In Standardization is the first step to innovation, Alan Kay Wrote, “…every team is different. I think you have to take the principles and practices you mention, align them with the goals of the organization and decide where to place the emphasis. The application would vary greatly if you were running a highly regulated business, e.g., healthcare vs. an innovative internet retailing business.”
I agree that the emphasis may be different for different teams and industries. And every organization and person, in order to do their best work at their maximum effectiveness seeks personal mastery.
For innovation to take place the person traverses through 3 phases of learning. Rote Copying, Surface Understanding, Personal Mastery.
Using the examples Alan supplied lets see how innovation of process and the need for standardization applies.
HealthCare: Is regulated yes, and being that I have had my blood drawn and seen blood drawing at 5 different facilities in the past year that will my example. Each facility and individual when drawing blood has their own way of completing this task. They use different techniques, tell different stories. I have even seen a variety of needles, tubes, containment systems…The way they arrange the needles, the steps they take, etc…
All of this is their judgment and decision in solving the problems that arise during their tasks. This ‘personalized’ technique and for some great skills set (some phlebotomists are amazing and you cannot even feel the needle, some are really horrible they dig and poke and leave bruises) came from;
- Rote Copying in Medical and / or Nursing school, plus some residency or apprenticeship. Where they were watched and told to just follow the steps.
- Surface Understanding As the comfort level increased and the professor, managers, peers coached and showed they tricks they began to “get a feel” for how drawing blood works.
- Personal Mastery after several years the gains in process innovation in blood drawing are great, and they now have their own process that is still within the regulations.
This one feels obvious, because what the Nurse does is routine day in and day out from what we see. But with every step in the process he has to use his judgment about the environment, patient, time, and several other factors.
Innovative Internet Retailing Business: Perhaps not as regulated as healthcare and still there are Goals, Roles, Procedures that exist either explicitly they are part of a training manual, shared understood, known to the employee. Or implicitly Not documented although exist as part of the unspoken rules and norms of the organization.
The people who make up this business all must operate within the assigned Goals, Roles and Procedures of the company-otherwise the company would not exist. While we may think that Rote Copying, Surface Understanding, and Personal Mastery doesn’t apply to what is called innovative business, it still does.
A Customer Representative from this company is the example. All customer reps in this company like the phlebotomist above have their own way of solving problem and making decisions, within the boundaries of their work. These boundaries are often called Policies & Procedures, Local Operating Standards (LOP) Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) etc… Their own person mastery of how they answer the customer request, interact, calm irate people, solve problems etc…
All of this is their judgment and decision in solving the problems that arise during their tasks. This ‘personalized’ technique and for some great skills set (some customer service reps are amazing, some are really horrible) came from;
- Rote Copying they had to learn how to answer the phone, use the computer system, communicate with other sales reps and departments within the company, speak to a customer, etc… This all happened in a combination of on the job and possibly from other workplaces. They just copy what they see and are coached evaluated by more senior members and managers.
- Surface Understanding After some time the rep. begins to work on his own, taking calls, solving problems and dealing with customers. From the rote copying, she knows some boundaries and best practices from others. The understanding of how the system works and how to interact with the customer increases. Still the manager and senior members supply coaching and feedback.
- Personal Mastery Now the rep. is examining her own process for working with customers and finds their own tricks and steps to improve the work within the given set of boundaries. Using relationship and continuous improvement to master the innovative internet retail business.
At any given moment all of us, whether in work, relationships, life are Rote Copying, Surface Understanding, and Personally Mastering many things and many times at many levels.
What an organization needs to do it acknowledge this and develop a system where everyone consistently is improving their work. The managers job is to learn how each person is improving their work, encourage everyone to teach and share what and how they are improving, then unify this knowledge in such a way that others can learn from it.
Whether you are mopping a floor, to selling a car, to designing the next innovative patent … It starts with copying what already exists, developing an understanding of how and why it works, then mastering and evolving the process to match your needs and situation.
michael cardus is create-learning
image by kevin dooley