Edward Blackman on Combining Behavioral Science with Continuous Improvement

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Joining me for Episode #370 is Edward Blackman, the founder and managing partner of Kelda Consulting. He has previously had Lean and process improvement-focused roles at organizations as varied as Whirlpool, Amway, and Spectrum Health.

Today, we are discussing behavioral science and the need to combine practices and lessons from that field with Lean and continuous improvement.

Edward earned a Masters degree in Behavioral Science, along with undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Mathematics. He is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt by the American Society for Quality; is certified in Labor Standards by HB Maynard; is a Lean (Toyota Production System) Instructor/Coach; a Kata Coach; a certified Scrum Master; and an Agile Coach.

I hope you enjoy the discussion!


Streaming Player:



For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/370.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher or Spotify.


  • Edward's LinkedIn page
  • Quick background of Edward Blackman
  • Current company – Kelda Consulting
    • Kelda means leader as used in this context and reference
  • Kelda Consulting YouTube Channel
  • Brief introduction to Behavioral Science — and why is it important to connect this to Lean and C.I.?
  • What is “Behavioral Pinpointing”?
  • Response Cost: Is the view worth the climb?
  • Feedback Systems: How do performers know if they are on/off a goal/target?
  • Operants: Linking a behavior with a result
  • All antecedents and no consequences?
  • Performance Management: Aligned with strategy development and deployment?
  • Innovative Change Management: Are performers involved in creating the ideas they are implementing?
  • Exemplary Performers: How to spot and learn from your Positive Deviants
  • Accountability Partners

Thanks for listening!

Automated Transcript (May Contain Defects):

Mark Graban:
Hi, it's Mark Graban. It is May 12th, 2020. Welcome to episode 370 of the podcast. Joining me today is Edward Blackman. He's the founder and managing partner of Kelda Consulting.

Mark Graban:
He previously had lean and process improvement-focused roles at organizations as varied as Whirlpool, Amway, and Spectrum Health. Today we're discussing behavioral science and the need to combine practices and lessons from that field with lean and continuous improvement. Edward earned a master's degree in behavioral science along with undergraduate degrees in psychology and mathematics. He's a certified six Sigma black belt by the American Society for Quality. He is a lean TPS instructor and coach, a kata coach, a certified scrum master, and an agile coach.

Mark Graban:
So you can learn more. You can read his full bio. You can find a link to his website and more by going to leanblog.org/370… well again, our guest today is Edward Blackman. Edward, how are you?

Edward Blackman:
I'm great, Mark, how are you doing?

Mark Graban:
I'm doing good. Thank you for joining us and chatting today. I think we're going to learn a lot personally from the discussion and really happy to share that with others. But before we get into really kind of the meat of our topics today, I always like to let guests introduce themselves so I will turn the floor over to you.

Edward Blackman:
Oh great. Thank you. By education, my background as an undergrad was mathematics and psychology graduate degree in behavioral science. By experience, I've been in the field for about 20 years now. Worked in most industries, manufacturing, about a decade in healthcare in all aspects of that, the clinics, hospitals, system, insurance side as well.

Edward Blackman:
It is the most recent area that I've been in. I've worked on local scale, regional, national and global manufacturers as well. A current company is Kelda Consulting. We do consulting for small, medium, and large size organizations based on using a combination of behavioral science and continuous improvement.

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And so that's why I'm excited to explore and learn from you about that combination. One quick follow up question. What's the origin or the meaning of the name Kelda Consulting?

Edward Blackman:
Yes. I'm a bit of a bibliophile. Love books. And if anybody's delved into Terry Pratchett's work, the guy is just a genius. Was a genius.

Edward Blackman:
But, Kelda, the short answer is a word meaning okay.

Mark Graban:
And I'm not familiar with that author's work, unfortunately.

Edward Blackman:
Okay. Now is a great time to catch up on the reads. And he's very entertaining. He writes people very well. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
So with all your varied experience in different industries, one thing I'm always interested in exploring with guests is a little bit of how you got introduced to lean or continuous improvement or however you frame it.

Edward Blackman:
Oh, yeah. So back in the day, I worked in retail. I worked in a regional organization that did grocery and hard goods as well, similar to, like, a Target or a Walmart superstar. And at the time, we were in the performance management department, and we had signed a contract with GE financial division to back our credit card and found out that if you have a business relationship with GE, they will train you in six Sigma for free. And so about a week after the ink dried on the contract, we had them on site and teaching us about six Sigma.

Edward Blackman:
And so that was my first segue away from performance management and into more of the CI realm, if you will. From there, I started to learn about lean and, if you will, continuous improvement production system through a partnership with Herman Miller. So at the time, we had a leader who studied Herman Miller, studied the great work that they did, and Herman Miller was gracious enough to see that there was a mutually beneficial relationship. They wanted to learn more about healthcare clients. We wanted to learn more about their version of continuous improvement.

Edward Blackman:
And so they lent us sensei, a mentor for about a year, embedded with us to learn our needs and also teach us their version of continuous improvement. It was a great relationship.

Mark Graban:
Well, I think there's an interesting lineage there where Herman Miller, I believe, had a partnership with Toyota at one point, and Toyota, I know there's some different histories where Toyota worked with Alcoa. And when you said mutually beneficial partnership, that seems to be the common theme here.

Edward Blackman:
Right?

Mark Graban:
I mean, learning about their customers, helping, it's just kind of all around getting better together and learning from each other.

Edward Blackman:
Yeah, they were going through rough times about 15 years ago, I think it was, and needed help. They sought TSSC division of Toyota to help them out, and Mr. Oba son sent to them and provided guidance to them on their approach. And he set down some extremely difficult challenges for them to meet to demonstrate that they would be, if you will, worthy learners. And they met the challenge and he continued to mentor them after that.

Mark Graban:
So then we'll probably, I think, be able to intersperse lean concepts and lessons and examples from your work with the behavioral science side of things first, before talking about connections to lean or other continuous improvement methods for the uninitiated, boy, the uninitiated, can you give just a bit of an introduction to the boundaries around behavioral science and what that means?

Edward Blackman:
Oh, certainly. So by history, everybody's probably heard of Pavlov. We call that classical conditioning in behavioral psychology or behavioral science. Then along came Dr. Skinner, who created something that's called operant conditioning, which is a very different version from pavlovian conditioning.

Edward Blackman:
Basically, I don't want to get overly techie on this one, but if you can see it with a video camera, it's probably behavior. If you can't, then it's probably not behavior. And so that's sort of the layman version of am I actually discussing behavior? The important bit on that is we dealt with behavior because it's something that's scientifically falsifiable. So we can actually test whether or not we're influencing behavior because we can have multiple people agree on whether or not.

Edward Blackman:
Did Mark pick up the pencil? Did Mark follow the JIT correctly? Well, if you have multiple independent observers, then you can actually say, yes, we all agree that that happened. Whereas if we ask Mark, I want you to think about the pencil or I want to think about the just in time training. Well, it's very difficult to validate whether or not that happened, and therefore we try to focus on the observable behaviors because it's scientific.

Mark Graban:
So there's a difference between observing a leader leave their office and go on a gimbal walk. You can observe that behavior. What you can't prove or disprove is some of their mindsets. If they're going on this gimbal walk, intent on finding people who are screwing up, we may see behavior that suggests a certain mindset. Is that fair to say?

Edward Blackman:
That's correct. And we can try to interpret it and talk about motivations and things like that. I will say it's a common misconception that people don't consider vocal or verbal behavior part of behavior, but there's an entire division within behavioral science that focuses just on, if you will, vocal behavior. And so the words that leaders use matter a lot as well. And so when they're on those gimbal walks, are they using words that are in an inquisitive nature?

Edward Blackman:
Are they asking questions about the current condition? Right. Or do they show up and, you know what, 95% of the time, the leader is doing the talking? Right. So quantify that as well.

Edward Blackman:
Well, that's not an inquisitive. That's not a learning mindset, if you will. Learning mindset would be interpreted as somebody that asks questions, somebody that listens. And we can actually quantify that by the amount of time that they're in the gamba and the amount of time of that. If you look at a pie chart that they're actually demonstrating these behaviors that we desire, does that make sense?

Mark Graban:
Yeah, that's helpful. So before we talk about connections with lean, are there other kind of, I guess, foundational concepts or branches of behavioral science that are worth sketching out?

Edward Blackman:
Yeah. So there's typically people go into two areas within behavioral science. They'll go into the developmental disabilities or autism spectrum disorder field, or they'll go into the organizational behavior field. And so my background, actually, I started on the DD route. I worked with kids labeled autistic and then ventured into the organizational behavior area, and I stayed with that.

Edward Blackman:
And honestly, to give another plug related to Toyota, one of the reasons that I continued to study and apply lean versus more the six sigma stuff is I found it validated by the behavioral science approach. So whether or not folks at Toyota or the people that learn and apply lean actually understand what's called the mechanisms of action, why the stuff works, that they use actually works, but it is very much supported and validated by behavioral science.

Mark Graban:
So can you give an example of.

Edward Blackman:
Of the. I'll just mention his name. Ted Larnett was the sensei lent to us by Herman Miller. And we asked him, how do you know that somebody is improving on their continuous improvement journey? How do you know they're getting better at it?

Edward Blackman:
And he said one of the things that they look for that they'd learned from Obasan was scripting. So are people using the words and are they using them correctly? Right. So when they're approaching a problem solving scenario, are they using, and we can delve into the a three example, are they using left side wording or right side wording? So when they approach a problem are they trying to understand the symptoms versus the root cause?

Edward Blackman:
Or right out of the gate, are they suggesting solutions? That falls right in line with the verbal analysis that I mentioned earlier, that we're able to actually link verbal behavior with the desired problem solving approaches that we, you know, to be honest, Mark, I can geek out on this stuff all day long, so you're going to have to throw on this one. But I find this stuff fascinating just because it's so effective. Yeah. Oh, go ahead, I'm sorry.

Mark Graban:
No, I was going to say geeking out on this is fine. That's what this podcast is all about. You've given a bit of an introduction and we're going to delve deeper into some of the techniques that connect to continuous improvement. But starting with the why is it important? Why do you think it's important to connect behavioral science to lean and continuous improvement?

Edward Blackman:
So I got an anecdote about that. About five years into my career, I was at a wedding reception and just exchanging pleasantries with somebody and I told them where I worked and what I was doing and performance management and working in the retail field. And she goes, oh, what's your education? Oh, behavioral science, psychology. And she goes, oh, that's so sad.

Edward Blackman:
What do you mean? Yeah, oh, well, you don't get to apply any of your degree. And I was puzzled by the statement, and I can honestly turn this around on you as well. I would say that most of my career, over 90% of the conversations I have are around. Why did this person do that?

Edward Blackman:
I wanted them to do this other thing instead. Their behavior just doesn't make sense. And you know what? There's an actual field out there. There's a science that can help us answer those questions.

Edward Blackman:
So that's where I think the power of behavioral science comes in, is to help demystify why people perform the way that they do.

Mark Graban:
So when you talk about behavior that doesn't make sense, is it more a matter of the behavior makes sense to them, but there's some difference in the person we're observing and we wish they were behaving differently. There's a different mindset, or there's some different principles, or it seemed like they wouldn't be doing it if it didn't make sense.

Edward Blackman:
I love your logic, mark. You're dead on there you hit kind of. The main point is that the behavior almost always makes sense to the individual. The onus is on the observer, the external person, to figure out why it makes sense. Right?

Edward Blackman:
Because most people do behave rationally, and so if we go with that assumption that the human, the performer, is behaving in a way that makes sense to him or her, then let's do an analysis to figure out why it makes sense. So why is the person continuing to use paper charts instead of our brand new fancy electronic metaphor? Right. It just doesn't make sense. It's easier.

Edward Blackman:
It's digitized. Look at all these great charts you can create with it. Right? Yeah. Well, they've worked on paper charts for 25 years.

Edward Blackman:
Switching over to a new behavior that seems more difficult than the old is perfectly understandable that it's hard for them. And one of the things that we look at is there's an analysis called response cost. And that's where we'll find there's a lot of terms and terminology within behavioral science, the paradigm that have analogs to lean as well. So we look at a cost benefit grid would be another way of doing an analysis. What's the benefit to the individual performer of doing this?

Edward Blackman:
New behavior versus the old behavior, right?

Mark Graban:
Yeah. And think about cost benefit or reasons to use the electronic medical record and reasons to continue using paper charting or reasons to go out and do gamba walks and reasons to stay in someone's office. The little bit I've tried studying, I could geek out on this. I've gotten really fascinated about it and read and done a couple of podcasts on the topic of motivational interviewing. And the one thing that I think key takeaway from motivational interviewing is casting aside phrase resistance to change and instead thinking about ambivalence.

Mark Graban:
And that person may say things like, well, I know I should use the electronic medical record, but then they also have reasons not to. It seems like motivational interviewing and maybe other behavioral science, it's not about making people do what we want, but helping them get unstuck. And maybe they can talk about the benefits. Motivational interviewing would ask. We would try to get someone to articulate the benefits instead of just lecturing them about what the benefits are.

Edward Blackman:
Right. There's a lot of concepts that we could unravel there. I like to heard a smart person say one time, people aren't resistant to change. They're resistant to being changed. If they're actually part of the change and they actually are invested in it in terms of developing ideas, then when it comes time to test out or experiment with or implement their ideas, well, they're their ideas.

Edward Blackman:
They're not somebody else's. So they don't find resistance to them because they're actually invested in seeing whether or not they succeed or fail versus taking somebody else's idea and trying to make it work.

Mark Graban:
Yeah.

Edward Blackman:
One of the really basic analyses that we can do to see whether or not we have an alignment between behavior and the outcomes that we want to see as an organization is to look at their time. And so we've mentioned the office versus the gamma, the shop floor. As CI people, you and I like leaders to be out on the shop floor as much as possible, wherever that is. And yes, even the IT environment has a shop floor. So our leaders actually doing that.

Edward Blackman:
Well, let's analyze their calendars, Google calendars, outlook. There's a lot of really basic ways that we could run a quick analysis and see. Is the leader spending a majority of her time in their office, in meetings with other leaders at the same level, or are they spending time with their direct reports? Are they spending time on the shop floor? And we can further that analysis by looking at training and development, too.

Edward Blackman:
If a core tenet of an organization is we want to be a learning organization. Right. It keeps becoming a popular term. Well, if we're truly a learning organization, how much of our time do we actually spend learning? And we can break this down into chunks if we wanted to.

Edward Blackman:
Right. How much time did we spend last week learning or last month? If the answer is zero, then can we truly say that we're a learning organization? Yeah.

Mark Graban:
So I guess it comes back again to what's observable. And you can observe if somebody is going out to the Gemba. I was just chuckling because I was thinking back to back when I worked in manufacturing, the assumption that we want leaders to be in the Gemba as much as possible. Sometimes that assumption gets invalidated when you see how the leaders are behaving when.

Edward Blackman:
They'Re out on the.

Mark Graban:
Just being physically out there is just one of the observable behaviors. Some leaders, it's probably better if they.

Edward Blackman:
Stay in the office. Well, you know what? Turns out we can do. So if one of our goals is to get leaders to go out, and let's use healthcare hospitals as the example. If we want leaders to follow Dr.

Edward Blackman:
Toussaint's example, formerly from thetacare, want people to follow his example where he was the CEO and he learned that he should be spending a lot of his time on the floors in his hospital, seeing what's actually going on. Well, we can look at what would make that difficult for a leader. Well, one. And you just kind of hit on it. What should I be doing when I get there?

Edward Blackman:
And so we have to actually shadow mentor and teach and train leaders what behaviors we expect of them when they go to the gambling. Right. Another is it's going to be weird. They've not done it before. It's the first time they're going out there.

Edward Blackman:
So it's going to be weird for the leader. It's going to be weird for the workers on the floor to see the leader. But that weirdness fades. That's where it becomes the new normal. We want it to actually be odd if the lear isn't seen in the gemba for a period of time.

Edward Blackman:
Right. So there's a lot of, we call them contingencies, but links between behavior and consequences. So these are often called operants, but we want to link the operands together and see why behavior is or is not happening. One of the ways that we look at this is something called an exemplary performer or an exemplar is the short term for it. The latest term for that is a positive deviant.

Edward Blackman:
And there's a book on this topic. So let's say we're a healthcare system and we have a dozen C suite executives or vice presidents, and one of those executives is actually exhibiting the behavior that we want. She's on the shop floor, she's interacting, she's asking questions. She's not performing command and control. She's learning and she's providing direction.

Edward Blackman:
Great. Let's directly observe that leader, see what makes it easy for her to do these behaviors. And here's the key point. Then we take one other executive and have him trained by her. We don't take the entire C suite.

Edward Blackman:
We don't take all of the leaders. We run an experiment and we see if that one leader, that one positive deviant can train and develop one more. And then we do it one by one and develop leaders that way. So if we're struggling for ideas on how to develop new behaviors, solutions, if you will, things like that, we can always look for positive deviants or exemplars. We'll be right back.

Mark Graban:
Hey, podcast listeners. I'm excited to announce the release of the audiobook version of the mistakes that make us. Cultivating a culture of learning and innovation. Listen and dive into powerful insights on fostering growth through mistakes. Whether you're a leader, entrepreneur, or just trying to get better at learning from mistakes, this audiobook is for you.

Mark Graban:
Get it now on audible, Amazon, and Apple books. Visit mistakesbook.com for more info. So when you bring up, I'd like to delve a little more into this one by one approach, which is really interesting. Thing of doing an experiment and taking time, I'm reminded of, I would call it a lean method training within industry that relies very much on one on one training and coaching. And it's not the fastest but approach for training somebody, but arguably, it's more effective to go and test for confirmation of understanding and test for confirmation of ability to do what might be, for example, a repetitive manufacturing job.

Mark Graban:
But when we come to leaders, and I want to hear more of your thoughts about this one to one approach, one by one, as opposed to organizations, I see where it's tempting to throw everybody into a large classroom and have them sit through a couple of lectures and then say, go forth and do lean. And I wouldn't believe the hypothesis that that would be really effective, but it seems faster. I wonder if you could elaborate on that. When people say, well, we don't have time to go one by one.

Edward Blackman:
I completely understand your point. The distinction in training and development between effectiveness and efficiency. Right. It's highly efficient to get 100 people through a 1 hour lean course and call them yellow belt certified, but I would call that highly efficient, not very effective. And so how do we know?

Edward Blackman:
Well, every, and I'm going to preach a little bit here, but in my mind, every training event that we have, class that we have, should always be a learning cycle system unto itself. So how do we know if the training is actually effective? Right. Well, people rated us five stars on the training on a survey. Okay.

Edward Blackman:
Was the goal of the training to get five stars on a survey? No. What was it? Honestly, this is another plug for behavioral science. This is where behavioral science can help finish that sentence for people, because this is the point where people tend to struggle with actually describing the desired behaviors that they're looking for.

Edward Blackman:
Well, we want them to be more innovative, or we want them to care more, or we want them to be more proactive. All these are true struggles that I've experienced. Okay, can you give me an example of somebody that you consider proactive? Okay, so we've narrowed it down a little bit. Okay.

Edward Blackman:
Now can you give me a scenario with that person where you saw them being proactive? A meeting or a project or something like that, and we can start to identify what those behaviors are that they're calling proactive behaviors. And then once we have those identified, we can actually measure those rate of occurrence, things like that, amount of time, duration. There's a lot of performance measurements that we can use, and then we can say, okay, let's hold one training event where we're trying to teach proactivity and then afterwards we're going to measure for a period of time, let's say two weeks, and see whether or not those proactive behaviors are exhibited. The smart Alec answer is if we see that they're exhibited zero times, I'm going to call our training ineffective.

Edward Blackman:
But this is where we have to come up with the measures before we do training to the masses. Otherwise it's a complete waste. I'm struggling with the proper attribution of this, but a smart person one time talked about competence by chance. We don't want to be accidentally competent. We want to be intentionally competent.

Edward Blackman:
And that includes our training, right?

Mark Graban:
Yeah. I guess the thing that puts the science and behavioral science is being disciplined about forming and articulating a hypothesis in advance of the experiment, right. And not twisting whatever happened to say, oh, yeah, that's what we predicted, or somehow defining that as success after the fact. Right?

Edward Blackman:
Very well said, Mark. Yeah, exactly. And it can be a struggle. I completely understand. Most people aren't geeks and didn't study behavioral science.

Edward Blackman:
To my regrets, behavioral science is not taught in high school education or necessarily a requirement in college. I really think it should be. How many times do you interact with other humans versus working on trigonometry? Now, granted I have a degree in math, so I do that as well. But the frequency of use of certain skills should influence education, in my opinion.

Edward Blackman:
The classic gripe on that one is taxes. I was never taught how to do taxes in high school, but it does seem to come up every dang year. Right.

Mark Graban:
Just kind of closing the loop a little bit on behavior before we kind of look at some other contributions from behavioral science. So just sort of a struggling with the word, a platitude about we need leaders to be more innovative. That's in and of itself, not observable behavior. But then that's where you have to go and break it down and define what behaviors demonstrate innovation.

Edward Blackman:
Right. One approach to that for innovation is I'm a firm supporter of innovation. I think it's a great thing. The way I tend to define it is similar to, I think, how Toyota defines this. But I appreciate if you keep me honest, Mark, it's the volume of ideas that are tested and tried.

Edward Blackman:
Hopefully some are actually implemented. Right? So the classic example I've read about a lot is the number of ideas generated by traditional north american car manufacturers versus Toyota. And these are dated articles, but at one point in time they would talk about one to three ideas per employee in North America versus, what was it, 100 or a thousand by Toyota. The number.

Mark Graban:
Huge difference.

Edward Blackman:
Yeah. And so the generation of ideas, just by sheer probability, you're going to have more that are actually implemented if you generate more. And so one way to behaviorally define innovation is the number of ideas generated. The next level of that measure is the number of ideas implemented.

Mark Graban:
Right.

Edward Blackman:
Both of those are very telling indicators. And unfortunately, one of the struggles organizations have right now that want to be innovative or want to learn more and grow faster than their competitors is when they're asked, how many ideas were generated by your employees last year? And tell me if you already know the answer, Mark.

Mark Graban:
No, go ahead. I'm guessing, but I'll let you go ahead.

Edward Blackman:
The answer is typically, I don't know. Right.

Mark Graban:
What's sad also is if you ask leaders, what's your lost workday incident rate? And they might not know that either, which is, I guess, in a way, a behavior that illustrates, like, it's one thing for an organization to say, well, safety is always our top priority. Well, what are the behaviors that demonstrate that safety is always the top priority? It's not just knowing the metric, but I would guess knowing the metrics probably correlates very strongly with having a deep involvement in trying to improve safety.

Edward Blackman:
Exactly. And we can quantify that in a number of ways to help us learn whether or not we're making progress on it. One of the most recent transformations I did was with an executive IT team for a global manufacturer. And starting out of the gate, we had to talk about the standard five KPIs, safety, quality, delivery, cost, and morale. Okay, well, what does that mean in an it setting?

Edward Blackman:
Right. So I worked with the executive team, and we came up with definitions for each of those, for it. And in it world, safety tends to equate to security, protected health information, things like that, data breaches. Keeping the CIO's name out of the media was one of the ways they defined it, which I thought comical, but we came up with those measures, but then we also prioritized them. And here was the big learning experience for the executive team is if you want your people to prioritize work and the completion of work the same way that you do, you need to make it very simple and understandable and explainable by yourself.

Edward Blackman:
Right? So the CI person shouldn't be the one defining security. The security folks should come up with that. And so if you're having a conversation with a project manager and he says, you know what, the project's going to be late. And the executive asks, why?

Edward Blackman:
And the project manager says, well, we found a potential hole in our security. And we need two more weeks to patch the hole. The only answer that we desire from the executive is, good. That's exactly what you should do.

Mark Graban:
I was going to say maybe. Thank you. Which might also be a good response.

Edward Blackman:
Yes, absolutely. Thank you. Good prioritization. Right. So they prioritize safety over delivery.

Edward Blackman:
Instead of hitting the production goals for pushing out the quality or pushing out the code, they prioritize safety over that. And so the thing is, if they want their prioritization to be in that order, safety, quality, delivery, cost and morale, then we would want how many people in their organization to prioritize the work the same way? And the short answer is, well, ideal state is 100%. We want everybody in the organization to prioritize the work the same way. Great.

Edward Blackman:
How do we get them to exhibit those behaviors? And the short answer is, we make it very easy for them and we reinforce it when it does happen. So this gets into another piece about feedback systems and what's called the common phrase when we talk about feedback and operants is all antecedents and no consequences. And so what that tends to.

Mark Graban:
In plain language.

Edward Blackman:
No, in plain language, all antecedents and no consequences means antecedents are things like, I'm warning you, mark, don't mess up. So that's an antecedent. That's something that happens before your behavior occurs. And then the consequence is, well, mark, you messed up the quality on it. Right.

Edward Blackman:
The widget didn't quite come up to snuff. Well, that never happens. No consequence means there's no follow up. There's no learning cycle. There's no corrective action.

Edward Blackman:
There's no learning that happens afterwards. So we don't teach you, Mark, this is how quality should have happened, or we don't help you when we see, oh, the quality of your widget was off. Can you help me understand what the struggles were to meet the quality specs? Right. So instead we just come back and say, okay, this time I really mean it, Mark.

Edward Blackman:
Don't mess up. Next time I really mean it. And to help make sure I'm doing this right, I'm going to start putting up some posters and say, we really mean quality this time. So these are antecedents, not consequences.

Mark Graban:
I was wondering if we could kind of go back and dove in the safety a little bit in the context of it and software settings, because you said safety often gets translated into security. But then some of the things that came up, the examples of not let the boss get in the news and let's not. It sounds like there are consequences or there's fear, and this isn't physical safety, but it seems more connected to either. You could call it professional safety or psychological safety, and that doesn't seem as easily measurable as physical harms. It's pretty cut and dry if somebody got cut physically in a manufacturing workplace, and it's observable and measurable that, yes, they missed time at work because of it.

Mark Graban:
I don't know if this is a rhetorical question or if this is something you can speak to, but how do we observe or measure emotional harms in that type of workplace that might be really fear driven and dysfunctional in other ways?

Edward Blackman:
So, mark, I can see why you're considered such an expert in the field. These are absolutely excellent questions. So, physical safety in the workplace versus mental safety or psychological safety? To me, both are important. And I'm going to do a twist on a classic term called accountability and talk about accountability partners.

Edward Blackman:
And so, as a behaviorist, I'm able to see whether or not the executive is putting somebody in a psychologically unsafe condition. But I'm only one person. So how do we develop one another as accountability partners for the types of behaviors that we desire? And so if we see that a vice president, for example, is mad, we can all define mad. We've seen that.

Mark Graban:
We can observe mad a lot of times.

Edward Blackman:
Yeah, we can operationally define it, measure it and all that kind of stuff. Or we can just say, you know what, Bob? You were really mad, and it seemed like you were making it unsafe for Jen to tell you the problems that we had and the reason. What was going on, the reason that we missed our production targets. What do you mean?

Edward Blackman:
Well, do you notice how Jen went quiet in the classic phrase, leaders that don't listen will soon have people that don't talk. There's a lot of truth to that. So if you're not self aware, and that's a term I struggle with a little bit. But if you're not self aware that you're creating an unsafe psychological environment, we need accountability partners. And this is very much in line with the Andon cord, when a psychologically unsafe condition is occurring, we need a signal.

Edward Blackman:
We need to pull the and on and say, you know what? The worker is just doing exactly what we wanted them to do. Please don't respond in that way. Right. So we need two things.

Edward Blackman:
We need a way to signal that an psychologically unsafe condition is happening, and we need a way defined that we're going to respond to it. Now. In this case, accountability partners are the and on. Right. The more accountability partners that you have that are trained on this approach can help you say yes.

Edward Blackman:
You know what, it wasn't just my impression. Five people in the room all agreed that this was an unsafe conversation. Okay? So we signaled the. And on we signaled unsafe.

Edward Blackman:
Now how do we respond to that? Right. Well, I wasn't being mean. You guys are exaggerating.

Mark Graban:
Being sensitive.

Edward Blackman:
Don't be so thin skinned. Come on, grow up. Right?

Mark Graban:
Yeah.

Edward Blackman:
We all defined in our training, our accountability training that those are incorrect responses to an and on poll. The correct responses were, ok, what do you think happened? What do we think happened? What should happen differently next time? Oh, and by the way, do I need to go back and apologize to?

Edward Blackman:
So I don't know if you're familiar with.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, yeah. I've interviewed Rich Sheridan and podcast and visited their company once.

Edward Blackman:
Okay. Yeah. I think the world of Rich and his crew, they do great work out there. In Rich's latest book, he talks about one of these exact scenarios where it's very easy to get CEO syndrome or President syndrome and behave in an unrestricted manner. And so he gave a poor response to one of his coders, one of his developers, and later on was called out on it by an accountability partner and the next day went back and apologized to the individual.

Edward Blackman:
Wow. Now here's the thing. That was an interaction between one CEO and one, if you will, coder. But the power of that story went throughout the entire organization. Right?

Edward Blackman:
And that's one of the beautiful things is all behavior is observed. It is. And what story do you want to have told about that? In healthcare we used to talk about service recovery quite a bit. It's really bad to have an adverse event happen.

Edward Blackman:
It's worse if you respond to it poorly. And so how do we do service recovery properly and actually turn a poor experience into a lifelong loyal individual? And our stories help with that. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
You mentioned performance and performance management. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on what behavioral science brings to us understanding things like strategy, deployment, and when people are trying to meet goals and targets, or when organizations are trying to evaluate individual performance, what are some things that come to mind that are useful?

Edward Blackman:
Certainly. And so I want to preface this real quick by saying that this is the elephant analogy. So people often think about performance management based on their own personal experiences with it. So if six visually impaired individuals touch an elephant, they're all going to describe it based on the piece that they touch. So elephant is like a tree.

Edward Blackman:
If you're touching the leg, it's like a wall. If you're touching the side, it's like a snake. If you're touching the tail, so on. So from my experience, a lot of people have had poor interactions with performance management teams or performance management departments, and they're typically punitive. It's punishment department, right?

Edward Blackman:
Not performance management. And so performance management can actually do quite a bit from a behavioral science perspective to help develop high performers. And there's a thing by Thomas Gilbert. So he's a great author. Great individual.

Edward Blackman:
Was a great individual. He wrote the book about behavioral engineering and developing human competence. And so he gets into is the individual actually set up for success? And looks at an analysis on how you see whether or not they're set up for success or not. One of the pieces that we look at with this is, again, their time allocation.

Edward Blackman:
So if we're delving into Hoshin Connery or strategy development and deployment, one of the premises for strategy development and deployment is it's not a once and done thing, right? So develop the strategy, put it up on the shelf, let it collect dust, and bring it down at the end of the year and see how we did on it. It's a constant iterative experiment, and we're constantly doing feedback. So one of the things that we can look at, and I'm a big fan of Obias large rooms. If it's important, I like the way Nationwide talks about it.

Edward Blackman:
If it's important, it should be on the wall, and it can be a digital wall, particularly given recent events. But if it's important, it should be visual and it should be discussed frequently. And so if your strategy is truly important to you, how often do you talk about it? How often do you check to see if you're performing in alignment with your predicted strategy? I would say that typically, strategies should be discussed on a frequent basis.

Edward Blackman:
I would call that weekly minimal. My preference is actually a couple of times a week. So you can look at an analysis of your calendar at the executive team and see, did we discuss our strategy last week? How long did we dedicate to discussing it? And again, if the answer is zero, then I'm wondering how important our strategy actually is.

Edward Blackman:
Another piece is the check piece. So every time we make a decision, do we make a decision with some anchored scale? And so there's a thing called behaviorally anchored rating scale, bars for short. But the way that would apply in this setting is should we do a or b? And common way to answer that is, well, let's vote it seems like a majority vote says we should do b, or I'm the hippo, I'm the highest paid person's opinion.

Mark Graban:
Right.

Edward Blackman:
I think we should do b. The answer that we would love to see instead, from a hosh economy perspective, is which one lines up with our strategy for the year. Right? So. Oh, it turns out a lines up with our strategy better.

Edward Blackman:
Wow. Okay. So that's a used strategy. It's actually providing some sort of anchor guidance for us. Does that make sense?

Mark Graban:
Yeah, it does. It's just interesting. You made me think about coming back to observable and instead of just my friend Pascal Dennis, who was with Toyota in Canada for a long time and he's been a mentor, I would call him a sensei. To me, avoiding happy talk and making sure know dealing with the real reality in terms of performance and the status of our experiments and our improvement efforts. So maybe just kind of close up the thought that's observable behavior.

Mark Graban:
Is a leader just spouting happy talk, or are they facing the real reality in a way that's more helpful?

Edward Blackman:
Yeah. He's an excellent author. I love his work, all his books, and I can't remember if he's the individual that would often bring up the question, how would we know? How would we know if our strategy is on or off? How would we know if the decision that we just made lines up with our strategy?

Edward Blackman:
It's such a deep question. Yeah.

Mark Graban:
And then when you talk about setting people up for success, it's kind of triggered a couple thoughts. One is thinking about the influence of Dr. Deming, who said the role of a leader. I'm paraphrasing, but I think it's pretty close. The role of a leader is not to judge.

Mark Graban:
The role of a leader is to help people improve. And so when you talk about punitive systems or things, if leaders are constantly blaming their employees, at some point you have to ask, whose responsibility is it that you've hired these supposedly bad employees? We're going to send those bad employees back to training. We're going to retrain them like, well, if the training wasn't effective the first time, and that leads you to label them as a bad employee, how is repeating the same ineffective training exactly likely to make things better? And how would you know?

Mark Graban:
But the other thought I just wanted to share back is setting people up for success. The Toyota people I know have this feeling of deep responsibility for that. And I often quote and cite my friend Daryl Wilburn, who says, basically, I think this is a pretty direct quote, I think he always says it the same way. It's the responsibility of leaders to provide a system in which people can be successful. Boy, that summarizes a lot of it.

Mark Graban:
How many organizations say they are implementing lean, but yet don't share that same belief? I think things like that are just so fundamental, but they're overlooked by a lot of people who say, well, oh, yeah, we are implementing the mechanisms of strategy deployment. You may see an obey a room, but it doesn't mean they're really practicing that or exhibiting the same behaviors you might see in a place where that's effective.

Edward Blackman:
Exactly. And to build on that a little bit, I think you said Daryl Wilburn. I'm going to have to look him up.

Mark Graban:
Yeah, Daryl Wilburn. Yeah, he was in Kentucky, and he helped stand up the San Antonio plant, and he still lives in the Antonio area.

Edward Blackman:
Okay. So one of the things I like to talk about is when we ask is an individual set up for success, that's the first question we ask. We don't ask what's wrong with the person. Right. Because majority of individuals, performers, workers, humans come to work trying to do a good job.

Edward Blackman:
Yes. So if we start with that basic assumption, then we ask, were they set up for success? If we try to flip that order and say, well, yes, they must be set up for success, I'm a great leader, they must have just hired a bad one. No, most of the time, they're not set up for success. And there's actually different analyses that we can do on that.

Edward Blackman:
I know we're running low on time, but there's a cool thing called a picnic analysis that you can look at to see whether or not they're set up for success. Or the behavioral engineering model is really useful for that along with a lot of the CI tools. Right. Yeah. It's a beautiful marriage of the two paradigms.

Mark Graban:
Well, and maybe we can take a deeper dive into some of this in another podcast or in other ways. But I know you've got a couple of recommendations of what people could do if they want to learn more about behavioral science.

Edward Blackman:
Yeah, certainly, I'd love to talk about this more. Maybe in the future we could delve into specific case study examples.

Mark Graban:
Oh, yeah.

Edward Blackman:
And delve into whatever is of interest to it, manufacturing, whatever area would be find interesting. But we could go into a specific one where we did an analysis and use the CI thinking and behavioral thinking to talk about how we got to root cause and how we tested out solutions and stuff like that, or tested out ideas. But other places that we can go or folks can go. If they want to learn more, they can go to what's called the business science magazine. It's a behaviorally science approach, and there's a number of behavioral scientists, practitioners that are in the field, not necessarily just academics, that write about this and how they've applied it in the field.

Edward Blackman:
So Business Science magazine, you can find my company's website, Kelda Consulting. So it's K-E-L-D-A consulting on LinkedIn and Twitter and the website as well. There's also an organization called the Organizational Behavior Management Network, or OBM network. And it's a bunch of practitioners as well, have been applying this stuff in the field. So there's a lot of content that's available.

Edward Blackman:
Unfortunately, I would say that most of the content is more academically written. I know there's not a lineup of people going to read textbooks, but that is one of the things that the field is working on, is to try to have less academic writing and more applied writing available.

Mark Graban:
Because like you said earlier, even if we haven't had the chance to study it formally, we all deal with other people, and that means we're better off if we understand behaviors.

Edward Blackman:
Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Graban:
Well, great. Well, Edward, thank you so much for being a guest and introducing a lot of concepts and I think connecting dots for myself and I'm sure a lot of the listeners. So I'll make sure the blog post for this episode has links to your website, to your LinkedIn profile, the other resources that you mentioned. So, Edward, I hope we can do it again sometime. I really appreciate you taking time to be a guest here.

Edward Blackman:
Oh, thank you, Mark. I appreciate the invitation. It was a lot of fun. Stay healthy, sir, I agree.

Mark Graban:
And yeah, please be well.

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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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