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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Time for Mindset Change?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, June 25, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Question: “What are the five major things we need to do to help us successfully transform a silo based organisation into one focused on business processes, and what are the biggest risks we need to look out for?”

To change the silo focus you’ll have to change people’s mindset, which developed out of them having been led and managed a certain way. Habitual behaviors can be changed and there are a few different ways to do it.

But there’s the perhaps even more important question of how you go about it. As you allude to in your question, there’s a need to evaluate potential risks and develop a plan. However, with any significant challenge a plan is only a hypothesis that probably won’t survive contact with reality. We don’t know in advance what we’ll learn and how we’ll have to adapt in order to reach the desired destination. To be successful in meeting challenges we should approach them more along these lines:

  1. Describe where you want to be in 1-3 years. Make the challenge a rallying point. Note that the challenge should relate to serving the customer, not just be an internal goal like ‘less silos.’ A lead-time goal, for example.
  2. Grasp the current condition in detail.  Don’t skip this step. (Jean Cunningham talks about this step in her answer.)
  3. Establish a next “target condition” closer in, say three months distant.
  4. Rapidly experiment and learn your way to that target condition, which will inform what you establish as the next target condition on the way to the challenge, and so on.

Interestingly, with the way you’ve worded your question you may inadvertently be teaching the opposite of the iterative, adaptive mindset described in the above steps. The mental habit you could unintentionally be spreading is an “implementation mindset,” where the action items and risks are to be defined in advance. Unfortunately that approach only works in simple situations, and more complicated, unpredictable reality typically sends people quickly back to “the way we had it before.” (Napkin drawing by Carl Richards)

I’m not a big fan of benchmarking because it often reinforces the implementation mindset, but here’s a more exploratory way the question might be worded:

“As we strive to achieve a lead time to the customer of (x) days we’re finding our silo-based organization to be one of the obstacles. What approaches have you taken to get teams more focused on the flow of their business process? And are there any big mistakes in your experience that we should avoid?”

BTW, you might like this three-minute video:

Tom Wujec on Iterative Learning

Mike

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