Are people in general lazy and unwilling to improve and innovate? Do people need to be closely supervised and controlled by management?
Are people in general willing to improve and innovate? Are people ambitious, self-motivated and can exercise self-control?
Personally, I very much believe in latter. I think people do their best in the context that they are operating in. I subscribe to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas that it is the system, not the people working in the system that determines a systems performance.
So why do we see so little of improvements and innovation in most organizations? Why does it feel like we are working in organizations and processes that are using Square Wheels®? It is dependent on how the system is set up, explicitly or implicitly. If there are few improvements and innovation in your organization, then do not blame the people, blame the system.
If we want the people in or organizations to improve and innovate, we must set up an environment that enables and encourage this behavior.
In the post “Which is Innovation Reality? You make the choice…” by Scott Simmerman, “The Square Wheels Guy” he discusses the difference between these two images
Scott asks if people more commonly are rejecting outside ideas or are unaware of the ideas in the organization.
I guess there is probably a little of both in most organizations. However, I do not think this is the main problem. In most organizations, people are explicitly or implicitly discouraged to try new ideas. The most common implicit version of this is that the organization is planning for 100% utilization of the people so there is no time and space for even considering outside ideas or looking for the ideas in the organization.
Scott also asks if leadership is actively against change or simply unaware of the need.
I think it is neither. Leaders usually asks for and wants change but have set up a system that do not encourage change. Are people in the organization really encouraged to trying out new ideas and making changes? Are people allowed to try things without the expectation that it should always give the expected result or better?
What is the Lean approach to all this? For me this comes down to the following:
Plan for less than 100% utilization
Actively encourage an experimentation culture
Make improvements and changes in small batches
Build daily habits so you can keep it up