It may not have been your choice to be in this place but it is your choice about whether to stay or to move!
Tough times call for tough decisions! You can choose to keep doing the same things you have always done and hope things change or you can make a move today to bring Continuous Improvement to your company or team! Stay or move - the choice is yours!
Connect with me to show you how to bring Continuous Improvement to your team at 1/3 the regular cost!
This is really not an article about Change Management although it touches on change management themes. It is an exploration of Continuous Improvement and what is required for leadership in industry to come to terms with the need to do things differently, to step out of the box and set out in a different direction.
As an example the Oil and Gas industry currently find themselves in the midst of yet another boom-bust cycle (bust being the operative word here) and one after another industry leaders throw up their hands and cry that there is nothing that can be done! Jobs are cut budgets are slashed and everyone scrambles to stay ahead of the call on their debt payment. Batten down the hatches and hang on for dear life to preserve whatever is left.
That we have seen this cycle and this response more than once quite frankly is a discredit to the industry. It speaks to the lack of vision on the part of many (not all) with regard to truly transforming the industry away from this horribly counter productive ebb and flow. The question it begs is what will it take for them to change? Oil and Gas is a good current example to explore but the lessons are valid across all industry sectors.
In an article published in the Gallup Business Journal, authors Jesus Rios and Julie Ray set a compelling argument for how Chile can weather the current economic downturn and not only weather it but thrive. I share here the last three paragraphs of the article.
As Chile grapples with external economic forces that hinder its short-term prosperity, it is fitting that the country has untapped competitive advantages that leaders can control -- in both the public and private sectors. Chile approaches this new cycle of economic downturn armed with a relatively sizable reservoir of engaged workers -- a scarce commodity in the world, but one capable of turning economies around, one workplace at a time.
For a country that needs to elevate its game through higher productivity, having a workforce that is more engaged than its competitors' means its workers are not only more willing to put in discretionary effort to get things done, but are more emotionally invested in their jobs, bringing excitement and creativity to the workplace. Not only are they more willing to adapt to change when needed, but they also have more energy to bring about change itself. But this energy needs to be unleashed through great talent management at work, and cultivated through quality education in society at large if it is to become that engine of productivity that the country so greatly needs.
Chile has long had a favorable macroeconomic environment that has brought along foreign investment, governance and prosperity. Its openness to the global economy has also allowed it to forge partnerships with other countries, with which it has thriving trade relations and bilateral cooperation in several key areas for its development. But Chile has long over-relied on natural resources whose market dynamics it doesn't control. So, it is time for the country to leverage -- and further invest in -- a natural resource that its leadership can control, that is extremely hard for others to replicate, and that no external economic force can take away: its human capital, the emotional engagement that Chileans bring to work every day. (Underline is mine) Rios & Ray - Gallup Business Journal , January 28, 2016
Several things stand out; first that much like Western Canada, Chile has a resource based economy that makes it vulnerable to external economic pressures. Second, they have a highly engaged workforce (almost 40% compared with 32% in Canada). The focus of the article is on how to use that engaged workforce to gain higher productivity to counteract those external pressures. In short how to beat the boom-bust cycle.
Employee engagement is a cornerstone of Continuous Improvement and the key that leadership in the Oil and Gas industry (again with some exceptions) have yet to leverage to their advantage. In addition, with regard to education, we have an advantage in North America in that the educational systems are still pretty robust so the focus for training really only needs to be within each company.
And still many companies have been resistant to move to a Continuous Improvement approach or they have adopted an approach that is heavily metrics based (which is okay) but with no investment in driving employee engagement at the same time (not so good). Metrics should drive engagement which should drive innovation and cost savings and once that is achieved and sustained a company has gained a significant advantage over its competition and indeed over market conditions in general. A company with a robust Continuous Improvement culture sees a market downturn as an opportunity not a problem.
So here we are in the middle of another market cycle of boom and bust. If you are a leader, I leave you with this question; what will it take for you to change?
There has been an increasing amount of discussion in the last few years around leadership. This should not surprise anyone because as the "boomers" move into retirement the generational demographic (Xer's, Nexter's, Millennials) slated to move into those vacant leadership places face significant gaps related to lower numbers and less experience. This presents at once, both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge certainly because there are fewer bodies to fill those positions and an opportunity in that we are required now, perhaps more than ever, to examine the entire issue of leadership. This presents us with an opportunity to re-frame our understanding of what good leadership looks like.
Current discussion around this includes a healthy exploration of Active and Passive Leadership. Terms such as Transactional Leadership vs Transformational Leadership are all topics along the same line as Passive vs Active leadership. Let's explore briefly the difference between these two approaches.
Passive leadership is the firefighter and it is characterized by a lot of MBE (Management By Exception). I call it passive because like a "lagging indicator" in analytics, it happens after the fact. The Passive leader can be found trolling for flaws in worker process or production and they spring into action offering up a swift reprimand when flaws are detected. It can be deceiving as often it looks "active" but the reality is that leadership that happens after the fact is most often passive. Employees get reprimanded for poor performance or the leader has to step in to put out fires due to poor performance and they "look" active and busy but is it really effective leadership?
Active leadership on the other hand can often look passive but is in reality quite the opposite. Active leadership seeks to involve staff in the challenges facing the group and gives them a role in solving those challenges. An active leader sets the goals, mentors their staff and sets them loose to tackle the issues and allows them to "own" the bottom line. It can often look passive because there is far less of the reprimanding or fighting of fires because it sets the bar "in front of the curve" not after it. Together with their team, active leaders anticipate issues before they become issues and get out in front of them before they become a problem - fire prevention not fire fighting. Lets look at an example.
An oil and gas company I was working with around performance leadership had a group of young leaders. All had been in those roles for less than two years and in some cases only a few months. Traditionally O&G leadership and particularly front line leadership tend to take a Passive leadership approach with a lot of MBE. "Tearing someone a new one" and putting out lots of fires are the hallmark of these leaders. In this scenario the most experienced of this young group had adopted this traditional O&G approach and was regarded as someone to look up to. The least experienced leader was keen to learn about performance leadership and what active leadership looked like. In spite of lack of experience this leader applied those principles and set goals for the team, invited them into the task of dealing with challenges, set them loose to find solutions and kept them accountable.
You guessed it, within a very short period of time that new leader had a team that was performing at unheard of levels. They were coming up with time and cost saving innovations, were preventing fires instead of fighting them and that was the crew that everyone wanted to be on. The firefighting stories of the first leader were legendary but the performance of the second leader placed him on a fast track with regard to promotions.
This is why I see this current generational transition as an opportunity. I have worked with excellent young leaders who want to do well, want their teams to do well and have the willingness to work at active leadership and make it happen. These are the leaders who are going to transform leadership as we move further into this century. Active or Passive, what kind of leader are you?