söndag 26 juli 2015

Adapt the enviroment, not the human

So "Respect people" should be interpreted: "Respect the fact that people are humans, and act accordingly". What does that say about our expectations?

We wouldn't assume that a person working in construction would do their best using a hammer with a shaft that is too short, or having to lift 500 kg buckets of concrete without the aid of machines. We know that it is better to adapt the tools and the environment than to expect the unreasonable from humans.

But when it comes to the work done by the mind and heart, the work performed by our cognitive and affective abilities, expecting the unreasonable and using contra-productive tools is the norm. We put thinkers in chatty environments where thoughts are being interrupted constantly. We demand of coordinators that they should be able to handle numerous simultaneous things even though we know that the human multi-tasking ability is very restricted. We ask for descisions based on gut-feeling from descision-makers, while we know that making descisions is very costly and stressing for the organism. We bring people together and expect them to collaborate well, but we don't do much for supporting the natural bonding-processes that are necessary for trust to emerge in the team.

We are built to function in a specific way. Our ways of working could, if people were willing, be adapted to how we are built. Considering cognitive and affectiv ergonomy, just as we are considering physical ergonomy when we design hammers. Often it isn't more expensive to design processes according to our needs, than designing them according to something else. Even when it is slightly more expensive, it is still less than the cost of bad processes: errors, stressrelated symptoms, lower output of value, etc.

We will break, and the productivity will go down.

Why is this so seldom considered then? It seems like it is a part of the human cognitive construction to hold flawed assumptions about the human cognitive construction. We hold all sorts of beliefs about how thinking and feeling works, and many of those beliefs simply aren't true. And: many of the beliefs are ingrained into the management practises and processes that our organisations are run by. In order to change beliefs we must change so much more. When flawed assumptions are held by those in power they are in particular hard to question.

The antidote to this is empiricism. That we actually go and see how things work, listen to validated science, try different ideas that is based on what we know about actual human behaviour, and see how that will work out in our context. It is a hard pill to swallow, because empiricism will alway challenge the status quo and the status hierarchies that go with it. You will always meet resistance when doing this.

That is why it is so important that everyone in the organisation, from top management and down, actually subscribe to the Toyota notion about respecting people. That we all will be better off if we consider human needs first, and organise according to how people actually and evidently are. This is lean at its core.

(The post is an adoption of the second part of this old post in Swedish)

Inga kommentarer:

Skicka en kommentar