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Lean and Continuous Improvement

Do Your Continuous Improvement Teams Have What It Takes To Win?

As a judge recently at the Share Showcase 2018 competition organized by High Performance Solutions, I was reminded as I listened to 12 high powered teams present their projects, that there are some very common characteristics of both the projects and the leaders on the teams.  None of these are a surprise, but it was fascinating with the consistency to which these characteristics were demonstrated across the 12 competing teams.

The characteristics that really stood out are:

Simplicity – Ability to break down complex or difficult processes, functions or projects  to very simple easily understood steps, tasks or responsibilities.  Simple is better.  Solutions don’t have to be complex or cost a lot of money to implement.  Tools and solutions implemented can be simple but have significant positive and material impact on the problem tackled.

Visual – make key or important elements, control points, status, or results very visual with various visual control mechanisms, control boards, kanban cards, flow charts, etc.

Clear Goals/targets – Ensure that the project or team goal and individual targets are understood, clear and the entire team is aligned towards the achievement of the goal.  Start with understanding the current condition, end state, and the gap needed to close.

Engagement – Total involvement and engagement from all levels, from shop floor employees to top management.  Positions, titles, and hierarchy are neutralized and everyone has an equal stake of ownership in the projects and the outcomes.

Communication – Full transparency of the problem, boundaries to work within, budgets, challenges, and barriers/obstacles to name a few.  Focus on improving basic communication between teams about a problem or process status.

Idea Collection – Everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard equally.  No idea is ruled out.  Everyone on the team has a voice and opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions.

Perseverance – Never give up.  When something fails, learn from the failed attempt and try again.

Motivation – An overwhelmingly positive attitude about their jobs, contributions, their leaders, and company.  Proud of what they have achieved and wanting to do more.

I love coming to work now!  It’s not really even work.

This was a quote made by one of the employees of the winning team from Centerline.  He really meant it.  That is employee motivation and engagement any company wants to achieve!

Watch for the next post “Do You Have What it Takes to Lead Continuous Improvement Teams?”

Leave a comment – What other aspects or characteristics have you observed that successful Continuous Improvement teams exhibit?

share-showcase

Together We Can - Values in Action!

#13 Together We Can, Values in Action!

Studies of peak performers are helping to make it clear that the nation’s most noble principle – all men are created equal – is not a formula for shaving the peaks down to some dusty plateau.  It is a call to see that the “normal” person has the opportunity, and the ability, to stand out.

Peak Performers

Leadership

Get Organized…Your Way!

This is an update to an earlier post, Effective Leadership Skills – Personal Planning, where I stated;

A leader needs a personal planning routine.  I strongly believe that each leader needs to determine what works best for them and that one size does not fit all.

Very recently I was explaining personal planning fundamentals utilizing my system as an example to a group of relatively new managers.  One of them said to me, “Don’t you think this could overwhelm someone and discourage them from even starting?”  Yikes, I hope not!  I have always advocated that everyone needs to figure out what system of personal organization works best for them.  I have a very rigorous system and routine for staying organized.  This system works for me, but may not work for everyone.  My system is one that I have built and “kaizened” many times over the years picking up things from books, courses, my own ideas, and from other leaders.  What is important though in any personal planning system is to have these 6 key points:

  1. Have a regular routine in which you do your weekly planning
  2. Review and plan both your professional and personal items
  3. Keep everything in one place
  4. Determine your weekly priorities
  5. Break projects or items down to the individual tasks
  6. Consolidate your weekly priorities on one sheet
To read more on these 6 personal planning points, visit this post Effective Leadership Skills – Personal Planning.

The most important thing is to start getting yourself organized and staying on top of things.  You can always change and revise how you do it.  If something doesn’t work, change it.  Try something else.  Tweak the things that work, and get rid of the things that don’t.  Whatever you do, keep trying and do not stop.  Below is a great success story of never giving up.

A leader that I have coached a few times over the years on personal planning always struggled with my process.  I always stressed to her, not to do what I do, but rather embrace the 6 key points above in a way that would work for her.  She tried many things, none of them really getting her motivated to get organized and all were more discouraging and frustrating to her.  Yet, she desperately wanted to be more organized and in control.  She kept trying.

Then she discovered “bullet journaling”.  Now I have to say, maybe it’s the engineering mind in me, but I don’t get it!  However it doesn’t matter because it works great for her.  I won’t get into what bullet journaling is exactly, but if you have no idea, it’s short form notes, drawn pictures, symbols and anything else you want to write in a journal that summarizes the things you need to do, want to do, your goals and objectives, etc.  It’s all hand written or attached to the pages of a small book or journal.

This particular leader enjoys the process of writing the information in and organizing it such a manner that motivates her and inspires her.  That is the intent and all that matters!

She hand writes her own calendars using all kinds of colours, stickers, images, pictures, and symbols to depict special events, commitments and priorities she needs/wants to complete.  She uses bullet lists to capture her “to-do list” items.  Everything is hand drawn and in many different colours.

She has created a form of Leader Standardized Work in her journal where when she completes a task, she colours in a particular pattern.  If she doesn’t complete the task, it is Bullet journel 1left blank.  Not only does this motivate her to complete the tasks so that the pattern is completed, it also is a visual control that can be used to help her improve on task completion.  For example, it is very easy to see days when several tasks did not get completed, or particular tasks that she is not getting to on a regular basis.  She can then look at her personal planning and habits/behaviours to see what she needs to do to improve in these areas.

Bullet journel 2.When there are things of repetition that she needs or wants to do each day she graphs these indicating how many times the item was completed.  This is particularly useful for things like exercising, actions you want to take to create a new routine or habit, tracking medications, drinking water, etc.  Again this can be useful in recognizing patterns of success and opportunities for improvement.

For this leader, she has finally found what works for her.  The principles are the same, the methodology is custom to what excites, interests, and motivates her to get and stay organized!  I’m so happy for this leader as she has struggled for a long time to find her system and process, but now that she has, she is feeling better about herself, more in control, and much more encouraged about what she can accomplish!  Yahoo!

So if you struggle with getting and staying organized, keep searching and thinking about what will motivate you.  It’s out there, you just need to keep looking and trying different things!

What works for you?

Together We Can - Values in Action!

#12 Together We Can, Values in Action!

I can tell what a guy thinks of himself by how he takes a compliment.  Tell one guy he’s got a nice suit, and he’ll look you in the eye and say, “Thanks, I appreciate the compliment.”  The next guy will insult you by saying, “You must be kiddin’ – this old rag?”  A compliment is a gift, and it deserves a proper thanks.

John Wayne

Leadership, Leading People Series

Leading People Series – Part 5 – Setting a High Bar for Standards & Expectations

People modelIn the Leading People Series, we examine some key points to consider when leading people.  Part 5 is about the need for a leader to always uphold a high bar when it comes to standards and expectations.

A leader must always set a very high bar when it comes to both standards and expectations.  The first step is to set and establish the standards and communicate the expectations.  The standards can be documented in policies and procedures and standard operating procedures (SOPs), and to be effective should be implemented wherever possible with use of visual controls.  The team needs to be trained on the standards and a part that is often forgotten or overlooked, the standards must be audited frequently to ensure sustainability and for immediate correction when deficiencies are found.

Most leaders understand the importance of standards and for setting high expectations, however, two points often neglected are:

1) Maintaining and enforcing high standards and expectations in times of significant organizational busyness and stress. 

Standards are very difficult to put in place and uphold, but virtually impossible to restore if they are forgotten, ignored or excused when times are tough or challenging.  Instead of being standards, they become occasional initiatives or pet peeves that leaders sometimes enforce when they have time or are having a bad day.  In so doing, we train our teams that it is okay, to ignore or even break standards, when we don’t have time for them.  Most importantly, when the organization is in this state, this is when the standards and expectations are needed the most to overcome the challenges faced and be successful.

2) A Leader must always lead by example by following the standards and having higher expectations of themselves than that of their team.

I’ve been told many times that I’m relentless about standards and that I have unrealistic expectations.  Perhaps.  However, I see this as a leadership strength.  No one will take a leader seriously or have respect for them if they do not follow the standards which they create and enforce.  A leader must also resist the urge to break standards or make special exceptions for yourself.

Shortly after joining a new company as a VP where I worked within a high security facility, I was told by the Security Manager that company policy would allow me to by-pass security when exiting the facility.  All other employees had to go through a rigorous security check not dissimilar to that at an airport anytime they exited.  I was shocked that there would be a company policy that would allow executives to by-pass security, however, I never did.  Not even once.  Why?  If the standard was that all of my team had to do this, and if I expected them to do so, how could I not do it myself?  Your team is always watching and they will see when you don’t follow the standards.

For more on leading by example, visit a previous post, Can Police Use Handicapped Parking Spots?.

For more on standards, visit a previous post, Who the heck needs standards?

Standards are also a necessity before kaizen.  Without standards, kaizen is not possible because there is no defined starting point from which to improve the process or situation.

How do you set a high bar for standards & expectations with your team?