We've all seen the battery life on our phones drain as the hours pass by in our days. Eventually that annoying red bar shows up and the thought passes, I need to charge my phone. But of course with emails to answer and tasks to complete, eventually it becomes the last task on the priority list. Inevitably you begin dipping into reserves: turning off applications, dimming the screen and logging out of important screens until finally your phone is no longer capable of accomplishing much of anything anymore. In a scramble, you begin looking for a charger: asking friends, plugging in for a quick charge and turning off and on until finally the phones just turns off.
This analogy is a lot like many lean transformations. We deploy visions, missions and strategic initiatives all while accumulating a wealth of tools. Eventually along with all these deployments and collections the thought begins to approach that as a business you must still generate revenue, meet demands and answer informative questions. Over the weeks, months and years the statements, missions and tools begin to be less and less present until one day the thought approaches, "I need to re-charge my strategy." Actually you're probably not alone in receiving that revelation it can happened in both successful initiatives and in failing initiatives. So how do we put that same spirit back into the re-start, re-charge or renewal that we did in deployment?
Here are a few key actions that are critical steps in recharging your transformation.
1. Asses the sincerity of your deployment - Sometimes asking ourselves with sincerity can be a hard process. It's important to ask why we first began a strategic journey. It probably goes without saying but if the desires were not sincere motives, the journey may have never really started. In this case your restart may begin by identifying the actual needs of your organization and acknowledging the current culture and historical behaviors that contribute to the established culture. A few projects here and there and using capital to ramp up production will not always be the answer. Remember that our three key drivers are people, processes and technology and we must be sincere in improving all three of those elements. For instance involving all levels of the organization in training rather than only mid-level or senior level can be a powerful way to establish culture "throughout" the entire organization. This may involve bringing in outside trainers, programs and services or development a "curriculum" of your own to meet the needs of the organization.
2. Constant Contact - While the marketing software of constant contact is a fantastic software, the principle is what we want to acknowledge here. People are much more at ease and in support when they know what is going on and how it affects them. The initial deployment may have been a fantastic event, but if daily updates and communication do not continue initiatives will fall to the wayside among the many other tasks employees have. Eventually like our phone dying above we are left in a scramble to try and put power in our battery. This is sometimes referred to as fire fighting. By keeping people involved and utilizing techniques like huddles, one on ones and town halls we can keep our teams involved in the most recent updates. If you can establish a consistent method of communication and recharging you won't have to worry as much about your "phone reaching a "worn out limit or dead level."
3. Yokoten - Yokoten is the practice and pattern of sharing best practices and learning laterally in an organization. The principle of "sharing" is not only a core concept in the establishment of culture but a key element in driving daily improvements. If we think of this concept like our phone analogy shared above, it makes sense that charging a phone once a week is a recipe for disaster. But developing a pattern of plugging your phone in every night will ensure that it stays charged throughout the day. The same concept can be applied to our organizations. If we have a project here and there we might see some improvements but if we drive improvements everyday and look for others to share them with, we can ensure that we are consistently moving in the right direction.
4. Make it measurable - When you look at your phone throughout the day your bar indicates a percentage of life the battery has left in it. When we make initiatives measurable we can see, monitor and track how much that initiative is affecting the organization. By establishing appropriate metrics to monitor your "strategies" life you are better able to pivot when you need to or continue improving. If it get's measured it will get improved.
5. Coach instead of direct - While there may be times when direction is required, teaching others why it was required and how they can recognize when it's required put's more momentum behind the change. We certainly would not want to call a friend every night to tell them to charge their phone but rather offer a true learning experience for them to do it on their own. This sometimes requires senior level executives and mangers to take a step back and become more personal with teams. Using policy deployment methods such as hoshin kanri can assist in:
1. Establishing a direction.
2. Providing a clear focus for that direction.
3. Aligning the organization.
4. Helping to understand the reason why.
This method of deployment is an effective way to give your internal customers a voice.
Whether it's a phone dying or a strategy that needs a recharge these critical elements will provide some level of support and guidance for your lean batteries and help get you back on track to a full charge.