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Stop Collaborate and Listen! – Is Vanilla Ice a Continuous Improvement Pioneer?

Stop Collaborate and Listen

For those of us over a certain age, Vanilla Ice was a revelation. I remember bopping along, lip-syncing every single word and, even (momentarily) considering dyeing my hair and cutting stripes out of my eyebrow. Looking back, that was one decision I’m glad I got right….but little did I realise that in the opening line of that song was one of the easiest and most effective tools you have available in your CI toolbox.

Continuous Improvement is probably not what Mr Ice was thinking about when he said Stop, Collaborate and Listen! but in my experience it is often the first thing we do when confronted with an issue in any organisation.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have facilitated a session between teams or individuals to really understand what is actually happening in a business and heard this phrase at the end “that was awesome and it was the first time we’ve all been in a room together”. While I always enjoy hearing the first part of that sentence, it is the second half I want you to think about.

Too often when someone raises an issue, we take what we’re told by that person as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and every thought, decision and action that follows stems from that starting point. But, if you were investigating at the scene of a crash would you only talk to the driver of the car, or might you look a little wider and put what they say into a broader context to really understand what happened? That’s not to say the driver is dishonest, but their perception of what happened is only one viewpoint and is seen through a naturally biased lens.

The same can be said of issues occurring in your business. And while we’re not talking about interviewing witnesses, involving only the people directly impacted by a problem will provide you with a localised view, and any subsequent solution will be implemented on that basis. By bringing together all of the people affected, directly and indirectly, you may suddenly find a whole new dimension to the issue presents itself (the root cause), as well as a much broader and more effective set of solution alternatives.

In addition, by involving a wider group of stakeholders right from the start, you create buy-in, ownership and accountability i.e. you are making the change management process easier for you and the business.

So, the next time a member of your staff or team come to you with a challenge or a problem that’s really affecting them… Stop Collaborate and Listen!

About the author: Kristian Miles is a Senior Consultant at Productivity People