eliminate fear in your organization? Does fear hamper your organization's Lean efforts?