Your Leaders Are Not Gods

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It’s lonely at the top, but who makes it that way?

In Large companies there seems to be a myth – often perpetuated at the middle tier – that senior leaders are somehow “gods” that cannot be spoken to or at least not in the same way as mere mortals.

The business leaders that I’ve had the pleasure of talking to have been very smart, politically astute, personable, socially aware and most of all they care what people have to say. Admittedly they’re strapped for free time but they’re still human beings.

A casual conversation, sharing of thoughts and opinions or mail exchange should be possible at any level. In fact that no-nonsense, relaxed, open and honest communication is a breath of fresh air from the political games and data feeds faced most of the day.

In any organization that claims to be lean or agile, isolating communication with our leaders to single PowerPoint slides and 2 minute bursts of data defeats the entire point of a true lean corporate culture.

“Go see” also means listen, share, learn, coach, mentor, teach, act, support and most critically interact.

Most leaders understand this (they all started out somewhere) but you may have to cut through a layer of defense to get there and re-educate along the way.

When your leaders do go see, make sure they really see and understand. It’s not all a parade no matter how your local glitterati might want to make it one.

Remember no matter where you are in the food chain, a truly agile organization values individuals and interactions.

Breaking The Seal (Part 1)

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Following on from my last post; “Communicating in Patterns” here’s the first of my regularly used concepts – alluded to in “Don’t Open More Barrels Than You Can Consume“.

Name: “Breaking The Seal” or “Cracking Open” etc.

Analogy: (This one makes me think of the campfire scene in blazing saddles even though it’s only partially relevant)…

You only open the lid on a new can of beans when there isn’t enough in the current can to feed the family.

Underlying Concept: One of the key ways of delivering maximum throughput on teams is to limit WIP (work in progress/process). Teams inexperienced at this tend to start additional items or “break the seal” on new work when blocked or when a team member has completed their last personal task. We need the team to take a hard look at the work at hand, consider swarming around a given item or story and only open the lid on a new item if there really is no additional value to be gained from another member of the team helping out on the current top priority item.

This works on many levels – here’s a few…

  • Every time you open a new can you risk not finishing it all and having to throw the leftovers away.
  • Opening too many cans and forcing the family to eat them all causes bloating.
  • Eating excess beans takes longer and leaves no room for dessert.
  • Unfinished cans in the refrigerator tend to get pushed to the back and go moldy.
  • Very few people like cold beans for leftovers. (actually – sometimes I do)