One of the things I hear consistently from clients is, “We’re working on clarifying roles and responsibilities.” And while that’s important, it’s not the whole issue. Take my recent visit to Dunkin Donuts. When I asked for more milk in my coffee, the woman said, “How many milks?” ”Huh? Just the one?” I thought to myself. For those employees, each squirt from the machine is a “milk” and they, in turn have trained the customers to ask for milk by number. It’s one approach — roles and responsibilities are clear — but I believe it leaves people disengaged and not accountable. The Dunkin Donuts was in the middle of farm country and we were talking about milk. What could be more basic?
Marie Kondo woke us up to the reality that we can’t organize our way to a beautiful home. Buying more boxes to organize stuff only gets us more boxes. The real issue is that we have too much stuff. It’s the same with organizing people and work. While we do need to organize ourselves, without the simplifying element of trust, and without understanding the underlying dynamics of the organization’s culture, we don’t get the productivity we want. According to Patrick Lencioni, absence of trust leads to artificial harmony and conflict avoidance. In one of the most powerful exercises I do with teams, each person gives and gets positive and difficult feedback about their behavior. People love it because they finally learn that they can ask for what they need without creating conflict. Combine that with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and it’s a powerful combination.