Disrupt Yourself

Eighteen years ago I had the most enviable job. Yes! Back then many people wanted my job because it had everything that anyone in a job would want (except my salary) – success, rich cash flow, profitable, successful JIT implementation, India’s first full and comprehensive lean transformation, vibrant factory highly productive, highly motivated workmen and staff, market leader, competition reduced to insignificance, very innovative, highly satisfied customers in both exports and domestic markets, sixty percent YoY growth et al. Yet one day I gave it all up chasing a different dream – causing me (and my family) a disruption. If I had not done that, I would not have been consulting today impacting many companies. The few that were happy to see my back and take over did not know that I had disrupted myself each time I took on a new role to produce the results that followed me. They thought they could produce my results with their behaviour … and you know what happened. This article is not about me, but to discuss how disrupting yourself forms an essential ingredient in the success one can bring to their organisation.

“Organisations don’t succeed, people do.
People don’t succeed, their attitudes and routines do.”

Ever since in 1995 when Prof Clayton Christensen first introduced the theory of disruptive innovation, it is not only useful in growing businesses, economy and jobs; but the idea can also be applied to one’s personal routines and behavior. Consider the never ending discussion on how to succeed with implementing the lean manufacturing system. The larger belief seems to be that success should come as a system through using tools, where as it comes from how and what they do to contribute every moment. While many know the subject and are adept with it, yet few produce results like Toyota or Mysore Kirloskar did. Today the importance of routine or kata and behaviour is no secret. There are good print materials disseminating that information. Routine and behaviour forms the quintessential part of lean success.

Ever since Drucker’s book ‘The Practice of Management’ published in 1954, companies have adopted the idea of management by results (MBR) or management by objectives (MBO) and continue to practice it – review objectives, set department or individual objectives, monitor progress, evaluate performance, and give reward. Those who understand lean only as tools find it convenient to specify their objective as implementing the tools, because they find it easy to measure the extent of completion and reward the compliers. Some have even used this with Kobayashi’s twenty keys to formulate their production system including measurements and rewards.

op 2Lean success depends on building sustainable lean behaviour. For MBO concept organisation’s to become lean means disrupting their thinking and behaviour. The culture of an organisation is built through the thinking, philosophy and behaviour of its top leaders. For an organisation to succeed, its people (key leaders) have to succeed. This leadership will succeed with lean implementation when the leaders deliberately disrupt their routine from what they were previously comfortable with; to doing what they are required to do in conformance with lean behaviour. This disruption may initially cause discomfort and pose problems, but in this disruption lies an opportunity to practice new routines of lean success. And only practice makes permanent.

Disrupting oneself and adapting to this new behaviour and thinking, is essential as the old processes get disrupted paving way for new ones and the leader must be conscious not to fall in the trap of backward pulls and retrogress. Those who commit to disrupting themselves will discover newer grounds, a different scene, different difficulties, newer successes, greater enrichment et al. It is when these leaders succeed with disrupting their routines and behaviour; they will then lead their companies successfully on a journey of true lean success.