I started, here and there, writing about the need for changing flows direction within organization : switching from a “pushed” to a “pull” way of producting and communicating. The purpose is to make it possible for people to determine their action according to a goal rather than to an order.
Why is that so important ?
Because it’s more consistent with the reality of people’s work today. It waid said many times, repeated, but the time when employees has to reproduce endlessly an unique task or gesture is over. Their activities, their daily tasks, are not defined in a production plan but by a request, a need that are continuously changing. Generally people don’t need to be be told what to do but need support to do things. They need more support than instructions and this support, as paradoxical as it may be, may come from above. Today, orders are coming from above and support from above is expected. What is needed to help people to do their job is the exact opposite.
Why is “push” always favored ?
First, because of habits. We have to remember that the reality we’re talking about is slightly new. The industrial model of the early XXth century was designed for people with few eduction who need supervision. Moreover, industrial production don’t let any room for people to use their judgement and, on the contrary, needs a high level of standardization. We are facing a survial from the past, which was successful and relevant before but don’t apply in every situations today.
Second, because of the vision of what a manager is, or should be. The “command and control” that was justified before is more satisfactory for many people than thinking they are here to serve their staff. By the way we also have to face a cultural issue in France where, in the first times, management was studied and taught as “the art of command”. He we take a little distance and think of it jointly with my previous point, it appears that a part of the managing function, as it was designed, is rather the legacy of the foreman function who “directs and control” than the ones who makes others successful. As Deming mentioned in “Out of the Crisis”, many people in this situation simply don’t have the necessary knowledge of ground operations to be able to help others…so trying to do so is seen as a risk. And the idea according to which the role of a manager would be to connect the one who need to the one who knows how / how to, is very new and emerging for many organizations.
At last, because of a recurring issue with evaluations that makes that the real goal of any employee is to satisfy his superior rather than contributing to customers satisfaction and, by do doing, to value creation.
We can also mention the will to foresee and plan on a long term scale in order to be sure 100% of people’s time will be used, without any consideration of what it will be used for, while we all know that people’s tasks and needs can only be foreseen on very small time range. Moreover, such a way of working is very difficult to implement without the right communication and collaboration tools.
Of course, this list is far from being exhaustive.
What is the negative impact on today’s operating models ?
People intuitively know what they should do, what would be useful. In the other hand they complain of not having all the necessary means, of receiving contradictory orders that keep them away from what should be done and prevent themselves from focusing on customer satisfaction and value creation. Who did never have the impression that his company prevented him from serving clients ? It’s one of the many reasons of the famous “it makes no sense” orÂ “they have no idea of what they are saying” that may be one of the most heard things in the workplace.
In brief, people are stuck between a natural “pull” flow and “push” one that takes them away from what matters. Because those two flows are running the one into the other, and because the point of contact is the employee, they cause frictions. And friction means waste of energy. So waste of money. When we consider the time spent trying to make both work together, there’s no need anymore to try to find where productivity could be increased.
We can also try to see what happens when each approach is pushed to their paroxysm, what is what happens in hard economic times such as those we’re experiencing now.
– in a “push” situation : pressure increases on people, bringing them to suffocation. Moreover, this approach does not bring any guarantee that what is done is useful or creates value. For instance, if we increase one employee’s productivity but that the rest of the “chain” don’t do the same, this is useless (higher individual productivity but no addtional value is created).
– in a “pull” situation : the only way to do “more” is to pull barriers down, eliminate constraints, make things more simple. This approach leads to more simple organization models, more adaptable, in which we are sure time is spent to create value since, at the end of the chain, it’s the customer who pulls. And money comes from clients…and from no one else.
We have to admit that one of these approaches is viable on a long term scale. And that the other is not.
Conclusion and implementation
At a time when businesses are looking for new ways to improve their productivity, this operating model has many positive aspects. As a matter of fact it guarantees that efforts focus where it creates money, it allows to focus on what maters and deals with individual productivity issues through support and constrainsts removal rather than through pressure, of which we know it’s not a perennial method and that it makes, one day or the other, pay a higher price than what it made you earn the day before. It’s a good response to what Oliver Amprimo calls “lazy management“.
Implementation will be discussed in an upcoming post.
PS : don’t look for something really new and innovative here. Drucker wrote the CEOs had to be at the bottom of the org chart years ago, we can also find some key points of agile methods and LEAN here too. There are already teams that work this way, and organization that built their processes according to such ideas.
agilitÃ©, hiÃ©rarchie, LEAN, Management, management-2.0, mÃ©thode agile, productivitÃ©, pull, push, soo, support