Friday, August 20, 2010

Don’t be an Answer-Man Super Hero

If you are a young, zealous technical person and you think the boss wsupermanants you to personally come up with the answers, you might want to know how my first boss set me straight:
  • I wasn’t supposed to work alone to come up with the answer by myself; I was supposed to orchestrate the development of an answer using the best expertise I could find for every aspect of the problem.
  • Any answer developed without engaging, and involving, the people who do the work was unworthy of my boss's time or attention.  The answer would not be adopted.    
  • Once an answer was developed on paper, I was to begin implementation by starting with a trial, pilot or prototype in a small area.  This approach enables stakeholders to be hands-on.  By enabling stakeholders to manipulate the changes and give them a thorough test, stakeholders are able to provide meaningful, well considered feedback. 
  • Next I was to take the feedback and feed it into the design of change in order to make adjustments. 
  • Finally I was to continually practice these cycles of testing feedback and design enhancement to increase the quality of change as the change advanced through every area where it is needed. 
My boss made it clear that by orchestrating the development of answers in this way, I would be giving the entire organization a chance to engage in the process of building high quality change.   

Upon reflecting on the excellent business results this process of development has produced time and again.  And upon reflecting on how it has impacted each organization where it has been persistently applied, I recognize now that my first boss understood how to transform organizational culture.  He understood that by carrying out, and being dedicated to, the process above, he could take an organization that struggled with change and transform it into one that excelled at change. 

My first boss understood the values and the behaviors that must become embedded in the organization in order to make the transformation last.  He knew these values had to be learned through a process of "learning by doing." He understood that in a culture that excels at change, there isn't any room for answer man superheroes.    

No comments: