One of the most important aspects of a successful lean journey is leadership. Lean brings powerful changes to each and every organization the strategy is implemented into. Any Lean practitioner who has seen a few projects or benchmarked various organizations has most likely witnessed a unique culture that somehow just happens naturally in lean companies. For this reason leadership often times takes on a more servant style of leading, afterall they exist to help the people they serve succeed.
Here are a few important concepts that will help leaders keep moving forward.
1. Pareto Leaders- As a leader you may start off in an improvement project, in fact you probably should. Experiencing kaizen and improvement events first hand will help you understand what happens in the events and experience first hand the spirit of kaizen. In many organizations as much as 80% of Kaizen is driven by those who are closest to the work. Finding out where those 80% of improvements are coming from can give you insight regarding the areas your mentorship is needed in. As a leader application of the pareto principle can also help you identify:
2. Genchi Genbutsu- Many years ago "the Gallow" would drop and everyone in the company knew that leadership had made a directive. We have all seen it and felt it, but in today's day and age the "dictator" approach doesn't yield such great results. Today Leaders are responsible for developing, training, discovering and mentoring future leaders. This most often times involves "Leader Standard work" and frequent Gemba walks where you can "Go and See" (Genchi Genbutsu).
- Often times employees are considered resources amongst machines and equipment. This sort of mindset will certainly place your lean journey at a stand still if your employees are just "resources." As a leaders one of the most important things you can do for your organization is empower others. Those people should feel empowered and prepared for success and if they stumble they should know exactly who to look to for mentoring and guidance.
- Training, Training, Training. Did we mention training? One of the most important aspects of developing the organization is developing the people who work their. Like any "Sports Team" every individual must be prepared to carry and support their weight. For this reason helping individuals develop their skills will certainly press your strategies forward. Establishing a standard onboarding process which includes basic training like learning foundational concepts of a lean strategy can help ensure all employees start of on similar ground. Even if employees are at advanced levels, we can all agree, review still helps.
- Building a solid foundation for any strategy is quite the task and as a leader it should be a top priority. One common mistake is passing the orders down from the top and interpreting value as the amount of direct labor your projects absorb. This is known as the underutilization of skills or more commonly the eighth form of waste. You need to build a solid support system amongst team members. Part of this process is creating a culture where people are confident that they are part of decisions being made. It will not happen overnight. Some things you can do to support your teams and people are:
3. Lead by example - Above all else lead by example. For many employees leadership is someone they look up to. Whether you carry the title of owner, C-level director or front line we all have different levels of "leadership" we are responsible. Setting a good example for those that follow is a sure fire way to influence others in a positive way.
There will be many different things that you can do for your organizations as the year progresses, but if there is one key element to driving effective change, it's the way we Lead, Support and develop one another. Effective Change agents whether in manufacturing or service commonly spring from a culture and leadership that supports the people not just the projects.
**What concepts, ideals, examples or behaviors do you appreciate most in a leader?
Submitted By: IEDP Developing Leaders
About the Author - IEDP has been reporting on the global executive development sector for the past fifteen years. By promoting the latest research, thought-leadership, and executive programs being delivered by the world’s premier business schools and other providers, we seek to improve the performance and expand the learning horizons for our international corporate audience; while furthering the reach and impact of the sector as a whole. IEDP offers independent and objective support for executives and organizations, including: Articles: regular high-quality editorial articles which report on an and analyse the latest developments from around the executive development sector globally. Resources: white papers, reports, e-books, podcasts, webinars, videos and other free-to-access resources available from the world’s top business schools.
The mistake many make, perhaps believing in the superhuman qualities of their leaders, is to leave strategy formulation in the C-suite, in corporate strategy departments, or with high-end consulting firms. The far better approach is to harness the creativity and sense of purpose of employees and develop strategic thinking across the organization.
Ask anybody who has been through a "lean transformation" or strategic implementation of some type and they certainly will share with you that one of the greatest challenges associated with real change comes in the form of behavioral change. We as humans have a tendency to revert back to our natural "ways" as we go through or experience change of any type. Change itself can be a scary term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term in two different forms:
of implementation and change it will drive mid-level managers, frontline supervisors and ground level employees to accept and be a part of the change too.
3. Set clearly laid out targets that can be measured. knowing where you are headed is one thing and establishing tollgates or checkpoints that are measurable is another. Change is best done little by little and all parties should understand how successful implementation is defined. At each successful stage of implementation communication can be shared with the organization and rewards and recognition given for outstanding effort. Rewards and recognition can help reinforce positive change and acknowledgement of success.
4. Train and prepare everyone. All employees should be a part of at least a basic educational training in Lean and Six Sigma.
5. Lean and Six Sigma implementation is not a blitz. Both strategies take time to develop as the behaviors and culture of the organization align. You will need to ensure that implementation has enough time for the new tools, methodologies, principles, behavior and culture to firmly take root. This can range from a year to five years. You will be much better off with a sustainable strategy in place than a few clean areas. Sufficient time can be helpful for employees who do not yet understand that lean is a long-term strategy and their support is needed for the "long-haul."
While these five tips will help in managing the changes that naturally come with Lean and Six Sigma initiatives it is also important to be aware and prepare for resistance. Like a book pages sometimes need to be turned and paragraphs edited, it is best to have a plan in place prior to implementation that will help you manage forms of resistance. Taking these steps will help you ensure that when it comes time to publish your story, it's a success.
When I was a young boy I walked in once on my father drawing on a notepad. Focused on what he was drawing and his then knife whittled pencil I asked my father "what are you doing dad?" His response at the time seemed ingenious to me. He shared "I'm finishing this design for a project." Just as curious as ever I asked, "can I see?" Of course my father said, "sure!" Upon further review he had designed a system full of clamps, materials and the necessary tooling associated to produce a product of high quality at twice the speed. Later I recall going to my father's shop as he pieced together the kit for testing. I learned that my father's design was such that a worker could simply grab the organized kit, clamps and everything, load the tooling and they were off and running. Essentially he had improved the setup and changeover. His brilliant design eliminated waste and inefficiencies and provided a repeatable system that still operates today. Those young years would leave a profound impact on me.
Similar to the story of my father and I, recently I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) award ceremony. Children from all over were given recognition for their outstanding project efforts. Many of those projects will go on to creating life changing experiences for these young accomplished children. From kindergarten to seventh grade I watched as the future leaders, designers and developers of our world received praise. Astounded at the seemingly spiritual experience I was having I could not help but think what a bright future this world has in store.
Despite the frequent political posts and state of economies around the world we in whatever capacity we stand have a fantastic opportunity right before us today. Whether that opportunity is with a curious child or an award winning stem research candidate. Everyday we have the opportunity to influence others to in some way influence the world. Given that thought who have we influenced today? What did we influence? How did we do it? A lot of questions to answer, but here is a thought. With organizations like Apics, STEM, SME and AME and a wealth of other influential networking opportunities we can share a little of what we know today in support of a better brighter tomorrow. Take Lean manufacturing for example. What once started as one strategy in a focused industry has now spread across multiple industries in the world because someone somewhere decided to share what they knew with someone else.
Let's imagine for just a second that Yokoten was applied on the world creating communication, learning and continuous improvement in margins that might not even be measurable because they are so large. That may be a brief glimpse into a beautiful future. We have this opportunity right before us to take what we know and empower another. Call it yokoten, sharing or just being good natured human. Whatever you call it those opportunities result in actions which inevitably result in a better brighter future for all of tomorrow. Sound to big to accomplish. It's not it starts with one person at a time, each individual. The underlying message here is that by developing others we can develop and shape a world of individuals who receive awards and in hindsight if those same people go to work with that same sharing principle, well then we have just set a new and improved standard. Starting first with Kaizen and resulting in Kaikaku.
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.
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.
A Few Weeks back you might have watched a video we titled Single Piece Flow Mastered by Children, In the video a 6 and 8 year old reduce a process time by well over 60% and they have quite a bit of fun while performing the "Kaizen" too. Drive by any school or sit and watch a child play at the park and those children will teach you a little bit about life and how we should live it. But they too learned how to live life from somewhere. Maybe a parent, Maybe a teacher, a good morale leader or just somebody they admire. One way or another they were taught by someone at some point; As we grow older in "experience" and more seasoned with life we transition from School to work and now we must earn a living and we must try to survive in this world. If we take a look back on our life and for just one second and think about our own personal childhood or the children we do our best to teach we can see that those same children are our fellow employers, our bosses, or the people who work for us; It's true "These people are like my Kids."
With that thought in mind, let's ask a question, "what have I taught the people I work with today?" Sometimes in our transition to work we miss a great opportunity to develop the people around us. Like children every experience in life is an opportunity to teach them some principle of life and much the same in our work every experience is a "Call to lead and guide" somebody to learn, improve or perform their Job duty. We're not suggesting that Employees are like children although it may feel this way at times, but we are hinting that there may be some power in seeing our fellow workers in the Same Light as our children.
Communicate often with them
Can you remember every holiday morning when you or your children would wake up excited and ready for the adventures of the day? Probably the first thing you did was go and give your caretaker a hug and all though it might have been early in the morning you just wanted to share your excitement. As leaders and developers of others we should make it one of our days goals to promote that same excitement in those we work with. whether it is a morning huddle or an employee just coming up to say "hello" these are opportunities to give them energy for the day and get to know them. Best of all it can be done in under 5 minutes, but the results will last just as long if not longer than the memories of a holiday morning.
Reflect, then say goodnight
Families all across the world meet at dinner tables, bedside or on couches to catch up and answer the question "How was your day?" One purpose for this universal question is to show that you genuinely care about how somebody's day was. Do we do the same for those that we work with? A simple walk to the Gemba at the end of the day can create a powerful opportunity to Reflect on the day and politely say goodnight. It will also create an opportunity to reveal how there life is going and how you can support them in their tasks at work. Hansei the Japanese practice of Reflection can be very powerful when performed as a team and in a one to one conversation.
Give them Opportunities to Learn and see them as you would see your Children
See them as you would see your Children? That's crazy, right? Maybe, but do you remember the moment you held a little baby in your arms and thought to yourself "What is the most important thing I could teach this Child that will help them succeed?" Like that moment if we give our employees opportunities to learn and skills to be successful, they will inherit a desire to grow in many different ways. Let's take as food for thought the employee who always has something to say. It is a given that person has a desire to talk and to be heard so maybe with a little guidance and coaching that person is the perfect facilitator for your next Kaizen event. Or How about the employee who is always coming to you with "problems," well maybe he's the one who needs to know how to Value Stream Map, Root Cause or Kick off a Charter. When we see people for who they could be much like we see children we in essence define the vision for them which makes it much easier to help guide them in that direction.
Just as Children grow up in the world, fellow employees grow up in Careers. When we take opportunities to teach one another and support daily continued development we create a Culture that makes for a much more productive and fun "Playground Environment." Ponder this idea if you will that we have a responsibility to support and develop one another in the same manner that we develop our children, When we see each other as who we could, can and will be we become true leaders and support the notion that "These people are like my Kids" and I have a responsibility to develop them.
A few days after Thanksgiving has past we all begin the scuffle for the best holiday deals or preparing for the next big event. What a joyous time of year November and December brings; to gather together in family and friendship serving one another and reflecting over great memories, who can't help but enjoy. But alas it also brings the realization that 2015 is coming to a close and soon 2016 will ring in the new year with new goals and new strategies for us to race to finish line after.
Year after Year leadership will meet in secret meetings day after day and talk about how we do this, how we do that, and what are we going to do this time? it just happens some things get placed on the back burner and others require intense laboring action to strategically position us for implementation. This month's article will offer 7 very effective tactics to execute strategic planning like no year before. It is our hope that as we close out the year we can assist you in any way possible so that the strategy for next year will be much easier to execute.
Step 1- Lock in your Vision
The first step is to establish where you are now compared to where your organizational vision says that you should be. It's common knowledge that a company's vision provides strong guidance of where we are steering the ship, with that said if you don't have a vision get one and lock it in, share it and share it some more.
Step 2- look for and develop Strategic Objectives
Strategic Objectives are significant improvements that force organizations to grow. Usually these sort of objectives take between 3 and 5 years to achieve. There are many different ways to develop strategic objectives, a few tools that we can recommend from personal use are the Ansoff Matrix, visioning, metrics/charts, strategic SWOT analysis and the interrelationship digraph or our favorite ©TEMP (The enterprise measurement plan). Whatever tools you use try to get at least 2-3 solid Strategic Objectives that you can all agree to take action on.
Step 3- Develop Tactics for the year
The tactics for the year should align with the 2-3 Strategic objectives, yes you guessed it this is the how of accomplishing those strategies. One last tip, Place them in a Gantt chart and schedule them so that they meet up with the Strategies schedule.
Step 4- Take Action (Deployment)
This is where the rubber begins to meet the road, but don't take off to fast. First we need to figure out How we take those 2-3 Strategic objectives and turn them into Tactical objectives that departments can work to at every level. One way you can do this is by deciding together at the top level what the priorities are, then also through consensus establish appropriate metrics for the goals and behaviors you want to drive. After you have done this look over that gantt chart and add in what you may have missed or mold what was already on there. What do we mean mold? This means tie your targets directly into leadership's priorities and go from executive to management to supervisor, go to everyone and share it with them. This will help align the organization for deployment. Be sure that each level of the company goes into more and more detail appropriate to the position so they are very clear, it will also help to give them a copy of the entire plan. This alignment period will help to ensure that people are focused and it will assist in integrating other departments to meet targets. Make sure everything in the plan for the organization aligns back up to the Vision.
Step 5- Implementation
Now that the rubber is on the road and we are all pointed in the right direction we can take off. Alignment is complete everyone has a copy of the plan and was a part of it's development and the priorities meet leaderships goals, now it's time to execute. At this point you may have various Kaizen events going on it could possibly be innovation projects or our personal favorite ©TREAT 1,2,3 process improvements. As you may already know in this phase specific methodologies are used to execute the various tactics that were developed in order to complete the targets that are set.
Step 6- Check Up (monthly)
It's important as the days go by to re assess the company's progress and make sure that everyone is still headed in the direction of the vision. This will require you to ask a few questions;
1. Is the plan we made achieving our vision?
2. Are we meeting deliverables?
3. What pivot points do we need to make to get back on course?
4. What support can I provide to help the team?
These questions help foster a culture of accountability and keep people moving in the right direction.
Step 7 Review and Restart
That's right the first year will provide a great learning experience compared to the many years prior, so Review. We suggest the review happens every 11 months this will allow a month period to lock in the pivot points and adjustments for the next year. It goes without stating but when you move back to step one the "current state" should be closer and closer to the Vision than the years before If not adjust accordingly.
We at Lean Strategies International LLC have enjoyed this past year and wish you the best as we approach 2016, of course there have been many ups and downs for each and everyone of us but we firmly believe that with effective planning each of you can meet your goals. as always if there is any support we can provide feel free to email us at; firstname.lastname@example.org.
And do us a favor, enjoy this great holiday season with your family and friends, And remember Education is the one gift that will never stop giving back. Happy holidays!