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Are you running a $3million human machine?

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Performance Leader Shift Tip for Leaders

March 2007
In this issue Al, please enjoy:
Performance Leader Shift: A $3million dollar human machine, words from Ken Blanchard and more...
Performance Shift News:  Take a free test drive, live at your own desktop with your own job
Performance Leader Shift Tip   

Are you running a $3million human machine?

Time is precious.   As a leader, not only is your own time precious but so is the time of those who work for you and with you.  The average person works just under two thousand hours a year.  A person working sixty hours per week works nearly 3000 hours a year!  If you manage just five people, you are responsible for over 12,000 hours of work at a cost of $300,000 or much more!  If you work for ten years with such a group of people, you have spent $3million.

If you bought a three million dollar machine that would last for ten years, would you be willing to put in one day per year to get the most out of that machine?  Your organization is like a human machine, producing goods and services to meet customer needs.  It's like an engine, with each person acting out their role.  If one cylinder misfires, the whole engine suffers.

What I find strange in business today is that managers still view performance as largely driven by 'individuals.'  When orders are late, or quality is inferior or key projects don't happen, bosses tend to point the finger.  "Who dunnit?" they demand.  Yet the overwhelming reality is that your business is a fluid human system, with each person locked into the patterns and expectations that are well-established in your company.

Of course, there are human errors.  Of course, some people have the brains and the desire to 'beat the system', outwitting it to make what needs doing...get done!  I recently read that the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the NY investment bankers, once said that 20% of his people produced 80% of his results.  A huge outcry from his employees followed and he immediately apologized and withdrew his comments.  But I'm sure he meant what he said.

If your business success is depending on 2 of every 10 employees to be the talent that 'makes it happen', the odds are you are wasting eight very talented people.  Those eight people simply don't have what it takes to 'beat the system' - the human system that they are trapped inside of that has been built by the leaders of your company.

So why not unleash those eight people?  Why not give them the tools, skills and knowledge to do what the clever twosome are doing?  All it takes is to make the 'system' visible!  That's right, visible!  Does an employee truly 'see' the system in which they are operating?  Does a fish know it is in water?  Does the employee (and I mean white collar, middle managers, not just front-line workers) have a tool and defined authority levels to make changes to the "system"?

I recently saw Ken Blanchard speaking at a conference I attended.  He spoke passionately and plainly.  He reiterated an age-old wisdom - "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."  I would add to that, if you can't 'see' it, you can't measure it or manage it.

In my work, people define their roles and responsibilities in four pages of detail.  None can do it easily.  We are so busy "doing," "reacting," and "greasing the squeaky wheel," that few of us take the time to step back and look at how we fit into the cogs of the human machine that we call an "organization." 

When the wheels begin to fall off the organizational wagon, top management becomes willing to act.  I call this "workload overload."  Deadlines get missed.  Quality is inconsistent.  People are frustrated.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Top managers can decide to make the organizational system "open."  They can give every employee the means to "beat the system" and indeed to improve the system, for the benefit of customers, employees and themselves!

Oddly enough, it all begins with appreciating the value of one single hour.  One hour a week is the same as one week a year (47 weeks x 1 hr).  Even with just that simple perspective, staff make real changes in how they do their work - shifting, eliminating, delegating to experts or streamlining work.  Imagine how much better they would invest each hour if they could see the big-picture system of how the tens of thousands of hours of work gets done in your organization


John Kuypers
Chief Designer,
Performance Shift Leadership Systems

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