Lean Organisations

How the Learning Cycle Fits into Organisational Development

Apparently the achievement of learning induces a chemical reaction within the body that makes the learner feel happy and good about themselves. This past week-end I experienced this for myself. In fact, I got such a ‘buzz’ that I cannot resist sharing what I learned. I hope you experience a similar ‘high’!

It all began with an introduction into Max Boisot’s theories about the learning. Like most people, I was already aware of the distinction between data and information and so the differentiation between information and knowledge was only a small step. Likewise to understand that knowledge has no value until it is put into use. However, the discussion was around why knowledge isn’t always put to use and that is what was so enlightening. The following diagram is my interpretation and helps explain better.

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A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.”  This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal.  But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.

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Why Every Individual Matters

Representative picture of an engaged employeeMy wife and I love this picture. So much so that, when our son gave it to us after we acquired our ginger cat, we framed it and put it on display. We found it funny, but, more than that, it also seemed true to life, because, when the kitten wanted food, his vociferous demands indicated that he definitely saw himself as a lion!

Yet the picture has a deeper message too. It also conveys the idea that we all have grand aspirations. In fact you could say it is a graphic illustration of an engaged employee! Unfortunately we often seem to forget that – especially in our dealings with other people, and employees in particular. Nobody wants to do a bad job. We all want to be lions. So, are you giving all your employees the chance to be the lion they envisage, or do you keep them as kittens?

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Do You Really Want Contract Workers?

It started before the “Great Recession” but that period of economic history has seen it proliferate even more. Certainly reports suggest the trend of hiring contract workers is growing. Yet it is something you need to think about very carefully.

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What’s Accountability Got To Do With it?

Like most people I have been appalled by the recent report on child sex abuse in Rotherham where, for those that may not be aware of it, over 1400 mostly children, some as young as 11, had been sexually abused over a 16 year period. Shocking though that figure is for a single town, what I find even more shocking are the circumstances that enabled this to take place. What were those in authority doing?    

It seems there were 3 prevalent attitudes that enabled things to develop on the scale they did:-

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Redundancy: When will they ever learn?

It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.  

This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.


As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (4)

Day 6: The Return

Thus it was that 5:30 a.m. the next morning saw me sitting on my computer bag trying to fit in all my newly acquired clothes, before squeezing in my laptop.

Forcing-clothing-into-an-over-full-suitcase_Image credit photo_7917768__jlombard_123RF Stock PhotoAmazingly I managed, and was able to wander down to reception to check out wheeling only my computer bag and carrying a shopping bag with the now much-hated new shoes. These I was delighted to hand over to the even more delighted bellboy, who I had previously established wore the same size and who had even offered to go out and buy a new pair for me!  Then, feeling even more denuded than when I arrived, I took a taxi to the airport.   

Fortunately no-one queried my slightly awkward, bulging hand luggage (I would not have been liable for my actions if they had!) and I had an uneventful flight to Paris. With a little time before catching my connecting flight, I stopped at the Air France Customer Service Desk to once again ask about my missing luggage. After all, as my suitcase must have made the initial flight but hadn’t made it to Tunis, Paris seemed the most likely place to find it. Based on my poor customer experience to date I thought that I should personally make every effort while there, and envisaged repeating what we had done in Tunis.

Once again, however, things did not work out as I hoped.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (2)

Days 2 and 3: The Saga of Socks and Shoes.

Unfortunately over the next couple of days things got worse.

At the end of Day 2 there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I had not expected such poor customer service and this was bad news, made worse by the fact that I had packed my proven, comfortable shoes in my suitcase. This had given me a problem.

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Work-Life Integrity is the Answer

A common theme in articles I have been reading this week is employer brand and the creation of places where people want to work. These were perhaps best represented by this article in HR Magazine. Yet I cannot help wonder why it all appears so mystical and mysterious. Surely it is obvious?

Work-Life Integrity_000008482342XSmallAfter all, if we only have one life, it seems self-evident that we should all want to make the most of it. And work is large part of life. Thus you don’t need some academic writing in Harvard Business Review to tell you that, “People want to do good work”, “in an organisation that makes a difference” and “in a place that magnifies their strengths.” For anyone with an ounce of humanity that should be a no-brainer!

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The Case for Employee Engagement

Sometimes it is easier to define something by describing its opposite. Perhaps that applies to Employee Engagement too. Maybe it is easier to depict employee disengagement.

And of course, when describing anything, the old adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." I was reminded of that this week when I had reason to look at one of the cartoons from my book, “Lean Organisations Need FAT People.”   

Employee Disengagement

Ironically, although the picture does a wonderful job of portraying employee disengagement and its consequences, it is far from fiction. It portrays something that I was told once really happened!

This is the kind of situation that can actually happen when people are over-regulated or not valued enough to be allowed to use their own discretion. And that, I am convinced, is the root cause of the lack of employee engagement, and even the active employee disengagement, that is so rife today. You might not have a production line like this, but I am sure that, if you opened your eyes, you could identify any number of examples of employee disengagement that are costing you or your organisation a bundle.   

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