"You can't implement from the office" is one of our less creative maxims but it is also one of the more important ones as far as implementing change goes. It simply means you will never be effective at getting people to change their behaviors if you don't get out of the office and work directly with them. This is as important for us (Carpedia) as consultants as it is for leaders in any organization.
Technology is a wonderful tool in many circumstances but it can also be a dangerous distraction. People can too easily get buried behind a computer screen and forget the value of human interaction. When we chose to differentiate Carpedia based on implementing actual results (rather than creating reports like many consulting firms), we also committed ourselves to the need to convince managers and employees to do things slightly differently.
The only way to get people to do things differently is to experience their world from their perspective, so that you can understand the differences between real and artificial barriers. You have to remove some of these barriers in order for people to be comfortable with change. These barriers can include breakdowns in communication or work flow, getting different functional areas to work together, or conflicting objectives. You also have to carefully separate reality from perception, and chronic issues from anecdotes. All these things happen out on the floor. None of these things happen in an office. Office work is necessary to support change but it never drives it. To get change installed, the people doing the work need to be engaged and involved in the development of new methods.
The current television show “Undercover Boss” illustrates the power of observing the world through your employees point-of-view. By getting out of their offices and onto the front lines, executives of high profile companies learn first hand that even though a policy or procedure may be written, it doesn’t mean it’s being followed.
So, here’s your mission. When you’ve finished reading this post, leave your office and go for a walk. Do what we call a "where abouts" snapshot. Walk around your office or plant and simply make a note of where your managers physically are. Are they in their office or out with their direct reports? (You can keep a running tally for a few days if you want a broader sampling). From your observations try to get a feel for whether or not your management is spending enough time supporting employees.
Unfortunately there is no one-size fits all answer, different functional areas and different industries require different behavior models. But if too many of your managers are closed in an office or behind a computer, it usually indicates either a training, systems or management behavior problem.
This maxim is both a general guideline and a warning. The general guideline is to make sure you don't treat issues superficially, that you dig into the details to make sure you really understand the problem and that the solution makes sense. The reference to the "Devil" is the warning. Many otherwise brilliant solutions and strategies have been wrecked by details that surface in either the presentation of the solution or worse, during the implementation.
As you are successful in business you get promoted to higher levels in your organization. Each level takes you a step further away from the details of the issue. There is sometimes conflicting pressure to stay in the details but also delegate responsibility to others you manage. Getting into the details of an issue is hard work and it is tempting to take the easy road and stay at the bigger picture level. Also knowing which details are important, and when to dig into them is difficult and usually takes experience.
At Carpedia we find this maxim particularly important because we implement changes. Implementing change is like learning a golf swing. What looks relatively simple is actually extraordinarily complex in practice. If we don't take account of the myriad details, we can find logical solutions simply aren't effective when put in place. When solutions don't work, it's almost always some kind of important detail that has been overlooked.
"An executive cannot gradually dismiss details. Business is made up of details and I notice that the chief executive who dismisses them is quite likely to dismiss his business. Success is the sum of detail. It might perhaps be pleasing to imagine oneself beyond detail and engaged only in great things, but as I have often observed, if one attends only to great things and lets the little things pass the great things become little; that is, the business shrinks. It is not possible for an executive to hold himself aloof from anything."
- Harvey S. Firestone (Founder of Firestone Tire Company)
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