On May 19, 2016, Lean Strategies International LLC and Apics Los Angeles teamed up for a very successful professional development meeting. The course was titled "Empowering Our Most Important Resources Through Lean Thinking". We focused on five major topics that I will share with you in this week's Listen to the Gemba.
First and foremost, we defined empowerment as the extent to which somebody provides encouragement, tools and authority enabling them to use their power, talent and abilities effectively. We also learned that empowerment is not letting people do whatever they want to do. Those who are empowered enter into an agreement that we will still respect processes, policies and the rights of others. They also should agree to uphold organizational values in the process of empowerment.
Aligning Our Visions to Empower Employees
The first topic the group discussed was how clear visions can assist in guiding behaviors and actions. We first discussed how much of setting strategy is like a favorite vacation. You must know where your destination is before you get going. That destination is your vision. It is where you want to move closer to with every action, decision and behavior. Clear visions not only help us to make educated decisions, but they bring teams in alignment when deployed properly, creating a community and empowering employees to guide decisions. When employees know where they are headed or what the destination of their "vacation" is, they are empowered to make decisions that are in line with organizational values and company strategy. Lean Strategies International also shared our strategy deployment methodology that has been in the making for about a year now. The methodology is designed to simplify the development and deployment an effective strategy. We call it VISION methodology: Vision, Inline, Servant Leadership, Integrate, Offense and Normal. If you have any questions on our Methodology for Strategy deployment feel free to message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Checking in on People
Genchi Genbutsu is the term that we all know as "Go and See", but at this PDM we talked about how that term can support empowering others. The very nature of the gemba is quite powerful. Whether you are a manager or an employee, going and seeing problems can take you away from opinions and fill your mind with facts. The more time you spend in fact based environments, the more we influence others to do the same. We talked about important questions that should be asked at the gemba:
1. What's been going well in your area?
2. Is there anything that is not going so well in your area?
3. What can we do to improve
4. What can I do to serve you?
Lastly, we looked over the Gemba methodology that Lean Strategies International uses during gemba walks.
Making Life Easier For One Another
One of the major elements that leave employees feeling drained and worn out is when work, life or social environments are filled with excessive amounts of waste, imbalance and burdens. These origins of waste often times affect efficiency, effectiveness and quality in organizations. They also leave employees feeling as though it's "all on them". Along with this overwhelming feeling, we tend to focus on the "firefighting" and/or pushing on the "value-added" vs eliminating waste. When employees are empowered and trained to identify and eliminate waste, it can really build their ability to solve problems as they discover the root causes that stop the inferno from creeping up while you're pouring water on the little fire. At this point in the meeting, we shared with attendants our ©Treat 1,2,3 problem-solving method. The method is simple enough for any level of employee to use and have the power to eliminate "illnesses" within processes. For more information on our problem-solving method please feel free to email us at: email@example.com
Developing People Through the Shu-Ha-Ri Method
There are three main focuses of any strategy: people, technology and processes. If you have ever taken the Apics CSCP they dig into these three elements in their course on implementation and operations. I think we can all agree that developing people may be the most important of the three. Shu-ha-ri focuses on where people are at in their journey and how sensei and coaches can help them reach the next level.
In the Shu stage, we are "protected". When I say protected, I mean that the coach/sensei is there every step of the way. The student does exactly what the master does, he or she follows their lead and develops foundational skill sets. In this stage the student is still learning to fish.
The next stage is Ha. In the Ha stage of development, the student has now reached "understanding". They often times are able to perform the new task or skill but may still ask questions from time to time. They may still use standard operating procedures or follow work instructions as they move towards mastery of the skill or task. As a student, they now display a certain level of empowerment but might not be confident enough to step completely away and perform on their own. When you are the coach, boss, sensei or person responsible for the development of the student, it is very important to let them continue to try, even if they may fall. you can now distance yourself and focus on finding opportunities for the student to continue developing their new skills and support their self confidence.
The final stage of development is called the Ri stage. Now the student isn't learning from other people but they are learning from their own work and experience. They are now capable of innovation and design on their own.
The core idea of shu-ha-ri is that the individual's development and the criteria for their development is very specific for them. Much like a "vision" you have a clear consensus of who that person ultimately strives to be. Shu-ha-ri allows the learner to know where they are at helping them to gain self confidence and become a more empowered individual.
Rewards and Recognition
The last topic that was covered was rewards and recognition for employees. It goes without saying, but "good job" can really lift someone's spirits and help them feel empowered.
There are so many aspects to the successful development and empowerment of an individual. Through defining clear visions, going to the gemba, simplifying through the elimination of Muda, Muri, and Mura; having a clearly laid out development process for everyone, and finally, defining a rewards and recognition program, employees can feel empowered and the organization's success will certainly take off.
Blisters were forming, Arms were tired and the hot sun of the late afternoon began to set in on all of us. As the day went on my family and I were beginning to feel as though we would never have our garden prepared enough to begin planting the seeds we had purchased two weeks before.
Although the work was hard we knew that eventually we would have some beautiful flowers in our newly renovated backyard. The process looked something like this; 1. Remove the rocks and trash from the mud, 2. Remove the weeds in the soil 3. Cultivate and prepare the soil 4. Water and prepare soil again 5. Plant seeds 6. Water 7. Maintain 8. Enjoy.
Let's pretend for a moment that the Garden is your organization; Full of potential and endless opportunities. The weeds would be the issues you will certainly face and the flower seeds are new opportunities. In any organization to some degree the ground is prepared already to one degree or another but over time wind/culture and ideas blow in various types of seeds. Those seeds could be good and yield flowers or they may yield weeds. A lean journey is much like this parable there's the initial stages of the journey assessing what needs to be done the preparing of the soil (Culture/behaviors) and the removal of root causes or in our case weeds and the planting of improvements that will with time and care grow.
Preparing the Soil
The first stage of any Lean Journey is to begin to prepare the soil; We have all at sometime or another had "the man" come and say "do it this way" or maybe you are the man and a few months later you're wondering why the "seed" never stuck. Some seeds can be embedded in rather hard ground and it takes a while for the idea to really breakthrough the current culture or embedded behaviors, for this reason the preparing of the soil is so crucial to the start of your organization's lean journey. Some ideas that will support a Lean startup are;
1. Take a survey of who has experience in Lean and who does not.
2. Find out what "people" think about Lean and or Six Sigma as a strategy.
3. Look for volunteers
4. Brainstorm how you can support the exceptions (rocks, hard soil)
5. Be an example
Water and prepare again
80% of the time "Lean" and "Six Sigma" will appear to have failed. In reality though the Strategy has not failed but rather shown you the exceptions to move the bar up even more. Like a garden you will prepare the garden and after letting the soil sit for some time some little weeds may begin to pop up again. This is the perfect time to say "Forget it, I bought these flowers and tools and worked very hard and now I'm done!" Can you see how silly that sounds? In reality it's the perfect point and time to review your strategies plan, Hoshin Planning or Implementation plan. You can now re strategize and deal with the exceptions or the rocks in the water that have now become visible. Remember much of strategy and Lean is incremental and calculated making small improvements every day and resetting the bar.
Attack the roots
Addressing or deploying just the visible portions of Lean will not make the strategy stick. Although 5S, Kanban and Value Stream mapping are crucial tools of a Lean Strategy the overall goal is to find and eliminate waste, remove burdens and relentlessly pursue perfection. Unles you're growing a garden of weeds take the time to dig down into the soil (foundation for lean) and expose the roots. Once you have done this you will have a much better chance at removing it from your soil and not having it grow back again. This will leave the ground fresh and ready to receive and spread the seeds you plant.
Plant and care for what you want to grow
Now that the soil is prepared and you have the seeds you want to plant begin to place them in strategic locations so that tactically they can start to lay solid roots for the future. like an organization if you place your investment in an area full of rocks and weeds it may get choked out and fall to the wayside. But if your new green belt is placed in an area that is well prepared it will better be able to secure its roots. Don't forget that many plants lay seeds of there own and that allows for more growth without much work on your part. Last but not least is the constant feeding of your precious new seeds and ideas, of course flowers and plants need water, mulch and maintenance and employees or champions need training, challenges and rewards and recognition in order to continue to grow.
A lot of the power of PDCA is in the repetition of the method being performed. Like a garden you will need to continue to remove harmful things that the wind may have blown in and nurture the solid foundations you have invested in. Some great ways to maintain new initiatives or implementation levels are; Clearly defining metrics to track to, frequent audits, suggestion forms and repetition.
Last but not least enjoy the scenery and take in the amazing results
Now that you have good soil, planted seeds and you have been diligently working at growing and maintaining your hard work; take some time to enjoy the scenery. This comes through rewards and recognitions for everyone. If you are an executive come out for that bbq, receive a gas card for your hard work or let somebody shake your hand and say thank you. What ever position you are in be sure that you enjoy the faster throughput, improved quality and extra cash in the budget, In short stop for a second and smell the roses.
A Lean journey is not as hard as it is sometimes made out to be. As long as you have taken the necessary steps to prepare, plant and maintain your garden you can bet that the results will be the most beautiful memories and returns you will ever get.
The How of a Vision is somewhat unique by company in general it requires defining a detailed description of an organization and what carries out its operations. This can range from deep analytical thinking, qualitative stand ups or even a dive into the original reason the business started. Remember that your purpose and your vision are different, the vision will utilize your purpose and make it clear for all parties but in simple layman's terms it is the dream state of your organization.