Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Eighth Opportunity

Before I start let me make it clear - I am a huge fan of Lean principles and philosophies as part of the complex path to organizational excellence. I applaud the engagement of the people doing the work in making the work better. I find that people can easily grasp the idea of the Wastes and come up with ideas for their environment. I love the guiding framework of the 5Ss and the clear leadership required to create context in the organization.

So what's the problem?

I've seen one too many Lean presentations on successful initiatives where they talk about the seven wastes and give a nod to the eighth (human skills, abilities and experience) saying they know it's there but didn't include it.

Why not?! In our rush to be efficient in the light of previously predicted people shortages (maybe not now - who can tell), we are overlooking the potential of people we already have. The old customer service adage used to say that it's cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to a new one. I haven't got the numbers for recruitment but I have a sneaking suspicion that it may apply to existing people resources as well.

Is there anyone out there working in this area in conjunction with lean philosophy and initiatives in their organization? I would love to talk to you.

If there's more, read it here...

Monday, May 25, 2009

The time it takes to change what's your time horizon?

In a recent keynote speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Peter Senge remarked that our management time horizon is shorter than our change horizon or, in other words, change takes longer than the average manager stays in the job. He also talked about what he calls our “boundaries of concern” which defines who we care about and for how long. Senge challenged us to extend our boundaries from our family and city block and include to the implications of our actions globally and for the future.

In an age where 20 year old buildings can be designated as heritage* it seems that no one is willing to build cathedrals anymore.

Enter the Long Now Foundation with the goal of promoting "slower/better" thinking and fostering responsibility “in the framework of the next 10,000 years”. One of the founders, Stuart Brand, makes the point that when he was a child “people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all.”

Remembering being riveted by the futuristic idea of 1984 and what might happen? I take his point … what dates are on your time horizon now? Mine is 2011 when we have been told that there will be more people leaving the workforce than joining it – I need to get out more.

Brand goes on to say “The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

So they built one. The Long Now Foundation is already on their second prototype (moving a little fast there aren’t you boys?) and, realizing that a clock with such a long context in time needs support for longer term content, is now developing the 10,000-year library.

Their guidelines are remarkably similar to the key characteristics of companies that have survived more than 200 years:

Identity – sense of who we are transcends what we do
Tolerance – openness to what we don’t know
Fiscal conservation – maintain control of their destiny
Sensitivity to environment – larger sense of responsibility as a natural by product of how they operate
Serve the long view (and the long viewer)
Foster responsibility
Reward patience
Mind mythic depth
Ally with competition
Take no sides
Leverage longevity
Learn more about their thinking at http://www.longnow.org/

Incidentally, the Long Now Foundation uses five digit dates, the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years.

What's your "boundary of concern"?

* see this link for Vancouver’s criteria and a 2006 list of heritage registered buildings, monuments, parks and trees http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/Guidelines/V001.pdf

If there's more, read it here...