Continuing our series on the network of projects, this post is by Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder of Intelligent Management Inc.Over the last 20 years he has developed and applied the Decalogue Management methodology in a wide range of organizations in Europe and the USA. The Decalogue is a powerful systemic synergy of W. Edwards Deming’s management philosophy with the Theory of Constraints. Dr. Lepore is a passionate believer in continuous improvement and learning as the path for mankind to fulfil its ever-growing potential.
Joy in learning?
One of the most profound and, I believe, misunderstood elements of W. Edwards Deming’s doctrine is the notion of “Joy in learning”. In his seminal 4-day seminars Deming never missed the opportunity to remind the audience, often in a deceptive semi-serious tone, that joyfulness and learning go hand in hand. Learning happens when positive emotions are created and curiosity is triggered in the student. Learning happens when something, hopefully a good teacher, inspires us to want to know more. Joyfulness is the state of mind that is conducive to openness and availability to receive; it is a state of grace that makes us see possibilities, that lifts our spirit and originates positive feelings. As one of the greatest intellects of our times, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, has taught us, joy is the force that breaks all the boundaries.
Far too often in our world, instead, learning is incentivized by the promise of a reward other than the learning itself and joy is confined to some material achievement. In the western world, by far and large, we have replaced the joy of learning with the acknowledgement granted with it. Learning, then, becomes merely functional to achieving some grade or certificate, and completely disconnected from what that learning should be for: to open our mind to the endless possibilities that exist and encourage more learning. The current education system contributes very heavily to the narrowing of our horizons by providing courses on “functional” competencies, the ones that are going to be rewarded in the workplace, and trains us through grades and competition to see joy as unnecessary or even counterproductive. The current education system triggers the cycle of despair and the debasement of our innate desire to learn, and the prevailing management style reinforces that cycle.
The Finnish way: results without standardized testing
This is not the case in Finland, where the education system produces good results without standardized testing, schools for the elite, and competition as the way to succeed. Students graduating from Finnish high schools are ready for a world of cooperation and getting on with the job without looking for prizes. They will not find a suitable environment in the majority of organizations that are still based on an industrial age rather than post-digital age model.
The complete disassociation that managers have from learning is exemplified by the total failure of the majority of the training efforts that take place in organizations. Simply put: real learning, not the kind that comes from reading quick fix books, but the kind that changes behaviours, is not considered “strategic” for career advancement.
What is the real difficulty that we face in wanting to create a true learning organization that dismantles the functional structure and replaces it with the far more suitable network of projects? It is not connected with lack of knowledge of how to do it, nor with the lack of technologies to support it. The real issue is the mental barrier, or cognitive constraint that prevents individuals and organizations from working together as a system for a common goal.
We live in a completely interconnected, interdependent, increasingly complex world where the levers for success have definitively shifted from competition to cooperation, from win-lose to win-win, from me against you to you and me against the problem. We don’t just need new knowledge; we need a new form of organization and a new covenant with our mind. In order to live and prosper in this world of unprecedented interconnection we have to learn at a much faster pace and we can only do it if we improve our ability to leverage our intellect.
Digital cowboys, the new talent of the post-digital world, who refuse to accept the separation between who they think they are and what they do, are poised to become the catalyst for a new kind of organization if they learn to think and act systemically and to govern their emotions so that they become intelligent emotions. They can lead the way in the transformation of organizations that are fit for our interconnected, post-digital world. How can we make that happen?
The Action Plan
- Create programs for no-fear systems thinking in high schools and Business Schools
- Create an in-company pilot project, embracing the no-fear new economics (Deming inspired), all guided by the use of the Thinking Process Tools for the Theory of Constraints
- Create networks/complex value chains built around these principles