I recently spoke with a friend about an issue that his organization was facing that was causing him significant frustration. They had experienced an equipment failure that caused significant downtime for their production line. In response, the leadership team demanded that all the similar parts on the line be replaced, regardless of condition.
My friend indicated that this particular part was one that could easily be inspected for wear and only be replaced if necessary. They did not typically fail without warning. If all the parts had been inspected instead of replaced, the organization could have saved the cost of the parts and weeks of work.
Unfortunately, the decision-makers were not aware of this possibility. None of the mechanics who knew the equipment shared this information. They knew it was a costly decision, but no one spoke up, not even my friend. Why?
I’m not really much of a dancer. So, when I was at a wedding recently, I spent much of the reception doing one of my favorite activities: observing.
It was very interesting to see the ebb and flow of people and energy on the dance floor as the songs changed. At times, just a few people would be on the floor, dancing with slightly disinterested expressions, and at other times excited dancers would come running from across the room squealing “That’s my song!”.
The significant difference in emotions between these two situations caught my attention.
I love watching kids interact with the world. They have a wonderful ability to treat even the most mundane things as fantastic discoveries. My youngest daughter can always get me to smile with the way she lights up when she learns something new. Her excitement is infectious as she announces to the room in a very loud voice what she has observed.
It doesn’t matter if it is playing with sticks in the mud, having a pretend picnic, or challenging themselves on the playground, kids are constantly interacting with their environment in novel ways. They test ideas and ask questions about the world and how it works. Driven by their curiosity, this is how they grow and learn.
“Children astound me with their inquisitive minds. The world is wide and mysterious to them, and as they piece together the puzzle of life, they ask ‘Why?’ ceaselessly.” – John C. Maxwell
Adults and organizations are no different.
Several years ago, two independent organizations set off on journeys to transform their cultures. Both organizations wanted to move from environments that valued protecting the status quo and were resistant to change to cultures in which change was rapid, structured, and pervasive.
As both organizations embarked from this common starting point, their paths began to diverge. In one organization, the philosophy began to take root, the tools were used consistently throughout the organization, and the culture continued to mature. Employees at all levels of the organization bought into the new ideas and their teams began to thrive.
In the second organization, changes in the culture were much less widespread. Individual pockets embraced the new ideas, but the results were not sustained. Years after their journey began, the culture was not significantly different from where it started.
So, what was the difference?
I often find myself working on household projects and reaching a point where I must make a decision: Should I take the time to get the right tool for the job or will I make do with what I have at hand?
One example of this situation has stuck with me for quite some time. I was building a swing set for my daughter when I reached a point in the instructions that required a hole to be drilled in a very tight space. I considered many options for how to get the job done with my available tools. Unfortunately, all of them involved some combination of extra work, a likelihood of failure, or unsafe behaviors. In all, I spent the better part of a week on this problem, not making any progress. Continue reading