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Long-term Organizational Health or Sugar High?

by Robert Miller
April 30, 2014

Long-term Organizational Health or Sugar High?

by Robert Miller
April 30, 2014 | Comments (0)

Enlightened lean practitioners have come to understand that sustainability of a lean journey is only possible when it becomes part of the organizational culture. Otherwise, improvement efforts seem to consistently result in a series of “sugar highs” - temporary boosts in results accompanied by a fleeting feeling of victory. We know "flavor-of-the-month" initiatives can't be the focus of a lean leader. So, where should their focus be?

Based on 26 years of experience assessing organizations that have challenged for the Shingo Prize and eight years of research around the Shingo Model™, we at the Shingo Institute have developed three key insights into building this culture. We call these insights the “Three Insights of Enterprise Excellence.” 

Insight #1

Ideal Results Require Ideal Behaviors

Results are the aim of every organization, but there are various methods by which results are attained. Ideal results are those that are sustainable over the long-term. Simply learning or buying new tools or systems does not achieve ideal results. Great leaders understand the cause-and-effect relationship between results and behavior. To achieve ideal results, leaders must do the hard work of creating an environment where ideal behaviors are evident in every associate. 

Insight #2

Beliefs and Systems Drive Behavior

It has long been understood that our beliefs have a profound effect on our behavior. What is often overlooked, however, is the equally profound effect that systems have on behavior. Most of the systems that guide the way people work in our companies were designed to create a specific business result without regard for the behavior that the system consequentially drives. Many systems are de-facto systems that have evolved in response to a specific need for a particular result. Managers have an enormous job to realign both management and work systems to drive the ideal behavior required to achieve ideal business results.

Insight #3

Principles Inform Ideal Behaviors

Principles are foundational rules and help us to see both the positive and negative consequence of our behaviors. This fact enables us to make more informed decisions, specifically, about how we choose to behave. The more deeply leaders, managers, and associates understand the principles of operational excellence and the more perfectly systems are aligned to reinforce ideal behaviors, the greater the probability of creating a sustainable culture of excellence where achieving ideal results is the norm rather than the aspiration. This is what the Shingo Model illustrates. 

With these three insights in mind, our theme for the 26th International Shingo Conference this May 5-9 is “A New Era of Enterprise Excellence.” As we say goodbye to the sugar high and embrace a new era where culture is founded on principles and systems drive ideal behaviors, we will achieve the results we are looking for.

Check out free downloads of the Shingo Model™ handbook

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  culture,  leadership,  strategy
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