Aesop and Your Talent

January 26, 2011

There’s a very odd trend that is hurting American business. Ask just about anyone with a job and they’ll tell you that they are under-recognized and rarely heard.

This started a while back when 6-Sigma oozed out of GE and into other businesses. A quest for perfection began. But CEOs and managers failed to see that 6-Sigma had its own problems and is, in actuality, seldom successful. Even GE failed to improve their flailing appliance division with minions of black and green belted 6-Sigma ninjas.

The belted bureaucrats knew that ‘they’ were perfect and that 6-Sigma would work if only the dull masses could carry out instructions. So began the next fad: the quest for perfect processes.

The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in 30 years of business came from the lips of a 6-Sigma black belt. “If the process is perfect, the people who are to carry it out do not matter, everything will work smoothly.”

I couldn’t believe anyone could be so foolish. I insisted that those who would carry out the new processes have some input into the design of those processes. I knew that if the ‘guys’, an all male gas drilling team, had no voice they would not fully participate in the changes. I knew they would passively subvert the new processes. My voice was over-ruled and the black belt proceeded to implement forms, charts and data collection. Meeting after nonsensical meeting was held to examine “the data” and ‘discuss’ improvement. This is all part of 6-Sigma’s DMAIC core. The black belt hung up on MC—Measure & Control.

Needless to say, the program was very costly and a huge failure. In my spare time, I solved the problem with WAO—Walk Around Observing. I submitted a report which was not read until thousands of dollars was wasted on the black belt’s folly.

The point of this story is that there are people at your business who have good ideas for improvement. But if you don’t listen to what your talent has to say, you’re not getting your full value from your people.

Not every idea will be perfect. So? Just listening to your people has motivational value. Even if you reject an idea, you show respect and give value to the talent offering up the idea. That’s very encouraging to your employees.

Listen and recognize.

Want to make that point with your boss? This story from AESOP might help.

Chris Reich of TeachU offers this story from AESOP to illustrate the value of talent.

Chris Reich

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