By Ron Mazzachi
Over 15 members attended the presentation despite a cold and very wet evening. Many stayed on well past 8pm clearly having a good time networking!
Martin gave a lively account of the recent book of this title, authored by Pasquale, Sternin & Sternin. The key points were:
- ‘Positive deviants’ are those in a community who have discovered a solution to a problem that has stumped everyone else. The positive deviance process is about identifying these, figuring out what they are doing differently, then packaging and promulgating that throughout the community.
- The small details matter! The ‘doing differently’ can be really subtle, yet make all the difference.
- Improving by learning from what is working is a refreshing alternative to improving by addressing failures and mistakes (i.e. via non-conformances).
This approach works well for ‘adaptive’, complex problems that are embedded in social complexity, require behaviour change, and rife with unintended consequences.
Such problems do occur in the corporate world – but the top-down management and decision making approach makes it hard for the insights from positive deviance to spread.
We need to implement our management systems to allow for the micro-innovations at the local level, and actively ‘harvest’ those via genuine learning organisation culture.
The book has some great quotes, like:
“A thousand hearings aren’t worth one seeing, and a thousand seeings aren’t worth one doing” (Vietnamese proverb)
For me the take home messages were:
While compliance auditing is of course important, companies who fail to learn what is also working well and why it is working well and don’t recognise where value is being added by their staff are doomed to mediocrity at best.
There are direct lessons here for organisations wishing to excel to business excellence.