The foundation on which Improvement Science is built is invisible – or rather intangible – and without this foundation the whole construction is unstable and unsustainable. Rather like an iceberg – mostly under the surface with only a small part that is visible and measurable – and that small visible part is called Performance.
What is underneath? To push our Performance through the surface so that it gets noticed we know we must synergise the People with the Processes but there is more to it than just that. The deepest part of the foundation, the part that provides the core strength and stability, is our Paradigm – our set of unconscious beliefs, values, attitudes and habits that comprises our psycho-gyro-scope: our stabiliser.
Our Paradigm creates inertia: the tendency to keep going in the same direction even when the winds of change have shifted permamantly and are blowing us off course. Paradigms resist change – and for good reason – inertia is a useful thing when there are minor bumps on the journey and we need to avoid stalling at each one. Inertia becomes a less useful thing when we meet an immovable object such as a Law of Physics – because if we hit one of these then Reality will provide us with some painful feedback. Inertia is also less useful when we have stopped and have no momentum, because it takes a bigger push for a longer time to get us moving again.
An elephant has a lot of inertia because it is big – and perhaps this is the reason why we refer to attitudes and beliefs that represent resistance to change as Elephants in the Room. The ringleader of a herd of organisational elephants is an elephant called Distrust which is the offspring an elephant called Discounting who in turn was born of an elephant called Disrespect. We see this in organisationswhen we display and cultivate a disrepectful attitudes towards our peers, reports workers and our seniors. The old time-worn and cracked “us-versus-them” record.
So let us break into the cycle and push the Elephant called Distrust into spotlight – what is our alternative. Respect -> Acknowledgement -> Trust. It doesn’t make any difference who you are: the most valuable form of respect is feedback: Honest, Unbiassed and Genuine (HUG). So if we regularly experience the Elephant called Distrust making a Toxic Swamp in our organisations and we feel discounted and disrespected then part of the reason may be that we are not giving ourselves enough HUGs. And that means the bosses too.