Transparency, not Compliance

Driving change is a challenging task. With so many different nuances to the type of change you are trying to drive, there is clearly no one size fits all approach. I’m a big fan of measurable goals at the macro level, where all participants understand very specifically how they are aligning to those goals. I say measurable because there are things that we should and can measure. Any continuous improvement process (e.g., ITIL) uses measurable goals that should and can be measured to baseline organizational performance and then subsequently drive improvements. I’ll take a “quality improved by 40% as measured by x” success statement any day over a “quality got better” statement.

So how do you effectively drive organizational-wide initiatives that have measurable goals?

My evolved answer is transparency. Let me give you a little background.

Earlier in my career, it was all about compliance. What’s your goal? Where are you at (what’s the number?) Who’s hitting it? Who is not? Get the folks who are not hitting the number to hit the number. Done deal, rinse and repeat.

Compliance, while often effective at “hitting the number”, is generally criticized as having the potential to drive the wrong behavior. And, to many, it just doesn’t feel that great. Reaching out to people and saying, “Well, you’re team is at 30% and the goal is 80%. You know this report is going out to Management” may be a quick way to get their attention, but it’s also a quick way to have partners get frustrated and question the value of what you are trying to do.

Now enter the value shift.

Transparency is just a much better way to think about things. If we are setting organizational goals that are measureable, it’s still important to understand why you may or may not be attaining those goals. Think about branding the reports you use as transparency reports instead of compliance reports. This now allows you to create transparency to where your opportunities are. And instead of feeling like there are punitive penalties, you just create awareness and an understanding (aka transparency) to the challenges the teams are faced with which will in turn create a dialog of understanding and a plan of action. Continuous improvement can still happen because people know where they stand and why things are the way that they are. You diffuse a natural tendency to be defensive.

The “what” is still achieved, but the “how” is even better. For me, I’ve really worked hard at this value shift. When you get labeled as a “numbers guy” people sometimes mis-interpret your intentions as just wanting to “hit the numbers.” But in reality, the spirit of what I try to do is to help people understand what they are shooting for, where they are at, and along the way develop a greater understanding for their business and how to think about what they could do to continuously improve.

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