Leadership, Problem Solving, Visual Controls

Leading Problem Solving Series – 1 Second Understanding in Non-manufacturing

We had a great turn-out and received very positive feedback at our last Lunch & Lead Series on the topic of “Leading Problem Solving”, however, we also received some comments that it was difficult for those in non-manufacturing spaces to relate to how they can lead problem solving in their area.  Over the next few posts, we’ll cover off the topics from the Lunch and Lead Series but with a non-manufacturing focus.

If you missed the Lunch & Lead Series, it is available free at our on-line content site here as a “course” but don’t let the terminology fool you, it is just the video recording of the event, divided up into smaller duration “lectures” that correspond to each of the agenda items. Go check it out…

The first topic was the establishment of standards that within a very short period of time, as in a few seconds, anyone can determine if something is normal or abnormal.  As in manufacturing,  visualization of some standards in non-manufacturing areas are relatively easy.  These are the things that when out of standard negatively impact the team’s ability to do their work. 

Examples could include a common reference library of regulations, policies, or other documented information. Being able to quickly find what you’re looking for or identifying any that may have been misplaced can prove very helpful, save time, and reduce frustrations. In the virtual world, similar standards are useful for organizing digital storage by establishing standard file structures and nomenclature.

Other examples could be as simple of establishing standards around team supplies, tooling, or equipment.

In non-manufacturing areas the challenge often is that the “work” and “work flow” is not overly visible. For example, an engineering project is comprised of various tasks that engineers need to complete. The challenge here is that often with development type work, the engineers are dealing with a lot of unknowns or because it maybe the first time creating “something” there are no standards for it. In these cases, you want to establish standards around the work flow, provide a framework of generally accepted principles or benchmarks, and provide clear escalation mechanisms when things are not going as expected or planned. An effective way to visualize these is through a visual control board.

In the first example we will use a technical team that is responsible for completing some type of project type work. This could be product design, tooling or test equipment design, or construction/fabrication.

Figure 1

The layout of the board would be done in such a manner as to indicate the tasks that need to be completed by whom within a “standard” period of time. These standards could be industry standards, standard times as determined by the organization, benchmarks, or in the case of creative/innovative never been done before work, best guess estimations or established service level agreements (SLAs). It can also be with reference to the project milestones. Often, there is a strong reluctance to do this because of the “unknowness” of how long it should take to complete these tasks, however, referencing to the milestones allows for faster visibility of potential project delays or impacts. This should not be used to place blame or put undue pressure on those involved, but rather, provide the opportunity for escalation that can lead to additional resources, rescheduling of downstream tasks, and/or important communication of the status of the project to critical stakeholders.

Typically this would be visualized by day for a 1 to 2 week window for each person assigned to the project within a specific team. The board can be either physical or virtual board as long as the task assignments by day by week can be displayed. Each day the board is reviewed by those working on the tasks and their next level up leader. At the daily review, abnormalities to the standards would be very visible indicating a task is behind or that there has been some kind of difficulty or risk associated with it identified.

A pareto of issues can be created and built each day to help the team focus on the biggest issues that impact their work. Often in these types of situations, unplanned work plays a key role and has a significant impact on the teams ability to complete their project(s). Using a different colour sticky in this case to indicate unplanned work is very visual and can easily be tracked in the pareto as an issue. The leader can then assist the team in quickly resolving the issue through problem solving. The problem solving should not occur at the meeting, but rather a commitment made between the appropriate stakeholders as to what the next steps are and by when.

In the second example we’ll review a procurement situation. Typically a procurement team’s work flow is within a computer system. However, critical information is also usually available within those same systems. Again using a visual board and placing critical reports on them with visualization of abnormalities to standards is a good approach. For example, perhaps there are SLAs as to how long it should take for a purchase order (PO) to be placed. An aging report or having each buyer indicate which of their purchase requisitions (PR) are out of that standard helps to visualize purchasing abnormalities. Unfortunately, too often, we can experience payment problems to our vendors and then get ourselves into trouble when they refuse to continue to ship. Then talk about abnormal work to clear that up! Perhaps a metric that shows outstanding payment aging would be beneficial to avoid such situations. Again the abnormalities can be tracked in a form of a pareto for deeper analysis and problem solving. The point is to identify the aspects of the teams workflow that can or is having the biggest impact on their ability to effectively do their job or on the organization.

A third example is for a sales and marketing team.  They can visualize their work flow on a visual board and meet daily to review.  They could visualize main proposal work content and status.  Discuss new risks that arise that may pose a threat to winning the project, as well as visualizing the probability of a win and the financial status of the sales plan vs actual.  They can also capture lessons learned to improve their quoting and proposal process to drive continuous improvement, as well as to quickly identify abnormalities or issues that could impact a proposal so that problem solving is quickly initiated and/or escalated.

Although non-manufacturing work tasks are less naturally physically visible, the same principles apply.

You need to establish the standards the team is to follow, make them visible in some manner usually through a visual board, and then there needs to be some form of controls in place to manage and problem solve through the abnormalities.

Controls could include variance to SLAs, escalation mechanisms, layered process audits to confirm standards and identify areas needing focus, for example.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how TIM WOODS can apply to non-manufacturing areas.

Contact me:

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

Personal Development, The Leader

Tips To Reduce Spring Break Vacation Stress!

Does the thought of ‘spring break’ approaching cause you grief?  Sure we all love our vacations, but unfortunately taking vacation and returning afterwards can be stressful.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here’s some things you can do to help!  If you’ve seen them before, it might still be worth a skim through as a reminder.

Just recently having the opportunity to take vacation with my family, it reminded me how stressful vacation can be, unfortunately.  In today’s world of always being connected and the on-going expectations and demands placed on us in our work lives, it can be very difficult for many to get away on vacation easily.   Then there is the mess when we return!  The result too often is the week before we leave is high stress and the week we return is brutal!  Then there is the time we are actually off on vacation.  Regardless whether we are able to disconnect while away, the first few days can be tough as we de-stress from the week before, and then a few days before the end of the vacation we begin to think of what awaits our return and the stress and anxiety ramps up.

To help out just a little, I’ve re-posted some information from previous posts that may help.

Before you go:

  • TIP:  When you book your vacation, block off in your calendar the last day before you go and the first day you return, then be very selective as to what meetings you book on those days, if any.  Give yourself the opportunity to clear your inbox, ensure delegation is set-up, take care of any priorities that need to be looked after when you are gone, and give yourself sometime to deal with the inevitable last minute before vacation “crisis” that surely will pop up.
  • Appoint a delegate to look after things for you. Advise your team who this is and how to contact them.  Turn on your out of office notification and put this contact information in the notification so that when others beyond your team try to contact you, they will realize you are out of the office and will know who to contact should they need to do so, rather than wait for your return.
  • Depending on your level of responsibility, provide someone you trust with your contact information should there be a urgent matter or emergency in which you need to be reached. This maybe your cell phone number or contact information as to where you will be staying.  This may or may not be your assigned delegate.  Let your team know you are not checking or responding to emails or texts while you are gone.  Be sure to leave clear instructions as to what constitutes an urgent matter or emergency.
  • TIP:  Leave instructions with your team to summarize key issues or problems you need to be aware of or where they need your help immediately upon your return.  If you have an assistant they can consolidate all these items in one email and send to you upon your return.  If you don’t have an assistant, then you can assign this to your delegate.  The intent here is that this short list will allow you to quickly focus on the most important items immediately upon your return rather than trying to sort through all your emails or reacting as things come to your attention somewhat randomly throughout the day.

Upon Return:

  • Review the consolidated list from your team of the urgent matters they need your immediate assistance with. Use this list to set your priorities for your first day back.  Schedule urgent meetings or phone calls as necessary to address these issues.
  • Check-in with your delegate to see how things went and if there is anything you need to know about or follow-up on.
  • TIP: Create a “Vacation holding” file within your email and move all the emails received while you were gone, other than the last 1-2 days, to this file.  Then sort through and process the remaining emails from the past 1-2 days.  If something comes up that you need to search through the emails in the vacation holding file, you have them available.  After a week or so, if you haven’t found you need any emails from this folder you can go ahead and delete them.
  • Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t before, during, and after your vacation so you can tweak your vacation routine accordingly.
  • TIP: Book your next vacation!

Work-life Balance:

Whether you are on vacation or not, everyone must have the proper balance between work and life.  Finding it is a real challenge that so many people struggle with.  So what is this work-life balance thing anyway?  Is it real, or just a myth?  This article discusses two analogies to describe work-life balance.  Having the right mindset and expectation helps you find a sweet spot to get you through the twists and turns that life will surely send your way.  With these 10 steps to improve your work-life balance you can get closer to a healthier and happier place in life!

Personal Planning:

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During the summer months when your co-workers are taking time off, or you are taking time off, it is very easy to get out of your routines.  This is likely when you need these routines the most!  This post on personal planning discusses 6 key steps to getting and staying organized on your priorities.  Even if you are familiar with them, review them again and do an inventory to ensure you haven’t mistakenly dropped some!  When you are picking up the slack for others that are away, or playing catch up when you return, managing your time effectively is key to treading water.

Email:

angry-annoyed-coffee-52608Is email easier in the summer months?  Maybe, but not very likely!  There are some very helpful built in tools within Outlook and several email apps that can assist you with staying on top of your email.  It is surprising how few people use them and often enough aren’t even aware of them.  You may be a quick and easy mouse click away from some much needed help!  After it was first published, this second post on the @5 Essential email folders. received positive feedback from several who tried these tips.   If you aren’t aware of what the @5 are, check it out!

Other Related Posts:

Here’s some additional posts related to this topic written by others.

How to Beat ‘Vacation Guilt’ and Make Sure No One Bothers You on Your Day Off –

12 Key Strategies to Achieving a Work-Life Balance – Tim Kehl

Most of these ideas are pretty common and nothing special perhaps, but hopefully you picked up a couple of new tips or at least were reminded of them.

Please leave a comment and let us know any tips you may have to help others reduce their vacation stress!

Contact me:

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

Visual Controls

A Benchmarking Gemba To Demystify Visual Control Boards

Visual control boards may not look overly complex, but establishing an effective board and establishing a robust review cadence can be more challenging than initially anticipated.  The benefits, however, can be phenomenal!  We learned first hand what some of these benefits are during a recent visual control benchmarking gemba.

On 12 and 13 February, High Performance Leaders Inc. (HPL) facilitated a visual control board workshop for the Technology Team lead by Travis Vokey, VP and Head of Technology at Dream Unlimited.  The first day was a workshop focused on the key attributes of visual control boards, and a working session to begin defining the team’s value proposition and key performance metrics.  On the second day, there was a benchmarking gemba to Crystal Fountains, Baylis Medical, and Bell Mobility to see and learn first hand from their experiences and existing visual control boards.

Our focus during the benchmarking gemba was to see non-manufacturing areas.  Since there can be a stigma that visual control boards are only for manufacturing, we wanted IMG_20200213_1232410to see how different businesses, industries, and non-manufacturing teams set-up their boards and use them.  We saw boards used by Sales & Marketing, Product Design, Process Engineering, Equipment Engineering, Project Management, and yes one from Manufacturing.  We reviewed boards at the tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels, with tier 1 being at the working staff level and level 4 the organizational level.  Each host company had a representative appropriate for each level of board explain how their boards work and how they are used.

Dream---Control-board-BMThe Dream team was able to participate in a regular daily huddle in action while at Crystal Fountains.  It was fantastic to see and hear the enthusiasm and see the high level of engagement from each of the host company staff members.  They were all believers in visual boards.  However, that was not always the case.  When we asked an engineering team who was the biggest skeptic when they first introduced the boards, an engineer stepped forward and boldly said “Oh, that would have been me!”  He went on to explain that he first thought it would just be more work and a waste of time.  However, now he admits, the board and the daily huddle has improved communication and work distribution.  He’s now a believer!

IMG_20200213_1236595It was motivational to listen to each of the host company staff members talk about what they like about the boards and how they have made their jobs easier, improved team work, and driven solid improvements.  Here’s some of benefits and results they shared with the Dream team:

The boards and huddle have improved our cross-functional communications

We have much better visibility to unplanned work

Saves so much time and there’s less stress

Made us care about each others work, and we want to help each other

I know what’s going on now

It’s not about not being successful (when a target is missed), but rather what do you need to be successful

People feel empowered to get things done

IMG_20200213_1220457

When properly established, visual control boards add value to both the teams and the leaders.  Laura Conquergood, VP of Operations at Baylis Medical said, “when I want an update on a project, we just go to the board.  We don’t schedule a meeting.”  Jongmu Lee, Director Creative Operations at Crystal Fountains said, “whether I’m in the building or not, I know the team is coming together and discussing important topics.”  Many of the team members and leaders at all 3 host companies similarly stated, that communications had improved and wasteful meetings had been dramatically reduced.

At Bell Mobility, the Regional Operations team is involved in over 2,000 projects across the country.  Approximately 8 years ago they started tracking key aspects of their projects using typical white board style visual control boards.  Then about 3 years ago they implemented digital boards (D-boards) to track and coordinate these massive projects between all stakeholders across the company.

According to Nitin Gautam, Network Access Manager and Robert Dillenbeck, Senior Manager, Territory Operations at Bell Mobility, the D-boards provided certain advantages over the traditional visual control boards including:

  • Reduced cycle times to update the boards and get information
  • Staff working remotely can keep informed through the D-boards and have better engagement and participation in meetings
  • Quicker access to graphs and all data
  • Easier to roll up information and data from tier 1 to tier 4 levels
  • Executives can retrieve updates and information without requiring meetings to obtain project status

In my opinion, D-boards should be implemented with extreme caution.  As discussed in a previous article Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?, D-boards can be problematic with potentially lowering visibility if they are not frequently and routinely interacted with becoming nothing more than a information board that over time can become virtually invisible.  The most concerning problem though, is that changes to what is tracked and displayed can be slow and costly to revise and continuously improve.  So, if D-boards are going to be implemented, be sure to anticipate these problems had have a solid plan to address and overcome them.  No doubt they can be powerful and do offer some great benefits, but do watch out for the pitfalls.

The Dream team learned a lot and received some good advice from the 3 host companies.  A few of the key points they were advised on included:

  • Just start, don’t wait for perfection
  • Encourage rapid cycles of improvement to the boards as you go
  • Make the boards easy to change quickly and easily
  • Use habit changing challenges to motivate and create new disciplines around the board cadence and routines
  • The staff or team members own the tier 1 boards meaning they update them and report out on status, not the managers

IMG_20200213_1612559The two day workshop concluded with a Dream debrief where each of the Dream leaders identified the biggest thing that they had learned, and each making a commitment as to what they were going to do when they returned to their office.  With the mystery of visual control boards revealed, they are excited to embark on this exciting journey.

Contact me:

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

 

Leadership, Personal Development, The Leader

Want To Get Organized? Free Personal Planner & Leader Standardized Work Templates

Do you want to get yourself better organized this year so you are ready to lead more effectively?  Then these two tools will help you!  Yes you!

At High Performance Leaders Inc., we help develop leaders to be more effective, everyday!  Although there are many important aspects to being an effective leader included in our program, one straight forward but critical way is to get and stay organized.

Unfortunately, too many leaders say they want to spend more quality time with their teams, have more focus on their top priorities, and feel less overwhelmed.  Sound somewhat familiar?  Two vital tools that can dramatically assist with these far too common issues is Leader Standard Work (LSW) and a personal planning sheet and routine.

To assist in these areas, download these free basic LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

Download tool here

Leader Standard Work

If you think LSW doesn’t apply to you or your position, you are missing out on a very helpful tool.  LSW is not only for first line manufacturing supervisors.  It’s a powerful tool for any leader in any business at all levels.  Another myth is that a leader’s job is not standard, so therefore LSW will not work.  Absolutely there are aspects of a leader’s responsibilities that are not standard, however, there are likely many responsibilities and actions that are standard when you step back and evaluate what needs to be accomplished.

LSW is simply an organized list of the most important responsibilities, actions, or tasks that a leader needs or wants to accomplish, and the frequency with which they need to be completed.  This list then is used to remind the leader what they need to get done.  When integrated into a robust scheduling and personal planning routine, it will result in improved results, accomplishments, and feeling of accomplishment.  It will also avoid important things from falling off the radar over time or when things get hectic.

Read more here on developing leader standardized work

Download template here

Personal Planning

Surprisingly many leaders also only use their calendar and maybe a note book for personal planning purposes.  This can lead to losing control of your time and schedule, and not having time to get to those things that are most important to get completed.  Important tasks or follow-up items may get buried within the notebook and get overlooked or forgotten.

A regular personal planning routine of reviewing your LSW, scheduled and new meetings, your priorities, outstanding actions and follow-up, is critical to being an effective leader.  Coupling the routine with a single page weekly planner can have a dramatic impact on a leader’s effectiveness.

Update and revise your personal planner once per week, print it out and then keep it up-to-date throughout the week using the old pen and pencil method, or maintain it live on  your computer.  Your choice.  Add tabs to keep a log of actions or tasks that need to be completed at some point in the future, but that you don’t need on the current week’s planner.  Categorize the tabs based on key areas of your life such as, “Follow-up”, “Actions”, “@Computer”, “Errands” etc.

If this sounds basic to you, great!  You should be all set and maybe already effective in this regard.  However, indications are that many leaders lack a robust planning and organizing routine.  A 20 minute weekly planning routine is all that is required to get organized and stay on top of the important things.

Read more here on personal planning

To assist in these areas, download these free LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

Download template here

 

Contact me:

 

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

 

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

Personal Development, The Leader

Leader Standard Work & Hitting Targets

Combining a robust leader standard work routine with setting and hitting targets can be a powerhouse that delivers results!  It’s not just a shot in the dark!

If you have followed my posts, you’ll know that I’ve been a strong proponent of leader standard work (LSW) for a long time, however, I was reminded recently of the power of combining standard work and the setting and hitting of targets.

Each month I reset my standard work for the new month.  It starts by reviewing the previous month and reflecting on what worked, didn’t work and why, and identifying any new priorities.  Then the baseline is revised by making some adjustments, adding or deleting tasks, or changing the frequency of some tasks.  I also include certain non-work items within my LSW.  These are things that are for personal or professional development, important family responsibilities, or when I’m trying to create a new habit.

Although this is a personal example, it still shows the power of combining LSW and targets.  At the beginning of last month when I was doing my LSW review I found that I was not happy with my daily exercise results.  It had been very inconsistent.  Although I was running, the frequency was very intermittent and inconsistent.   There were always reasons why for each miss, but when seeing the results for the month, none of them mattered, the result was the result and it wasn’t what I wanted.  So,  I decided I needed to do something about it!  First, I added a “Daily Exercise” task to my LSW, and second, I set a distance target for the month.

The month started off well.  I was exercising more regularly and I was well on my way to achieve my distance target.  It was working!  Then, by conscious choice, I missed about a week.  With about a week to go in the month, even if I got back to my routine, I wouldn’t make my distance target.  At least, not doing what I had been doing before the break in the routine.  I couldn’t make up for the days I didn’t exercise, but I could do something different for the days remaining in the month.

I changed the time of day when I would exercise.  This helped overcome some of the challenges (a.k.a excuses) that were creating barriers to my daily exercise.  Then, I started running further than I had been before to make up some of the distance.  Some may consider running further than usual was somewhat cheating, and perhaps it was since the intent was not the distance per se, but rather to exercise regularly.  However, on more than one occasion in that final week of the month, I exercised when I probably wouldn’t have.  I had a strong desire to hit and exceed my distance target, AND, I wanted to check off my LSW each day indicating that I had exercised.  It worked, I exceeded my distance target with a day to spare, but I ran the last day of the month anyway so that I would have exercised every single day for that last week.

Maybe a simple personal example, but combining LSW and targets is a powerful tool and is equally effective in a business environment.  The target will give you the motivation to keep working at it and to find ways to achieve it, while the LSW will give you the reminder and sometimes push to take the necessary steps, or to complete the appropriate tasks, necessary to achieve the target.

In summary, here’s a few key points:

  1. Reflect on your LSW each month and reset it based on lessons learned and new priorities.
  2. LSW can include personal and professional items.  It’s yours, so make it work for you!
  3. Set challenging targets, then look at how to combine with LSW to assist in achieving the targets.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up for missing some LSW items when looking back, but rather figure out why you missed them and implement mitigation actions to achieve them going forward.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAA2JAAAAJDMyMDQxYzdmLTFjYWYtNDBkNC1iODZhLTRhNWIzMTBlMzAzZARelated Posts:

For more information on setting up and using leader standard work, check out this other post “Leader Standard Work is for, well, EVERYONE!

 

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com.