Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Guest Post: Begging For Leadership Won’t Get You A Pocket Full of Change

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By Kaity Nakagoshi

Change is inevitable and so is the resistance to change. People are often not welcoming of change unless it is implemented by leadership correctly. It’s natural that people become complacent with the status quo and perform rote tasks without giving their actions much thought. Change brings about fear of the unknown, which creates an atmosphere of unnecessary anxiety. That doesn’t have to be the scenario if employees understand the change, the strategies that will be used, and their role in accomplishing the goals.

Effective leaders need to understand that their primary responsibility is to infuse confidence in employees and ensure that they also have the ability to assume the new responsibilities. Equally important is that employees are instilled with the mind-set that they are capable of successfully executing the change strategies for themselves and their organization.

A successful leader who leads by example and keeps his promises will gain the trust and loyalty of his employees. Valued employees are more willing to contribute to the organization’s success when they believe they have a stake in it and are motivated by their own accomplishments. Toyota is a prime example of this mindset – their engagement approach gets employees involved via quality control improvement at all levels of the organization.

Toyota Case Study

The president of the U.S. based Toyota Corporation was reminded of the importance of employee engagement to organizational success when a factory dilemma occurred. Although Toyota’s leadership style promotes employee involvement, the working environment of one of their factory sites was not motivating its front-line workers. They failed to suggest quality control improvement that is inherent in “Kaizen.”  Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of continuous incremental improvement in life that Toyota has incorporated into its leadership style.

The Toyota president’s decision to hold weekly meetings with the front-line workers to openly discuss their concerns demonstrated his leadership commitment. He learned that the lack of motivation was attributed to various workplace inadequacies; some of them as basic as poor lighting in locker rooms. As the meetings continued, the workers became more vocal and their grievances more complex. It was revealed that a critical factor for the lack of motivation was the absence of encouragement to participate in quality control improvements for the products they created every day. When the changes were made to remedy the workplace inadequacies, the result was a success, due in part to appropriate business process management practices, and an overall acceptance of “Kaizen”.

Train. Evaluate. Repeat.

Thorough training in all phases of the workflow process and an understanding of the purpose drive organizational change success. Once processes are in place, continuous evaluation is necessary to verify that workers are following procedures as designed, proficiency levels are monitored, and accountability is present based on clearly defined expectations. An exemplary leader immediately assesses any glitches with feedback from his staff and re-evaluates the process to implement improvements A.S.A.P., upon which further assessment is necessary so that additional adjustments can be made if necessary.

Basic economics: Supply and Demand

An effective leader successfully executes her organization’s processes to ultimately meet the demands of customers by focusing on what they really want and providing those goods and services. A product that is of high quality, delivered on time, with quick and effective handling of customer complaints, will enhance customer satisfaction. What matters to the customer should be incorporated into the change process and measured for its effectiveness by customer feedback, retention rates, and growth.

Communication is key

Successful communication means that dialogue must flow in all directions in order to build trust at all levels – between senior level management, middle management, supervisors and frontline workers. As noted in the Toyota example, bottom-up communication is equally important as top-down communication in preventing dissension or the perception of favoritism and distrust.

Management and leadership are not synonymous

Well managed organizations do not necessarily perform at an optimum level. Organizations that are high performing have a successful leadership structure in place that is committed to the business process, change management, and the traditional functions – budgeting, organization, planning, problem solving and staffing. Effective leadership establishes the organization’s vision and sends it in a clear direction. It also inspires and motivates its employees, aligns key personnel for collaboration, and creates an atmosphere that is conducive to cooperation. Priceless leadership is the “heart and soul” of the organization and the management system is the “brain.” Both are essential for optimal performance.

There are many different leadership and management styles, some of which are arguably better than others. More importantly, a successful leader must be able to “morph” their leadership style into the most effective for the given situation, while continuing to guide the organization toward successful change.

The University of San Francisco, in partnership with University Alliance, has provided this article. The University of San Francisco offers higher education opportunities through a variety of online master certificates, including business process management. To see additional information please visit http://www.usanfranonline.com

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One thought on “Guest Post: Begging For Leadership Won’t Get You A Pocket Full of Change

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Begging For Leadership Won’t Get You A Pocket Full of Change « The Best of Product Management

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