Guest Post – How Things Get Done by Joe Hood


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There are two types of authority in any enterprise.  There is positional authority, which is formal authority and comes with the job description and title.  Examples are the CEO, CFO, and Chief Imagination Officer titles.

Then there is informal authority.  This is the place where organizations really get tasks accomplished as most of the front-to-back work of delivering goods and services occurs.

The vision and purpose of the enterprise is actualized at the intersection of these two types of authority.   I want to talk about effective, purposeful training in the context of that intersection. Failing to safely negotiate this all-important intersection is what causes most movement toward best-in-class service to fail.

After working to turn around many large-scale international organizations over twenty-five years, I learned the hard way a few important things about creating learning organizations.  The overarching objective of improvement and turn-around activity should be to create an environment where everyone in the organization intersects to self-generate continual positive change.  The change should create satisfied constituencies – consumers of the organization’s services, suppliers, the community the organization exists in, owners, and members of the organization.

I identified five elements that are necessary for this type of change to occur.

There has to be someone to tell what I call the fireside narrative.  This story says, “This is what kind of organization we intend to be.”  It has to be succinct, easily explained in three sentences, and create a powerful dream of what the organization can contribute to the constituencies listed above.  The person with formal authority to lead the enterprise should be the one to tell this story.  It should be told often, using as many media as possible, to everyone in the organization.  But – and I want to emphasize this – the more this narrative is repeated in face-to-face brief encounters with as many people as possible, the more real it becomes, and thus more powerful.  You know it is a successful narrative when people start repeating the story to each other, and customers, as reasons they are becoming successful.

Then, there has to be a disruptor-in-chief.  This is the Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos of the enterprise.  And that person doesn’t have to be the owner, or CEO, or President.  It can be a particularly creative product innovator, or a great quality facilitator.  Whoever it is, the person has to be able to powerfully communicate why moving from where you are now, to where you want to be, and demanding that steps be taken to get there, is necessary.  It is necessary either that this person have actual authority to make sure these steps occur (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs),  or that through force of leadership the organization gives them the informal authority to make it happen.  The disruption can change how things are made, what things are made, done, distributed, handed-off, or serviced. In healthcare organizations, it can disrupt the idea that patient arrival, movement to care, and ultimate healthy outcomes is too random to be understood as a flow that can be analyzed, modeled, and quantified.   It needs, above all, to be consistent with the fireside story of what the enterprise intends to be.

Every learning enterprise needs a highly skilled data analyst.  I’m not talking only about meta-data, or parsed analytics.  I’m talking about someone whose knowledge of the nuts-and-bolts of the organization is coupled with experience in gathering and analyzing data.  The most important part of this process, and it can’t be emphasized enough, is understanding that just gathering large amounts of data, and putting it in impressive silos, doesn’t make it good, or even interesting data.  You have to have an educated understanding of when to gather data, how much to process, the importance of anomalous information (think penicillin mold growing on bread), and how to design good informatics that arrive at the point of need at the time of need.

The quality facilitator needs to be a future C-suite member in training.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  The quality facilitator, who ends up interacting with every significant part of the enterprise, winds up knowing who has informal authority to get things done because people respect them, who actually produces great results at the intersection of formal and informal authority, and who is ready for more responsibility.  Choosing the right person for this job is about as important as it gets.

And finally, there needs to be a Skeptic-in-Chief.  This person has to have the respect of everyone on the leadership team, and the ear of everyone with that great informal authority in the enterprise.  This person has the job of raising the interesting questions that lead to great improvement, and pointing out where the rails are missing in the train’s movement to the next objective.

Understanding the roles of these team members, and how they weave a narrative through the formal and informal authority of the organization’s movement toward best-in-class performance, is the great understanding that top organizations have.

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Joseph Hood is the former President and CEO of a worldwide Fortune 500 Aerospace Manufacturing company.  He studied Quality Management under Dr W. Edwards Deming, and was one of the first American manufacturing leaders to completely integrate the transformative use of data analytics, lean process management, and error reduction through an emphasis on Total Quality leadership.  In addition, he is an experienced Healthcare professional.  He has been a consultant with organizations in 12 countries.

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