Senior executives are increasingly concerned that their managers and supervisors have the skills needed to build cooperation and cooperation across departmental and authority boundaries. This is critically important in becoming lean through the Enterprise.
The competitive pressures in a global economy are so intense, and opportunities so fleeting, that no successful organization can afford slow down because internalholders fail to agree and work together in a common direction.
Seizing opportunities and turning them into business success requires more than quick action; it requires highly effective collaboration. When minutes count, it is critical that managers minimize the time it takes to create buy-in and participation across departments and job functions. Quick and effective collaboration will greatly increase rapid response to market opportunities and open the door for innovation.
When managers and supervisors are not successful at influencing colleges, the burden of making sure everyone cooperates inevitably falls to senior management. This consumes essential executive time on 'house keeping' issues. Accountability for cooperation and productive collaboration has to be part of every function, not just that of the CEO and COO.
What is 'influencing'? The word sometimes sends shivers down people's backs when they imagine self-serving 'spin doctors' who manipulate others. True influencing is, in fact, a respectful two-way negotiation. It's a way of successfully building informal partners aligned to the customer and corporate goals while addressing the needs and issues of each stakeholder. Influencing is not just advocacy but creative problem solving and collaboration across departmental and authority lines.
People often turn to influencing tools when they experience experience resistance to their plans – they try to negotiate agreement reactively – this can, and has, worked but requires 'heavy lifting' – the leverage for these 'reaction' efforts is significantly less than if influencing tools were used regularly and proactively.
A corporate culture where people influence others to collaborate in mutually beneficial ways creates a place where innovation can thrive. It's true that innovative solutions and ideas most often come from individual insights and breakthroughs. But those individuals need a collaborative environment to test, evaluate and implement their ideas.
The collaboration across departments and authority creates a pathway for innovation – roadblocks tend to dissolve, more creative shared problem solving emerging, and a culture of risk management rather than risk aversion grows. People support each other and celebrate their successes – confidence builds. Confidence is a key factor for highly competitive, winning organizations. Without confidence, ideas fall by the wayside and skills become chronically underutilized.
Innovation requires quality time to think through options and opportunities, weigh risks, and produce manageable implementation plans. Time is a huge value! Key wasters include internal politics, conflicting priorities, endless negotiation for workflow, and unresolved disagreements on direction. These 'resistance' wastes radically reduce the time available to focus on the customer and create new products or ways to deliver them. A culture where people have the skills to influence each other to cooperate and cooperate eliminates these wastes.
Influencing is an acquired skill and one that can be honed into excellence with practice. There are lots of tools for influencing and you may be using some today in-house. The key is to use them often, use them well and be proactive. There are tools that can help build trust and confidence, tools to improve reasoning and problem solving skills, communication and listening skills, project management and risk evaluation, negotiation, building buy-in, dealing with conflict management and resistance, behavioral problem solving and values alignment. Build the in-house skill sets and know when to use these tools – timing and application is everything!
Influencing Skills and Becoming a Successful Lean Enterprise
The single biggest problem we run into with companies on their Lean journey is failure to align buy-in and deal with resistance across the organization, from top to bottom, on an ongoing basis. Again and again we see a company's 'usual suspects' carrying the weight of Lean practice and innovation. Lean has tremendous success when the whole organization cooperates and cooperates to achieve the future State – wise use of influencing tools is critical to getting there!
Creating a Collaborative Culture – Managers and Supervisors
- Acquire the necessary influencing tools and encourage your teams to build these skills.
- Facilitate and coach discussion and collaborative problem solving in the team.
- Handle resistance by building consensus and partnerships within the team and across departments.
- Manage resistance by listening to objections and dealing quickly with well-reasoned or factual issues
- Manage contradictory behaviors or disagreements with agreed negotiating, coaching and conflict management skills
- Celebrate cooperation and successful collaboration.
- Build your cross-departmental problem solving track record.
Creating a Collaborative Culture – Executive Leadership
- Make sure accounting for influencing, collaboration and cooperation is a requirement at every job level.
- Set cultural goals, measure progress.
- Celebrate collaborative successes.
- Promote those who have these skills.
- Free resources for needed training.
- Encourage a culture that teaches from mistakes to 'fake proof' the future
Successful Lean Organizations require a culture of excellence in collaboration, innovation and problem solving so that the customer gets top quality product in the shortest time and at the best cost. The skills and accountability to make this happen must be developed throughout the organization, at every functional level, in order to compete and win in today's markets.