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Ask The Consultants- Following The Plan 2

“Our route drivers are not following our vending machine fill diagram. We’ve had multiple classes, individual interactions and reviews on it and generally have made it a point of emphasis, yet we find in our site inspections that it continues to not be done (right). How do I get my people to follow the plan?”

I will start with the same question as my colleague, “Why should they?”-though with a different idea in the background: I’ll take it from the world of freedom, choice and accountability.

I operate from the premise that human beings are extraordinarily developed and/or evolved, and that when we act (or don’t act), it is because that action produces some benefit, or payoff. Even when we can’t see what that payoff is (a blind spot), or don’t want to admit what it is (deception/ self-deception), there is one. It is when our perspective shifts and we are able to honestly acknowledge the payoff that we’re getting, as well as honestly acknowledge the real cost and consequences of our action, that we have a natural opening and ability to shift our patterns of action. Being accountable for our actions is the key.

Now, in this situation, I see two levels of this occurring: The first (and most obvious) one is with your drivers. Simply put, in their view, the benefits of doing it their way clearly outweigh the consequences and costs; that is why they continue to act that way despite repeated trainings, classes, etc. It is clearly not the know-how that is missing here.  What’s missing is perspective and accountability.

The other level, maybe not so obvious but far more relevant to our conversation, is with you. What is it that you’re getting out of this situation? What if it’s your blind-spot or even self-deception that is keeping this issue in place?

First, I invite you to consider the possibility that you are getting a personal payoff out of the situation being as it has been, and that payoff is what is keeping the situation stuck. Usually in these situations, the payoffs are in the area of being right and/or making others wrong, dominating a situation and/or avoiding being dominated by others (or circumstances), justifying yourself and/or invalidating others, and just plain winning or avoiding loss of some kind. Taking the view that you’re somehow contributing to the situation- even when you can’t actually see how- is the foundation of being accountable.

For instance, have you determined and fulfilled consequences for not following the plan? If someone is repeatedly failing to do what they’ve agreed to, then what are they still doing there? What personal payoff might you be getting from allowing this condition to persist?

Once you’ve distinguished some payoffs, it is getting truly, fully present to what those payoffs are costing you and your business that will give you some freedom and power in the situation. In terms of a business, the costs can be very obvious and measurable, yet we can, easily it seems, obscure the obviousness with intricately constructed smokescreens: elaborate stories that serve to dodge responsibility beautifully, but kill off our individual and collective aliveness and effectiveness. Unfortunately, the continued adherence to these stories, given their nature (attack/defend, justify, win, etc.), compounds the damage already done by the actual broken agreement. A vicious cycle ensues.

When we can fully acknowledge and confront the consequences of our actions, change becomes easy; it is the natural response.

Whether you’re running a hierarchical command-and-control model or committed to creating a culture of freedom and ownership, accountability is not an option- it’s a requirement. No matter who designs what, for an organization to work, each individual must be accountable for that to which they’ve given their word.

Nobody forced anyone to agree to anything here. Each one of us has a choice in what we commit to, and to create the kind of environment where freedom and accountability show up, this freedom to choose (that is at the heart of what it is to be a human being) must be honored both at the moment of choice and from then on in action and approach.

I invite you to engage in a dialogue with your team, the intention of which is to:

1.       reveal together those hidden payoffs I spoke of,

2.       acknowledge and take responsibility for the costs and fallout of your actions, and then

3.       engage, as Douglas elaborated on in his response,  in co-designing the machine-filling process in a context of collaboration and ownership, with each person freely choosing to honor what’s been agreed upon.

From then on, it is integrity, it is accountability that makes the difference. Will they do what they’ve promised? Time will tell- and if they don’t, will you be willing to give up whatever payoff you may get from doing otherwise, and honor the business by following through with the consequences? The choice will be yours.

So in short, clear the air, engage as a real team, choose your path (together) and honor your word. Freedom, choice, accountability: Simple to understand, challenging to stand for, freeing and powerful to work from… and you have everything you need to do just that! We look forward to hearing how it goes and, of course, to any feedback or questions about our approach.

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