Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Results are in: A Leader’s Best Question

Did you take on the Leadership question challenge last week?

If not, you can find out about it HERE!  It’s not too late to learn about it and try it!

If you did take on the challenge, this is where inter-activeness comes in.  If you found the question useful and/or will add this to your list of leadership questions going forward, click on “Like”.

For those of you that are willing to invest a little more time, leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you or what surprised you the most about it.  Alternatively, what is your favourite Leadership question to ask?  A comment only takes a minute and others will learn from your experience, or if they haven’t tried the question yet, they may give it a try as well!

Although I’ve used this question for a long time, what I enjoyed this week when I took on the challenge, actually was not the response or reaction I got from the people I asked, but rather later on during a gemba when I didn’t ask someone the question, one of the leaders on my team did.  Awesome!  That’s what it’s all about.  Imagine if all our leaders frequently ask this question and then act on the response?

If you like this question, be sure to add it to your Leader Standardized Work, make it a regular question when on a gemba walk, or during your next 1:1.

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

A Leader’s Best Question

Try something different this week.  What if we can collectively make a profound difference in our workplaces and teams this week by asking and taking action on what might just be a leader’s best question:

What frustrates you?

I love asking this question.  Well actually, I love the result of asking it.  It is astounding what you will learn from your operators, support teams, or leaders of leaders.  This is not a lean or CI thing, this is a great leadership question for any leader.  Ask it of anyone on your team whether they be hourly or salary,  work on line or in the office.  The response will provide you with some great discussion for sure, and likely actions to help them be a happier and more effective person within your organization.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s the deal.  If you are willing to give it a try this week click on “Like” so we will have an idea of the impact we’ll have across many companies and industries.  Ask at least 3 different people on your teams.  Leave a comment on the post after you have asked a few people “What frustrates you?” and let us know your thoughts on the value of asking this question.

If you want to challenge others to do the same, please share this post.

Let’s do this!

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Teaching your eyes to see

An important skill for leaders is to learn to “see”.  This means seeing beyond what most people see, or at least a different perspective of the same image.  Teaching your eyes to see is a learned skill, that once mastered, opens your eyes to many new things.

Teaching your eyes to see

An example of teaching your eyes to see that I experienced while on an in depth TPS training in Japan several years ago involved learning to see 1/10th of a second kaizens.  1/10th of second is very difficult to see and is the slightest of hand motions, movements, or on equipment, tiny adjustments.  We were given the task to reduce the cycle time within a production line by 30 seconds, but to do so through 1/10th of a second kaizens.  Well, being experienced operations guys and after observing the line for several cycles, it was obvious what needed to be done.  With some changes to the layout moving equipment closer together, adjusting the material flow, and some other equipment modifications, the 30 seconds was a done deal.  As part of the training, we had to prepare a scaled drawing detailing each of our kaizen ideas.  The drawings would be reviewed by the Sensei and if approved, they would be implemented.  On day one, we spent several hours drafting our kaizen ideas and provided the completed drawings for review and approval.  The Sensei took one look at the proposals and proceeded to tear them in pieces and literally threw them in our faces and shouted “1/10th of a second kaizens”.  This happened several times for most of the day.  We were ready to kill this guy, but then suddenly, like a light switch, we were able to see these subtle movements of waste and we could see 1/10th of a second kaizens.

Although, I don’t advocate this method of teaching, it does emphasize the point that we do need to learn to see; to really see what is, or what is not happening in a process.  It is important to see those subtle forms of waste, abnormalities, opportunities, and I suggest, clues that then beg questions.  Usually good questions!

As an example, one time while on a gemba, we came across a box of rubber gloves attached to a column of the building.  Above the box was a sign that said “Gloves are for hazardous material spills only”.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  This was crazy on so many levels!  I didn’t just see a poorly made sign and duct taped glove box.  I saw many questions and concerns such as:

  • How often are there hazardous material spills happening?
  • Are spills so frequent that we think we need gloves conveniently placed?
  • Are these spills actually “hazardous materials”?!?!?!
  • With the gloves free for the taking, are hazardous material spills happening and not being reported?
  • Does the leadership even know when the spills are happening and investigating?
  • How are the gloves and wastes from the spills being disposed?
  • Assuming for a minute that it was a good practice to have the gloves available, how do they get replenished?
  • Are the people cleaning up these spills properly and adequately trained?
  • Why are spills happening in the first place?
  • Who the heck authorized this?

STOP!!!  TIME OUT!

SONY DSCThis example is pretty astounding, scary and may seem hard to believe, but yet it is true.  It is even more disturbing that many leaders walked right past this sign during the gemba and didn’t even notice it.  Even more frightful, the building leadership had walked past it many, many times and didn’t really “see” it!

 

So how do you learn to see?  Practice.

Go to the floor with a specific purpose to learn to see.  For example, go with a focus to see one specific thing such as arm over reaching, bending, twisting, outdated signs or posters, trip hazards, pinch points, sign effectiveness and meaning, opportunities to cause product damage, unnecessary motion, a specific type waste stream, sources of floor debris, etc, etc.  The point is dedicate an appropriate amount of time to see a very specific focus.  Look for that focus and only that focus.  When you see it, ask yourself as many questions as you can about that particular item.  See beyond the obvious.  Look for deeper meaning, symptoms, evidence, abnormalities.  Repeat often with a new or different focus.  With practice you will soon see these things naturally and without effort.  Once you learn to see, you won’t be able to turn it off.

Nope, it’s not rocket science.  Seems too easy, right?  Try it, you’ll like it!

How did you learn or teach others to see?  Leave a comment and let me know!  If you found this article useful or interesting, please “like” it to give me feedback so I know what is of interest to you.

 

 

 

Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Leader Standardized Work is for, well, EVERYONE!

I’ve never understood why so few leaders use Leader Standardized Work (LSW).  I’ve found it to be a great tool to help me be a more consistent and effective leader.  I’ve used LSW for years.  For me it’s my little voice reminding me of the most important things I need to do or that I want to do to be successful when leading.  Regardless of your responsibility, there is a certain component of it that is repeatable and therefore LSW is for, well, everyone!

Here’s some key points I found useful when it comes to LSW:

1.  Set-up LSW with a designated section for daily, weekly, monthly and Mid-long term (quarterly, semi-annual) based on frequency of completion of the task.

2.  Place tasks in the LSW that are important to YOU, that you must get done and also the ones that you want to ensure get done, checked, or confirmed because they are important to you or your business.

3.  Set your LSW up on a monthly basis, refreshing it at the beginning of each month.

4.  Have a method within the LSW to indicate which days you are on vacation and differently identified when you are out of the office on business.  This will help you plan more effectively when you complete tasks or provide you the opportunity to delegate if necessary.

5.  LSW should be dynamic, not static.  It’s ok to add and remove items from your LSW.  As priorities change, new systems develop, metrics improve or degrade, you may find that you need to make adjustments as to what you’re doing or what you’re checking and confirming.

6. LSW is for you, not anyone else.  It’s fine to show people your LSW, but I don’t advocate posting it.  It’s more effective if you carry it with you at all times to help you actually execute to it versus showing others.  As a leader, you should be checking your teams LSW periodically as well.

7.  If you’re not getting to something on your LSW, don’t beat yourself up, but rather find the root cause as to why you are not getting it done and determine what you need to do differently to achieve it.  After all, the items on your LSW were put there by you because you either need to get them done as a core responsibility of your job, or they are most important to you.  Use it to improve your self-discipline, motivate you, or to remind you to just do it!

8.  LSW must be an integral part of your personal planning system and routine.  It must be integrated with your schedule, your follow-up system, and your to-do lists.

9. Print out your LSW for the month, update it daily throughout the day as you complete tasks, and “pencil” in additional LSW tasks as you’re thinking of them throughout the month.

10. When you get really busy, that’s when you need your LSW the most.  Don’t abandon it then.  Use it to help you get the most important things done.  In a pinch when you just can’t do everything, use it to make an informed decision as to what will and will not get done.

I use an Excel spreadsheet for my LSW. To make things easier, I’ve added some conditional formatting for visibility of weekends, business travel, or when out on vacation. I prepare the LSW for the month, print it out, and then use it daily by marking tasks using a pen. LSW is an integral part of my daily, weekly, monthly planning system.

I hope you found this helpful. Are there any key points I’ve missed or in your experience you feel are most important?