Monday, October 24, 2011

Challenge 9: Organizing The Grand Tour

When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it's time to die... - Lillian Smith

One of the most important sources of ideas for change is ideas that have already worked in a similar organization. Moreover, one of the most supportive acts you can perform is to ask someone to teach someone else what they do well. When people teach other people about what they are doing, it forces them to become aware of their own processes.

The Challenge
Your challenge is to organize a tour of your work place for other change artists. Have the people in your workplace teach the change artists "what we do well that others might want to imitate."

1. I thought this was a silly assignment—until it paid off with a savings of about $40,000 a year in our printing operation. One of the programmers on the tour had never seen an actual high-volume printer in operation. Once she understood the way things worked, she easily changed one of our major applications so that weekly printing was significantly faster.

2. We found that their performance analyzer did things that we never imagined. We felt a bit foolish using the crude tool we had concocted, but I was proud that we didn't defend it in the face of an obviously superior product (change artist training helped with that). With more than a little help from their team, we switched tools—and, as a side benefit, no longer had to maintain our homemade kludge.

3. The effect on my group was fantastic, and that really surprised me. First they grumbled about all the trouble it would be to prepare for the tour, but then they started cleaning house. It was like when my mother comes to visit—I clean the toilets and put away things that have been laying out for months. The group did the same thing with their code and their supporting documentation. I don't know if the visitors got anything out of their visit, but they sure saw a clean operation. And—this is the best thing—it stayed clean. Actually, I do think they got something out of it, because we've been asked to give four more tours to groups where someone wants to clean house.

4. Well, we didn't learn much, and they didn't learn much, except that we do things pretty much the same way. I guess that's confirming. And I learned that they're nice people. Perhaps in the future we'll be able to help each other, and that feels good even if we don't have any specific current benefits to show.


This post is part of the series, adapted from the book, Becoming a Change Artist.

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