Art Smalley brings in more examples and ideas for situational leadership in the final video of a five-part series.
Find the transcript for part five below.
Hi everyone, this is Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. Today, on behalf of the Lean Enterprise Institute, I have another short video for you. This one wraps up our series on situational leadership.
Previously I talked about the intro, and then I went through the cases of D1-S1, D2-S2, D3-S3, the so-called directing, coaching, and supporting boxes. Today, we’re moving onto everyone’s favorite, everyone’s ideal case on where we want to be, the D4-S4 case, where you’ve got the expert, the peak performer, and you get to delegate.
Juggling Skill and Excitement
Now, the truth is we all love this one, and we want to assume that’s the case every time, and you’ve got to remember as a leader, it’s only one of the four possible cases in this situation. Arguably there are more than four cases. But at the highest level, we break it down into four.
You’ve got to remember that not all teams are that highly skilled. Peak performers, like here’s an Olympic athlete, a swimmer example. They have extremely accomplished results, consistently competent, recognized by others as the expert. They’re self-reliant, confident, self-assured, inspired to lead by examples; this is the ideal state. We want to get everybody into this quadrant, but it doesn’t mean we’re all in this quadrant in every task in life.
…executives want to assume teams are already at this D4, high-competence, high-commitment stage, and they’re not.
In juggling balls, I’m still in the D1-S1 category, just moving into the D2-S2, starting to get discouraged because I can’t get that fourth ball going, and I can’t get past 30 ball juggles most days. Look, that’s normal, and the problem I see in a lot of lean organizations, to be honest with you, is executives want to assume teams are already at this D4, high competence, high commitment stage, and they’re not. A lot of times, teams are struggling; they’re in a D1 or D2 case asking, wanting better direction, guidance, and coaching, and the leaders are separate from that. So, there’s this chasm that happens of frustration, delay for results, friction, a lot of things occur, and a management waste of Muda, so to speak.
You want to get through those stages as fast as you can and close the gaps and realize, where are we? Where your skills are versus where you think they are. At what level is the team actually performing versus what you desire them to be? Close that gap, change your style to match the situation accordingly.
If they are D4, that is great. That’s the easiest case in the world. You delegate, you get out of the way, you support. Supportive leadership, when it comes to the D4 case, is just talking through the purpose with them, making sure they understand the big picture, make sure they know the requirements and the significance. Extreme with them, they’ve got confidence, and you’re building up on top of that confidence they already possess, getting some excitement. On your side, it’s humility. You’re giving them an opportunity to further shine, and you’re trying to stay out of the way. You’re building their career and you’re advancing their career, not your own.
On the directive side, it can be small things. It’s very targeted and specific again. You’re not going to bore an expert by asking him or her, “What’s the problem? What’s your obstacle?” They already know; they’re the expert. You’re going to help them with requirements and resources, and ask them how they’re going to proceed. Any questions or concerns they might have, how can you support them? Let’s meet again in two weeks’ time, or whatever that might be, and see how it’s going. They give you an update, or you arrange for them to give an update to a senior team. You help them succeed, even in delegating cases.
Leaders On and Off the Court
There are a lot of cases for this in the world. Consider sports analogies: experts at the highest level in sports by and large coach themselves. They do have head coaches of sports teams, but you’ve got to realize that this is one of the difficult things in coaching — that the star athlete also is a coach on a lot of teams. Especially in individual sports, like track and field or swimming. In team sports, it’s very difficult to coach the Michael Jordans, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryants of the world in basketball. The coach has to be very careful how you treat those expert and star athletes.
In Toyota, I can give you an example of an expert as well, who kind of gets to do his own thing. A man, retired now, Mr. Kakuro Amasaka. But he was the expert problem solver in Toyota for two decades — the expert’s expert — and he wrote a book in Japanese, which was translated into English. (It wasn’t translated that well. It’s a mishmash of examples, and I don’t highly recommend it.)
But the interesting thing in his problem-solving book is that there are no A3s, no eight-step Toyota business practical problem-solving example, no five-why, no fishbone because it’s all advanced. They don’t just fill in the blank. They do things above and beyond what the normal problem-solvers or performers can do. He’s beyond the basics. Experts don’t follow the rules. It’s not cookie-cutter. You can’t treat them as people who follow cookie-cutter steps. They break the rules. This guy invents new tools, changes the Toyota problem-solving process, and he’s the expert they called in on many, many top problems throughout history. They don’t just fill in the blank. They do things above and beyond what the normal problem-solvers or performers can do. And there are many cases like this, in Toyota and in life too.
For chief engineers, the greatest example I can think of is Toyota. You’re not giving them a ton of direction and guidance. You’re not asking them what the problem is, or what’s the obstacle, or open-ended questions. You’re giving them a timeline, a budget, you’re giving them a challenge, and you’re asking them to do something because they’re the best people qualified for it.
Here’s one of the first females to be a chief engineer of the Lexus line in Toyota. The man on the right had another interesting project as well. But the point is that they get to lead, get to direct; they’re in front, they’re the point person. You stay in the background. What do you do to make them successful? That’s the job of delegating.
Leading with Support and Patience
The problem I see in the lean world is a mismatch. Executives want to assume that all teams are great, so their style of leadership is S4, delegating. Teams are often struggling because they’re in a D1 or D2 case, especially in the early stages. They’re asking for direction, asking for guidance and support, and you have to close that chasm. The longer you leave it broad and wide open, the more frustrated they become. The lag in results is there, and you get all kinds of outcomes you don’t desire. There’s a joke that management waste of Muda occurs.
So, be very careful in diagnosing situations. You can’t just say, “Hey, I’m going to be a delegator and support the team.” In every case, that doesn’t work, as nice and idealistic as it sounds. It’s our end goal. It’s not necessarily your current state or where you are today.
So, I hope that helps, keep it in mind. And with that: everyone, stay safe and have a great day. We’ll see you in the next video.