Can we make our knowledge workers 50x more productive in the 21st Century?
At the beginning of October I attended the Modern Management Methods Conference (#lknl13) organized by LeanKanban Netherlands and the Lean-Kanban University. It was a great event that inspired me to learn more about agile, kanban and lean. In the complex world we operate in, I would not get tired of repeating that we need management methods that address at the same time people, systems, technology, complexity, leadership and change. Finally.
The overarching theme of the conference was complexity and change. We can no longer be absolutely certain about things. Discontinuous innovation requires that we invent a new way of doing things. Just because it worked last time, does not mean it will work this time as well. Best practices don’t work. Correlation does not guarantee causation. Doing the right thing wrong is as bad as doing the wrong thing right. If it is simple and elegant, it is probably right.
Stand on the complexity and go with the flow. You can only absorb complexity, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can eliminate it. Do not suppress conflicting info. Research the disconfirming opinions. Profit from emerging gaps. Decentralize information. Always remind yourself what’s the worst that can happen. At the end, never waste a good crisis.
There are plenty of things I learned during the conference, but being passionate about people and leadership, it is no surprise that the most interesting lecture for me was People as bottlenecks, which was delivered by Gaetano Mazzanti. This lecture reminded me that just to work hard is not enough. Trust can scale. Heroes don’t.
A bottleneck is any step in a process whose capacity is less than the demand placed upon it. Bottlenecks are unfortunately pretty common in services and in product development. They limit a system’s output/outcome, they lead to all sort of dysfunctions: queues, multitasking, lost opportunities, etc. This all can turn into a self-reinforcing (negative) loop: bottlenecks that lead to dysfunctions that in turn lead to more/worse bottlenecks. In general bottlenecks should be removed. Now, from an organizational perspective bottlenecks can be both physical and non-physical: systems, equipment, processes, policies and… people. While we usually look at the system before blaming people, sometimes bottlenecks are indeed people. Should we just remove them or can we find other ways to address this issue?
There are two options ; either you create bottlenecks or you are the bottleneck.
You are the bottleneck if you:
- are not available
- defer decisions
- centralize decisions and do not delegate
- lack communication skills
- if you are the specialist (experts as the non-availability resource)
You create bottlenecks if:
- you overload people
- assign multiple tasks
- you are not filtering (you want everything, everything is a priority)
Other practices which create bottle necks:
- Hiding information or making it available too late (thus generating emergencies)
- Creating silos and ceilings
- Jim Benson: Your multitasking is my bottleneck
Indeed, the future of management in the 21st Century has already arrived with the LeanKanban conferences.
Only the brave, the reckless and the desperate will pursue grand changes.
More useful resources HERE.
On a different note, if you ever visit Utrecht, definitely try the amazing french fries sold on the street!