For a long time, companies have pursued functional efficiency and Toyota is responsible for the most part of it.
The good financial and statistical results of a car company, almost mono-brand (Lexus had little expression at the time), which managed to lead the world market, is admirable. Many managers keep that dream.
Companies from various sectors, driven by academic studies in several countries, tried to adopt the philosophy of integral development, called by the Japaneses as Kaisen, essentially supported by the Lean or 5S methodology and the continuous improvement cycle PDCA (Plan, Do, Check & Adjust).
It is a pity that some organizations have forgotten the “integral” part of development and have “entertained” only with organizational processes’ development. People were left behind.
The persistent pursuit of this results improvement through efficiency has led many organizations to focus fiercely on the Process, pointing out the error of each and every employee and rewarding short-term results, sometimes too short-term. The 2008 global crisis was a demonstration of the short-term focus. But I still think it taught us less than it could.
For decades, companies and organizations, have watched the competition in search of best practices, measuring times and executions’ numbers, eliminating waste and dead time, almost without letting people breathe.
I don’t question the need for process efficiency in organizations, nor could I. HCCT, the company I lead, exists to assist our clients in organizational changes with a view to improving internal efficiency and we are very committed on it, In facto the economic sustainability of companies and consequently of the country, depends on this too.
It turns out that, in many cases, this almost obsession with improvement was and is so intense that some companies have lost the greatest objective, the effectiveness and satisfaction of all stakeholders, including employees.
The Toyota president himself, after reaching the world sales leadership, said during a conference that his focus was never on sales leadership, but on customer satisfaction and it was in this way that, collaterally, they reached number 1 sales market share.
It means that the commonly accepted path, it must be understood, was to copy the best practices, learn from the good ones and avoid mistakes. It looks wise.
More recently, and very much influenced by TED talk, the opposite current came to Portugal; we need to make mistakes to learn. What I call “the culture of Error” began.
Note that I do not consider a person who makes mistakes at any given moment, far from it, to be of less value; we have to accept the error as human and, therefore, part of the process; however, it is often heard, on various stages, to say, with conviction, that we need to make mistakes and that will make us stronger. Yes, maybe, but not always.
First of all, we must be careful not to be demanding on results, or we will become mediocre in the very short term. Then, the error will be positive only if we learn from it; that means, it is not enough to accept the error and pass it on.
Each error has an associated cost, for the organization, company and society, and, directly or indirectly for the individual who made a mistake, and not just financial.
To put it briefly and clear enough to let us all understand, if we only need mistakes to learn, Schools can be closed and “Error Centers” opened. Definitely not!
Let’s put some balance in it, please.
Of course, we will continue to make mistakes, all of us, and we will not be minors person or professional for it; but we don’t exist to make mistakes. I believe that we exist to do things well, maybe to be perfect, and, knowing that we will never be, should not make us accept mediocrity.
Until now, we have been “instigated” to competitiveness; whether through sport or professional performance, we have always had our leaders encourage us to be better than others and have seldom taught us how to overcome ourselves; such integral development of Kaisen philosophy.
In the course of personal development, it is important to know the starting point and, from there, trace the intended growth; almost everyone, we think we know where we are, that we know each other well. It is rarely like that.
Today there are algorithms that help us with this behavioral knowledge and I advise the PDA. Based on Marston’s theory, it proved to be a simple and accurate methodology. It is scientifically proven. It allows you to quickly and effectively describe the behavioral profile and identify people’s behavioral tendencies.
I would also add that, in addition to personal and integral development, there is another very important aspect with a tremendous social impact, collaboration. It is, in good measure, opposed to competitiveness, and being a different and proper culture, it allows exponentially better results; in micro and macro organizations; in society.
Education for collaboration is far from taboo and there are some examples, namely in high competition. We all look at our Football Team and know that when they play for each other the result is positive. Occasional individualism of some players comes up, on the other hand and leads the entire team to less good results.
Returning to companies and productive organizations, people, to be valuable professionals, in addition to developing in the personal aspect, must also develop their technical, methodological and social skills.
Companies often organize training actions with the aim of having more capable employees, but rarely do they specifically work on the gap between existing skills and those necessary for effectiveness and efficiency, when this is where the return on investment would be greatest.
It is in this differential that errors arise and that a continuous improvement cycle has a major impact.
Although, as I mentioned above, the most used cycle is the PDCA, it does not value the lessons that the error can bring, that’s the reason I advise the GRAF cycle, which, for those who do not know, means Gap, Reason, Adjust and Follow-up.
By doing a detailed analysis of the reason for the manifested error, we will be able to understand if it is circumstantial or structural, if the assumptions considered were right or wrong and if the path choose is the right one or should we take a different one.
It is by dissecting the error that it can become a positive thing, because it can lead us to be better than yesterday, it can lead us to do great and great things. It can even lead us to be excellent.
“Really, you should always discuss defeats because we can learn much more from failure than from success.”
Andreas Nikolaus (Niki) Lauda, (1949 – 2019) Three-times Formula 1 World Champion, Businessman and Mercedes GP top Manager