#43 I-driven visual leadership with Gwendolyn Galsworth.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Welcome to Episode 43 of the enterprise excellence podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Dr Gwendolyn Galsworth back on the show with us today. Gwendolyn is a leading researcher, author and coach on workplace visuality. Gwendolyn shared her backstory and knowledge on achieving excellence with frontline teams deploying visual workplaces in Episode 18. Today, we are going to explore her work on visual leadership.


A great leader, and why are they fabulous?

During very tumultuous times, Joe Case, the head of Frydenberg, was a big man, big and burly, and had a big voice. People listened when he spoke, but he was also a gentle giant. Joe had moments when he could be personal, present, polite, but also he could be the volcano pouring out on you, and you listened very carefully. He was agile from that point of view; he could do both. NLK supplied small machine parts in one of its divisions, and Gwendolyn worked in Cleveland, Georgia. They had a really smart visual production floor that was there before she arrived. She was amazed at the cleverness of it in the way they got their production to work. But Joe required that of all of his plants. And the feeling is that if he said, go over that cliff, he would go first, and you would follow him without hesitation because it would be an important next step. Improvement was hardwired into him. He would always keep going, keep going, keep thinking, keep investigating and experimenting.

Do you know when you're around someone who burns the brightest when challenged and gives that to others?

Another person who comes to Gwendolyn's mind is Elon Musk, who she believes is extraordinary in his vision. Think of Falcon Heavy and what he did by requiring those parts to be recyclable. It is such a requirement that it would break your brain to imagine it! But that was the only way he could make it cost-effective to start creating traffic to the moon and use it as an aeroplane, not as a disposable. Do you know that when the plane drops you off in San Francisco, New York or Paris, it comes back? That's the business model. But for Elon Musk to bring that fiery business requirement to his engineers, well, people just came alive. And, of course, he had enormous resources to put behind his vision. But those kinds of leaders are not the kinds of leaders that we are promoting nowadays. We're not putting that competency or that vision first.

Before we go on, a few points about executives, managers, and supervisors, though they both have a decided leadership role. If the executive has vision and has harnessed their vision to their will, you've got the beginning of greatness. And then executive turns to their managers and supervisors and gives them a slightly different assignment in the following role, but never not a leader.

What led Gwendolyn to discover I-driven?

First of all, Gwendolyn is interested in visual reality as a language and its ability to liberate people. She has seen that you liberate the human will when you liberate information. The idea that people would come to work and bring their will, feel that it was theirs to use, and then enrol in the corporate intent was a great temptation for Gwendolyn, and she wanted to find out how to do it and do it repeatedly.

Gwendolyn was quite amazed at the result of bringing visuality to operators and knew that it was going to be exciting and valuable but didn't know it was going to be transformative. Gwendolyn has been doing 5S since 1984 and been failing for a very long time. After listening to angry, sweaty, American men and women who didn't want to do 5S and listening to their pain and their will, she developed the I-driven approach. And it transformed everything because she had the entire resource of the person. Gwendolyn then saw that the supervisors and managers struggled if they did not have the support of the senior leader.

An example of I-driven leadership

Ron Page, who came from the aluminium casting industry, was one of Gwendolyn's first experiments. She asked him, "What would it be like if you became a visual leader?" She presented the operation systems improvement template to him, which is the house, and asked if he would like to learn. He was keen, wanting to improve as a leader, and together they walked through the template of the house, beginning with the customer, the vision, and the mission, values and beliefs.

Gwendolyn met with him a month later. Ron was so excited about it that he had his model shop create a three-dimensional house. The house was made out of plexiglass, and inside it was a man climbing a mountain. It was a piece of art. And he said, "This is it, this is the way." When Gwendolyn saw that he could organise his will around the structure, she thought, there it is again. Visuality is about structuring information into the physical living landscape of work.

Gwendolyn had been given a gift and wanted to give it back to others.

How do you complete the sentence I want?

Gwendolyn gives this question to everyone now. How do you complete the sentence I want? Gwendolyn feels that we are so schooled and politically correct that we are polite first before we know what we want, and it just turns us into vanilla. You can't lead vanilla.

Gwendolyn's two-dimensional templates help define your vision.

Gwendolyn shows her house template again here and believes that you must deconstruct it and fill it in, in your own words. You have to hear your own words and know whether or not your vision matches the corporate vision. And if it doesn't, how are you going to sell your vision to corporate? How are you going to say, "This is the piece that I want to pursue." The executive should sit by him or herself, alone, from 11 pm to 1 am, when it's really quiet in the house and neighbourhood. And splat themself on that house template page; this is the first step of visual executive leadership.

The second step is the x type matrix. You have to make it editable, cross parts out and add other words in. It's a dynamic instrument. So these two-dimensional structures are critical. And there is a sequence. And it's saying, "This is what I stand for." If a leader hasn't taken that time to be I-driven and create this voice, they're having to micromanage and drag people around, or everyone stops doing their own thing, and the whole organisation is chaos.

I-driven leaders