Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Incorporate a Mindfulness Culture

Weick and Sutcliffe (2007), in their book Managing the Unexpected,  identified that it is one's expectations that can get a team, group, or department into trouble. Expectations work well for predicting planned change and for setting future goals. However, these are only perceived states. Expectations never go as planned. The difference between one's expectation and what actually occurs is what Weick and Sutcliffe (2007) identified as the blind spot. To counter these unexpected events from occurring, the blind spot, organizations need to develop a more mindful culture, termed mindfulness (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007): "This enriched awareness, which we call mindfulness, uncovers early signs that expectations are inadequate, that unexpected events are unfolding, and that recovery needs to be implemented" (p. 23).

Being mindful includes a culture where employees are able to notice the unexpected, to update plausible interpretations continuously, and to identify potential problems and remedies (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007). Five common keys to incorporating a mindful infrastructure were outlined by Weick and Sutcliffe (2007):
  • Principle 1: Preoccupation with Failure.
  • Principle 2: Reluctance to Simplify.
  • Principle 3: Sensitivity to Operations.
  • Principle 4: Commitment to Resilience.
  • Principle 5: Deference to Expertise (pp. 9 - 15).

Incorporating your team, unit, department, or organization into a mindful infrastructure takes time. One way to begin this phase is to start with small wins. Small wins that move people from a mindless culture to a mindful culture start with the following steps outlined by Weick and Sutcliffe (2007):
  • Remember that mindfulness takes effort.
  • Offer support to people who are making an effort to become more mindful.
  • Frame mindfulness in novel ways.
  • Mitigate complacency.
  • Remember that reliability is not bankable.
  • Carry your expectations lightly.
  • Balance centralization with decentralization.
  • Let culture do the controlling (pp. 148 - 150).

Having the capability to recognize problems when they occur and the ability to react to these problems will help reduce the amount of down time due to unexpected events.  As stated by Weick and Sutcliffe (2007): "We find failures of expectations everywhere, which is why managing the unexpected is so crucial" (p. 21).

Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing the Uunexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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