Learning through observation
Lesson Learned #52
People are often curious about how we can go into such a wide variety of organizations and businesses and somehow help them improve. One advantage we have is that we tend to see similar patterns over and over across industries and even across nationalities. We often have an idea about what we are likely to observe well before we set foot in an organization. What we typically find are gaps or disconnects in the process, management operating systems and organizational behaviors. These gaps or problems are rarely identical, but the patterns are often quite similar. Furthermore, if you see a gap at one point, it becomes increasingly likely you’ll see a related gap somewhere else. These gaps present potential opportunity if you can then figure out how to fix them or at least make them better.
While the patterns of gaps or disconnects tend to be quite common across industries, the solutions are often more nuanced and unique to the particular environment. This is one of the reasons it’s difficult to create a generic “best practices” list and hope the ideas can be rolled out through the organization. Even without “best practice” lists, experienced managers often have a pretty good idea of what could or should be done to improve a process but sometimes get stalled because either they may have tried it before (or something similar) and it wasn’t effective, or they don’t think the generic solution is applicable to their unique situation.
Our experience would suggest that these specific barriers are often overstated. However, a key to getting people to change what they’re doing is to get them involved in observing their own environment, regardless of how familiar with the environment they may think they are. Observation can refresh their perspective and give them different insights into what solutions might be effective, whether or not they were attempted previously. It also helps to give them the ability to take generic solutions and properly modify them to their own environment.