A Digression from My LSSC’12 Report

I’m interrupting my LSSC’12 report with a short update from the real world. (The first two batches of the report are here: Batch 1 and Batch 2).


I had to submit the annual employee survey – it’s a long SurveyMonkey form organized by outside consultants so that our human resources wouldn’t know which one of the 350 employees said what. Most questions ask you to tell how you align with a certain statement – from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

The problem with this questionnaire is that it is firmly planted in single-loop learning, fixing the mindset: if only we worked the way indicated by the “strongly agree” answer, we’d be a great, customer-delighting organization. Here are four examples of questions — which I obviously left unanswered when filling out the survey — where what the “strongly agree” answer indicates is clearly not the greatest way to work.

I have easy access to documentation required to follow our processes and procedures.

This assumes the ownership of work processes and procedures is not placed with the people actually doing the work.

Career opportunities always go to the most qualified person.

I understand what is required to advance in this organization.

There is an implicit hierarchical view where “advancement” and “career opportunities” primarily mean climbing the orgchart or a “horizontal” transfer to the same functional role with a different team where “there is a better fit.” This ignores a complex, networked view of the organization and modern sophisticated models for human system design.

This organization’s performance standards ensure that we meet or exceed our customers’/clients’ expectations.

This assumes that the individual functional performance is the primary determinant of customer satisfaction – sounds like a certain discredited early XX century theory.


If you’re reading this post, there is a good chance you know me (at least virtually) thanks to the Agile or Lean community and perhaps we met last week at the LSSC. But, as one of our core values is respect human condition, I hope this is a useful reminder of life outside Seaport.


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