Burnout Needs a Systematic fix

It is more like being involved in a complicated love affair. One minute it’s thrilling, passionate, engaging. The next, it’s exhausting and overwhelming, and I feel like I need a break.
— Read on hbr.org/2019/07/when-passion-leads-to-burnout

Jennifer Moss, When Passion Leads to Burnout. HBR

It is the responsibility of leaders “to keep an eye on the well-being of their staff.”  Organizations whose staff feel unmotivated due to stress and burnout cannot aspire to achieve a culture of excellence. Our systems need to be designed to eliminate the root cause for stress and burnout.

Five mechanisms can be leveraged to improve organizational system design: 1) Eliminate organizational issues related to roles, responsibilities and authorities of employees, 2) establish a policy of transparency and effective “bottom-up” internal communication channel to permit employee contribution and recognition, 3) establish criteria for resource distribution, 4) establish a commitment to identify needed training and provide resources for the purpose and 5) establish a systemic feedback loop for analysis and improvement of employee motivation based on periodic measurement of employee motivational levels.

If employees know exactly what their tasks are, without sustained overload, with necessary resources and competence, and recognition for the task well performed, there will be no major system-induced reason for demotivation.

This gets to the heart of Deming’s use of psychology in his System of Profound Knowledge. Lean calls it Respect-for-People. This is all about ensuring our organizations are healthy places to work and thrive.

Change Leader Competency

Luigi Sille on sharequality answered the June 2019 ASQ Roundtable Topic asks: “How can an individual become a successful Change Leader?” I’m a big fan of both blog carnivals and change management so here goes my answer, which is pretty similar to Luigi’s, and I would guess many other’s – just with my own spin.

A few things immediately come to mind.

Change management (and this is another great example of really meaning people change management) should be a competency on the ladder for any quality professional. It certainly needs to be a core area for anyone in a quality leadership position.

There are a lot of competency models out there for change management. Instead of pointing to just one, let’s try to find what they actually have in common. To do so it is important to set out the critical activities of change management:

  1. Define the change
  2. Ensure change delivers value
  3. Stakeholder strategy
  4. Communication and engagement
  5. Assess change impact
  6. Project management

In order to do these it is important to be able to provide education and learning support, facilitation, team effectiveness and understand how to sustain systems.

Change Management requires the seven skills we should all be developing: communication, content, context, emotional competence, teaching, connections, and an ethical compass

Change Management is part of the core for any quality leader, together with continuous improvement and knowledge management.

Quality Management as a Program

Quality System Management should be viewed and governed as a program

Program management is commonly defined as “a group of projects that contribute to a common, higher order objective.” The projects in a program are related, and the intent of achieving benefits would not be realized if the projects were managed independently.

Program management includes the practices and processes of strategic alignment, benefits management, stakeholder management, governance, and lifecycle management. Program governance creates the control framework for delivering the programs’ change objectives and making benefit delivery visible to the organization’s control.

There are different styles of program management and what I am focusing on here is what is sometimes called “heartbeat”, which aims to achieve evolutionary improvement of existing systems and processes or organizational change. This program type creates value by reconciling contradicting views and demands for change from various organization actors in order to enhance existing systems and practices while sustaining operations.

Heartbeat program management is all about awareness of the contexts of the program and requires knowledge of strategy, competition, trends in the industry, and differences in management practices between the business units of the company. A good heartbeat program manager is highly concerned about their program’s long-term effects and implications for the company’s business.

Magic triangle of a program manager

Programs exist to create value by improving the management of projects and to create benefits through better organization of projects. The fundamental goals of program management are:

  • Efficiency and effectiveness: Aspects of management that a proficient project manager should address and benefit from coordination.
  • Business focus goal: The external alignment of projects with the requirements, goals, drivers and culture of the wider organization. These goals are associated with defining an appropriate direction for the constituent projects within a program as well as for the program as a whole.
GoalDescription
Efficiency and effectiveness goals
Improved co-ordinationAssist in identification and definition of project inter-dependencies and thereby reduce the incidence of work backlogs, rework and delays
Improved dependency managementReduce the amount of re-engineering required due to inadequate management of the interfaces between projects
More effective resource utilizationImprove the effectiveness and efficiency of the allocation of shared resources
Assist in providing justification for specialist resources that deliver an overall improvement to program delivery and/or business operations
More effective knowledge transferProvide a means to identify and improve upon transferable lessons.
Facilitate organizational learning
Greater senior management ‘visibility’Enable senior management to better monitor, direct and control the implementation process
Business focus goals
More coherent communicationImprove communication of overall goals and direction both internally and externally to the program
Target management attention clearly on the realization of benefits that are defined and understood at the outset and achieved through the lifetime of the program and beyond
Assist in keeping personal agendas in check
Improved project definitionEnsure that project definition is more systematic and objective, thereby reducing the prevalence of projects with a high risk of failure or obsolescence
Enable the unbundling of activities in a strategic project-set into specific projects
Enable the bundling of related projects together to create a greater leverage or achieve economies of scale
Better alignment with business drivers, goals and strategyImproves the linkage between the strategic direction of organizations and the management activities required to achieve these strategic objectives
Provide an enabling framework for the realization of strategic change and the ongoing alignment of strategy and projects in response to a changing business environment (via project addition/culling, etc.)

The Attributes of a Good Heartbeat Program Manager are the Attributes to a Good Quality Leader

As quality leaders we are often ambassadors to ensure that the quality program is progressing despite the conflicting requirements of the various stakeholders. We need to actively influence quality-related decisions of all stakeholders, including people holding superior positions. Having a well-developed personal network within the organization is particularly helpful.

It is critical to always be communicating about the quality program in a visionary way, to be seen as passionate ambassadors. Playing this role requires constant attention to differing expectations of the stakeholders and various ways to influence stakeholders for the benefit of the quality system. To always be striving to build quality, to advance quality.

As advocates for Quality, it is a core competency to be able to stand up and defend, or argue for, the quality program and team members. This ability to challenge others, including their superiors, in a productive way is a critical ability.

A key focus of the quality program should be on engagement with a conscious and sustained drive to secure buy-in from key stakeholders (including senior management) and win over the hearts and minds of those responsible for execution to make changes feel less painful and inflicted. As quality leaders our aim should always be to engender a climate of comprehension, inclusion and trust, and to draw upon expertise globally to create fit for purpose processes and systems

Effective quality leaders need to be “heavyweight” organizational players.

Core Competencies of the Heartbeat Manager

  • Contextual awareness
  • Scenario planning
  • Political skills
  • Courage
  • Networking

A note on program life

Many standard approaches perceive programs to have a finite life. This is constraining given that the strategies themselves, especially as applied to quality, have long lifetimes. I believe that program management has as much to learn from quality management,  and there is a lot of value in seeing an indefinite time horizon as beneficial.

Quality management is an evolutionary approach, and utilizing program management methodologies within it should be taken in the same light.

WCQI Day 3 – Afternoon

Afternoon Keynote – Cheryl Cran on NextMapping

Future of work thought leadership….People First, Digital Second

Digital second is an interesting keynote theme (2 out of 4) and I appreciate the discussion on equitable futures and moving companies away from autocracy. Not sure anyone who speaks at large corporations is really all that committed to the concept. And I didn’t feel much more than lip service to the concept in this keynote.

Stressing reverse mentoring is good, something that all of us need to be building the tools to do better. Building it into technology integration is good.

Basic sum-up is that Change Leadership Traits are:

  • Relational vs transactional
  • Focus on ‘people’ first
  • Highly adaptable to people
  • and situations
  • Coach approach
  • Creative solutions
  • Future focused
  • Transparent
  • Empowering

In short, any talk that thinks having a clip from “In Good Company” is a good idea for teaching agile thinking is problematic.

“Storytelling: The Forgotten Change Management Tool ” by Keith Houser

Storytelling is one of the critical jobs of a quality professional, and this was a great presentation. Another flip session with pre-work that a lot of folks didn’t do.

I’m going to let Keith’s template speak for itself: https://www.eventscribe.com/2019/ASQ-World/flipSessions.asp?h=Full%20Schedule&BCFO2=FL

This was marked basic. And unlike a lot of stuff marked intermediate this felt like truly a best practice, pushing the envelope in many ways. Sure I apply these principles, but the discipline here is impressive.

WCQI Day 2 – afternoon

Leading Teams: Conflict for Innovation and Change” by Carolann Wolfgang, Marilyn Monda and Lukas Cap.

The Human Development and Leadership Division is one of those divisions that I don’t get. Not because I disagree with the content, it’s just I don’t get what makes it different from the Quality Management or Team Excellence Divisions. This presentation by three of the member leaders didn’t make that any easier.

This workshop was an attempt to blend a few concepts, such as powerful questions, human explorers and curiosity types together and build a tool kit for team excellence. As such it wore its source material on it’s sleeves and skipped a few spots. A few specific observations:

  • The powerful questions are good
    • Why does this [point] matter to you?
    • What outcome would make it a success for you?
    • Is the way you think about the conflict useful, realistic or accurate?
    • What events or choices led to this conflict?
    • What other courses of action can you think of?
    • What if this obstacle was removed?
    • What is behind that thought, resistance or idea?
    • What are the priorities right now, in this conflict?
  • Using the Five Dimensions of Curiosity is very interesting. I think it can benefit from more thought on problems and how different curiosities lend themselves to different types of problems.

“System Transformation – Your role as a Lean Leader” by Erin Christiaens and Jaret Moch.

Super high level review of lean transformations and lean leadership. I find these workshops valuable to check-in against and hear what people are saying. Plus the rest of the 3 pm workshops didn’t engage me.

Focused almost exclusively on lean leadership standard work. Gave a few nice templates, and I do like workshops that give templates.

It is fascinating to hear people on different levels of the lean journey, or frankly any quality culture transformation. It is one of my favorite parts of attending conferences.

Provided by Lead2Lean Solutions

Afternoon Keynote – Tricia Wang

Praising statistical analysis at a quality conference is a good crowd pleaser. Way to bond with the audience.