Elements of a Leader
What does it mean to be a leader? That's an interesting question to answer; A lot of times it means bearing the burden of another while teaching them to become stronger. Often times it involves providing the necessary supplies, elements or examples to help them succeed. Most of the time it is putting another before you. What I'm sure we can all agree on is effective leadership is no longer "Do it my way" and often times is no longer "Do it your way" either but rather a mix of "Follow me and let's figure this out together."
Think Long Term, Think Strategic- Leadership involves asking the question "If I do this now, how will it effect tomorrow?" While often times we want to fix the immediate symptoms; Stop the crying of a child, run and fix the issue of a fellow employee or go and completely redo the system we have to stop and ask first how is fixing the symptom going to solve the root of the problem? This past week my family and I dug up a garden that had been long over do. At dinner one night my wife said to me, we dug all those strands of grass out but I still saw a few new pieces of grass popping up, it really makes the concept of getting to the root of the problem visible. Thinking long term helps us not just see the strands popping up but the roots that are digging and creating solid foundations, as leaders that vision of pulling, fixing and preparing the soil must always be on the mind.
Leaders are Teachers- To become a teacher there must be some display of mastery. Teachers know when the time to follow is and when to grab the student by the hand and say let's go is. A key concept of leadership is the manner in which the teaching is done; parables, allegories, mnemonics and a bit of the old "I'm not sure" can be very valuable skills to gain and knowing when and where to use them can be even more valuable. These teaching styles can really invoke a pattern of deep thought and remembrance when used correctly. As a leader we often times don't see the immediate effects of solving problems for another right away but think back to the amount of time in your life was spent solving a problem for another and how much they could have learned by solving it themselves; Let them learn even if it hurts for a bit.
Follow the turtle but be kind to the Hare- Leaders often times may stop and take the time to fix problems as they go, they may get up and go and see what's going on, most likely they are slow to plan and yet quick to act but for sure an effective leader is the one who separates emotion, bureaucracy, and personal motives to accomplish what is best for the team. Even though you may be tempted to exhaust or try to keep up with the speedy rabbits or other organizations taking time to coach and develop others and support daily incremental improvements will surely win the overall race then a few key blitzes only to realize that nobody in your journey is left supporting the goal.
There are many elements to becoming a great leader including knowing when to lead and when to follow, by taking time to reflect on the elements of leadership that are most important for your organization you can be that much more effective. In short, we think of Lean and Continuous Improvement as a strategy; just as we do with those important initiatives we should also think of leadership as a strategy and improve everyday.
Some time ago while training for a cycling race I was riding with a friend on a trail in the southern part of California. My energy began to fade as I was approaching hypoglycemia. I quickly pulled out my meter tested and to my surprise my blood sugar had plummeted to 38 mg/dl. For those of you who may not know, that is dangerous. We pulled to the side and went in a donut shop to get some more sugar. When my sugar got back to normal and we had turned back, my teammate made a statement that has stuck with me for a while, he said; "You may know your body, but if you don't assess things before you start you could end up never finishing."
So, why is an assessment of such great importance? Unless you are the perfect leader, follower or employee we never know absolutely everything that is going on in our plants, offices, or facilities. Like my trouble on the bike trail I could have avoided the sudden plummet in sugar by having regular check-ups and frequently monitoring the situation. Our organizations are no different; they require "check-ups" or "assessments" to diagnose how the health of the organization is doing. Along with those assessments frequent audits can be performed to monitor and maintain the improving health of your organization.
One of the most important elements to an effective assessment is just what it actually generates. In my case my doctor's assessment following that "low blood sugar ride" told me I needed to both test my sugar more often and carry sugar with me. Your company assessment will prompt a few things but the focus should be on generating actions that either "get you back on track" or deploy something completely new into your organization. If the assessment does not yield any of those things all the interviews, data and power point slides in the world could not be value-added (remeber transformation must occur).
In closing, getting started on "the lean ride" can yield many positive benefits which include; better control of assets, increased throughput, improved quality and an environment that everyone loves to work in. These benefits can appear rather enticing and motivational, however without the proper health assessment to start off, your new journey may leave you searching for sugar to keep the journey alive. In short take the time to assess and re-assess, you will find that the new knowledge gained and better understanding of the current condition will help you re-start or deploy initiatives that have a much better chance of making it across the finish line, if there is one.
Value Stream Mapping is one of the Most effective methods and Skills a Lean practitioner can have. With an effective VSM methodology the tool of mapping can be used to truly transform processes from process level all the way to extended enterprise systems and maps. Let's look at a few elements that can be applied to mapping and keep your vehicle on course;
1. Define the Objective
Like a vision the people mapping need something to align their thoughts with. Clearly defining the objective with all parties will allow people to ask the all important question "Is what I'm about to do going to move me towards or away from my objective?" Of course you want to head towards; you can define objectives through a charter, contract or an A3. The use of these project tracking tools will help to keep the objective insight.
2. Teardown the process
Now that you have clearly laid out your objectives and all parties agree on the goals at hand, it's time to Go see and understand what is exactly happening in the Current State. Remember to include process owners and SME's they will help you understand the as is. While investigating at the Gemba, it is a good idea to snap photos and take notes. The Goal here is to really understand what is actually happening not what is supposed to be happening. In this stage you will also want to begin to make what you are understanding visual. Making the process visual means getting the good old stickies out and putting them on the wall. The process owners can help you to map out the steps which will further your understanding of the current state at the gemba.
3. Apply the right Metrics
It goes without saying but if you are looking to reduce cycle time you would not want the Mapping participants to to identify cost (cheapest, most expensive). Now I'm not suggesting you use process mapping for more than just reducing process times, but use process mapping for more than just "time". After you have listed the steps in the process you will want to list the cycle times below, the best and worst is okay or if you are looking at cost reduction the most expensive and least expensive will work too, be sure you capture the appropriate metrics in the row shown below, it should be in line with your objective. The photo below may help you understand.
3. Review and Examine
Now that you have laid out each step in your process and have the appropriate data and or metrics associated with the Objective in place you can begin to review and examine the Current process. The word "Review" gives us the hint we will scrub again so make sure everyone who was involved still is involved. When we "scrub again" we look for anything that might be a bit messy or that we missed so take this opportunity to identify key bottlenecks or constraints that are choking the life out of your process. Take a microscope to your process and make visual what category each step fits into (VA,NVA,BN/BVA). Of course as you examine each of the symptoms that are brought up you will want to get to the root cause.
4. Decide what the "best route" is and "drive"
Well we haven't started our "vacation" yet, but we have clearly defined where we are going (objective) and we figured out our gas and speed (data metrics) and of course we talked about all the things we would enjoy to do (VA,NVA, BN/BVA) and nobody left out all the things that could go wrong (bottlenecks and constraints). Now it's time to decide what the best route is (solutions) and advance. In this stage you can finalize your solutions, gain consensus amongst everyone and plan out any implementations that might need more resources or approval from the mountain top. Anything other solutions that you can do quickly, get er done.
5. Last but not Least
In the process of driving towards your objective you will want to figure out "how to sustain or improve" your plan so that the end result of reaching your objective happens as it should. We all know that stuff comes up and need to pivot at times, that time comes as soon as it happens adjust as necessary and share with the entire team any changes that have revealed themselves. Lastly update any new procedures, standards and policies that may need to be updated. One last Key element to sustainment is proper training to bring everyone up to speed.
Value stream mapping like a vacation can be fun and yield transformative results if the right elements are in place and experienced practitioners are involved. Now go and reach your objectives, if you get lost along the way give us a holler, we're happy to support.
Now days you can ask any parent "How much paper do your kids go through every week?" They will likely share with you that they go through quite a bit of paper and even more ink. Yes most schools now have online portals, logins and homework that can be completed digitally and or printed out and completed manually. Let's flashback to a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and caveman were turning triangles into wheels; No offense but that time was when you and I were kids going through school. It was when chalkboards filled the rooms and children wrote on paper for homework. Call me old fashioned but there was something special about the sensory development that repetition and writing created. It helped us internalize what it was that we were trying to learn. We gained the ability to memorize formulas, hard to spell words and methods of solving problems.
Today a Similar problem solving pattern has been sweeping the Globe. It stems from a sheet of paper that is 11 x 17, that same standard size gives the A3 report and thought process it's name "A3." Much like when we were writing stories on paper the A3 report helps teams or individuals tell a story. This Story can help us solve problems and through repetition creates a specific problem solving mindset.
The A3 report is commonly used with the PDCA method of problem solving (A3 thinking and New Years) and it can be used rather effectively with PDCA. Today However in hopes to expand your mind to new ideas and possibilities I would like to suggest to you that A3 is only the size of the paper. In school we did Math, Language Arts and Social Studies all on paper and in the same way any methodology can use A3 paper to create a thought process. Remember the A3 report is meant to tell a story, but I would also add that using the A3 report can assist in Problem Solving, Justification to Leadership for projects, Planning and even in Policy deployments. Chances are you may have tried to suggest a great idea to someone else and been shot down before; well that's what we use the A3 for telling a store from fact based Problem solving methods.
Now let's look at a one example of how another methodology can be applied to the A3 report to create Opportunities for results and a new way of thinking for the Individuals using the A3.
Placing the DMAIC method in an A3 chart can help develop a thought process focused on improving quality and reducing variability. Keeping in Mind that we are now using the DMAIC method not the PDCA method we will make a few of the necessary adjustments; first we will DEFINE our background information and clearly state any information you have. I have from time to time placed my objective in this column too for storytelling purposes, but for this example we will simply Define the background.
Next We will want to layout our measurement stage of the DMAIC method, in the measure stage we will document the 1. Current Conditions (VSM, Photos, Gemba) 2. Define the Goal, objective or Target if you haven't already done so and finally add any visuals that will assist you in clarifying your Objective during story telling or an attempt for buy in.
Now we are ready to move on to the Analyze portion of the DMAIC method. In this stage we want to look deeply into the measurements we have gathered with the intention of reaching a root cause for each and every one of the issues and or bottlenecks, constraints or symptoms that have been discovered. On Our A3 report we will show the Root Cause analysis (Fishbone, 5 why's) and each of the discovered root causes. After you have done this you will want to develop your possible countermeasures (used in the improve stage).
After discovering the "Root Causes" and defining possible solutions it's now time to Show in your story what it is you're going to Do (PDCA) only in this case what you are going to Improve (DMAIC). This section will clearly list and show implementation of the Solutions or a Gantt chart listing all solutions and when they can be completed by and who is doing them.
Now we are ready for the last phase of our DMAIC method hence the last block on our A3 report. In the Control phase of the DMAIC method we will need to Evaluate the Results, Create new Standards and any necessary actions to prevent the Original issue identified from returning and most importantly share the success with others that it may be applicable too.
Now that we have completed our A3 report using the DMAIC method it becomes much clearer how any methodology can be placed on an A3 report and shared with the entire company in a single page. Even more important is that by provided the appropriate Methodology for Storytelling, sharing and improving you can help your employees memorize effective ways of improving your Organization.
It should also be noted that just as the days of old, writing, writing and a little more writing...Repetition creates a thought process and links the thought with action. By giving your employees the knowledge base of how to construct an A3 report with any methodology you give them the power to discover and innovate new ideas that will eventually turn into powerful methods of Igniting your Organization's power.
Lean-in on Sales and Marketing
あまりにも販売中リーン作品。Unless you speak or read Japanese, those first few words may be unfamiliar to you. They say quite simply, Lean works in Sales too. Well, I hope they do; although I have been to Japan I can not say I am fluent by any means. While it often times ends up being a learning curve or feeling like babel Lean principles can also become the common language in Sales and Marketing too. In fact it may be that Lean when applied to sales and marketing can yield increased results that will provide noticeable improvements to your bottom line.
1. Identify Customer Value
Remember the principles of Lean still apply, we still want to define what value is to a customer. Because sale and marketing are often in the pipeline this is a fantastic opportunity to get some of the purest data on what customer value is, right from the source. You may want to investigate some options for CRM initiatives or conjure up an anonymous voice of the customer survey, whatever your tactic is take advantage of this key principle and begin to identify exactly what value is to your customers.
2. Set the Standards
We don't often think of Sales and Marketing as strictly Internal functions, they work on both sides of the Vale constantly going out and returning to report back. By setting Clear and decisive standards for common activities like quoting, sales orders, email campaigns or contacting customers in the pipeline we can ensure that our sales and marketing team don't start their blogs in a foreign language. Remember that standards are the basis for improvement opportunities and they can be applied anywhere.
3. Eliminate "Tacit" Implement Transparent
While this tip is very similar to Standardization, we should note that many times Sales managers and employees are often left trying to figure out what "language" they should speak. Often times a sales process is not defined and salesman must turn to their experience in hopes that it will work without variation. One solution to this common issue of Tacit knowledge is to begin to gather the elements that can be standardized and do so, remember if performed correctly Standardization takes the benchmark or the best practice and puts it to work for you. This simple tactical activity will transform tacit knowledge into a common language. If you can take 20% of your Sales and Marketing teams activities and standardize them just think they will have 20% more time to hone in on Transforming or adding Value to the relationships that may be sitting in queue.
4. Huddle up!
While huddling is a great start to becoming more transparent, making Sales and Marketing activities Visual is so, so powerful. When things become Visual we can then manage and support based on the activities shown. That would mean if some activities became Visual in Sales and Marketing or S&OP activities we would then see and be able to track;
1. Relationships or Conditions that are falling to the wayside
2. Opportunities not being attended to
While many of these Key performance Indicators allow us to track activities that may "not" be happening we should also note the activities that are happening;
1. Meeting Goals
2. Big Sales
3. Cross selling performance
4 Improvement of Triple Bottom Line
Let's remember too that we track metrics to figure out how we can improve and continue to create new Economic, Environmental and Social opportunities so make things visual with the intention of improving, aligning and supporting each other.
While it may seem like a foreign language from time to time and you may not be fluent right away, every language has the ability to be learned or translated even the language of Lean in Sales and Marketing. It's like any other Journey, just get started and one day you will look back with astonishment on what once seemed so foreign that now seems so familiar.
A few weeks back my wife and I decided it was a perfect night for a redbox, while looking at our choices we decided on a movie called Martian. The movie was fantastic it documented an astronaut by the name of Mark Watney. During a mission to Mars Mr. Watney get's left behind when his team has to take off due to some other emergencies. Without giving away to much of the story towards the end Mark says to a group of students " You do the Math, you solve one problem, then you solve the next and if you solve the next problem you get to come home." As I pondered this profound concept for a bit I came to the conclusion that Mark Watney was not only a very intelligent astronaut but also a practitioner of Lean.
Okay don't quote me on that, but you certainly can quote that theoretically in Lean journey that is all we do we solve one problem, then we solve another and pursue perfection by continuously closing gaps within our Organizations. This is a key concept to your strategy, but you can also quote me when I say that at times solving problems may seem a bit overwhelming. For that reason it is much more effective to develop a team of astronauts who don't just solve problems in one world (department) but can solve problems all over the universe (Organizations).
So How do we create that army of problem solvers? Let's take a look at 5 Key concepts that will be very helpful throughout your journey in creating a problem solving universe;
1. Empower your crew to Identify and Solve problems
You've been working hard all morning on a report for another project but 5 people have stopped in and asked for your approval to solve an issue, upon review there suggestion was adequate and you let them all solve the problem they discovered. upon further thought you realize all 5 of those people did not just postpone your work but they had to leave there work and slow down the work of others. Giving people the proper authority to not just identify issues but to solve the appropriate ones too can be very powerful to an Organization. Put a process in place to document, contain and solve problems so that everyone has a clear understanding of where there authority lies in terms of solving problems. After all if Mark Watney had to wait for problems to be solved on Mars what would have happened to him?
2. Are they really problems?
To Often we come across a symptom and start the process of standard question 1."Who" 2. "Who" 3. "Who" Not only does this leave people feeling attacked but it creates a culture of hide and seek. A problem or issue may show up and rather then working together to close the gap it get's hidden. Often times that the issue has gone on for quite some time and upon discovery it has now become what we call an "Opportunity," which is really what all problems are, they are opportunities to Improve quality, make a process more efficient, repurpose resources or build a culture of trust and problem solving. This requires us to ask are these really problems or could it be this is an opportunity?
3. Look at the System/Process not the people!
Early one morning while at a weld shop I was observing a worker turning down some build up on a part. As I watched I noticed the worker suddenly become rather frustrated. Of course wondering why I asked him "what happened?" his response was that the part was now out of tolerance and he could not fix it. Naturally I followed up by asking "Oh how did that happened?" his response again was something I had heard before, "I was just doing what my supervisor showed me." Noticing that he was becoming defensive I placed my hand on his shoulder and assured him we were looking for the process failure not the person failure. I then followed up by asking " Is there a standard operating procedure you normally use?" he responded "no." This answer brought me a little closer to one possible solution. What I was utilizing was a process quite common to many Toyota engineers it is a standard set of questions that are focused on revealing the process failure. Had the worker said "yes" we could have reviewed the SOP and discovered the point that it failed, but given the process of utilizing only Tacit knowledge our first step was to put a process in place. This process based problem solving method makes finding, discovering, preventing and error proofing much easier and believe it or not you will find that focusing on the process will naturally help you shift towards a culture of find, fix, find fix.
4. Teach them the basics
Most of us are quite familiar with different problem solving tools. But although we may be familiar with the tools we don't always know how to utilize these powerful problem solving tools and methods and we may not even have access to them. Having quarterly training on using problem solving tools and methods gives people an opportunity to master, learn and gain experience so that they can be more effective in your problem solving journey. A great place to start is by teaching everyone how to utilize The Seven Basic Tools of Quality.
5. Give them the Opportunity
Last but not least, nobody and I mean nobody will become an effective problem solver if the are to busy just trying to keep up. It's like asking someone to hammer nails and not giving them a hammer; So be conscious that it takes time, support and opportunities to develop as leaders, managers and owners it is your job to give them that and help them to succeed.
One of the most profound qualities I loved about Astronaut Mark Watney in the movie Martian was his ability to laugh, stay calm and solve problems. Which brings me to my last point, ensure that the journey is enjoyed nobody will want to solve problems in a miserable forceful culture and stay there, so as you develop and utilize these 5 tips in your Organization be sure to reward and recognize your army of problem solvers, they are the ones who will ensure your arrive at home safe.
Houses are built most often on a Solid Foundation. Houses that are not built on Solid foundations or the dirt has not been prepared over time, stress or resistance begin to tear, split, cave and eventually the house it supports will crumble and fall. So how do we ensure that a solid foundation for Lean is in place and ready to support the resistance it will face time and time again?
Lean for the most part is a people centric strategy that is largely dependant on the development and willingness to support a Lean culture of the people who work in an Organization. That's right much of a Company's Lean Strategy, start-up and initiative will require your most important resources buy in and Support, but there are other elements of a Lean initiative that will help build a foundation for Lean in your Organization.
Buy In From The Top
Whether it's Executive support or the owner who "swears" to understand, provide and assist in driving Lean, Gaining support from the top will be a valuable asset to have. One reason is that a Lean initiative requires many elements of a company; everyone from Supply Chain, to Production even the Administrative and Sales staff that operate primarily out of an office need to understand that at some point or another they will be part of the journey of Lean, when the Executive and Ownership have a deep conviction of the strategy it sets the tone for the rest of the Organization's success and Support.
Communicate your Commitment
Now that you have received Buy in from the top, it's time to align the Organization with your new Strategy. One of the key ways of creating alignment in an Organization is opening up the lines of Communication. Communication show not only the importance to the Strategy but that the Company is behind the Lean initiatives. Top Management and Executives should in some way explain to the organization what Lean focuses on and why the Organization chose to deploy the strategy. You can do this via; Townhalls, Celebrations, Email, newsletters, video messages just make sure that whatever line of communication you open up it shows those receiving it how supportive you are of Lean.
Find Your Champions and Leaders
If you haven't seen Derek Sivers Ted talk on Leadership Lessons it is certainly worth watching. Although it is not often easy to make the decision who champions and future leaders will be if the first few steps are performed correctly you may find that people will scout you out. That is what you want, not necessarily the Master's degree or the 20 year veteran although it may be them. You will want excited, passionate and ready to develop leaders to become your future leaders, in short it's the leaders who want to develop other leaders that may become your leaders and champions.
Develop and Reward the team
Now that the foundation has been leveled and the concrete poured, it's time to let the material cure and become solid. A key portion to this stage is the time, however Tactics like "Train the Trainer" courses and the necessary authority to support your new strategy will speak value to the new team. One last important thing that may help to keep energy in the newly forming "Core Team" is to put in place a reward and recognition program. A few positive things will develop from this; It will show appreciation, It will give people an opportunity to recommend others for appreciation and finally a clear criteria regarding what constitutes "rewards and recognition" will help in driving proper behaviors that are in alignment with the overall Company Strategy.
Often times after building a house the Contractor must hire an "inspector" to verify and advise that what has been done meets both the Criteria set by the future homeowner and safety measures. These inspectors can be interpreted as your Change agents and or Consultants and are key to helping the house develop as time goes on. With these few Elements in place you will have laid a very solid foundation for your new and improved home to be built on.
Click Here to Submit Your Post on Listen to the Gemba.