You can't hide from me
People are doing exactly “what they’re supposed to do”. They’re following the processes. They’re filling in all the forms. Yet, the quality of results seems inversely related to the rigor with which the processes are followed. Those on the “inside” audit what was done and can’t find any violation of protocol. So, they endorse repeating the same approach to execution for future projects as though that advice will yield more acceptable results.
This is what happens when people get so programmed that they believe they can turn off their brains and go through the motions and the results will be satisfactory. The project, department, or enterprise have become a tangled mess of systems and processes replete with gaps, redundancies, and an overall lack of connection to results.
The team might not mean to, but they end up using the very systems and process that were designed to deliver results as something to hide behind when the result isn’t achieved. They just don’t want to be blamed. They were told to follow the process and they did. Therefore, they’ll say, it isn’t their fault that things didn’t go as they had hoped.
The fastest way to fix this issue is to remove all of the hiding spots. Get back to basics and identify the desired outcome and work backwards to develop a credible plan and secure buy-in from everybody that has to contribute to the plan to get parts on the floor, the software project complete, or the building built.
You have to question everything. Give them no quarter. There is no place to hide. We are here to get the job done. There are many team-dynamic behaviors that are related to this like manage-by-walking-around or insisting on organic interaction of carbon-based life forms (two or more people talking) rather than hiding behind the comfort of email. But the most important action is to question everything.
The reason performance degrades is because we lose focus on parts-on-the-floor and we apply Band-aids to systems and processes. The result is a complex IRS-tax-code quilt work of poking-it-with-a-stick tweaks to a process that was never as universally applicable as the authors intended. That’s not to say we shouldn’t attempt to standardize and write solid processes and use effective systems. However, when they no longer yield the desired outcome, you owe it to employees and shareholders to focus on results. So, I believe you should:
- Identify the desired outcome with a clear statement of work
- List all of the tasks necessary to get the job done
- Be sure the tasks are logically sequenced
- Identify, and fiercely defend, the critical path
- Fill any gaps and eliminate unnecessary redundancies
- Determine logical milestones to assess status
- Track all open issues to closure with permanent corrective action
- Work the plan
- Do not accept generalities – insist on details
Go deep when you hear “I think”, “maybe”, “gut feel” or any other statement that suggests people are taking the easy way out rather than doing the work to confirm hypotheses in situations where certainty is required.
I suggest doing this in parallel with any systemic or process tracking. If your plan, execution, and results don’t pass the smell test of this bare-bones approach to consideration, then the system and process are probably not taking you in the direction of success.