Speed of Change

Mark Frasco - President

“Without openness there is not, and there cannot be, democratism, the political creativity of the masses and their participation in management.”

I inserted the word ‘openness’ above, and for now I’m withholding the name of the author of this quote – we’ll come back to it later.

November 2014 – The generation of leaders who preceded ours was largely influenced by military models of leadership – command and control. Openness wasn’t thought to have value. Most job performers were managed on a ‘need to know’ basis.

It was common for leaders this time of year to retreat, determine goals and direction for the organization, and present their plans to the workers. At its best, the thoughts of a few informed leaders were broadly communicated, clarifying expectations on job performers. At its worst, it required some form of coercion or manipulation of the job performer to produce change.

Either way, it was generally held that workers were not capable or interested in organizational decision making. Besides, it was believed that the process of engagement would take too much time, with limited benefit.

It was about this time, during the 1960’s, when there was a management movement abound – a revolutionary theory of sorts. Academics and practitioners were researching and exploring more open styles of leadership, featuring trust and empowerment of job performers. The discoveries have informed this generation of leaders – higher levels of job satisfaction, resulting from empowerment and broad engagement, serve to deliver higher quality work and greater speed to change.

It is now commonly held that the sooner a human system or business system shares common information, the faster and higher quality is the resulting change. A useful model to consider, the Johari Window, was developed in 1955, by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. The bigger the Arena, where information known about each is shared, between individuals or the organization and job performers, the faster is the speed to change.

I’m often asked by leaders about how to improve accountability amongst their staff. The pathway to improved accountability features greater levels of openness, or transparency.

Here are some tips to improve accountability and speed to change:

  • Broadly engage all levels of the organization in evaluating current state of the business system. Agree on improvements needed and performance indicators that will monitor progress and results.
  • Install a regular frequency of communication and learning, reviewing key performance indicators. Daily stand up meetings, weekly reviews, monthly recaps and quarterly progress reports.
  • Identify leading indicators of success or lack of progress. The faster you can gather, organize, and analyze data, the better prepared you are to make fact-based decisions, reducing errors caused by subjectivity.
  • Engage a microcosm of the organization to identify how to leverage successes or overcome concerns. Build rhythms of interaction that cut across functional units.
  • Embrace change. A system that is changing is alive and learning. One that is not… well, in theory, it is dead or certainly dying.

On November 9, 1989, I celebrated my 30th birthday. But, that day carried much greater meaning to me than a milestone birthday. What happened that day, for those who were born before 1970, was something that not many of us could’ve ever imagined possible. That day the Berlin Wall came down.

Now, let’s revisit that quote above, but this time as the author actually phrased it, in his language.

“Without glasnost there is not, and there cannot be, democratism, the political creativity of the masses and their participation in management.” – Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the USSR

Glasnost is the Russian word for openness and transparency. Although, Russian leadership has recently retreated from Gorbachev’s policies in that country, his commitment to openness and transparency changed the world… with a little help from one of his friends, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Those words are emblazoned in our minds, spoken by the Great Communicator, President Reagan, at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com.