Hi, I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.
It’s December 14, 2020. The first truckloads of COVID-19 Vaccines headed toward 636 distributions centers over the weekend. It’ll still be months before we reach a point of saturation that will allow us to put aside our masks and social distancing, so please, keep maintaining your safety protocols through the holidays and well past when you get your own vaccination.
Here are a couple of cool events from history on this date.
On the sadder side, in 1799, George Washington, our first president, died at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. In 1861, Prince Albert – Queen Victoria’s husband – died in England. He was a strong advocate for our Union – an important ally for the United States that was now in our 8th month of Civil War.
On the cool side, today is the day in 1900 that Max Planck presented Quantum Theory at the Physics Society in Berlin. In 1911, Raold Amundsen reached the South Pole with 4 team members, after a 1400 mile trek over Antarctica.
What piqued my interest in the Amundsen/Scott race to the south pole was Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s book Great by Choice. They use it to contrast todays companies, in highly competitive and unpredictable markets.
Some companies prepare like Amundsen and get similar results – they win. Others prepare like Scott. Scott’s team died on the return trip from the south pole. Pick up Collins’ and Hansen’s book along with Roland Huntford’s “The Last Place on Earth” which Collins recommends as an excellent study of the two explorers.
The discipline applied by Amundsen’s team created a culture that drove excellent performance. In that kind of environment, your team has to be fully engaged.
How do I define a culture of engagement? The biggest difference between a culture of excitement, as I described in my last video, and a culture of engagement is the level of self-determination by the team.
In a culture of engagement, everyone knows the vision, the goals, and the boundaries; they’re trained to mastery level; and they’re allowed to do whatever is necessary within the boundaries to achieve the goal. And then, they do it.
Engaged team members don’t wait until the Kaizen team comes to make improvements. They make improvements everyday, practicing true kaizen – doing something everyday to make like a little better for those around you.
The leader’s job is clear…set the vision and the direction, along with what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. In lean we call these boundaries and rules Standardized Work. But once these are set, the leader trains, teaches, and coaches, emphasizing problem solving and then let’s go – encouraging everyone to improve everything without waiting for approval, as long as they operate within the rules to determine that a solution is in fact better through experimentation.
The harder part comes in how the leaders respond to failure. If you hope to sustain this culture of engagement, we need to celebrate failure as learning events.
Please keep in mind that culture is fragile. Any mishandling by leaders can undo any progress made toward this highest level of performance.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.