While I already raised the points how important it is for leaders to be present and to create a culture of common sense, I think there is a third aspect that is important for organizations in dealing with effects of the pandemic: The far-reaching changes that companies are currently experiencing require a willingness to take risks, initiative and proactivity from every single member of the organization. This is hardly possible in organizations that are managed via control with limited people involvement for Continuous Improvement.
Moving beyond bureaucracy
Despite all predictions to the contrary, hardly any area of business has grown as strongly in recent decades as administration. The pandemic hasn’t changed this overnight – and, in parts of the economy, even increased the challenge.
Structures have their good reasons: They aim to ensure reliable, repeatable quality and efficiency through standardized processes. The optimization of corporate structures has made a significant contribution to increased prosperity in recent decades.
At the same time, development of non-value-adding bureaucracy is increasingly coming to an end. With the world changing at accelerated speed, it is necessary for organizations to change as well in order to keep pace. Companies need to go beyond rewarding and autonomous diligence, expertise and obedience. These skills are essential in structures and standardized ways of working, but they do not stand for agility, innovation and growth. For this, it requires an organization that breaks away from the model of controlling toward an organization that puts people at the centre, that ensures and elevates the participation and impact of the individual.
Creating human organizations
Business thinkers Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, for example, refer to this form of organization as "humanocracy" – an organization that brings out the best that people can give by maximizing their contribution: Every employee should gain the opportunity to participate in solving problems, especially customer problems. In parallel, the humanocratic organization is characterized by small, powerful, self-controlling and self-organizing units.
This harmonizes well with Masaaki Imai’s definition for KAIZEN™: Improving with Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day – which is also one definition of a humanocratic organization.
Transparent communication is key
In KAIZEN™, we add an additional point by acknowledging that communication is very important in fostering creativity and innovation. It is on the one hand side a leadership task to bring out tough and soft messages – both are necessary. And on the other hand, communication is also a principle that is built in the system: It is all about creating full transparency, nothing is hidden. It starts with the point that all information is visible to all employees – whether it is on whiteboards on site or on virtual whiteboards such as MS Teams. In a KAIZEN™ transformation, all layers of the organization are involved and encouraged to improve. That’s what we call maximizing contribution of everyone, everywhere, every day.
Trust follows transparency – and reflection
This type of transparency also creates trust – within the teams in the form of psychological safety, and with customers to become trusted partners in the long-term. It’s our aspect of humanity in a sense that it is also linked to an ongoing self-reflection, and, subsequently, with a development to put more emphasis on the individual needs of all employees.
In KAIZEN™, we are reflecting how we are doing, all the time: It starts with looking at where we stand today. Tomorrow we will already have improved a little bit – and this can be tough, to identify what could be done in a better way every day! The key questions are: What was good? What was not so good? How can we improve? This way, we can come to lessons learned. We can celebrate – and always have a meaningful discussion on what we can do differently with the next delivery, in the next project, in the next strategy round etc. – again, everyone, everywhere, every day at each layer of organization.
Never blaming people
This reflection, by the way, is not limited to leaders and managers: All KAIZEN™ teams are reflecting themselves. There is no individual finger pointing – and in case processes are broken, there is one rule: to never blame people! Our goal is to create a high level of trust and engagement in the entire organization: “Why hiring hands only as you get the brains for free at the same time?”, might be a relevant question. The way we address this in KAIZEN™ it is by humanizing the organization top down and bottom up. Let’s get started today!
Interested in reading on the leaders’ role in KAIZEN™ and what type of culture you can create by following KAIZEN™ principles? Click here to read the first two blog posts of this series: