And when we don’t get it right away, sometimes, we become paralyzed.
In our coaching business, we run up against this often. The team leader struggling under his boss – the leader above him – who wants the target hit, or exceeded (even though that might be a bad thing). Above all, hit the dang target: use your problem-solving process and hit the dang target.
Before we get too far into the lesson, let me share a quick story. This past weekend, my family forced me to watch golf on TV. I’d rather watch grass grow. I don’t golf. It’s way too slow. I know many of you will disagree. Oh well. The one thing that I do appreciate is how effortless professional golfers make things look. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve tried to golf. Again, I’d rather watch grass grow. But, to see a pro golfer whack the ball, straight, for a couple of hundred yards…exactly where he was aiming it, is a marvel to me. I can’t even imagine…
Back to our poor team leader. His boss is expecting pro golf problem-solving skills when he is – at best – a newbie.
What’s the better way?
Many of the pieces of our system are built around what we call improvement cycles. You can probably guess that anytime we have a cycle in the system, it’s a pdCA (plan, do, check, act) cycle.
You probably also know that these cycles are designed to get incremental improvement towards an ideal state represented in the short term as a target – a sort of way point along the path to the ideal.
The better way would be for the team leader’s boss to stand in the circle a little while, watching how the team leader leads problem solving.
I once read that great American golfer, Tiger Woods, had a swing coach, who would watch thousands of Woods’ swings. He would give him incremental tweaks to get better: move your thumb a micron, lean back a hair’s breadth, wait for the crickets to chirp before you swing, wear tighter underpants.
The same coach would have a lot of work to do with me. He’d have to first have me hold the club and show me how to swing it. Then, he’d watch me swing, giving me macro-movement coaching: don’t let go of the club after you swing.
So, why do so many managers using operational excellence or lean out there expect perfect, long, on target swings from relative amateurs?
We have an idea why… three to be exact
1. Our perfection-seeking managers may be implementing operational excellence or lean as a program. They’ve used training as their foundation to move forward instead of coaching. If this is you and you can do something about it, hit the reset button and get a coach. If you can’t, start where you are: coach “down”.
2. These same managers may be under tremendous pressure from their bosses to make their targets. The bad habits start at the top and trickle down. Check your coaching structure and the overlaps. Does the organization have a coach guiding it or a consultant goading it?
3. Finally, these managers may simply be failing to trust the pdCA cycle. When the team leader fails to hit the target, they should handle it as the point of recognition for problem solving. When the team leader fails again, keep cycling around. Eventually, the manager will realize that the team leader’s failure to hit his target is actually his own failure in coaching. Sure, you can give me dozens of examples to the contrary, but why would you do that? Unless, you…
The key to pdCA is that it remain the continuous in continuous improvement. If you’ve stopped, so will the improvement.0