“We are going to start measuring innovation,” Samuel announced.
I gave him a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, we believe our competitive advantage is our ability to innovate and bring new products and variations of products to the market, so we think it is important to measure it,” Samuel added.
“When you were working on your efficiency program, you developed metrics to determine improvement,” I said. “Why do you think your metrics worked well in those circumstances?”
It didn’t take Samuel long to ponder. “We had a system, and we worked to make that system predictable. When we determined what we wanted to control, the metrics just fell into place. Any variation was quickly identified and eliminated.”
“Pay close attention to your words,” I replied. “You were working in a system with predictability, control, seeking to eliminate variation. You now want to create a system of metrics to do just the opposite. Innovation is hard pressed to be systematic, certainly unpredictable, sometimes outside the bounds of control and designed to encourage variation. Just exactly how do you intend to measure that?”
“So, in your mind, Edmund is not a hero?” I prodded.
Ruben shook his head. “No, and what’s maddening is that Edmund, as a supervisor, keeps describing his behavior as results oriented. It’s all about the results, he says. So, maybe he delivers, but there are body bags all over the place.”
“So, notwithstanding the results, how would you describe his effectiveness, as a supervisor? Thumbs up? Or thumbs down?”
Ruben laughed. “You know, that’s it. Effectiveness. If I can judge his effectiveness, it’s thumbs down. A supervisor is not effective when he ignores the metrics, skips steps in the process, then works overtime to save the day when the system breaks down.”
Ernesto was on a roll. Emily was now seated in a chair at the front of the class.
“Emily, you think there is a morale problem on the production line, but that’s not the problem. You know your team is not meeting the daily target, but you haven’t shared the numbers with them. ‘A little short today, try to do better tomorrow.’ Bottom line, you are not telling the truth because you are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. By not telling the whole truth, the accurate truth, you have made them incapable of improvement.”
Emily’s body language was retreating. Ernesto continued.
“And you have created co-dependents out of them. They are just fine not knowing what the target is. As long as they don’t know, they don’t have to perform to it.
“When you tell them they are short, they think it’s your problem not theirs. They are perfectly willing to continue this non-accountable relationship. No skin off their nose.”
The color in Emily’s face began to pale. I called a time out. The room was very still and quiet.
I jumped in. “The problem we name is the problem we solve. That is why it is so important to name the problem correctly,” I said. “How will we name this problem?”