THE DEVELOPMENTAL MINDSET
What do we mean by a developmental mindset? It means that everyone in an organization accepts that ongoing learning is required to become a developmental one.
In accepting the goal of becoming a developmental organization, employees are accepting an individual responsibility as well as an organizational one. The individual responsibility is “each person engaged in developing him / herself with the goal of becoming a role model leader.” The culture's identity, as seen by others, will relect its employees deliberate efforts to develop leadership skills, character attributes, and behaviours. The organizational strategic responsibility is “to change, to improve, and to renew all operations within the high-performance work system.” A simple example is provided below.
Sandra, a mechanical engineer in the manufacturing plant, is responsible for the process of repairing pumps. Method A: Respond to the need to repair the pump when it fails. Repair the pump and return it to its original pumping speciications and performance.
Method B: Develop a preventative maintenance system and seek to minimize the number of pump failures. When a pump fails for whatever reason, return it to its original pumping speciications and performance.
Method C: Working alongside other mechanics and engineers at the company, develop new, improved designs for the pumping required in the plant. Continue to work on the design and continue to improve the pumping function with zero failures as the goal.
Method D: Engage in a team with other functional people in the plant who are associated with the manufacturing stream that requires pumping. These people could be engineers who understand the places where the pumps are used, or accountants who understand the various cost elements of the pumping process. The objective here is to modify and thereby improve the manufacturing process so as to minimize the energy required to pump – and at the same time, to improve other aspects of the manufacturing process.
Method E: Make positive change in the manufacturing process that eliminates the need to pump.
The stages of this example move from the conventional approach through more and more developmental approaches to, inally, a superordinate or aspirational or transformational approach.
When I was contemplating writing this book, I wanted to describe what I experienced while working with the people of DuPont Canada. I discussed it with some of my colleagues. One of them was an extraordinary role model leader named Art Heeney. Art is an engineer and he moved through the organization and served in many ways. A number of his roles were in manufacturing. So I asked him to write a story that could help others – speciically, engineers developing themselves as leaders – to better understand the idea of the developmental culture and organization from the perspective of those interested in operations and making things. This is what he wrote:
One of the earliest revelations in my manufacturing career was that the way we did the work in our operations actually served to limit the contributions that individuals could make to the business. This sounds rather ludicrous and, at that time, I couldn't have articulated this thought, but there is ample evidence to support it. I began my career in the role of a maintenance engineer at DuPont Canada's largest plant in Kingston, Ontario, where close to a thousand employees worked in a complex and demanding environment. The structuring of the work was equally complex, with many specialized skills enshrined in a collective agreement. As an example, the relatively simple task of changing a thermocouple in a hot polymer system required the involvement of four people. A production operator had accountability for managing the process and releasing the equipment to the maintenance organization in a safe state. It was then the work of an insulator, a pipeitter, and an instrument mechanic to complete the assignment. The principle underlying this approach was based on a view that individuals' capabilities were limited and that success lay in roles and relationships that were rigidly deined and closely managed. This was a very top-down, eficiency-driven approach to work.
I should point out that DuPont Canada was, at that time, a highly successful manufacturing company and that its approach to work systems was hardly unique. It was the way work was organized, and the effectiveness of the approach was seldom questioned.
I recall a shop loor conversation I had with a maintenance mechanic regarding the work he was engaged in. He told me, “I check my brain at the gatehouse when I arrive at the plant site.” His role was deined for him, and creative excursions outside these boundaries were forbidden. It was at this point that I began to sense the inherent weakness in this approach to work. We hired talented people, possessing enormous potential, and then imposed work systems that limited not just their contributions but their personal development as well. Our managing processes focused on eficiency and gave little thought to the overall effectiveness of the organization. It fascinated me that these same people could leave the plant at the end of their shift and be transformed into township reeves, ire chiefs, lay preachers, or small businessmen. The human potential to serve our businesses was being squandered.
Fortunately, I wasn't the only one questioning the status quo. DuPont Canada was blessed with enlightened and courageous leaders who saw these laws and who initiated a search for innovative approaches to work. Throughout my 36-year career with DuPont Canada I was witness to a remarkable transformation. The essence of this transformation was a fervent belief that individuals possess unlimited potential. The recipe for success is in inding the means to develop this potential through the work in which people are engaged.
Over the years, as we evolved our work systems to unleash the potential in our organizations, it became apparent that there were a number of underlying attributes of this more developmental organization. The irst and perhaps most powerful attribute was an unrelenting focus on customers. And by customers I mean those delightful folks who actually pay for our products and services. In manufacturing we sometimes convince ourselves that our customer is the organization at the next step in our value-add chain. This is a mistake. Wherever possible, personal contact with customers should be designed into the work. An organization that understands the needs of customers will realize the consequences of process variances and take corrective actions far more quickly than a conventional organization. When the customer is truly “felt” in the organization, all of the manufacturing key performance indicators will improve. There is no more potent source of energy for people than a meaningful relationship with the paying customer. We've always known this to be true for marketing and sales people. Why should it be any different for the people who actually have their hands on the product as it is being created?
Another over-arching attribute was the need for everyone to be involved in the work and for all to work together in serving our customers. Being involved is far more than just getting the job done. It requires each individual to see the larger picture and to appreciate how their work contributes to the overall goal. Of necessity, these are team environments, and the ability to work seamlessly with others is essential.
It is also essential for all to possess a willingness to take charge and to act with urgency. The individuals who are closest to the value-add process are in the best position to recognize variances and take the necessary corrective action. Too often we have relied on the hierarchical leader to make the critical decisions. This leads to delays and needless waste. Instead, provide people with the information they need so that they can make the right decisions sooner. Information sharing needs to be a natural part of the work. The old adage that information is power is still true, but leadership must have the courage to yield this instrument to the team.
The pursuit of continuous improvement must be evident in all that we do. These organizations must seek to learn through every experience and strive to get better through each work cycle. Maintaining the status quo is merely a guarantee that you are losing ground as the world around you evolves and your competition gains ground.
It's obvious that the leader's role must shift dramatically in a developmental organization. This can be unsettling for those who have developed their approaches in a more traditional organization. However, once the transformation has been made, the personal satisfaction gained is enormous. Leaders in these growthful organizations must have the capacity to visualize possibilities in any situation; they must have a passion for the value-add process; and
In my mind, an organization that demonstrates these attributes is one within which all individuals see themselves as “business people,” “functional people,” and “leaders.” Their work and their role may shift with the demands placed on them, but in a very real way, they are all leading.
THE SELF-MANAGING PERSON
The conventional organization usually has individuals referred to as leaders, managers, and followers. Often, a leader gives instruction to various managers, who give instructions to the followers, who do the work. This is a rigid, hierarchical system. It is not my intent here to discuss at length the differences between leaders and managers in a conventional hierarchical organization – plenty has already been written on that subject.3 I will, though, mention that there have recently been suggestions that managers must change – that they “must be recast as social system architects who enable innovation and collaboration.” That entails a shift towards developmental leadership.4
The vitality of the people in the developmental organization is positively affected by the principle that everyone can learn to be a leader and that everyone can lead or follow in a harmonious manner, seeking to improve the lives of others.
In a high-performance work system that is dedicated to the concept of Everyone a Leader, it is possible to change the culture in ways that heighten the organization's vitality and thereby generate positive change. This is an extension of the individual leading aspect of the developmental leadership model described in part two. Managing oneself, or self-managing or individual managing, is really an aspect of the idea of Everyone a Leader. In a high-performance business organization, titles and positions count for less
– everyone takes turns managing, leading, and following, depending on the process at hand. The same person will at one time be leading and at another be following or managing.
3 John P. Kotter, Leading Change (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 1996); Peter Drucker, On the Profession of Management (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2003).
4 Gary Hamel, “Moon Shots for Management,” Harvard Business Review 87, no. 2 (February 2009): 91.