The moment you walk into a problem space with a box of tools and techniques, the problem presents you with something your toolbox can’t fix. Tools and techniques alone aren’t enough to deal with the real world.
— Hillel Glazer
The Remarkable Insight, Power, and Value of Having Many Perspectives
I’m excited to share with you an interview with my good friend and colleague, Hillel Glazer. I’ve known Hillel for 10 years and during that time we worked together on many engagements and flew on many flights together because we’re both pilots. He’s one of the best consultants I have ever known or worked with and in the “left seat” of a plane, he’s one of the best.
What many people don’t know about Hillel is that he has this uncanny ability to rapidly understand what’s going on in a company, and what needs to be done to improve performance. It would amaze me because sometimes he came up with his findings in a matter of days or hours and sometimes within minutes! He intuitively and seemingly almost effortlessly sees things no one else can see.
Recently, I had the opportunity to get together with Hillel for a conversation. Since it had been a few years since we last talked, I had gained some perspective on what it was like working with him. The first question I eagerly asked him was, “Hillel, how do you do what you do and how did it start?”
I think you’ll find his responses very fascinating and instructive. Here is what he had to say:
“Early in my career, I was thrown into lots of situations where there was let’s just say not a lot of consistency or clarity on or between what was asked of the people to do and what they were being given to do.”
“I was working in a government capacity in acquisition and very young just out of college, and I was sent to go check on suppliers of what we were purchasing. It didn’t take long to realize that the contracts were written in a way that was extremely constraining. There were not a lot of positive incentives to either party. To be honest, the contracts were a lose-lose.”
“The government wasn’t going to get the best value. The supplier wasn’t going to get the best profit margin or really have a reason to do well. Then that all trickled down to the people doing the work. They were always the ones that ended up taking the brunt of these bad management decisions for lack of a better term. But really it does boil down to it’s not their fault that they have to work like this. They have to make up for the shortcomings in how their leadership, the position that they put their leadership put them in, and how the leadership decided that they were going to win this work. It didn’t matter that it was a lose-lose.”
“Ironically, at the same time, my first boss handed me a stack of books on Total Quality Management (TQM). So it was a bit of cognitive dissonance for me to be told by my supervising manager to get smart on TQM and Lean and try to bring that to the table when we work on projects with suppliers.”
“Then I’m seeing how the suppliers are set up to fail. The government wasn’t getting the best thing it could possibly get. And so right out of college, I’m being shown these are the best ways to work. And then I’m being sent off into situations where it’s the polar opposite of what’s the best way to work. And I think that grew a sensitivity in me to recognize that cognitive dissonance. What it looks like on people in their body language, in their faces, and in their response to questions in how they’re open to learning. How they think or don’t think in terms of systems thinking. Are they afraid to speak up? Are they afraid to make mistakes and learn from them? Are they given everything they need to get the job done? You can tell after a while when they’re not and you can tell when they’re trying too hard to prove a point that they are having trouble proving and we realize that the reason they’re working so hard is that they have to make up a story about it because it’s not really happening.”
“That was a bit of an eye-opening experience straight out of going from academia into the working world. I may have had some innate capabilities there to really be sensitive to people and situations, but I definitely credit that early indoctrination into, on one hand, here’s what we think is the best way to do it and we know this is the best way to work. And on the other hand, we’re making it impossible to achieve that. And honestly, I don’t think that’s improved in the 30 years since I went to the workplace.”
Hillel had a lot more insight and wisdom to share as we continued the conversation when I interviewed him for Forward Thinking Workplaces.
Get the highlights and most intriguing insights from my interview with Hillel at Why Do We Go to Great Lengths to Do Things Right Yet Make It Impossible to Achieve?
In January, we’ll publish the podcast and full interview transcript. And in an upcoming Forward Thinking Workplaces workshop, I’ll invite Hillel to join us for what I know will be a riveting and exciting session.
Until then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Hillel at firstname.lastname@example.org or me with any questions. We’d love to hear your takeaways from the interview.
To your forward-thinking life & great success!