"Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it"*.
Many of us feel that way: we know that the systems we work in every day could be improved to reduce wasted time, effort and money and improve outcomes for our clients, or co-workers and ourselves. But we go bump, bump, bump on the back of our heads every day just the same.
Sometimes this is because our bosses don't think that those of us on the front line with clients have any improvement ideas, or that our ideas might not be a good fit with the strategic imperative of the day being pressed down on them by their bosses. Sometimes our bosses and their bosses erroneously want to keep all decision-making in their own hands. Sometimes it is just easier to go along to get along. Too bad for the clients and too bad about wasted resources.
What is happening in your organization? What part are you playing in keeping the bump, bump, bump on the back of the head going? Are you the board member with no idea about what your role is in achieving a high performing organization? Are you the CEO or senior staff member that can't separate the few really critical strategic goals from the mass of "good to do's"? Are you the middle manager so isolated and insulated that you no longer have an operating pipeline of improvement ideas coming in from the front line client interface? Are you the front line manager who isn't starting every day reviewing the status of operations with your group to really understand the problems staff is facing that day, to encourage and coach them to identify and solve the problems, then removing any barriers for them to do so? Or are you the front line worker too afraid to criticize or learn how to generate support for improvement ideas? We are all clients and members somewhere impacted by mediocre service; are we too over-awed, distracted or complacent to point out the inefficiencies, the ineffectiveness, the disorganization, the waste?
In none of these circumstances am I advocating frustrated, inarticulate rants or mistreatment of office furniture. I am suggesting learning how to effectively engage the organization to notice itself in operation and to consider the possibility of improvement.
If we all take our responsibility for improvement a little more seriously we can stop the bump, bump, bump.
*A.A. Milne 1926, Winnie the Pooh, pg. 14