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Processes, People, and Human Growth Hormone

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For good reason we extol the value of sound processes. Indeed it could be argued that most highly successful enterprises are the end product of well designed and well executed processes. While we celebrate their merit, let us not lose sight of the fact that processes do not run themselves. When, in fact, processes are well executed, they are well executed by human beings. And, quoting Hamlet, “there’s the rub,” because human beings are diverse, complex, and unpredictable. Andy Grove of Intel, said it well: “Organizations cannot be changed on internet time… because people don’t behave like electrons.”

Dr. Michael Hammer, in The Process Audit, states:

“…enterprises also have to reshape organizational cultures to emphasize teamwork, personal accountability, and the customer’s importance; redefine roles and respons-ibilities so that managers oversee processes instead of activities and develop people rather than supervise them.”

Dr. Hammer is right on. It is imperative that we develop people rather than supervise them. This powerful and largely overlooked principle is a corollary to Dr. Edwards Deming’s famous observation that companies needed to stop trying to inspect quality into their products. It is high time that we reallocate managers’ time, having them oversee and improve processes rather than trying to inspect ownership and accountability into their people.

The good news is, although minds don’t behave with uniform conformity like electrons, minds are nonetheless educable. Ownership can be learned and it can be taught. And, there are sound educational processes out there that accomplish that.

Well designed and skillfully delivered ownership and accountability training is tantamount to the mental equivalent of human growth hormone (but without the deleterious side effects). Human growth potential is a real but mostly untapped corporate resource. People up and down the organization can function “like athletes on steroids,” when they have the knowledge and skills of ownership coupled with a clear what’s-in-it-for-me motive.

People come to embrace ownership and choose to hold themselves personally accountable when they see the overwhelming personal advantages that stem from doing so. Almost by DNA we are ease-seeking, pain-avoiding entities. When any of us come to see how much easier we can make our lives by cutting out the whining and excuse-making—and how much more fulfilling it is to solve problems and execute priorities—amazing things happen.

For far too long, we have burdened leaders on all levels with the onus of “holding their people accountable.” That is almost an oxymoron. The fact is, you cannot hold me accountable, only I can do that. You can threaten me and put pressure on me to try to force me to do the accountable thing. But, in the end, it always comes down to my choice. Accountability is an individual responsibility. No amount of skill on your part will succeed in “holding me accountable,” if I flatly refuse to respond to your tactics. This very fact lies at the heart of the common passive-aggressive behavior of many people lodged in our corporate structures.

The day I wake up to the fact that all my blaming and lame excuses are paltry pay-offs for genuine results and real growth is the day that I get serious about detecting and rejecting my own Victim-thinking and embrace Ownership. And, that is the same day that I no longer need you or any other outside force to “hold me accountable.”

For further insights on personal accountability and developing Ownership within your organization, click here.

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  • Michael Karim

    I was quite moved by your article on the untra-marathon in Noble Canyon… It speaks volumes on the definition of nobility. Thank you.
    – Michael

  • Andrew Reilly

    I have found all of the info in this entire blog to be of tremendous value to me in what I do starting right now. Actionables is something that I have adopted from this point on. Thank you Denis

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