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What is your standard today?

What is a standard?

A specific statement of the qualities required to achieve satisfaction in performance of work, or in behavior.

What does a standard do?

A standard provides a basis for objective comparison of actual performance to standard/what’s desired. It is the acceptable performance level quantified in an understandable way.

A standard serves as immediate focal point for investment of skill and effort in behaving and doing work. I focus my energy and effort in the direction stated in the standard.

A standard acts as a medium of communication among people in reaching agreement on a group approach to work. With the standard the discussion can be about performance as compared to the standard, not as I “think it should be”.

What purpose do standards serve?

They bring an increasingly higher order to work/life situations, while expanding the free space within which each person is able to operate. This little bit of order provides the boundaries, the structure for mature people to work within; all without the restriction of rules and conditions. Allowing individuals to be self-guiding results in greater positive expression and effort; that is, more work and therefore, productivity and profitability.

What results can standards produce?

−  A description of the consistent, logical and defensible levels of performance which is required to achieve goals and objectives, meet expectations, and effectively pursue continuous improvement.

−  An increase in motivation in people to steadfastly pursue a path of perfecting self, skills, knowledge and products.

−  A means for intelligent decisions regarding what improvements to invest in, and then what measures of return to focus on.


Empowerment Is

Empowerment Is
  • Freedom of thought
  • Freedom to express thoughts
  • Free flow of knowledge and data
  • Personal plans and actions are based on a clear understanding of shared values, strategy, and business case. (Clear sense of purpose)
  • Freedom to challenge decisions and activities based on a clear understanding of shared values, strategy, and business cases.
  • Having mutual respect across the organization such that authority level is not a factor in personal influence.
  • Personally adjusting activities and skill sets to fit the business needs.
  • Delivering value to the business in a way that is unique for each individual, yet adequately consistent.
  • Confrontation is a learning experience
  • Implementing new ideas in a way others can contribute and improve on the idea
  • Actively seeking and giving feedback for improvement and learning.
Empowerment is not
  • Not thinking
  • Fear to express thoughts
  • Restricted flow of knowledge and data
  • Following the rules or holding back until asked. (Fuzzy sense of purpose) Doing only the work that is clearly in my job or serves my personal needs.
  • Complaining, self serving, or challenging without basis.
  • Living within a tight job description
  • Judging/responding to others based on job description/title
  • Waiting for a personnel review or required training or to be told by supervisor to make adjustments.
  • Delivering results in an exactly specified way.
  • Confrontation is a win / loose experience
  • Implementing rigid ideas.
  • Feedback is looked on as an assessment.

Communication Planning

Why Communicate?

The answer to this question should provide the business result or value to be achieved in the discussion.

Usually the statement of Purpose answers the question “why?’

Why would I spend my time?

Why would the customer/stakeholder pay for this work to be done?

If everyone involved does not see value for the customer & themselves in achieving the meeting’s goals, success will be more elusive.

Consider different values & experiences; remember every one first asks: “What’s In It For Me?”


What is the Result?

What does “done” look like? What are the tangible (& intangible) results that should result? This helps let everyone know when you’re done.

Be specific:

  • Action list
  • Decisions made
  • Status report/discussion
  • Investigation findings & recommendations
  • Corrective action for “learning opportunities”

Include the “feeling” that the attendees experience & leave with:

  • I am “heard” & listened to
  • The work is moving forward
  • I have learned valuable information
  • I have participated & contributed.
  • I own specific actions & results.

Sometimes a good way to define “what is” is to be clear about “what is not”.

After you have clearly defined what the products are, go back & check that they provide the value that is needed in the Purpose. Are the Products worth all the effort?

How to Communicate Effectively

How do we achieve the products?

Are the right people, tools, and information available?

Is there more work than time available?

How to split the work & still have interest in the total effort?

Consider the Levels of Communication as you plan to conduct the interaction.  Very often the communications breakdown happens here: the concept is for a 2-way communication but the execution is all one-sided.

The levels of communication are the subject of a separate full post.


Why you’re no safer at home than the Gulf

It has been interesting to hear all of the negative comments about oil & gas industry’s lack of safety in the recent Gulf disaster. Now friends, “I come not to praise Caesar, but to ”bury the public lack of ownership”. America loud voice of enablers with strong expectations of entitlement. Look at the growth in gambling, the States are trying to claim their piece of the get-rich-quick cash bonanza to solve budget shortfalls.

So what has this to do with safety in the Gulf? Excellent safety performance, and environmental protection as well, are not only parts of a person’s work. To be truly effective, the knowledge and attitude of safety must be part of one’s life 24/7. If safety is put on with the hard hat, it will not be the default thought or action in the crisis. The correct safe thought may surface, after the pressure of the decision/action moment; and that may be too late.  The level of safety performance expected in the workplace after a disaster requires that the safe thought be the first and only thought. Unfortunately, the public holds those in the disaster to that standard, but not themselves.

The proper attitude is one of continuous responsibility for one’s self, and then for family, peers, community. For the focus of this blog, I’ll discuss only safety.

“Do you wear safety glasses when using the mower, weed whacker, drill, or hammer?”

“Do you refuse to use a cell phone, to talk or text, while driving? “

“Do you reach out to others and share your safety awareness? “

if you answered “no” to these questions, you may be counting on luck for your safety.

The most effective safety programs are no different than an extreme performance team, e.g., sports or military. Where a standard of “I’ve got your back.” and “I am helping you achieve great performance as well as you, mine.”  is held as key. To be credible in such an environment begins with self competence. Constant education and practice is the path to competence. A path that will not be trod until the attitude is correct, safety is my responsibility, every minute and every day. A powerful quote from the movie Gandhi that has influenced me in my actions is “One cannot be honorable in one part of his life, and dishonorable in another.” To be true to our values, we must be consistent.

For if we are not, perhaps the reason that the outrage over the Oil & Gas industry’s argument it hasn’t happened in a long time is due to our recognition of that thinking. We too live our lives on luck – that those accidents happen to other people, not to me.


Is it time for Command and Control to Go?

In the early days of work, the boss was the one who knew how to do the work better than any the worker and workers only worked as hard as they were forced.

Command and control has served society for a long time, since the early days of society, where the Lord protected the farmer in exchange for taxes of food and labor. It experienced resurgence in the Industrial Age, especially with the assembly line, where a worker’s contribution to the overall product was small, often insignificant. As one ascended the workplace structure, one received a broader view of the overall work and where one’s contribution fit into the overall product. Because of distrust, spurred by labor- management disagreements, much of the work was limited in scope to limit the influence any one worker held over the company’s success.

Fast forward to today, where global access to information is a mouse-click away and global business information is available with similar ease from ERP systems. With a similar breakdown of work into small blocks, the integration of information is wasted in order to control work in manageable blocks, the size that a manager can be held to account for. This structure holds businesses back in the Industrial Age of work, instead of moving forward combining the speed of technology available today with the trust in the capability of people to produce work in their interest.

As any change, the timing moves in surges, and the latest surge is coming on the heels of the economic downturn. Of the people moving to new jobs in mid-2010, after sitting firm through 2009, nearly two-thirds stated they would not stay at their current employer, even for an increase in pay. Specific reasons included excessive work or time expectations, little respect, lack of trust, no allowance for personality in work, no recognition. The economy has held the baby-boomers in the wage generation for a few years longer, albeit with a different attitude: boost retirement savings to recover the retirement date lost to the market loss.


A Mission runs through it

Nature can be both nourishing and destroying; sometimes with the same aspect; for example, water falling as rain. Rain is essential for crops to grow and reservoirs to be filled; and it can destroy with monsoons or torrential rains that flood or wash away soil and vegetation, or the streets and buildings of man. The nourishing side speaks to the growth and health of nature, while the destroying aspect demonstrated the raw power contained in what seems like an innocuous material.

All of the rain that falls has a journey, used by plants or animals immediately, percolating into the ground and filling aquifers, or collecting on the surface and running to the sea. Our discussion of water in nature flows from water to rain to rivers.

A river starts by the collection of groundwater into a singular place, the headwaters, that feed the continuing flow of the river to the sea.

The sea is the ultimate destination of every river, although some take a short stop at large lake in their journey. The sea is real; a tangible place that is achievable.

A river is constrained by its banks and is constantly testing those limits. The energy to change the banks is greatest where flow conditions wish to straighten out the meandering of the early river.

A river is inclusive, for all that gets wet may be carried along on the journey, its individual pace in proportion to its weight.

A river also eats away at the bottom, the riverbed, always carrying a part of it a little further downstream.

A river is water – a flexible yet persistent material that wears things away by sheer continuous repetition. It often carries small bits of the river’s banks or bed downstream, wearing away the hardest rock.

A river is powerful. Water always seeks the lowest point, and is relentless in its efforts to reach that lowest point. Therefore, the river is always flowing to the sea. The force needed to counteract & constrain a river is immense, e.g., the size of the Hoover Dam!

A river seems to have a life, an energy that it possesses as it constantly moves with powerful force. Listen as it flows past and its quiet, but at the rapid section or in area where it narrows, the power can be seen and even heard: a surging sound of powerful movement, pulling or pushing anything in its way.

The mission statement is like a river, a river running through a business, project, or group.

The vision (or purpose) statement contains the source of energy for the mission, just like the headwaters of a river. The emotional energy generated by the visualization of the desired future state where all of the goals and intents are realized.

The sea (ocean) is the end state of a river; the vision is a description of that future state, which the mission is the path to reach.

The core values or principles that the team or organization commits to abide by in their work and interactions create the boundaries that constrain the behavior of people working to achieve the mission. Also, as a river’s banks may shift slowly over time, to follow a more direct path to the sea, so too many the core values shift – slowly and with purpose. As the entire river now moves within those new banks, the people of an organization behave in alignment with the new boundaries.

A mission statement is powerful, almost living source of energy when it is understood and owned by all who are working to achieve it. When people are emotionally enrolled and engaged with the mission, their energy is as forceful as a river; and they will find a way to achieve success.

The power of a strong engaged mission statement has a physical presence, one that can be felt in both the quiet moments and in times of great activity. There is a surge of energy towards completion and success that wells up and involves all within its reach, driving them to give what is necessary to achieve mutual success. And that success is shared. It is not for a single person, but for the whole of the group involved.

As a river is formed from the contribution of many raindrops, a successful mission is comprised of the contribution of many people who aligned their world with it.

The power of a flowing river to align energy and to move in a singular direction is another metaphor in nature that describes a business process/system very well. Perhaps further discussion may include learning from the natural adaptive systems that exist around a river and how those adaptations model healthy behavior around a business’s mission and purpose.