The Human Constraint – Leadership or Teams

After reading The Human Constraint by Angela Montgomery PhD

History condemnOne of my greatest frustrations has been trying to get people to step back and understand why they are doing things in the manner they are without considering the impact of their actions on the systems within which they work. In one of my previous articles I spoke about horizons, and the fact that in the linear world we focus on events. Should the learning horizon exceed the event horizon, then all possibility for learning is lost and the same mistakes get repeated time and again.

While trying to find different way to communicate the advantages of adopting alternative approaches within the Systems Thinking world, I came across this business novel, that chronicles May’s life over a period of 9 years and the growth she experiences when exposed to the teachings of W Edwards Deming and Eliyahu Goldratt under the guidance of Dr Sam Deluca.

Some of the early learnings that spring from the book are the fact that if people are open to learning and have a questioning culture, they adopt the systems thinking approach very quickly. The second is that as soon as pressure is exerted on people, they revert to type. The third is the way we measure ourselves and the indicators as drivers for employee performance. These reinforce the short-term view on business and continually drive people to revert to type.

A phenomenon in industry is that we promote technical specialists into management positions and expect them to be able to have or acquire the skills required to take organizations to the next level. Companies provide these incumbents with mentors and role models who are entrenched in their thinking, and who have most likely progressed up through the ranks in the same manner, meaning that we continue on the hamster wheel or treadmill, expecting improved competitiveness in an increasingly demanding market. All that happens is that the treadmill incline gets steeper and the speed increases, leading to burn out and ultimately failure.

Looking at Systems thinking, one of the objectives is to instill a questioning culture in the organization, to encourage critical thinking and then continually feed this with theoretical knowledge followed by practical application within your business. Ongoing evaluation of improvements needs to be cross functional, so that the impact of initiatives can be assessed across the organization. Leadership needs to open itself up to scrutiny and be answerable to their teams, otherwise, if team members aren’t encouraged to question then the feedback from evaluations will be fraught with errors and decisions made will lead the business down the wrong path.Deming quote

One of the catch phrases I hear repeatedly is “Work smarter, not harder”, and this is where knowledge is so important. Teams need to understand what it is they want to change, then what they want to change to and finally, how to make the change happen. The knowledge (or theory) that underpins this approach has proven practical tool sets that can be selected from TOC, Lean and Six Sigma. Together, these theories are very powerful. It isn’t just about connecting the dots, but looking for connections that weren’t thought possible. In life, we must manage complexities by managing the interdependencies, and not by breaking them down into subsets for independent analysis.

One of the key messages I got from the book is SUSTAINABILITY. This is key to our growth in emerging markets, where our current approach is widening the economic divide daily and we will implode if we don’t change our approach to sustainable solutions.

“Sustainable – Something that can last a lifetime in a resilient economic way, creating opportunities for the broader network and not jeopardizing it.”

The human constraint is written for easy reading and what is really great about it is that it has links back to the Intelligent Management website which details the principles and methodologies discussed in the book.

Thanks to Angela Montgomery phD and the team at Intelligent Management for this book, a great tool for those who want to create change.

#TheHumanConstraint #WEdwardsDeming #AngelaMontgomery #SystemsThinking #Sustainability #Leadership

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