Organizational Chaos


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The new book, The Outstanding Organization was discussed in a recent Business901 podcast, Achieving Organizational Health with author Karen Martin. Below is a transcription of the podcast.

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Organizational Chaos

  1. 1. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsSponsored byAchieving Organizational Health Guest was Karen Martin Related Podcast: Achieving Organizational Health Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  2. 2. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Karen Martin provides Lean transformation and business performance improvement support to industry, government, and the not-for-profit sector. Karen’s broad understanding of operations design and business management stems from her experience building the operational infrastructure for several rapid growth start-up operations that each grew into multi-billion dollar companies.Rather than entering into client engagements with a pre-determined “program” for improvement, Karen and her team ofindustry experts tailor transformation approaches that fit theirclients’ unique needs. They generate rapid results, whilesimultaneously developing deep problem solving and continuousimprovement capabilities at all levels of the organization. Thisenables their clients to become self-sufficient as quickly aspossible. Whether you need assistance in undertaking a fullorganization transformation, jump-start a stalled program, ormerely developing a core capability or two, Karen Martin &Associates can help your company achieve its businessperformance goals and profit through simplicity.The Outstanding Organization website page has a downloadablechapter, related webinars on the four key behaviors (Clarity,Focus, Discipline, Engagement).Karen has been on the Business901 Podcast before discussingHolding Successful Kaizen Events. She co-authored The KaizenEvent Planner: Achieving Rapid Improvement in Office, Service,and Technical Environments and was a developer of a favoritetool of mine, Metrics-Based Process Mapping: An Excel-BasedSolution. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  3. 3. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Transcription of PodcastJoe Dager: Welcome everyone, this is Joe Dager, the host ofthe Business 901 podcast, with me today is Karen Martin. Karenis a recognized thought leader, and is internationally known forher lean work, and her widely acclaimed workshops on whitecollar kaizen. She is co-author of the Kaizen event planner, andwith her most-recent book, The Outstanding Organization, shehas launched herself to another plateau. I would like to welcomeyou Karen and congratulate you, and apologies for the pun, butfor an outstanding book.Karen Martin: Thank you Joe, thanks so much for having me onthe podcast again, its great to talk with you.Joe: When I first started the book, I thought it was going to beclarity, lets get focused book, but you surprised me.Karen: How so?Joe: You had the most practical undertone I had read in a longtime that was about doing, and the first half of the book had somuch meaning after I read the second half, that I had to re-readthe first half. I dont think I got it all the first time.Karen: Isnt that interesting, because the concepts are sosurprisingly simple, yet theres a lot of depth to the whole topicaround clarity and what clarity really is, and how do we reallyachieve it, and all the different elements. It is interesting that itsounds so seemingly simple, yet there are a lot of layers toeverything. The discipline part was the easiest to write from aprescriptive perspective because, it was much of a step one, steptwo, step three. Clarity was tough to write about, because therewere so many different elements around clarity, and its tough togive general solutions to problems that are very specific inorganizations. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  4. 4. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsMy goal in clarity was really to heighten awareness and offer afew tips on what to do to get rid of ambiguity and gain greaterclarity, but it was really about just start paying attention to howunclear things are and then take the appropriate action based onthat.Joe: Usually I ask this at the end, but Im interested in findingout your answer to this. What is the single most importantmessage you would want readers to take from your book?Karen: You know; Ive been asked that actually a fair amount,and what I quickly said the first time I was asked it in the middleof an interview was if I had to pick one of my four children, whichis always difficult to do, I would say that its focus. Its becauseyear and year out for 20-plus years of doing this work, I find thething that trips organizations up the most of all four of them isthey just have this prevailing organizational ADD, attention-deficitdisorder, where they keep jumping from project to project beforeits completed. That jumping around creates such a high degreeof chaos, and it drains the workforce of their psychic energy andtheir creative potential to be able to contribute, that to me, if youdid nothing but focus on focus, you would move your organizationway far ahead.Joe: You bring up my next question and lead into it perfectly.Planning seems to be so taboo. Even the lean startup version ofPDCA is Build, Measure, and Learn. Planning, it just seems weredropping the planning from the cycle. Is there still room forplanning?Karen: Oh, yes. Im so glad you asked that question because alot of my content got on the cutting-room floor because I had farmore words than what my contract was for. One of the things Iwent into in detail, that got cut, was my...I dont know...Imfrustrated with whats going on out there around planning andthere are a lot of people that are playing into it. So I touch on Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  5. 5. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsGladwells comments about planning, and I touch on other peopleand their anti-planning, guys who are out there, and I think itsjust wrong, just wrong because I think what happens, and Imentioned this very quickly in the book, is that people havegotten the plan confused with the process of planning.The criticisms I keep hearing about planning is that, "Well, theworld is so fluid, and you have to be flexible and agile." Ofcourse, you do but who said that once you get a plan in place,you may not ever, under any circumstances, deviate from it. Noone said that and yet thats how organizations have behaved. Soonce again, we throw the baby out with the bathwater on anextremely robust and necessary part of performing well andpeople say, "Ah, forget the plans. We cant plan," and thats justwrong.Joe: A well-thought-out plan is going to include the ability toadapt.Karen: Well right. Thats what PDSA is or PDCA. That is aboutadapting based upon current conditions. Theres a lot going oneven in the Lean community thats smelling as though peoplewere saying, "Well, stop with your plans, stop with your to-dolist, and stop with this..." Im like, "No, no, no, no, no. Dont stopwith it but use PDCA/PDSA as it was intended," which is beingvery present with what your experiments results are showing,alter your hypothesis, go back experiment again, and keep onadapting based on your new information.Joe: Well, you brought up a good subject in the book, and itsabout discipline. Could you explain what you mean by disciplineas it relates to an organization?Karen: Yes, thank you for asking that. So in a nutshell, it wouldbe standard work. So your standard work around decisionmaking, standard work around problem solving, standard workaround actual process improvement, and standard work in how Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  6. 6. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemswork gets done. So its really getting far more consistent so youcan become more predictable and reduce the variation that weourselves create so we have the bandwidth to deal with thevariation. Thats just the nature of the beast and part of being abusiness. Its a methodical approach to how you schedulemeetings and how you put a team together. Its just being muchmore thoughtful and methodical about how decisions are made,and work is done.Joe: Standard work always gets a bad rap, but to me, I thinkthat is the majority of everyones days, including leaders.Organizational health is about standard work thats really whatputs groceries on the table, and what you need to concentrate onto insure what you do well and do what you are talking about, thefocus and the chaos and then...Karen: Lack of standard work is what causes chaos, and it willnever not cause chaos if you dont have some degree ofstandardization. Back to your point about standard work gettinga bad rap, I very much agree with you, and its been getting anincreasingly high number of hits from people that do, again, notunderstand what standard work is. I wish if people didntunderstand what it was they wouldnt talk about it because theyare confusing the people that are just learning about standardwork and creating some negativity around it. Thats just notreally very helpful. So heres my take on it. Standard work; overstandardization is as dangerous as under standardization. Andwhat a lot of newbies to lean that got trained and got certificatesand everything when out there and thought that standard workwas the be all end all well its not. So you have to have flexibilityeven within standard work to handle different conditions indifferent scenarios, but you can still standardize those differentscenarios. We could talk about standard work for the wholepodcast. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  7. 7. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: You talk about discipline, but you talk about in a frame oforganizational versus people because discipline is not aboutpeople it is about the organization. It is the discipline in theorganization, and that is what drives the chaos out of it.Karen: Right, actually all four of the conditions I talk about aredealt with at an organizational level understanding that theorganization is a group of people. So it does start at an individuallevel, but its more setting the system in place and theorganizational psyche in place to enable individuals to behave theway they need to in order to get the organization to behave as itneeds to as a whole. So its definitely a holistic thing that Imworking for.Joe: Could you name the four and briefly describe them?Karen: Sure, the first one is clarity, and I coach that is thetoughest to get and its clarity in thought word and deed. Itsclarity around what an organizations mission is, its clarityaround what the priorities are for the year, what the goals are forthe year, making sure everyone understands them clearly, whatthey are, clarity in language so that when you have people sittingin a room together they are actually speaking the same language,and you dont have; its like having someone who speaks Frenchonly, sitting there with someone who speaks Spanish only, andno wonder we dont communicate well. Its clarity in roles andresponsibilities, who does what. Who exactly do you go to if youneed to get input on blah, blah, blah in those kinds of things?So focus. Focus is sticking to a plan of action until there are verycompelling reasons not to. So its everything from prioritizingprojects and improvement priorities so that in getting consensusaround us. So its not about prioritizing in one persons head. Itsorganization-wide consensus so that its not as tempting to bedistracted when new things come along, and you get people Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  8. 8. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsmoving together to completion and getting things done wellbefore they move on. So thats focus.Discipline we talked about a little bit already so I would just addthat disciplined problem solving is probably the ripest area I see.From most organizations, they need to have methodology thateveryone in the organization uses so that you get consistentcritical thinking around, and you eliminate or at least reduce thepossibility of Band-Aids and the core solutions not really being thesolutions because the problem was incurred to begin with andthere was no methodology for achieving that.And the last is the one that doesnt belong with the others, butits a result of the others, and thats engagement. So this deepimplies engagement where they are actively involved in all thedecisions that are being made not strategic decisions but dailydecisions. They are using their creative potential much of thetime versus the opposite that usually happens. And they are theones that are solving problems at a tactical level versus; thosequote solutions being dictated to the front lines, from managerswho really dont do the work.The other thing about engagement thats critical is to get peoplelooking at the whole organization holistically, allows all theinter-departmental tension that exists to melt away. I see it overand over and over, and its a beautiful thing when it happens.Joe: Well, just to mention the part on engagement, when Ilooked at the book, I couldnt wait to get to that section becauseI thought, heres where Karen and I are going to really buttheads.Were going to have some different opinions here, and I am notsure that Ive read a better forty pages on engagement. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  9. 9. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsKaren: Thank you Joe.Joe: I know you spoke at the human-resource conference inAtlanta. Have you received feedback, from human-resourcepeople on that chapter yet?Karen: I have, not from that chapter in the book. But I did frommy talk, which was based on the book. The HR folks that were inthe audience loved what I had to say, very much believe I wasspot on, but they dont feel they have the ability to affect changewithin their organizations. So I may be developing a new mission.My new mission may be to get HR departments positioned withinorganizations in a more effective way than they currently are. Sothat they can regain some of the leverage, that they used to havedecades ago and to play that significant role in an operationalperformance improvement and business performanceimprovement overall.Somehow theyve gotten relegated to being order takers andtransaction based people about benefit plans, and performancereviews, and hiring and firing. Somehow theyve been left out ofthe improvement loop in a not so helpful way.Joe: One of the things that really caught my eye is because Iuse Zappos and Zingerman as a couple of companies, when I talkabout building culture and people. They go through great strideson who they hire.Thats root cause just about, isnt it?Karen: Yeah, I think its really tempting, and Ive been in thehiring mode a lot. Its common to refer to people in adisrespectful way as a quote warm body. But what I mean by thatis its very tempting to get a warm body in the door, becauseyouve got a need that you need to fill, and not take your time to Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  10. 10. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsmake sure its a good match. And that person comes into theorganization, as full complement, of the thought process thats inplace that you need for the organization. Its tempting to try to,get the numbers filled.Joe: When you talk about the engagement, you bring pairprogramming into it. Briefly describe pair programming. But then,can that practice be done outside of software?Karen: In fact, the reason why I put it in the book was that Ivebeen applying it in almost every industry there is, and its sosuccessful. So pair programming, for the listeners that may notknow about it, it started in software development. Its taking twodevelopers sitting side by side with one keyboard and onemonitor. One persons designated as the driver, the otherpersons designated as the observer or the navigator. The driveris actually coding while the other person is watching it, lookingahead, looking for problems, and they are together activelyproblem solving real time. Its the two minds are better than onephilosophy.The problem most organizations have with it is at first glance itfeels like your doubling your labor expense. But youre not, noteven close. Youre actually reducing expenses, because when youcount the number of labor that goes into rework and delays anddelivering and all the different things that happen when you gotone-person writing code, its a significant benefit to pairprogrammers together.Joe: Does that help, bring more people together?Because once you have two, isnt it easier to engage four?Karen: Well, its interesting. I never tried it with three or fourpeople together, because I do think; you get too many cooks in Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  11. 11. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthe kitchen. Whats being done sometime, when I suggestpairing, isnt really whats meant by pairing. Its not takingsomeone with a very well developed skill set, pairing them withsomeone with a very undeveloped skill set. Thats not the primaryuse of pairing. Although you can use it that way to build skill sets,and you do develop skill sets when you pair any two peopletogether. But thats not its primary purpose; its purpose is toproblem solve real time, catch errors as theyre occurring and geta more robust product out as a result.So the people that are working together get this greater sense ofconfidence in their own ability, cause their producing better workand their learning as they go and their learning problem-solvingskills. Youre getting a significant long-term benefit in developingthe work force that way. Their fully engaged, they cant bedisengaged when theyre in a pair.Joe: When we talk about current employees and the currentorganization is this one way of creating and introducingengagement to them?Karen: By the pairing?Joe: Yes.Karen: Im not sure that I use it as my primary or my firstapproach to engagement. Actually kaizen events are usually whatI turn to show how deeply engaged they can get the workforceand how excited people get, around work and an improvement asa result of a kaizen event participation. I actually always turn topair because of a quality problem, and the engagement part of ithappens to be a side benefit. But its very tactical to solve aquality problem. So for example, in a hospital setting I wasworking with, these nurses in doing medication reconciliation atdischarge. High stakes, high-risk process, often done poorly, andpeople can die as a result of it, so its a pretty big deal. Nurseswere in my class; they were always doing this alone, and its a Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  12. 12. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsvery complex process to look at all the meds someone came intothe hospital on, all the ones they had while they were in thehospital and what the physician or physicians are suggestingtheyre on, when they leave the hospital. So its a complexprocess. First of all, its complex so one person has a hard timeseeing everything and getting it done well.But then there were always these interruptions and by pairingtwo people together and putting them in a cone of silence, as Icall it, then theyre able to have two eyes on a complex task, andthey are able to do it without interruption. The quality of that taskthen goes through the roof. Thats just one example. Ive used itin financial services; Ive used it in engineering design, fordifferent pieces of a process, and its wildly successful.Joe: Well you have hosted and facilitated as many kaizen eventsas anyone, I would imagine, and they seem to have a bad rap atthe moment. Are they needed? Are they a good way to introducesomething?Karen: Yes. The bad rap, just like the bad rap for planning, Ithink a lot people give things a bad rap when they havent reallyexperienced, whats good about it. So the bad rap comes firstfrom people who have never experienced a good kaizen event,and also from those who have grown up with a very pure view ofToyota Production Systems. And Toyota does use them, but theydont use them extensively, because theyve got a culture thatcan solve problems and get rapid results in another way.Organizations that arent Toyota, and didnt grow up with theToyota thinking and management style are starting from a deficitposition. And so kaizen events to me are first a way to shapebehavior.Yes, you get rapid results. I consider the shaping behavior as abigger benefit to kaizen events than the rapid results. I just dont Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  13. 13. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsunderstand the nay saying that goes on around kaizen eventsbecause they are wildly effective.I guess one thing I will say about the nay saying, one thing thatpeople are correct about, is if organizations become what I calladdicted to kaizen events, where they only make improvementsduring a kaizen event? Well, thats of course just wrong.You want to build daily improvement into the culture. But thatsnot what I use kaizen events for. I use them to build daily skillsets, so the organizations can perform that way in the years tocome, without having kaizen events. Its to teach thosebehaviors.Joe: So I could use kaizen events to get out of organizationalchaos.Karen: Absolutely. Actually, every kaizen event I have everfacilitated helps reduce chaos. It may be a very local level, but itabsolutely reduces chaos.Joe: You mention a lot of lean terms, Toyota, and PDSA in yourbook, but do I need to be a Lean company to benefit from thebook?K. S.: No, no. In fact, if youre a Six Sigma kind of company,then you could easily replace PDSA with DMAIC, although thereare certainly some benefits to PDSA and PDCA in that theyrecyclical and DMAIC is linear. But we wont go into that.Joe: No showing of partiality here.Karen: No, no, no. There are good reasons for my partiality, butthats another podcast. But you dont even have to be a SixSigma company. You could be a company that doesnt have aformal methodology that youre using, and youre just usingcommon sense to make improvements. The challenge is makingimprovement on a cracked foundation. Businesses are trying to Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  14. 14. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsdo that, and its why improvement isnt any more successful thanit is. So you have to rebuild that foundation, seal up those cracksby infusing greater clarity, focus discipline and engagement in theorganization. And then any improvement will be far, far, far moresuccessful.Joe: Well, I was quite surprised with your Blue Angel ending; Iwas more surprised when I got to the appendix, the reference tothe Socratic questioning and Richard Paul because I spent abouttwo years of my life in a deep dive studying his work and otherrelated work about it. I thought it was a very interesting twist tobring that in at the end. Why did you do it?Karen: The questions are actually a sidearm of the coachingpiece that I talk about in the engagement section, becausecoaching is the ability...and actually during discipline aswell...coaching is the necessary step in order to build thediscipline process for problem solving into an organization. Youcant just learn it by reading a book, people need to be coachedby someone who knows the process; it also is a way to get deepengagement, by having a coach and teaching people a skill set.The coaching methodology that I learned had a lot of appreciativeinquiry as part of it, so that you could break a coachs habit, andI was absolutely one of these people, type A personality; Ive gotthe answer, when I was an employer in my early career, Iabsolutely was guilty of telling my employees what to do.Fortunately, I had some good mentors who told me, no-no-no,you need to help develop them, and you dont do that by tellingthem what to do. What I found in teaching coaches, for example,with A3 problem solving, the way to keep someone from tellingpeople what to do, is to teach them how to ask better questions,and to use questions as a teaching methodology.Not questions just for the questions sake, but questions that helpthe person realize that they are maybe on the wrong path, or Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  15. 15. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthey maybe want to look over here. When I got into thequestions, thats how I bumped into Richard Paul, I actually hadnever heard of him until I did this book. Thats fascinating thatyou studied him.Joe: Karen, why dont you just expand a bit without giving theending of the book away, about the Blue Angels?Karen: I looked for organizations outside of business that I feltwere outstanding, because to be frank, I had a very difficult timefinding a large number of businesses that I considered to beoutstanding based on my definition. I looked to the arts, andsports, and military, and the Blue Angles just jumped out at meas being the organization in my world view that is justconsistently outstanding. I found myself a Blue Angel pilot andstarted getting a deep dive into their world, and he spent somuch time with me; he was very generous in helping meunderstand exactly why theyre so outstanding. Sure enough,they have this impeccable clarity about their show, and whattheyre going to be doing every second of that show, and theyhave clarity around their mission, and all of that.Theyre extremely focused, there is probably no otherorganization as focused. Ive heard that as a team maintains anddemands the level of focus that they do from their pre-show andpost-show briefings where no one is allowed in and how they goabout this whole routine theyve got to stay focused on the showand then dissecting it afterwards. Then the disciplined approachthey have towards training, theres nothing like it.They are very, very engaged, of course, is necessary in what theydo. I am bit of a Blue Angels fan. Not a bit, Im a huge fan ofwhat they do.Joe: Is there something that you would like to add that maybe Idid not ask? Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  16. 16. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsKaren: I think one thing its important for every listener tounderstand is that while were talking about organizationalperformance and organizational clarity, organizational focus allstarts at individual level and to a department level or team grouplevel actually, department level, and then division level. So itdoesnt have to be the CEO of the organization to clear weregoing to become more outstanding than we are and this is howwe are going to do it. It doesnt have to be a top-down drivenapproach.It could be anybody who has any stake in organization starting attheir local level. Even if its just an employee who doesnt have anemployees reporting to them, asking questions to clarify anddrawing peoples attention to the fact that having a little bit ofADD going on that type of thing.Supervisors are managers, or in an ideal place to start drivingthese principles into their departments and their work teams. Andthen, of course, further up the organization you go the greaterthe gains will be but it all starts one step at a time. Everyone canplay a role in instilling clarity, focus, discipline, and engagementin their organization.Joe: What is upcoming on your agenda?Karen: I have my next book already in mind, and it is an offshoot of this book. I havent really started sketching it out indetail yet, because I am busy promoting this book and frankly,need to take a bit of a rest. I actually have another book in theworks as well that will be more of a how-to book with ProductivityPress.Joe: How can someone contact you?Karen: My web site is; thats S as is Sue,, you can find all the different ways to connect withme on social media straight from the home page on my website. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  17. 17. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: Is there a book website?Karen: Its actually part of my website, so; you can click righton the home page and get straight to the book page.Joe: I would like to thank you very much Karen; I think it wasan outstanding broadcast.Joe: I look forward to hearing more about what youre up to.Karen: Thanks Joe, it was really nice talking with you again,thank you very much. Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901
  18. 18. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Joseph T. Dager Business901 Phone: 260-918-0438 Skype: Biz901 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: Website: Twitter: @business901Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing inbringing the continuous improvement process to the sales andmarketing arena. He takes his process thinking of over thirtyyears in marketing within a wide variety of industries and appliesit through Lean Marketing and Lean Service Design.Visit the Lean Marketing Lab: Being part of this community willallow you to interact with like-minded individuals andorganizations, purchase related tools, use some free ones andreceive feedback from your peers. Marketing with Lean Book Series included in membership Lean Sales and Marketing Workshop Lean Service Design Workshop Achieving Organizational Health Copyright Business901