The 8th, and greatest, waste

performance-potentialI expect many of you sometimes sit back from your desk, sigh, and think something along the lines of:

“Blimey (polite version 🙂 ), I’ve got so much more to offer this organisation…if only they knew!…if only they properly utilised my particular talents and motivations”.

Each of our talents and motivations will likely be very different to one another but they are incredibly valuable.

So, what might happen if you took this ‘my value is so wasted’ thought further, along the lines of:

“Hey, why don’t I actually say this the next time that I meet with my Manager!” (or is that Leader? We seem to be confused by these two words nowadays)

What do you think his/ her response would be?

This brings me to something which seems to be all pervasive within a hierarchical ‘command and control’ organisation…I expect that you would hear the following response:

“but you are responsible for your own development!”

I’ve heard this at a few organisations throughout my ‘career’ and it has always made me deeply uncomfortable…not because I don’t want to further myself (I absolutely do¸ always have and always will….but not necessarily in the ‘go up the greasy money-and-power pole’ way that might be implied).

It makes me deeply uncomfortable because this “it’s your responsibility” response:

  • is so lazy and convenient! It sidesteps the need for management to think about why the person feels this way and what is preventing the organisation (and its customers) from benefiting from their potential;
  • misunderstands, or worse, ignores the huge role of the management system in what an individual can achieve;
  • demonstrates an abdication of responsibility* by the management above as to their role in understanding and developing their people and in enabling them to thrive;

(* as in “Your development is not actually my problem! I might ‘throw you a few bones’ but take control of your own destiny…I did and look at me!”);

  • really means “impress me (the manager)”…where this is more about them than you.

Essentially, you have to do things that they want, rather than things that are in fact of value…and you certainly aren’t being encouraged to think for yourself, be bold, courageous and different.

The “it’s your responsibility” response completely bypasses the actual role of management – “to change the system rather than badgering individuals to do better” (Deming)

Curiously, the higher you succeed in climbing an organisation, I suspect the greater the risk of hubris and the belief that you got there almost 100% because of you! And therefore the most likely you are to want to deny the effects of the system on what you (as compared to others) were enabled to achieve.

Indeed, if you operate in a command-and-control organisation and are good at playing the necessary game, you may very well ‘go far’…but is this ‘game playing’ actually good for the organisation and, ultimately, towards its purpose? I think not.

The frustrating thing is that the command-and-control management system works very well for those at or near the top and any rational analysis of the waste caused by their management system is likely to be met with denial.

As a result, the only way that change is likely to occur is through those leaders studying the system, obtaining meaningful knowledge as to how it operates and working it out for themselves.

This doesn’t mean that it is hopeless for the rest of us: the more we help those same leaders look at the system and how it actually works then the more likely they are to ‘see’.

Note: The title of this post refers to Taiichi Ohno’s original ‘7 wastes’ and the fact that an 8th overarching waste has been added – that of the waste of untapped human potential.

This 8th waste will be huge within a command-and-control paradigm. 

One thought on “The 8th, and greatest, waste

  1. ‘The waste of untapped human potential’ – a simple sentence yet it deeply resonates with me. Thank you.


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