Welcome to the second installment of Work in Progress with The Ready. Like last time, we’re going to share a scenario that we’ve experienced with a client and then solicit your responses regarding how you would think about and/or approach the challenge. After a couple weeks we will compile those answers, add our own take, and publish a follow-up article.
Let’s get to it!
“Acme Incorporated is in an industry where physical safety is of the utmost importance. The work can be physically quite dangerous and after several high-profile safety incidents, Acme has made physical safety the center stone of their culture. In many ways, it has the most impressive safety conscious culture we’ve ever seen.
Acme, however, is struggling with issues other than physical safety. You could describe it as being crushed under the weight of its own bureaucracy. It’s huge, old, and seemingly held together by red tape. It takes several layers of approvals to get access to new or replacement tools, senior leaders spend most of their time running from status meeting to status meeting, and it’s nearly impossible to get any kind of momentum going around important projects.
Acme’s leadership sensed they needed help changing their trajectory as more and more talented folks were leaving while citing the difficulty of getting anything done as their primary reason for finding a new job. Facing an exodus of talent and the flagging morale of those who stayed they decided to embark on a “cultural transformation.”
After a month or so of getting to know the key players in the division where we were going to work, we got started with introducing our basic “change loop”: teaching teams how to notice the tensions in their environment, consider a swath of new practices, and experiment with new ways of working. Almost immediately, though, we noticed that this organization was extremely resistant to trying anything new. “Safety” had become so central to this organization’s identity that the idea of a “safe to try” experiment was almost an oxymoron to them. Mentioning that something might be unsafe was a complete get-out-of-jail-free card that ended conversations before they really even got started.
How do we honor and respect an organization’s commitment to physical safety while also introducing the practice of experimentation into improving the ways they work? Are they destined to never try anything new because of their industry and history? If so, what are we even doing here?
How would you approach helping this organization adopt new ways of working?”
This time, please add your response directly to the comments below so we can all benefit from seeing each others’ ideas. If you don’t have a Medium account (and don’t want to make one) you’re certainly welcome to respond by emailing us at email@example.com instead.