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 email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.