In the LEAN Six Sigma world, there is a Japanese term “Gemba” – it means go to where the work is being done. So, it got us to thinking about how we approach people in the work environment to optimize our potential effectiveness. For example, we conduct a “Gemba walk” and talk to the “resident expert” for a particular task or operation. Suppose I introduce myself like this; “Hello Fred, I’m Tony Ph.D., MS, BA, Six Sigma Black Belt, multiple award winner, inventor, and global traveler. I’d like to discuss what you do and how you do it.” The likely reaction would be silence or putting up an invisible wall as if we were from two different worlds. A clear verbal barrier may have been put in place, implying my superiority and intellect as compared to Fred’s. It might be better said, “Hi Fred, I’m Tony. I hear you are good at your job and I would like you to show me why. I bet I could learn something.” People love to talk about what they do. People are usually proud of their work and appreciate recognition. It is the Maslow basic needs thing.
As our conversation continued, it was interesting to discover that there are degrees of separation even within academia. There is apparently a pecking order among PhDs’ and degreed individuals too! Kind of reminds me of the show Big Bang Theory. Poor Wolowitz only with a master’s degree from MIT competing amongst an allegedly superior Ph.D. in Theoretical physics, Experimental physics, and Astrophysics. Even amongst themselves, they posture for which degree is superior or more relevant.
Self-awareness of the possibility of “Degrees of Separation” in your culture is the first step to building a high trust team. It is essential to equip each team member according to their gifts and strengths. The culture that can successfully tap the strengths of each level of education and experience will channel that energy into results. The use of Industrial Psychology and assessments can help guide the company in talent management and culture cultivation. The scientist and the resident expert are a catalyst for innovation.
When we talk about the “resident expert” – this is the person doing the task at hand. Usually, this person knows best how to do the job and will have the best input on how to improve it. It is no wonder that in the Process and Continuous Improvement world the best ideas come from the “floor”. Not management, not the owners and certainly not the investors.