John and I couldn’t be more pleased with the 2012 BMT Conference that we hosted in Chicago this June. I thought it would be fun to share some highlights. At the end, I will invite those of you who attended to share yours as well.
One of the highlights for us on the workshop day was Bob’s downstream impact activity. First of all, he used cutting edge technology by incorporating a mind map and using his iPad to display it, so it was an approach to presenting that we haven’t used before. I also really like how it illustrated that one simple behavior like asking for a weekly report can have a massively negative impact on the people expected to generate the report.
Another highlight of the workshop day was the lean simulation activity. I wasn’t sure if the attendees would appreciate such a hands on activity that required them to perform job tasks, especially because the first round was designed to be frustrating. In this health care provider simulation, each person played a specific role and completed tasks and they were measured on the number of patients completed, errors, and number of patients in progress. In the second round, the group made changes to the process consistent with a lean approach including simplifying the paperwork, using pull instead of push, and arranging the work environment to support the process. This clearly demonstrated that small, simple changes can have a big impact and we received a lot of feedback that people enjoyed it.
The conference day ran smoothly. Feedback from attendees also indicated that people liked that the talks varied in length but were generally short because they kept the audience’s attention. In addition, with John and Howard as the MCs, the transitions were as enjoyable as the talks.
One of my favorite talks of the day was by Alasdair Cathcart, President of Global Power Solutions at Bechtel. To be honest, Alasdair impressed me from the minute he arrived at the hotel. I met him once a year ago and he remembered me (and everyone else by name) and asked for an update on activities I had just started a year ago. He arrived to the conference room very early, sat in the front, and was engaged in every talk. It’s very obvious that Alasdair is thoughtful about each interaction that he has and that he goes out of his way to do the right thing in every situation. In fact, he has inspired us to create a set of slides or write a blog post called, “What the good guys do”.
Some of the things I really liked about his talk included his story about asking employees to bring their kids to work to demonstrate that they haven’t yet created working conditions that they view as fit for their family. Two other powerful points were that safety is a barometer of your overall work culture (if you’re hurting people, there’s a problem) and that he has never seen a problem that gets better by keeping it quiet.
Howard once got feedback at a behavioral conference that simply read, “more learning per word than any other speaker”. I can’t help but think about that every time I hear him speak because it’s absolutely true. We also received feedback that people not only found Howard insightful, but also very funny.
I really liked the point that if you upset the equilibrium in the work environment, other people have to change to adjust the situation back to equilibrium. Another important point he made was that with personal behaviors we are trying to change like losing weight, we can screw up for a few days and then fix it with no real harm. But, when it comes to leadership, one misplaced behavior can have a massive negative downstream impact that is quite difficult to fix. I could list several more but the last point I will mention is that people assume that because they are smart and their problems are complex, the answer must also be complex but the truth is that answers are almost always very simple.
Greg, a safety manager, shared stories about using BMT at his site. His talk was genuine and authentic and he did a great job of showing that each person working to make things a little better adds up to a culture shift and tangible financial and safety results.
In the conference feedback, people commented that they were impressed with Greg’s knowledge BMT and behavioral principles. One thing that stood out to me was the fact there has been 180 projects completed at their site and Greg knows each of them so intimately that he can pick any of them to share in detail for a talk. As John mentioned in his introduction for Greg, change requires people to champion it and Greg’s leadership and engagement around BMT is a tremendous example of that.
John’s talk really set the tone for the day and focused us on the theme of the conference – Simplicity in Leadership. One of the highlights for me in this talk was the section on emotional attachment. When we get emotionally attached to a decision, it is much more difficult for us to do the right thing.
He also used anonymous response buttons that allow for real time responding to help people understand the difference between aspiration, opinion, and fact. For example, people think corporate values are important, they like them, but they can’t actually recite them. Sometimes people spend too much time thinking about aspiration and not enough time gathering information about what is actually happening in the workplace.
I am always extremely impressed with Aubrey’s presentation style. When he talks, he tells a series of funny stories that illustrate his points. It’s so easy to listen to him and gain valuable insights.
One of the points he made was that the more we try to stop a behavior, the more doing the opposite can become reinforcing. Also, the best use of teams is when no one knows the answer. If someone does know the answer, don’t subject them to review by people who don’t. He also said that people don’t like to be “bossed” and we should change the term we use from boss to mentor.
Bob’s take home message was simple and powerful – we should spend our time trying to influence things that we can actually influence. During the workshop day, Bob also got us thinking about using ABC Analysis as part of incident investigations. This provides a deeper understanding of the root cause and also illuminates potential fixes.
Shannon’s talk was a fantastic illustration of an organization that supports and reinforces behaviors that fulfill their mission. She talked about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and shared videos of patients, which very clearly showed that their focus on the customer drives the kinds of behaviors that make the organization successful.
This talk provided insight that any initiative, including lean, is more likely to work if behavioral science is considered. Amanda talked about creating the environment for making lean a success on her site and discussed her learnings and future plans for continuing to make it work.
(Note: this section was written by John)
Based on the feedback we’ve had rolling in, Nicole’s talk was among the most popular of the day. She discussed some cutting edge research that teaches people to see things from someone else’s perspective. Nicole used the audience polling devices to get opinions and engage people around the topic and then gave lots of great examples of things that most people don’t know about perspective taking.
Some called it an ‘eye opener’ to think of perspective taking as a skill set important to leaders. People really resonated with the notion of becoming better at understanding and influencing the behavior of others through getting better at seeing the world through their eyes. You should expect to see more from Nicole on this new concept and how it can be used most effectively.
If you attended the conference, we’d love to hear your highlights. Please feel free to post them as comments on this blog.