Vision and Psychology Safety Enable Change

Professor Amy Edmondson in 2016 wrote “Wicked-Problem Solvers” in HBR that laid out four leadership levers for collaboration that fit nicely into quality culture and nestle nicely with Kotter’s Eight Accelerators. Together they help define the leadership behaviors necessary to build quality culture, all informed by the enabler of knowledge management.

Levers and Accelerators of change

Professor Edmondson in this article is discussing cross-industry collaboration, but the central four levers apply in any organization.

Having a vision that strives for a True North of Quality is critical. Make it align to individual needs. Remember that vision grows and adapts as you go, and as others get the opportunity to shape. Vision has six criteria:

  1. Stimulus: Vision needs to include actual benefits for those affected by it. String vision brings people together as community, not as strangers. Stimulus means people see themselves in the vision and understand how they will benefit.
  2. Scale: Vision should be of great breadth and depth with potential for extension at later stages. Vision never leads to or accepts a dead end. It shows multiple potentials for expansion.
  3. Spotlight: Vision assumes responsibility, immediate and extended. The greater the vision, then the greater the responsibility for its impact on people’s lives and the legacy that will be left afterwards. This responsibility needs to bring opportunity for people who are involved. This is part of the vision that will drive the volunteer army.
  4. Scanning: A visionary sees the signs on the way to success. Pay attention to to pain points, spot trends and see where and how value can be added. Gemba walks are critical here.
  5. Simplicity: Vision is elegant thinking about complicated and complex things. A vision is not a vision unless it’s understood. Simplicity lets people believe in vision. If the vision is complicated most people will ignore it. Vision operates and makes execution possible from its simplicity. The simpler the vision in its core meaning, the easier it can be shared with employees, customers and partners and thus, easier to scale inside and outside an organization.
  6. Passion: Vision provokes strong emotions. A strong vision is always accompanied by excitement and passion. Excitement equals passion that gives an emotional power to a vision. A strong vision brings strong excitement that is difficult to contain. Strong excitement and passion are highly contagious. A simple and compelling vision excites more passion than any mere goal.

Psychological safety is the state where employees feel that there is safety in taking risks at work setting. In this safe environment employees will engage in risk-taking actions that are inherent to creative endeavors and if they perceive safety, then they are more comfortable to voice their opinions. This safety makes them more willing to take the chances to own the vision and try to experiment with making that vision a reality which motivates them to develop, promote, and implement new ideas.

This safety will enable knowledge sharing, which can come in many different styles, including combination which creates something new.

Through inclusive, democratic leaders who value the inclusion of employees in a particular work process, employees have the chance to raise their voice for generating, promoting, and implementing useful ideas
Through leveraging vision these inclusive leaders exhibit openness attributes that communicates the importance of taking innovative actions and gives employees the guarantee that in case of negative consequences they will not be punished, experiencing greater psychological safety.

Employees experience non-defensive behavior, and feel high levels of self-worth and self-identity, motivating employees not only to generate new ideas, but also to promote and implement new ideas in the organization.

The organization that is structured to accept these ideas will continue to drive iterative cycles of improvement.

Leaders in the Way

In “How Leaders Get in the Way of Organizational Change” in Harvard Business Review, Ron Carucci discusses ways leaders can create problems in change.

The three main pain points he discusses are:

  • Scope naiveté: Underestimating the work
  • Change laziness: Overestimating the organization’s capacity
  • The perceived pet project: Misjudging how others see you

Great article, I strongly recommend reading it.

For each of these democratic leadership is an effective path to avoiding.

  • Idealized Influence: By holding oneself accountable you spend the time to understand the organization’s capacity
  • Inspirational Motivation: Moving from pet project to what is best for the organization
  • Intellectual Stimulation: Strive to overcome scope naiveté
  • Decentralized decision-making: Get the organization bought in to accelerating the change
Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.com

Fatal Errors for Change

The change accelerators help us avoid some pretty common errors in change management.

Neglecting Employees’ Individual Interests

It is not enough to present a compelling case for change. Leaders can explain how the specified changes are in the company’s interests and the collective interests of all employees but for individuals to change their behavior, it must be in their individual interests to do so. There are always some costs to employees in any change program, but the behaviors required for change can still be in their individual interests if there are benefits that, on balance, make it rational to get with the program. It’s up to leadership to understand these cost-benefit analyses and tip the scales as needed to make active support of the collective change an individually winning strategy.

This is one the places having a volunteer army is vital. That army will help ensure the individual and well as the collective interests are engaged.

Under-engaging the Extended Leadership Team

It is crucial to get the extended leadership team seriously engaged in cultural transformation. Much of the coalition of change will be drawn from their numbers. What counts as an extended leadership team is different depending on the organization, but as a rule of thumb go to the top and draw a circle down to 3 levels below.

By drawing from the extended leadership team as the guiding coalition, you give them a personal stake in the outcome. Give the extended leadership team members a voice earlier on in the program and they will feel a greater sense of ownership and will contribute more readily. Their involvement should begin as early as the design stage to leverage their knowledge of the workforce and the situation on the ground. Giving them the opportunity for meaningful input will make them feel included in the program and enthusiastic about it, and will also help keep the program free of design flaws.

Allocating “Set-and-Forget” Targets

The hands-off, set-and-forget model for allocating targets has three major shortcomings:

  • If senior management neglects to inspire ambitions, to monitor progress and make proper course corrections, and to show sufficient engagement, then the initiative leaders will have little reason to go the extra mile. Presented with an annual target, they will likely focus on measures that aim simply to meet it – typically, shortsighted measures such as reducing deviations per batch or CAPA cycle time. After all, such measures are far easier to implement, and far less threatening to the delivery of day-to-day business results, than broad long-term measures such as seeking sustainable savings through increased productivity. Taking the simpler path is the rational choice when you understandably want to minimize disruption. Unfortunately, the short-tern measures don’t change culture fundamentally or sustainably. Sooner or later they are discontinued, and when that happens, the benefits evaporate.
  • The initiative leaders will likely seek solutions specific to their own silos rather than pursue opportunities that might contribute to collective, cross-department success. Those promising opportunities remain undiscovered since individual departments left to their own devices have no particular incentive to look beyond their silos. They might even have a disincentive to do so, because they may rightly worry that they wouldn’t get their fair share of credit for the results or that it would be a futile mission and damaging to their prospects.
  • The hands-off model prevents lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off the hands-off model militates against lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off track through the pursuit of unsustainable, short-term measures – until it is too late to do anything about it.
Visualized by Rose Fastus

Storytelling and Leaders

As leaders a big part of our work is ensuring the know-why – fostering and sharing an understanding of work culture and values. This is a continuing, long-term co-creative process that does not happen overnight. An important part of this work is shaping and sharing stories, using the past as a shaper of the future to give meaning to events. As stories are told in the present, they become a partner in shaping the future.

To successfully change, it is important to understand the past as well as dream for the future. Storytelling as a method and tool has real power to foster dialogue, reveal culture and create a shared vision:

  • Storytelling makes complex situations and phenomena accessible and provides details that can be used to build action plans for change and improvement.
  • Stories reveal values and principles embedded in a culture that are often hidden from the naked eye.
  • Stories make visible driving forces for change that are not revealed when direct questions are asked.
  • Stories provides a platform for understanding different perspectives. It breaks down barriers and builds bridges of trust.
  • Stories highlight turning points that can be used to facilitate innovation and change.

Through storytelling and dialog, we strengthen structure, identity and culture. It is how we tell our story.

Bring Playfulness to Your Work

Playfulness can soften difficult decisions, conversations and actions that require courage. Having the ability to bring a level of lightheartedness to even the most difficult situations can take the edge of circumstances that might otherwise scare you. Playfulness has the incredible power to disarm even the darkest of circumstances.

It invites courage to play.

Play is a fundamental part of the human experience. We should never forget to bring it to our work. A playful attitude keeps your mind curious. It makes us better problem-solvers.

Play involves an enthusiastic and in-the-moment attitude. When we play, we detach from outside stressors and become completely absorbed in the activity. Play is the ultimate mindfulness.

Do not let play be the first thing that gets lost when stress overrides our lives.

Playfulness is a subtle art. It is bordered by silliness on one side and rudeness on the other side. Be careful to ensure you never are in either of those territories. Men, this is especially critical to us as our culture lets too many sexist, racist and homophobic attitudes slide as humor. Always remember that playfulness is not the same as being funny. I’m not a very funny person, I try to avoid making people laugh. what I strive to do is make people feel included in my curiosity and exploration.

Good playfulness should always connect, never divide.

Take your play seriously! But don’t take yourself too seriously. Point out your own flaws and imperfections in a humorous, confident way. Sincere self-deprecation can be powerful.

People will strive for your success when you show up with playful energy. Make the other person genuinely feel special and watch the magic happen. Playfulness is a gentle invitation for others to follow you if they want to.

Playfulness will reflect in your body language. This is very inviting, and a whole lot of what folks mean as charisma stems from this spark.

By practicing playfulness you will develop an attitude of irreverence where you are in touch with yourself and avoid negativity and drama.

So reflect and ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you approach life with more playfulness? What would happen if you were more playful in your daily life?
  • Where are you lacking playfulness?
  • Who is someone playful you admire? What makes them playful?
  • If you approached life in a more playful way, what brave decisions would you make?
  • How would you show up differently if you were to embrace playfulness?
  • How can you invite more play into your life?