My working definition of culture in organizational settings is what people do when the boss isn’t looking. Organizational culture is the behavior, attitude, and atmosphere that happen by default unless there is disciplined intention and action to do otherwise. Your organization’s culture either advances or inhibits success. When the norm of an organization’s culture is people both valuing their organization and making extra effort to advance its objectives, the culture itself becomes an asset that increases the value of the company. I call this an appreciative culture. Read More...
Leaders are correct to emphasize culture change. A company’s culture is the underlying behavior, attitude, and atmosphere that pervade by default – when people are operating on automatic pilot. It’s what people do when the boss isn’t looking, what people do without having to think. A company’s culture exerts a strong influence that shapes individual and collective action. Here's how to shape a company's culture...
As a leader in your organization,
do you add muda or subtract it?
Muda is a Japanese term for waste. As pioneered by Toyota and adopted worldwide as LEAN processing, top businesses strive to eliminate muda - any waste that does not add value for the final customer.
Seven mudas are traditionally recognized: overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transport, over-processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, and defects. Jeffrey K. Liker, in his excellent book The Toyota Way, adds an eighth muda – unused employee creativity.
Liker describes the eighth muda as the waste of “losing time, ideas, skills, improvements, and learning opportunities by not engaging or listening to your employees.”
Too many organizations suffer from CEOs, owners, and executives that inflate the eighth muda, rather than contribute to its elimination.
In the two weeks before writing this article I was told handful of stories - unsolicited - about clueless bosses who seem eager to be eighth muda poster icons. They shut down employee contributions by:
- Blowing up angrily at errors, apologizing, but then doing it again. Bring them bad news, they kill the messenger.
- Arrogant statements of who is in charge – “It’s my way or the highway,” or “In this company, I am god.”
- Ignoring and refusing to discuss looming challenges that keep partners, directors, and other lesser executives awake at night.
- Refusing to let other executives to speak on the company’s behalf, even if they are more polished presenters - but also can’t seem to find time to improve their own basic presentation skills.
- Discounting human concerns, while fixating on a company goal – “I don’t care about anything except making this quarter’s numbers.”
In all fairness, these executives could accurately be described as passionately enthusiastic about their company or idea, incredibly smart, and enormously talented individuals. They possess inspiring visions, and have an enviable track record of achievement. What is often outside of their awareness is the deep erosion, if not outright destruction, of relationships that could sustain and amplify their success.
8th muda leaders can obsess about squeezing each penny of value out of their organizations, yet flush tons of money down the drain in the form of lost opportunity and employee turnover. When faced with 8th muda bosses, the best and the brightest look for opportunities to go where they are appreciated - places where they not only have economic opportunity but can make a contribution to something larger than themselves without having to endure a pile of muda.
I hear plenty of stories, too, of great places to work, and of incredible leaders who strive to bring out the best talent of everyone in the company. They may call it any number of things, but what you consistently see are leaders that are intentional about eliminating the 8th muda, the waste of untapped employee talent. They invest in employee development, pay attention to the human side of their businesses, and correct unintentional disincentives whenever they are discovered. And they eat their competition’s lunches.
Seeking to reduce the muda on the human side is as important and as do-able as reducing muda in manufacturing or operational processes. It does, however, require an effort to learn and practice a distinct body of leadership and interpersonal skills - above and beyond knowledge and skill in business and in your particular industry or profession.
Exceptional leaders look hard at their organizations and ask, “Where are we eliminating muda?”
They also look at themselves and ask, “In what ways am I creating muda?” The next question to ask is, “What are you going to do about it?”
by Tom Stevens (c)2007
Tom Stevens helps individuals and organizations create brilliant futures and make a difference. To contact him, visit www.ThinkLeadershipIdeas.com
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