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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

• Learning Blocked by Rules -- At one of my favorite email discussion lists, on the topic of group facilitation, I've come across the valuable contribtions of Ned Reute -- contributions that I never fail to read when I see his name in the "From:" list. One of his recent posts laments on the fact that...
"Everyone in an organization can know something, but the organization can still be unable to learn it..."
Part of the reson for this, according to Ned, is that...
"American Management tries to add excellence to their organizations without getting rid of anything. They keep doing what got them to where they are. Unfortunately, for most organizations what got them where they are is the management practices of the 50s and 60s, when America had the only manufacturing capacity unscarred by WWII. The only way to fail then was to mess up: to keep from messing up, American management evolved into a system of making sure nothing happened. When that age passed and they had to make something happen, they didn't know that American management wasn't the way to do it. Everything they try to do, they try to add to American management and then add more American management to manage it. Then it doesn't work, and the effort was so expensive it almost broke the company, so they never try anything like that again."
"American Management tries to add excellence...without getting rid of anything." And the most important things that remain beyond their usefulness is the rules that were useful in "getting them to where they are." As I wrote a while ago in one of my Unconstrained Thinking columns, unless a change is of a huge, revolutionary magnitude that renders the environment unrecognizable, it has to co-exist with much of the old environment. Operating environments are made up of policies, measurements and procedures, otherwise known as “rules.” These rules are often deeply embedded in the organizational psyche. Behaviors and politics are usually based on them, and those who are successful are so based on their ability to work within these rules.

A change comes with its own set of rules. One source of “resistance to change” can be based in the system rejecting, or at least modifying, these new rules in an effort to fit old experience and expertise to the new way of doing things -- and therefore blocking the benefits of potential learning. If expectations for the change are based on the new rules, and if these rules are compromised, then the outcome will as well, in both the short and long term.

Successful creativity and deliberate destruction must go hand-in-hand if the benefits of the new are to be optimized.

What old rules have you broken recently?

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