Willingness to Change LO6055

Sat, 9 Mar 1996 08:45:58 +1300

Replying to LO6015 --

Thank you, Scott and Michael, for a truly inspirational dialogue. I have
some observations.

Michael wrote:

>No. We can't keep people informed. At best we can make information
available. The full information might exist in a distributed way and even
an integrated way - but never as a whole and complete. A posted mission
statement has not proved itself in any company I've heard about nor been
in. Occasionally, it might have helped.

I agree - but I can cite an exception. In one company we worked with we
noted that some employees were deeply committed to the mission statement
and often referred to it in conversation. Others did not register it - and
were often cynical about it in conversation. The correlation was simple.
The enthusiasts were those who had been directly involved in the process
of formulating it. The difference between the groups was actually causing

When we reported this to the company they initiated a process whereby
annually all employees were involved in discussing the question 'Is the
mission statement still relevant?' This has proved to be a powerful focus
for continuous learning and innovation in the organisation for 5 years
now. The mission statement itself is not really important - it is the
process of discussing it that makes the difference.

Michael wrote (in response to Scott's 'wagon pusher' comment):

>For almost everyone, the best we can do to eliminate the profound
underlying "us/them" which is a result of current organisational paradigms
AND a continuing cause of their maintenance is this *afterthought* that
it's us and there is no "them" to motivate. (But few of us believe this
in our heart of hearts - or else our language is awfully sloppy.)

This was where I thought Scott erred a little - with the assumption that
those who look forward have the whole vision, and the pushers don't. If
those who look forward and steer do not pay attention to the operational
conditions in which the wheels are turning, then their vision is useless.
Similarly if the pushers have no understanding about the direction in
which they are to push, and/or the reasons for the journey, then they are
likely to be inadequate or even counter-productive pushers.

Michael wrote:

"My own experience in interviews and in workshops large or small is that
there is incredible alignment but that people don't know it...... Their
actions and conversations are far less aligned than the revealed
commonality indicates, in my experience."

Right. What often happens is that the different 'pusher-puller' world
views leads to each group interpreting the actions of the other as
representing a perverse lack of commitment to the common objectives.

The example of this we encounter most often concerns the use of the word
'quality'. without a good communications process, understandings of what
the word means diverge. Line workers tend to assume it means 'without
defect'. QA people lean towards 'meeting predefined specifications'.
Senior management define it as 'acceptable to the customer', and finance
interprets it as 'providing optimal cost-benefit.' A resulting process
might be:

Senior management talk of quality without clearly defining it.

QA quantify it. Line workers amused " They SAY they don't want any stalks
in the frozen beans, but they ACCEPT 0.01%".

Largest customer says that it would rather have cheaper beans with 0.02%

Senior management instructs QA to change criteria (QA snorts cynically).

Changed criteria reaches line workers - "So much for all that quality

Stalks slip to 0.05%.

This can only be dealt with is to, as Michael says,:

" really get that we are dealing with a distributed phenomenon where there
is only what emerges from the interplay of the participants. This is a
far cry from "getting the most from our people" or "communicating so that
they will feel included" or other such trivial and manipulative stuff."

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business
PO Box 2855
New Zealand



Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>