At the core, each of us has a deep and abiding need to achieve, to contribute—not just in our everyday lives but also at work. I like to say it like this: we come to work to be heroes. We want to master and excel. And it is the job of managers, on every level, to help people do just that: master their work and excel. Become heroes.
In visual thinking, we deliberately look for ways to make each individual, each person, independent and singular, in thought and in action—independent and singular in their own improvement ideas. This is not a denial of teams and their importance—but their foundation, the first step in creating high-performing groups that share a common purpose and work conscientiously and in concert to support corporate values and grow the business.
I call this approach I-driven—and it is at the very heart of what makes workplace visuality produce such powerful bottom-line and cultural outcomes. At first glance, the I-driven approach seems counter-intuitive, the opposite of the team-based work culture that so many companies seek. In fact, I-driven is a step in exactly that direction. It is, for me, an indispensable first step towards an aligned, unified, work culture.
To make a hero’s contribution, we must find the margin on the inside of us to contribute on the outside. In my work, I have learned that that margin almost always surfaces when people feel control—some degree of control—over their corner of the world, their work. But so many of us get overwhelmed by work’s everyday struggles. Look and you will see that the vast majority of that struggle swirls around missing information, missing answers—or answers that are incomplete, inaccurate or simply too late. So many questions, both asked and un-asked. Missing and mis-information floods our day. As a result, instead of expanding and contributing to enterprise excellence, we shrink and focus instead on simply getting through the day, every day. The daily grind. Everything is a struggle over which we have no control.
When we begin to implement the visual workplace, especially if we launch on the operator level where power is least, we must find a way to shift that imbalance. In visuality, we invest operators—by design—with choice, as much choice as possible. The result is a kind of unfettered power to create, founded on the premise expressed at the outset: We all want to be heroes. We want to—and will—do the right thing because that is our nature.
If you want to empower your operators, you must provide them with powerful opportunities to act. In visuality, that begins with ownership and learning how to think. Operators learn, for example, the name of the enemy—motion/moving without working. They learn to spot it in all its thousands of forms (see last week’s article). When operators learn to couple motion with high impact visual devices, they become scientists of their own process—of their work. They become visual thinkers.
In visuality, the heart of this empowerment process is driven by two questions. I present the first of these now and the second in next week’s issue of The Visual Thinker. The first question that drives the visual workplace (whether you are an operator or a CEO) is: What Do I Need To Know—what do I need to know that I don’t know right now in order to do my work. I ask and answer that question and then turn the answer into a visual device. In doing that, I imbed that answer in the physical work environment so I never have to ask that question again (and no one ever has to answer it). Doing that repeatedly, I get control of my corner of the world. I take the struggle out of work.
Visuality is NOT a team-based improvement process. On the contrary, it is founded on the individual and the power that is inside of each of us, individually: the I. The owner (the maker) of this first question is the individual: YOU. Unfettered and on your own, you are free—in fact, mandated—to seek out the answers missing from your work day and replace them with visual solutions—devices that hold those answers, one by one. Gain control of your corner of the world! There is nothing that puts us in a more powerful position to do our work and to contribute than a sense of control over our corner of the world.
If YOU find this discussion suspiciously self-serving—with all those I, I, I’s—make sure to read next week’s issue when I discuss the second question that drives visuality: What Do I Need To Share? Learn to become a hero at work.