Posted by: Knightbird | January 5, 2016

Developing a Value Capture Culture

The tools of Lean Thinking are easy to learn. But learning how to deal with people is so much more difficult. Abut 20 years ago, McKinsey & Co. came up with the concept of “Talent.” HR departments became divided into Talent Acquisition and Talent Management. Of course businesses started adopting the new buzz word and Human Resource departments, itself a poor descriptor of what we do, became Talent Management. I used this argument when the concept of “Talent Acquisition” was brought into an organization I am associated with. With a new focus on Talent Acquisition, what do you think existing employees think? Are they disturbed because new employees are “Talent” and they are just resources. I have been through a number of employee recruitments, and I can tell you that those selected based on perceived “Talent” are not necessarily a good fit for a Value Capture Culture.

Fujio Choi, former chair of Toyota, said this:

“Brilliant process management is our strategy. We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes. We observe that our competition often gets average (or worse) results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”

I believe that focusing on “Talent” isn’t the right strategy. Let me explain why.

First, people who believe they have Talent often do not. They fall victim to the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” The first effect is “Illusory Superiority.” They believe they are better than they actually are because they don’t have the cognitive ability to understand their limitations. The second effect is “Underestimating Relative Competence.” Highly skilled individuals often overestimate the competence of their peers and underestimate their own competence. They mistakenly believe that others have the same ability as they do to perform the same task. This is, I believe, one reason performance evaluations are usually a total disaster. In job interviews, applicants often severely over estimate their impact in prior jobs.

Second, “Talent” often believes they know how to get things done. They learn the workarounds in an organization and become “Capes,” a term used at Virginia Mason Medical Center to describe employees who you can go to to “save the day.” Because they know people, and can work around a problem, they get great credit for being problem solvers. But as one nurse said after learning about Lean and Standard Work, she spend the last 17 years solving the same problems over and over again. That is what a Cape does, and gets credit for.

Third, “Talent” often cannot work cooperatively and can be overbearing at times. You know them. They have the answer, and won’t hear of any other possible answers. They are quick to implement potential solutions and if the solution fails, they will not admit it because it is their solution and to admit failure diminishes their perception of being a problem solver.

Finally, “Talent” doesn’t always communicate well, wither they have Illusory Superiority or Competence Underestimation.

A Lean Thinking Culture needs to transform all employees into valued partners, fully invested in the success of the organization and its partners. They need to live the Toyota Value of “Respect for People” and learn to work in a structured process that maximizes the contribution of all employees, regardless of their level of experience and qualification.

Time for an anecdote. I have revealed that I was certified as a pitching coach by the National Pitching Association, multiple times. My youngest son is a pitcher in college. When I went through my first certification, I asked an older and incredibly experienced coach how could I expect to be a good pitching coach when I had not been a pitcher beyond little league, and I barely pitched even then. His reply stayed with me for the past 12 years. “Patrick, you haven’t learned all the bad habits of pitchers who become coaches.” It made sense. I was a fresh slate, educated and curious. They could teach me the right way to coach pitchers. I say the same is true for all employees. As my Pitching Sensei, Tom House, says constantly: “Conventional wisdom is neither conventional nor wisdom.” When we learn a habit, it’s hard to break. And “Talent” has habits that are hard to break, if they can be. Yesterday, we watched a 28 year old pitcher, one I saw as a 17 year old hotshot. After a lackluster college career and a short professional career, this athlete worked with my Sensei, and saw an increase in velocity to 100 miles per hour. This pitcher and his adviser coaches dismissed my coaching methodology many years ago, and suffered as a consequence. Today, with a health and velocity charged arm, he cannot get a tryout because of his age. He and his coaches believed in the conventional wisdom, and finally discovered it was not conventional and it was not wisdom, perhaps too late.

Instead of Talent, you want hard working, collaborative people who can communicate with each other and overlook their biases or habits in favor of a new Culture of working together to capture value existing in their workplace.

With Respect for People, we value all our employees, regardless of their achievement, education or experience levels. I am heartened by results I hear from Starbucks, which as a 50 hour mentoring program for new employees. Starbucks employees learn their culture, which for the most part includes respect for their employees.

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