Have you ever tried to knock the skin off a rice pudding? Here’s a piece of advice: don’t. It’s a bad idea. So bad, in fact, that it has seeped into our language. When we say someone couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding, we mean they’re ineffectual or weak.
What is the best way to handle this dish — and what’s the takeaway for managers who aim to work with autonomous, well-informed teams?
Don’t punch! Just stir
Suppose you’ve got this delicious rice pudding in the freezer. Will you try to knock its skin off the minute you take it out? Probably not. It won’t get you very far. You’ll likely leave it on the sink for a while, so it will thaw. There’s no need to punch it. Warmer temperatures will do their job.
Now, let’s have a look at the work floor. If a manager walks in and yells that their hard-working employees are doing a terrible job, it feels like a punch in the back. They won’t be able to improve, and they will likely be discouraged. It’s like trying to mold frozen rice pudding with your fist.
There’s a more constructive way to go about it. The manager can share organizational goals, provide their team with actionable, real-time knowledge and insights, and explain the context in which employees can use this information. The result: a solid foundation for autonomous decision-making. The rice pudding has thawed, so the manager can keep their hands in their pockets and watch employees thrive.
If you adopt this approach, you may need to adjust from time to time. But that’s a delicate task — stir slightly with a spoon, and your empowered, self-steering team will do the rest!
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