Severed Connections

Boss on Top

One of the things that makes life at work more difficult than it should be is the lack of connection between departments, people, and processes. Legendary are the disputes between operations and sales, quality and purchasing, and design and marketing, to name a few prominent examples. Severed connections such as these are rampant, especially in large businesses.

The lack of connection between departments, people, and processes is due to accounting systems, siloed department structures, physical layout, and one’s personal identity or affiliation with a department based on training or educational background. Atomized company structures leave people suspicious of each other, departments, and agendas, subjects people to stereotypes, bias, and misinformation, and creates lengthy delays.

While unintentional, severed connections are essentially a “divide and conquer” strategy that is ill-suited for business success.

The disconnections weaken the company and inhibit its ability to respond to emergencies or say in-step with changing times. It also contaminates information and disrupts information flows. It pits people and departments against one another, which results in a loss of connection to strategy and shared sense of mission or corporate purpose. The loss of connection and lack of overall solidarity among all employees, from top to bottom, greatly contributes to producing the many daily firefights.

The company and the business that it engages in is social work; people working to get things done, separately or together. Gaining and maintaining coherence, social cohesion, is the leader’s job, and too often they are unable to achieve this because they do not recognize the cause-and-effect relationships that produce severed connections and which result in discord.

Once upon a time, when nearly all businesses were small, the owner-leader was one with workers. They were hands-on leaders familiar with all aspects of the work. As the size of businesses grew, the connection between leaders — now more concerned about financial matters than the work — and workers became severed. Today, a major disconnect nearly always exists between leadership and workers due to vast differences in status, wealth, rights, privileges, and power. Most leaders prefer it that way.

But some leaders, few in number, recognize cause-and-effect relationships. They seek to re-establish the connection between themselves and the workers to improve teamwork, reduce rework, minimize fire-fighting, produce better metrics and KPIs, correct problems more quickly, and improve customer satisfaction. These leaders are not afraid of workers or the shop or office floor where value-creating work is done. These are more than company leaders, they are also genba leaders.

The genba leader seeks solidarity with workers and the work they do. Of course, top leaders are busy people and have a lot to do. But they realize that their presence at the genba and their periodic participation in activities such as genba kaizen is necessary because it restores or maintains important connections that substantially improves the overall function of the company.

If a top leader thinks of the company as a multitude of severed connections, which it most likely is, then they would hopefully seek to restore connections and maintain the vitality of the connections over time. And they would ask that leaders below them who are not typically on the genba to go to the genba and also periodically participate in activities such as genba kaizen.

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