Two Ways to Know If Your Leadership Effectiveness Needs to Evolve

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was young I had a reading disorder that held me back in school and reading at high rates of speed. I was a very slow reader. I could get by with a little extra effort and re-reading some books over and over.  Today, with the flow of information growing exponentially, it is practically impossible for me to stay fully informed unless I can read at high speed with high comprehension.  To survive in this
new world of information I had to develop new skills. I had to evolve.

Our leadership skills today are in a similar place.  In the industrial age we could use command and control skills.   They served us well.  In his time, Henry Ford needed to hire people with little or no education.  That is all that was available.  Our management systems were created to deal with people with little or no education.  We needed to tell them what to do.  We needed to command their
commitment and control their actions.  The industrial age influenced us to think this was the only approach.  The world changed and now we can’t keep up with that old approach.  We need to grow
up.  We need to evolve to survive and thrive.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Frederick Taylor introduced his ideas of Scientific Management.  He saved companies millions of dollars and boosted profit for organizations with his time and motion studies.  He analyzed larger tasks into small individual motions.   He instructed workers to conduct the tasks very specifically.  He told them to follow his exact instructions and it saved huge amounts of time.  This boosted productivity which boosted profit.

This sounds like a great approach.  It is up to a point.  Once the manager runs out of ideas or runs out of time to solve the problems improvement stalls.   I call this a “manager dependent” system.  This is exactly what Taylor developed.  He had to.  In the beginning of the industrial age people were not capable of
managing their own improvements because they were not fully educated.

A better approach is offered by W. Edwards Deming and the System of Profound Knowledge.  Deming offers the opportunity for everyone to participate in the improvements in quality and speed.   Deming is our evolution for business and management.  Yet, we are still stuck in Taylor model.  Is your organization still stuck there?  Is your management?  Is Human Resources?  My guess is yes.  Let me explain.

Performance Management

Does your organization use a typical performance management process?  Is it the annual review?   Is it mandatory?  Does it give a grade to employees?   Does it help distribute pay raises?  Is it tied to bonuses and other pay-for-performance decisions?   If you have these policies
you are still embracing Taylor Scientific Management.

What about Management by Objectives (MBO)?   This too is a Taylor consistent policy.  All of these are attempts to control employees.  They are all manager dependent processes that send clear  messages such as, “I don’t trust you.”  Or, “You are not smart enough to have the freedom to improve your own work.”

Hiring Decisions

Consider your hiring and promotional decisions.  Who tends to get the promotion?  Is it the person with the most knowledge?  Is it the one who has the most experience?   This type of decision is consistent with Taylor thinking.

In a “manager dependent” system the manager must have the most knowledge because it is the manager who must be fully responsible for all the problems
and solutions to those problems.  We can also see evidence of this in a job search.  Descriptions of job requirements list both skills and experience.  Specific knowledge in an industry is more important
for those who have Taylor thinking.

New skills are needed in the Deming organization.  Management must understand systems thinking, understand variation, and understand how to manage variation.   They must understand how to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act learning cycle and they must be able to teach the learning cycle to others. They must be facilitators of change and not causes of change.  Finally, they must understand the
latest psychology.  They must come to realize the focus on extrinsic motivators is consistent with Taylor thinking.   They must realize that performance appraisals and MBO are also control methods.  They must shift their thinking to intrinsic motivators which include providing freedom choice and challenge to employees something Taylor can’t do.

Is your organization still stuck in Taylor thinking?  Do you have the performance review and the MBO policies?   You can make the change.  You can evolve.  Read material about Deming and see the
differences from Taylors.  To survive in this new world we must develop new thinking and a new set of skills.  I had to evolve.   I am sure you do too.


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