Thursday, February 24, 2011

Challenge the Process: Success!

I really like the topic of leadership.  I enjoy reading about it, and i like to flatter myself by thinking that i have some leadership skills.  (Mostly i'm just super-opinionated about how i think things should be done.  That doesn't necessarily equal leadership.)  I don't, however, have a venue to practice my leadership skills, except for the occasional Women's Retreat at church.

There are two leadership podcasts that I'm into: Catalyst and Andy Stanley.  I used to always listen to them on my bus ride to work.  In March of 2010 i temporarily broke up with the Catalyst podcast, for reasons that you aren't interested in and would take us on an unrecoverable tangent.  I was on a leave of absence from work for 3 months, and since there was no bus ride, i didn't listen to my podcasts.  When i returned to work i gave Catalyst another shot.  My ride into work was so inspiring as i listened to world-renown leaders talk about their ideas and their new ways of doing things.  People out there were thinking outside the box and making things happen.  It made me so energetic and hopeful.

Well, it made me energetic and hopeful . . . up until i walked through the front door of my institution.  Then on the elevator ride to the 6th floor, and in the locker room where i changed into my work clothes, everything changed.  I was enveloped by the monotony, the inefficiency, the status quo, the lack of forward-thinking.  It was just too painful to remember the leadership lessons i heard 15 minutes before.  It's a huge corporation with an organizational structure like a telephone pole, and i am but a tiny speck. 

This morning, for the first time in a long time, i listened to Catalyst again.  It was an interview with author Seth Godin.  I have heard him interviewed before, and absolutely loved what he had to say.  My only exposure to him is these 2 interviews (i haven't read his books, though i would like to).  Oh my goodness was i ready to change the world after hearing him speak.  After the interview finished, i still had time left on my bus ride so i listened to the first few minutes of an Andy Stanly leadership podcast about "Challenge the Process."

My mind jumped into action and i started deconstructing all the processes of my workday.  Reevaluating everything.  Seth Godin is big into "doing work that matters".  He says that the industrial age is over, and we need to start acting like it.  Well my job is nothing but an assembly line in a huge factory.  We churn out the same product day in and day out, and the whole operation is VERY systematized.  These systems haven't been honestly reevaluated, like, ever.  Andy Stanley read a quote from a book i don't remember the name of that said something along the lines of "any system will unconsciously conspire to maintain the status quo and prevent change."  Systems aren't bad; you need systems in order to get work done.  But you don't want to get stuck in a rut, therefore you have to analyze your processes every now and then.

And boy did i analyze them, there on bus 147.  Many issues were so deep and multifaceted that there were no easy solutions.  One thing was clear, though.  The "2G Note" doesn't make any sense.  Now don't concern yourself with what "2G Note" means.  It's just a particular document we have to fill out on each and every one of our customers.  The problem is that two or three different employees fill out the EXACT SAME form.  Why are we each doing the same thing?  Is it really necessary to do all this double work?

Now if you remember, i am just a tiny speck.  I don't have a voice.  I tried to muster up my courage to have a conversation with my boss and present my case.  I needed to rehearse it a few times in my head, because i tend to be pretty judgemental of my boss, and i didn't want to accidentally say something that would make him defensive.

The workday got started with a bang and i was pretty busy.  At some point in the late morning, my boss appeared and gathered a few of us together to make An Announcement.  We don't have to do the "2G Note" anymore!  It's like he read my mind!  How many times in life can you be fortunate enough to get what you are asking for without having to ask it!

It is pretty much the only time that i've learned a leadership principle on my way to work and been able to put it into practice that very day.  I learned a lesson though.  I know that my overall attitude towards my job is negative.  And i definitely don't want to be my own roadblock to change.  You know how a bad attitude can prevent you from thinking clearly?  Now that i've had a work victory (albeit a small one), I need to stop this doom-and-gloom demeanor.  Seth Godin talked in his interview about the importance of generosity.  It's generosity that makes work matter. 

Cheers to challenging the process - both in my workflow and in my outlook.


1 comment:

  1. That, my friend, is the Providential Hand of The Almighty! He knows what we need even before we ask...or don't ask (Matthew 6:8). He is letting you know He is there and He sees you and knows you (Psalm 139). And, by the way, you are a leader and He wants to use you. Let Him!