How many times has a great idea failed to light up the room because it was “not invented here”? This frequently happens in a culture where decisions are driven from the top and power is considered the organization’s most precious commodity. Even if teams and groups are asked for input or are assigned a project, it’s very likely that the outcome will be what the leadership expected. This type of work environment creates a huge barrier when trying to instill a culture of continuous improvement.
I saw the effects of this type of leadership when deploying an improvement methodology in a business area that maintained a ‘command and control’ posture. I couldn’t figure out why the business area was struggling with identifying projects and getting people engaged until I realized that the projects they put forward were not looking for new ideas and solutions. Leadership had already identified the solution and the team was just a vehicle for implementation. We used to call these projects “Just Do Its”. Needless to say, the improvement methodology was not effective in driving change or a culture of continuous improvement and in the end, the leaders kept telling people what to do and the people kept doing it. And as a result, the many bright ideas that may have brought innovation and change to the business were never allow to shine.
There are only two ways to get ideas to be considered in this type of work environment. One, you can find ways to introduce concepts or thoughts in a way that makes the leader think it was their idea. Or two, you can change out the leader and let the organization begin to shine. I like number two.