If we consider that by moving from left to right, we also move from worse to better, it will not come as a surprise that it is the generative organisations which turn towards the right side of the spectrum.
As an example, the paper mentions a hospital which, after detecting a problem with a medical procedure, reacted with an inquiry and full transparency. That, contrary to what many might expect, did not harm the hospital’s reputation or performance. Instead, their patients were not only understanding but also impressed.
Accepting our mistakes and implementing a global fix or launching an inquiry will reassure those around us, that we are devoted to improving quality.
Beyond the Westrum model
If we look at the “Lean Startup” methodology described by Eric Ries in his book of the same title, we will find the principle “Build-Measure-Learn”. We implement it by following the process:
- Formulate a hypothesis
- Realise the solution described in our hypothesis
- Gather feedback
- If the solution yields expected results, persevere, if not, pivot
The key to a successful implementation of this approach is the gathering of the feedback. Without the return information, we cannot make the right decision whether to invest further in our solution, or whether we should be thinking of a new hypothesis.
A similar approach can be found in the Cynfin framework, developed by Dave Snowden and first described in a paper published in the Harvard Business Review in November 2007.
In it, the authors describe five decision-making domains in which leaders operate:
- Disorder, when it isn’t yet clear in which of the following domains are we operating
- Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious
- Complicated, in which the said relationship can be found, but the process requires expertise
- Complex, in which the relationship between the cause and effect is only known in hindsight
- Chaotic in which the relationship does not exist
In the current day and age, that is one of almost unobstructed flow of information, services and products most businesses operate in the Complex domain.
In this domain, the authors argue, leaders must fall to an experiment based style, which they describe as “probe-sense-respond”. This approach, however, relies entirely on feedback. And that information flow is in very many cases a direct outcome of how effectively we communicate.
In my work, I have the privilege of working with various customers. Having the technological expertise, I get to consult those customers on how to develop their technical solutions and capabilities. But what I often see is that it isn’t the technology that is the obstacle between them and their objectives. More often than not, it is the culture. And culture, I truly believe, comes from communication.