The obvious answer is that it depends. Any of us who have had Japanese sensei had heard that a lot. So what does it depend on. First, it depends one the strategic business purpose of the organization–external. Second, it depends on the organization’s goals for people and culture development-internal. Third, it depends on the current maturity of the organization to meet the business objectives. In other words I would want to know what the executive is trying to achieve, how they are thinking about the process of getting there, and what concrete actions they are taking–the hows. It is critical that the business purpose meets the realities of the environment and this has all been thought through carefully with broad input and consensus building. In a desperate situation the how will be more aggressive and more short-term focused than in calm waters. But I would also want to know, even in that situation, what the longer-term vision is and what actions are taken to use the crisis to grow leaders in the organization. We have a great example of that in how Gary Convis, as CEO, led short-term measures to help Dana Corporation emerge from bankruptcy and survive using the crisis as an opportunity to severely challenge and grow leaders globally. Under more calm circumstances I would look beyond short-term results to again understand the vision and how the executive is translating that to long-term development of people and the company. I would be less impressed by a short-term check the box approach—though shall have metric boards, do 5s, and draw a value stream map. I would be more impressed by a thoughtful approach to getting senior leaders to take ownership of major improvement projects and coach them through the process, while beginning to seed smaller kaizen activities at the gemba. At the same time these activities need to fit into the business objectives and with good process i would expect good results.
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