Hi, I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.
A few days ago I described a culture of defiance in organizations, and I ended up saying that a new leader would usually be necessary to pull the organization into a culture of compliance.
It takes a leader to create conditions for a culture of defiance – and that leader generally has to convince people that they can trust no one but them and tends to blame everything bad on some group or some person.
The first step toward getting out of a culture of defiance is to remove that leader.
The new leader will need to be pretty much a tyrant, enforcing his or her will through the strategic application of power. But if that behavior persists, the organization will return to the pits of defiance.
The first stages of a culture of compliance will involve a new set of rules with consistent enforcement of those rules. There is no room for anything else. These new rules will form the basis for a new relationship between the leader and the led. During this period of time, the leader has to be brutally honest about everything. The more transparent they can become, the less difficulty they will have in restoring trust.
The vast majority of organizations are stuck in cultures of compliance. This isn’t because leaders are maliciously keeping people there. It’s because people have been conditioned for compliance their entire lives. It’s parents, then teachers, then employers who have consistently punished non-compliance over time that creates compliance as the default until you discover how much freedom you actually have.
The new rules need to encourage and reward compliance, and punish and discourage defiance. It won’t work for some of your people. That’s fine – they can go, either voluntarily, or through termination – If they can’t or won’t follow the new rules, which you have carefully communicated and taught – there is no reason to keep them.
As we settle into the new culture of compliance to the rules, and as we see some degree of trust returning, leaders have to adjust the rules to allow for more involvement. But it isn’t just adjusting the rules. It also requires systems to allow for productive involvement of the workforce in setting those new rules. We have to ask employees for their input.
We will always need compliance to set rules. But to advance the culture toward engagement, we’ll need a defined process for breaking the rules. So when someone has input to share, that defined process shows them what they much do to confirm that the input makes things better, and then we change the rules – we create a new expectation. We capture that in our standardized work and it becomes the new source of compliance, until we find a still better way.
More to follow. Stick with me. Join me next week, Wednesday and Thursday, for a high speed problem solving workshop sponsored by Lean Frontiers. It’s virtual – four hours Wednesday afternoon, and 4 hours Thursday afternoon.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.