A Podcast Preview of Paul Wainwright’s Webinar on “Positive Deviance”


On October 15th, I hosted the latest in our KaiNexus Continuous Improvement Webinar series.

I'm really happy that the presenter was Paul Wainright, as he has been a great advocate for KaiNexus.

Click here to view the recording of the webinar, which is intended to provide tips for leaders and managers:

Learning to Embrace Positive Deviance

“Learning Objectives:

  • Reflect on traditional idealisms of change management and consider how these may be your enemy
  • Identify the need for positive deviance in an organizational setting
  • Consider the cultural elements required to not only embrace positive deviance by also promote and encourage it”

You can hear a short podcast preview that Mark and I recorded (and a transcript can be found at the end of this post):

I hope you'll check out the recording!

Webinar Preview Podcast Transcript

Mark Graban: Hi. This is Mark Graban from KaiNexus, and today we're giving a bit of a preview into the next webinar in our series. It's being held October 15th at one o'clock Eastern. We're joined today by the presenter of that webinar. He is Paul Wainwright, and the presentation is titled “Learning to Embrace Positive Deviance.”

If you'd like to register for this, you can go to www.kainexus.com/webinars. If you're listening to this audio after the presentation date, you can go to that same web page, click on the KaiNexus webinar library, where you'll be able to find the recording of this session and the recordings of all our past webinars.

Today, we are joined by Paul Wainwright. Paul, how are you today?

Paul Wainwright: I'm good, thanks, Mark. How are yourself?

Mark: I'm doing well. Where are you joining us from today?

Paul: I'm joining you from the UK, sunny England, which isn't so sunny at the moment, but it's not too bad.

Mark: Is there “a touch of cloud,” as they say?

Paul: A little bit of cloud, yeah. Yeah, made all the better by a nice cup of tea.

Mark: So tea time with Paul, here. Paul, before we talk about the theme of the webinar, can you introduce yourself for the audience, please.
Paul: Yeah, no problem. I'm the Managing Director of a organizational excellence consultancy called Initi8 Business Excellence. It's a relatively new organization. It's looking at how we can progress businesses in a positive direction, how we can develop them and grow them.

My background is engineering. I started life as a [indecipherable 01:48] engineer, carried out an engineering management degree, organizational development courses, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. My focus has been and continues to be on how organizations can become better at what they do, how can they move forward?

A particular interest of mine is leadership. How can leaders promote the right behaviors, how can leaders develop the cultures and the organizational changes required for the businesses to progress and move forward?

Mark: I'm excited that you'll be sharing some thoughts on, like you said, change management and improvement. As a bit of a preview, some of the listeners might not know the particular meaning of the phrase “Positive Deviance,” or what it means as a person to be a Positive Deviant.

That might be a puzzling phrase. I think people in health care have used that phrase more recently. Let the listeners know a little bit of the background. What do you mean by Positive Deviance?

Paul: Positive Deviance is behavior that deviates from a set of norms that would typically be deemed acceptable or regular within an organization or group. The crux of it is it's resulting in a positive. It's resulting in something which is moving the organization or that team forward in the right direction.

This is what differentiates it from plain old deviants, really. The actions or the results of those actions must have a positive effect. When you think about change generally, in organizations or even wider change at a national level, generally this is top-down change.

What's interesting from this perspective is how can Positive Deviance be used as a vehicle or a catalyst for change, and what the leaders really need to do, and how do they behave?

How does the organization need to change to enable them to not only listen to the message that these deviants are voicing, but how do they embrace it. How do they put the organization in a place where it can not only identify this need for change, but then do something about it?

Mark: I think you make a really good point, and I know you'll elaborate on it in the webinar, the idea that it's a responsibility of leaders to help create an environment where people can deviate from the way we've always done it, right?

\Paul: Yeah, absolutely. How does that culture support? That the people who have got these fantastic ideas, these deviants on the front line, these value adders who identify things are wrong, do they feel comfortable enough, and do they feel confident enough to be able to challenge the norms? How do leaders put them in a position where they can do that?

I'm sure you'll agree, success, when it comes to continuous improvement and when it comes to cultural change, it will live and die by the leadership and the methodology that that leadership takes.

This is a really fascinating subject for me, personally, because you see a lot of top-down change movements, and you see a lot of leaders who are very single-minded in their approach, how they want things to be done, who aren't very willing or open to criticism and to alternative ways of doing things. It's a fascinating subject, and it's something of real value, I think.

Mark: Thankfully, you'll have a full webinar to help expound on that and share more about these concepts and the lessons learned. The final thing I would ask, you mentioned you're a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. How do you connect this idea of Positive Deviance to bottom-up improvement, kaizen-style continuous improvement?

Paul: That's an interesting question. When I look at some of the lean transformations or Lean Six Sigma projects I've been involved with, often the guys who are the keenest and the ones with the most energy to drive the change are the guys at the lower levels of the organization, the people that do the job day to day.

Often, the biggest obstacles they come across when they want to improve things isn't the process, it isn't having the abilities or the skills. It's the obstacles of management. It's the obstacles of the culture. It's the obstacles of the structure of the organization which get in the way. It's the challenge in the norms and the values and the way things are typically done, the challenging that status quo.

For me, there's strong synergies there between being able to support a continuous improvement movement through the Kaizen through Lean through Six Sigma, and enabling them to feel comfortable and confident enough to challenge how the organization operates.

Which the data alone will identify an area that needs attention, which will actually take that data and translate it into a tangible action, and therefore into results.

They often need people to think differently and to think outside the box, and that's where these deviants have real value. These guys can see things differently, they challenge things, and for me, this is where they add that real value to continuous improvement.

Mark: Again, I'm really looking forward to the webinar that you'll be presenting, Paul. Again, as we wrap up here, the webinar's titled “Learning to Embrace Positive Deviance.” The webinar is being held October 15th, 1:00 PM Eastern Time, and you can register for that at kainexus.com/webinars.

Paul, thanks in advance for doing the webinar, and thanks for joining us today to give a bit of a preview.

Paul: Yeah, no problem. Thank you, Mark.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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