Tuesday, December 15, 2009

“Executizing” Academic Sounding Terms – Gaining Social Authority

A short story inspired by happenings in the real-world. 
Brandon is a young engineer working as a technical business improvement leader for a mid-sized business in a service industry.  On a recent day, his youthful enthusiasm for learning, and his desire to share new ideas, smashed right into the reality of what seemed to be a harsh executive perspective.  Here’s what happened:
In a chance lunchroom conversation, Brandon excitedly mentioned a new term and concept he had learned to an operations executive.  The term was “gaining social authority”.  When he said it, the executive, who had been relaxed, almost spit out his drink.  Next, he looked at Brandon and said in an irritated tone, “I’d throw anyone out of my office who used that kind of academic sounding term.  I hate terms like that!  They make me think the person using them doesn’t know a thing about getting things done in the real world!” 
Later Brandon complained about the incident to his manager.  During the back and forth conversation Brandon learned people throughout the company had come to respect this particular executive’s preference for plain speaking, if not his gruff manner.  Those who’d been around awhile understood the executive didn’t want technical experts using specialized terminology as a means of separating themselves from the rest of the workforce. 
After the conversation with his manager, Brandon thought to himself, “maybe the executive should show more tolerance for different perspectives.” And, in the next moment he thought, “in any case, I’ll make sure I respect the preference for plain speaking, at least until I see some reason not to.  And, in the future, I’ll work harder to phrase things in a more common way.  Maybe it will make my work more accessible and stronger as a result.” 
Months later Brandon was giving an executive overview of the very same concept, “gaining social authority”, to a room full of people.  The presentation clearly conveyed his passion for the “social authority”  approach despite the fact it had been completely scrubbed of the specialized term.  Instead of "gaining social authority," Brandon talked about working to “get everyone on board” before “moving ahead” with a suggestion or plan for improvement. His presentation was comprehensive and understandable. 
During the presentation Brandon noticed the executive who had responded so gruffly in the lunchroom.  To his pleasant surprise, this time the executive seemed both engaged and pleased.   
Afterwards, Brandon reflected once again on the lunchroom interaction, this time with a smile on his face, and thought, “imagine that, in one fell swoop the gruff old guy taught me a lesson and did me a favor!…Good for him!”  
To gain deeper understanding of the social authority concept, please read the following post “Separating Responsibility from Authority” and consider reviewing the following presentation, “Nobody Likes Bad Change”. Both appear elsewhere on this blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lean Management – Why Care?

Maximizing business results through the application of Lean involves two requirements:
  1. continuous optimization of the value creation process
  2. managing “fair treatment” around change*
Technical Lean methods deliver the first requirement. Lean Management accomplishes the second. 
Hoshin Kanri integrates both requirements before, during, and after critical cross-functional improvement initiatives.  When all are executed skillfully, Lean drives positive change and delivers benefits to every level of the organization.  In other words, everyone experiences “good” change.
*Jim Womack, leader of the Lean Enterprise Institute, recently introduced this idea to the Lean community using the phrase “making everyone whole”.  In other words, ensuring no group ends up worse-off after a change initiative.
To learn more about how to apply this idea to your Lean project or initiative, please see our presentation Nobody Likes Bad Change elsewhere on this blog. 
In more detail …
A large business organization is a complex system, made up of a collection of interconnected groups.  The groups work in a cooperative, structured arrangement which is influenced by the behavior of each of the groups. 
In this environment, optimizing business results requires more than a purely technical approach.  The human requirements of the system must also be addressed by managing the perception of “fair treatment” throughout the groups.
Why? When the people within the groups perceive they are being treated fairly, they stay focused on executing the value creation process to  drive business results.  When the perception of “fair treatment” is disrupted, people become distracted and begin to engage in wasteful pursuits that have nothing to do with creating value for the customer.   
What does this have to do with Lean?
There are two sides to the complete Lean equation - a technical side and a management side. 
The purpose of the technical side of Lean is to continuously optimize the value process to deliver increasingly stronger business results.
The purpose of Lean management is to maintain the perception of fair treatment as the value process is improved. (assuming the “fair treatment” perception is present in the first place) 
What does Hoshin Kanri have to do with this?
Hoshin Kanri integrates the two sides of Lean and establishes an important feedback loop.  The feedback loop assures participating groups “fair treatment” is being protected or improved, and not damaged, as process improvement takes place.  This keeps things operating smoothly, even as process optimization drives change into the system.  Participants in Hoshin Kanri managed change efforts experience less stress, accept change more readily, and perform their jobs better after the fact. 
In short, Lean management and Hoshin Kanri strategy deployment protect the participating groups, at every level of the organization, from bad change.  
Note:  As I have done with other posts, I want to thank the Lean Enterprise Institute  for their efforts.  I am pleased to see they are promoting Lean management as part of the development of a new Lean optimization language platform.  
To learn more about this topic and Systemental’s role as a leading Lean service provider, please click here.   
If you would like a Lean resource, designed to help Lean professionals and business improvement leaders stay at the head of the pack, you can sign up for Systemental’s periodic newsletter here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Can Fix Poor Cross-functional Relationships Fast

iStock_000005366886SmallWhen poor relationships and bad  behavior are evident between  functional groups, overwhelmingly it’s a symptom of a deeper problem - “broken shared processes.” 
When shared processes prove problematic, and no one understands exactly why, relationships sour as different groups blame each other for “not getting their part of the work right.” Luckily, these relationships are easy to repair through process improvement efforts carried-out in the following way: 

  1. bring the groups together and help them to see and understand the entire process, including the problems and waste
  2. position them to design and implement a new process - one that works for all involved - complete with all of the supporting elements for keeping it in place: tools, standards, procedures, policies, training, measurement and reporting, auditing
  3. guide them and provide what is needed as they design and replace the broken process with the new one 

Why does this approach repair relationships as effectively as it repairs processes?

Most people want to feel respected by their colleagues and most people genuinely want to “get along.” As cross-functional teams work through a process improvement project, the close interaction helps participants of the different groups see each other as people just like themselves – reasonable people “doing the best they can with the tools and circumstances at-hand.”    
Once this enlightened perspective is in place, if the team is positioned for collaboration and provided with he guidance and tools needed to do a good job fixing the process, their response is enthusiastic. High engagement, strong buy-in, and energetic cooperation all follow as everyone pitches-in to get the job done.

Long Lasting, Easily to Sustain Results

A team working with all they need to design and replace the broken process will deliver a very precise, comprehensive, and sustainable result.  And once the new process is in place, they will protect it and voluntarily teach others, such as new employees, how it works.  As a result, without the problems that had previously generated ill-will between the groups, an environment characterized by healthy cross-functional relationships emerges.  With a good process design in place, and with occasional cross-training events, healthy relationships can be maintained.  The result is less waste and lower costs for the company and a more enjoyable work environment for employees.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Boss Coaches Lean Management Behaviors

Early in my career, just a few years out of college, and after demonstrating success with problem solving and process redesign efforts, my boss promoted me to my first management position. As the new Quality and Engineering Manager I had a small group of engineers and a quality supervisor reporting directly to me.
After moving into my new workspace, (a real office with a door and a window!), I organized myself and started to do the job the best way I knew how.
Early on I thought I was off to a satisfactory start until one day this illusion was abruptly interrupted by my boss. He confronted me half way between my office and the manufacturing plant floor where he told me the following in a frustrated voice, “Craig, you don’t understand what I want. I’ve been trying to tell you but you’re not getting it so I am going to put it to you straight. If I catch you out on the floor solving problems again I am going to physically chase you back into your office and I’m going to be angry. I promoted you and now you are a manager – from now on you work through other people to solve problems around here. I know you think your people should be doing some things differently but I refuse to let you step around them. I want you to teach them and coach them to do things the way you want them done. I promoted you because I know you can do this, now I want you to start doing it the way I expect! Do you understand?” I nodded and said yes of course, even though truthfully I was a little confused at the time.
Luckily, soon after, my boss and I sat down and documented, in what today might be called “Lean Management” terms, my standard work for management. The “standard work” descriptions we wrote down included details such as daily plant tours with a checklist of the kinds of things to be observed, a scheduled frequency for holding coaching/ review sessions with my direct reports, instructions for completing monthly status reports to be passed up the chain of command and so on. Our agreed upon understanding of how tightly I was to adhere to the document can be described as “focused but flexible”, which meant some variation was allowed as long as it was clear I was demonstrated a disciplined approach to my work.  
I understand now his intention was to establish a baseline for
  •  resolving potential problems in my area that might crop up from time to time
  • discussing potential improvements that could be made to improve performance in my area
Later, we had both types of discussions many times.  My years in that management position were very productive years.  Over those years the agreed upon standard work provided and anchor point for productive thought and conversations about how best to manage the performance in my area of responsibility. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Separating Responsibility from Authority

This is a powerful idea but I expect it may be a little fuzzy for people wanting to put the idea into use. Many of us may have been exposed to this management tactic but may not have recognized it in these terms. A few of us have been lucky enough to have been trained this way right from the start.

My first boss, who hired me right out of college to develop and implement a cross-functional process for improving quality, used to say to me, “Craig, don’t wait around for authority to come to you. Go out and earn it.” We both understood the responsibility part of the equation, so it was not discussed. His comments were prompted by his observation that I was sometimes timid when my work carried me into an area overseen by a manager who reacted to my “intrusion” in a territorial manner. Basically he was telling me to work with the manager and the people in the area to convince them of the value of my work so they would support me.

Then, at other times, he would tell me things like, “Craig, you have the authority. Now get it done.” He was teaching me to accelerate my efforts as soon as it was clear I had gained social authority. He understood the connection between authority, trust, and speed. It took me a long time to understand all of these things but I began picking up the behaviors right away.

Later, as I moved up in rank, my boss taught me and coached me to become an effective coach for those who reported to me - I’ll leave that story for another post.

Jim Womack and Lean Management

Jim Womack and the The Lean Enterprise Institute definitely lead the way in the development of a common language for recognized Lean methods. The live video seminar yesterday, “Jim Womack on Lean Management: A Live Event”, took the Lean language a big step forward. Now those of us diligently working to develop methods for integrating Lean management with the technical side of Lean have specific terms to help us in our work. I am very grateful for the excellent job the Lean Enterprise Institute does in leading the Lean community.
I am excited about how well Systemental (my company) is positioned to help others quickly find the best approach to success for their Lean transformation. In the video seminar today Mr. Womack described how he hoped methods could be developed to enable Line managers to architect Lean business processes. Systemental has been developing and refining methods dedicated to this purpose for nearly 10 years. Along the way our methods have gotten stronger and more complete, due in large part to the work of the LEI. For instance LEI publications like Pascal Dennis’s “Getting the Right Things Done” and more recently John Shook’s “Managing to Learn” have, and will continue to help us strengthen our work.
When I look back over the last 10 years, what is most satisfying to me is how the participants of the cross-functional problem solving teams at our client organizations have responded so positively to our special approach.  Their vast line management knowledge and experience fuels the Lean process architecture engine to keep it running in high gear all of the way from the inception of a project to the delivery of “brilliant Lean business processes” that represent a major change and improvement.  Their input, feedback and dedication to the testing process designs as they are developed is what leads to a precision result. On these projects, as soon as the participants realize the leaders of the change are fully equipped to truly incorporate the team's collaborative input into the evolving process design, these people consistently demonstrate extraordinary supportive behaviors. Their understanding of the need to establish agreement before moving from one design phase to the next is innate and they are ready to strike an agreement even when compromise is necessary.  Certainly near the front-lines we have found people are hungry for this kind of horizontal problem solving.
Mr. Womack and his colleagues at the Lean Enterprise Institute continue to pave the for spreading  the benefits of Lean farther and wider. My colleagues and I couldn’t appreciate their efforts more.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lean in Healthcare – are New Leadership Methods Required?

I just read an excellent posting on the Hospital Impact blog titled New Leadership methods could propel patient-/ person-centered care by Anthony Cirillo
The article examines the idea that a shift in the leadership style of healthcare organizations may be needed to create real change in the industry. He describes how engagement and employee involvement may be essential and how getting a genuine form of participation may be difficult. Consider this quote from the posting.
“Fundamental shifts come from self-driven authentic change, driven by people empowered to do so. I think we have created the illusion of some of this in the patient-centered care arena through scripts, training around how to deliver red carpet service, etc. But all of these miss the more systemic issue; people change because they want to change. Leadership has to create that context.”
If you are interested in learning about how to create real change in the healthcare industry I encourage you to read the posting. If you are interested in a real-world example illuminating the difference between genuine employee involvement and simply the appearance of employee involvement, see my posting Healthcare Manager Swallows Bitter Lean Pill and "Likes" It

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Healthcare - Do Passionate Practitioners Sometimes Slow the Spread of Lean?

Business meeting There is an excellent blog posting on the Lean Blog linking to video clips of an interview with Dr. John Toussaint, the CEO of Thedacare, a healthcare organization gaining notoriety for its successful application Lean. I will not summarize the content here - Mark Graban, who publishes the Lean Blog, has done an excellent job already – you can read his posting and access the video clips here - Thedacare News Coverage & More from Fox News.
However, I thought the first comment after Mark’s post, submitted by Michael Balle, asked an interesting question, “Why isn’t Lean spreading more quickly.” I’m not a Healthcare industry expert, but, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume Lean could be moving more quickly to improve Healthcare as well as other industries.
I recently made a presentation to a small group interested in learning about the application of Lean to Healthcare. The following discussion regarding the perception of Lean making a negative impact on Healthcare may shed some light on the subject.

I see two major concerns about Lean from the Healthcare community:
1. it will have a negative impact on the patient experience
2. it will have a negative impact on service providers by making things worse for the physicians, the nurses, the technicians, and so on … (they understand eventually this comes back around to impact the patient in a negative way)
I think people are seriously and legitimately concerned that Lean will have a negative impact on health care; that it will make it more difficult for the providers to do their job in the best way. They are saying, “Lean might reduce cost but at what expense?”
Audience member question:
You said the concerns are legitimate - I’m not so sure. Aren’t those concerns just “resistance to change”?
I don’t see it that way. I don’t believe healthcare providers have anything against reducing waste and lowering costs; they understand Lean is a way to accomplish those objectives and they know Lean has worked well in other industries. They just see the Healthcare industry as different. They are concerned applying Lean to Healthcare will make some things worse as it makes other things better. They are particularly worried it might make things worse for the patient.
To gain a better understanding, it is important to note how healthcare providers see their industry as different. They see Healthcare as more concerned about the “human experience” than other businesses. …I use the word human in this instance to make sure we don’t miss the fact that there is an important special perspective involved here.
Let me explain further- if you are making a car there is the perspective of the car. In the auto industry, efforts to improve production and quality often take on the perspective of the car and ask, “What is it that leads to the production of the best car?” But a car is not human. A car is a car.
In healthcare the product is a healthy human being, or better quality of life for humans, or affecting a cure for a human disease. The fact that we are talking about human beings makes it different – human beings and inanimate objects are different. If service providers know of Lean mostly as successful in industries dealing with inanimate products and services, and now it is being applied to an industry dealing with human beings – well I can certainly see a legitimate concern.
Audience Member
I understand what you are saying but I am not sure I agree. Making cars isn’t just about cars. People buy cars for a reason - so in the end it’s about what cars do for people – it’s about the impact on people. So there really is no difference.
Excellent point! What that reflects - and you are correct – is your deeper understanding of Lean. You realize producing cars is not just about cars – it’s about transportation; it’s about transportation for people.
Audience Member
…and status and other things.
Right again - and I’m glad you bring it up - cars are about all the other things they do for people as well. Again, I think your points reflect your deeper understanding of Lean. What I want to point out here is that when people from the healthcare industry are first introduced to Lean, it looks pretty obvious to them – working on humans is different than working on cars. And that makes the healthcare industry different. To a healthcare worker being introduced to Lean, the difference is justifiably very important. In fact, I think it is so obviously important, it will likely be pointed out again and again. If a Lean practitioner dismisses this important difference, or communicates a superior attitude by explaining the deeper understanding of Lean, before they recognize the valid concern and acknowledge its importance, they will not win many friends of Lean in the healthcare industry.
Audience Member
I can see what you are saying. It makes sense.

Summarizing A3 Management on Last Minute Notice


A friend asked me to help him prepare for a last minute interview for a management position at a "Lean" company.  He was concerned that he did not know enough about A3 to answer questions about the topic.  I created a summary of A3 to assist him.  I thought others might find my response useful and so I've posted it here.  The summary follows: 
Bruce, (not his real name) 
A3 is being promoted heavily by the Lean Enterprise Institute to emphasize the need to apply more than just the technical tools and methods of Lean but the social/management side of Lean as well.  Thoroughly understanding A3 is a big undertaking – but you have an excellent advantage – you understand many of the components already.  A3 is structured scientific problem solving to:
· meet company goals
· develop/ coach all employees to be better problem solvers
· develop managers to be effective problem solving coaches and to become creators of more managers with the same capability 
Together these goals ensure the organization will continually improve its capability to deploy strategies, meet goals,  respond to changes in the marketplace, and solve performance problems.
The name comes from the paper size (roughly 11 x 17) used by Toyota as the standard for creating and displaying  their A3 reports.
The important thing to understand is, “it’s not about the tool”.  It is about the points above.
It can get complicated or it can be kept simple.  For instance, I have a reference book that lists nine different types of A3’s used by Toyota.  And I have worked with companies using only one type.  In its simpler application, a single A3 form can serve as one stop shopping for learning about a project and how it is going.  During the course of project work, the information on an A3 form may go through the following logical progression:
· At first the A3 describes the problem, goals, objectives  - agreement is established between the project manager and a business or functional leader (the project manager may be a person whose role in the organization is that of an engineer, or a supervisor, or a team lead, to name just a few)
· Next an action plan is developed – those closest to the work help put it together and again agreement is established  among the extended team– this time all of the people who are responsible for the action plan are included in the agreement (this is done to ensure the plan is realistic and doable – people closer to the work are better able to determine how realistic the plan is)
· Actions are taken to carry out the plan and at appropriate intervals the A3 is updated – for example, a department level A3 may be updated every month while a division level A3 may be updated every quarter. 
· In a more complex application of A3, lower levels A3’s are collected to support higher level A3’s.  This is done to verify that the project results are rolling up to successfully meet the goals of a larger program or initiative.  It is typically not a straight mathematical rollup; instead its a loosely coupled to provide for a measured implementation.  Rather than tracking every penny of savings or improvement, the aim is to get the plan done and delivered the goals of the organization.     
The Lean Enterprise Institute has made examples available here
Bruce, you can see A3 it is not very different from methods that I know you have used in the past.  The A3 approach simply places special emphasis on:
· provision of clear communication
· accomplishment of a common understanding and agreement
· top-down and bottom-up planning   - executives say what needs to be done, employees say how it will be done
· an approach that supplies clear evidence of a working plan with a data driven approach  for carrying-out the projects that complete the program or initiative
· visible assurance that managers are actively coaching their subordinates to apply the process at every level of the company, from the executive ranks to the front lines of the business   
Just about anything else I point you too will likely confuse you on such short notice.  Descriptions for A3 thinking are all over the map.  By considering A3 the way I've presented it above you should get  through the interview just fine.
I’ll be around in the morning if you have questions.  Good luck!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hoshin Kanri Strategy Deployment, Product Development, and Lean Process Improvement Efforts

I came across the video below while doing some research. Mr. Kelley is “the founder and CEO of IDEO Product Development, America's largest independent product design and development firm. In addition to his work at IDEO Product Development, Kelley is a tenured professor at Stanford University in the school's innovative Product Design program.” (taken from his bio)

The approach he describes is by far the most successful way I have found to carry out the design and implementation of Lean process improvements. The video promotes an iterative development method which begins by putting a basic prototype in the hands of users as soon as possible. The iterative tactic represents what I find to be one of the most powerful aspects of the Hoshin Kanri strategy deployment framework. The approach emphasizes learning your way to the best solution by working in partnership with the end users (consumers). Note how he attaches the characteristic of both “speed” and “best” to the method.
If you found the video interesting you will most likely find the posting below helpful:
Does Hoshin Kanri Rely on a Form of Consumer Opinion?
For a more abstract analogy on an executive perspective of the iterative process as applied to a Lean implementation, please read:
Organic Lean, Natural High Performance – A Racing Analogy Explores Executive Perspective
You may also be interested in reviewing the presentation:
An Intro to Organic Lean – A Natural, Resistance-Free Implementation Approach

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Does Hoshin Kanri Rely on a Form of Consumer Opinion?

thumbs_up_computer20090819 Utilizing the Hoshin Kanri strategy deployment framework to manage a breakthrough initiative often involves a process design/ redesign effort. The framework guides the project in many ways similar to a product development effort. In product development, it can be advantageous to put an early working prototype in the hands of the consumer to find out what works and what doesn’t. The valuable consumer feedback obtained from this kind of exercise is used to modify or change the design to achieve a better fit. The exercise is repeated until the consumers become satisfied and the design becomes stable.

Hoshin Kanri guides strategic initiatives in the same way. An early basic version of the design is put in the hands of the consumers to get their feedback. But who are the consumers? In this case the consumers are those who will be most impacted by the changes required to meet the objectives of the initiative. For example, for a Lean material management/ kanban initiative the consumers might include representatives from the front lines of the operation, operations management groups such as those responsible for scheduling, production and\or or service delivery, inventory management, and distribution. The sales group may also be impacted and in many cases customers or suppliers may need to be included as well.

The team working through the process design/ redesign must recognize the Lean concept of “seeing value through the eyes of the customer (consumer)” as important and work diligently to uncover and incorporate the feedback into the evolving design. When the team recognizes they are receiving the “thumbs up” from consumers of the planned changes all along the value stream, the team has done its job well. The Hoshin Kanri/ strategy deployment framework includes all of the technical elements necessary to make this happen.

Hoshin Kanri and the Quality Management of Systems on the Move

at the meetingHoshin Kanri has been described as the application of quality management principles to change management. And it is true, frequent checks are made to ensure the kinds of breakthrough improvement efforts typically managed by Hoshin Kanri are both proceeding as planned and delivering the expected results. Yet there are certain characteristics which make the quality management of breakthrough improvement different from other applications of quality management. Understanding and handling these differences requires experience, good judgment, objectivity and patience.

To read the full article, click here .

Friday, July 31, 2009

Without Hoshin Kanri, the CEO Won’t Pull the Trigger on Her Plan

A service business CEO, leading an organization with 650 employees, wants to launch a strategic initiative but isn’t ready. Something is missing from the picture. What is it?

The CEO's idea is strong - boost financial results by putting a “pay for performance” model in place for employees. Her plan ties pay to productivity, quality, and other important measures. The financial argument is solid. The design looks great –

  • it’s been skillfully crafted by an industry expert

  • it's based on a model with a proven track record

  • and it's been tailored specifically for her business

Yet, even under the pressure of a struggling economy and shrinking profits, the CEO is reluctant to pull the trigger on the plan. Why? Well, as good as the plan is, she’s just not sure it will work.

What if the employees don’t like the change and resentment leaks through to customers?

What if the project runs into difficulty after launch, who will see it through?

What if the definition of service quality that was used to construct the model is slightly off?

Will an early performance boost be followed by a downward slide in results as customers realize things “aren’t what they used to be”?

What can be done to assure the CEO her plan will be a success?

Hoshin Kanri strategy deployment, also known as Policy Deployment, is a process designed to give the CEO the confidence she needs to pull the trigger on her plan. The process framework will not only communicate and deploy her idea, but it will launch her idea on the best possible footing, then protect and safeguard her investment by testing and proving her idea will work, under controlled conditions, before she’s in too deep.

Hoshin Kanri ensures CEO’s leading their businesses into the future will arrive safely and reap well deserved rewards. Hoshin Kanri makes sailing into uncharted waters safer and less stressful. When it comes to implementing strategies for boosting business performance, it’s as close as you can get to buying piece of mind.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Nobody Likes Bad Change" to be Presented at the TQM Network

You can attend a lively interactive presentation of "Nobody Likes Bad Change" at the offices of the TQMNetwork in Fort Wayne, Indiana on September 3rd, from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM.

I will:

  • smash a common myth about people - hint: do people really naturally resist change?
  • explain how to easily overcome "resistance to change"
  • the one thing you must have to get people to fully cooperate with change

Potential general business audience members should consider atending if:

  • you are in charge of making change successful at work and you want to keep unnecesary stress and problems from getting in the way or slowing you down
  • you are concerned about yourself, or someone you know, putting themselves at risk by responding to changes at work in a way that may be interpreteed as "resistance"
  • you want to increase yoru chances of playing a future leadership role in a business organization

Potential special topic audience members - you should consider attending if you are interested in one or more of the following:

  • change management
  • policy deployment, strategy deployment, Hoshin Kanri
  • implementing Lean, particulary in a non-manufacturing setting

In the last portion of the presentation, I will explain briefly:

  • why you must understand how to to manage change if you want to play a future leadership role in almost any larger organization
  • why "Hoshin Kanri" guided change management allows organizations to outpace their competition
  • why a particular personal philosophy can put you on the "leadership" fast track, and how you can get it, or at least take advantage of it, even if you don't have it

You can learn more about the session content and register for the event at the following link register.

You can preview a sampling of the presentation material below - albeit without my promised-to-be engaging stories of course, and without the opportunity to challenge my hopelessly positive attitude regarding people and what it really means when they "resist change".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Organic Lean™ - a Natural, Resistance-Free, Implementation Approach

It’s no secret – companies often struggle to implement Lean. In fact, according to an Industry Week article, By The Numbers: Of all firms responding to the IW/MPI Census of U.S. Manufacturers less than 20% of companies report a major increase in performance generated from improvement initiatives like Lean.

A typical transition to Lean starts out just fine. Once the executive vision for Lean as a business strategy has been communicated, introductory training then follows. The training is usually effective - bringing exciting Lean ideas and concepts into view. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm often quickly fades when the first Lean activities begin. What's the problem? Organizations frequently see standard implementation practices as potentially harmful. This perception of danger leads to a fast build-up employee resistance. Overcoming this "resistance to change" increases costs, weakens results, and decreases return on investment.

Organic Lean™ corrects standard implementation practices to fully deliver the benefits of Lean.

To learn more, read the full article An Introduction to Organic Lean , or see the presentation below.

Vist the Systemental website for information about Organic Lean™ Services

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nobody Likes Bad Change

Research has shown 8 out of 10 executives who launch major change initiatives are dissatisfied with the results delivered by their efforts. In larger organizations “resistance to change” and “lack of implementation know-how” are two of the top obstacles consistently identified as blocking or weakening success. The impact of these problems can be significant. At the least they cause excessive stress at work, and, at their worst, cause the loss of jobs and even business failure. The presentation below describes how to view “resistance to change” from a new, positive perspective. Tactics are then presented for using the fresh perspective as a problem solving tool capable of making the implementation of change easier, less stressful, and more successful.
For those interested in Lean management, the presentation, through stories and explanations, will develop a thorough understanding of the concept of "gaining social authority". In addition, tactics for applying the concepts are presented in a practical , easy to understand format.

Excellent MIT Sloan Management Review Article Explaining A3 Management Methods

The author, Michael S. Hopkins, bases the article content on John Shook's book Managing to Learn. I highly recommend the article - "Problem Solving by Design". (You may have to sign up with MIT Sloan but it is quick, easy and worth the effort.)

I was pleased to notice how consistently the article implies improvement is about building a more effective process, not finding fault with people. The article communicates through an example the underlying assumption of A3 Management - "people are smart and want to do good work", and the fundamental directive that follows - "let's work together to find the best way to get the job done".

The article includes a priceless quote from John Shook's book where early in his career his Toyota mentor told him,

"John, you must use the organization. It is there for you. Use the organization as if it were a tool to wield, an instrument to play ..."

The statement indicates high respect for the organization's capability. And, for those of you who like to take analogies a little further - if you think of the musical instrument comparison more deeply, you realize his mentor is also saying - there is a right way to play the instrument- if you learn the right way you will reveal the true, natural capability of the organization to solve problems and make improvements.

I recommend John Shook's blog as well. You can visit his blog using the following link: John Shook's Lean Management Column

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

That's Just Not Natural - 5 Ways to Squash Employee Involvement

Genuine employee involvement requires an understanding of what employees naturally appreciate when they participate in improvement activities. The following list describes five things employees definitely do not appreciate:  
  1. forced-march improvement activities
  2. a leader  employees perceive as having his or her own agenda with little concern for the needs of others 
  3. spending time solving problems that most people don’t care about
  4. “dog and pony show” style charts and visual management boards that mean little to real improvement
  5. someone from above or outside that apparently has all of the answers
Unfortunately, the most popular from the list above is the first point, the forced-march improvement activity.  This is perhaps most typified by a poorly prepared and poorly run kaizen event.
The second point from above is the easiest to spot.  It often happens when someone from corporate flies in to deliver a training event or run a project session.  Employees often complain of these events not being equal in value to the amount of time they take to complete.
The most frequent cause of point number three is tactical action planning that is driven from the top down instead of being driven from bottom-up. In these cases projects end up on the list that only the bosses seem to think are good ideas.  In itself, making one or more bosses happy isn't a bad thing, but when it happens at the expense of project that are better suited to solving urgent problems it really takes the wind out of the employees sails. 
Don’t get me started on point number four. A little bit of this may be understandable or even necessary but too much is simply unbearable. Too much damages motivations and turns the average employee into a cynic about company management.  When this happens it can take months or even years to repair.
You know number five is at work when employees start to openly complain about having to participate in improvement activities that are driven by corporate resources or by experts from outside the company.  The most common root cause of this kind of complaining by employees is a failure to encompass employee perspectives and concerns when designing the activity in the first place. 

Encompassing employee perspective and concerns in the design of an activity before launching the activity involves
  • getting to know the employee groups expected to attend
  • determining how the planned activity relates to the employee's concerns and interests
  • incorporating features into the activity which address employee concerns and interests
  • doing so in a way which creates synergy between the expectations and interests of employees at each level of the company - leadership, management, and organizational level employees
In fact, following the four points above is the answer to all "five things employees do not appreciate" mentioned in the first paragraph above.  A failure to encompass the various perspective's and concerns is guaranteed to slow things down and make them more difficult.  On the other hand, experience shows activities which do a good job of covering the various perspectives and concerns enjoy better participation, meet objectives in a shorter timeframe, and generate stronger results. 

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hoshin Kanri - Unreasonable Prima Donna or Your New Best Friend

It is easy to get intimidated by the many heavy, state-of-the-art, "tools and templates" style presentations of Hoshin Kanri material. This may leave many with the impression it would be almost impossible to convince key players it's worth the effort to adopt the methodology.

This would be a shame - first-hand accounts present a different story altogether - they reveal a very reasonable Hoshin Kanri character. In fact, under the right conditions, the methodology is really about making change more practical and comfortable for all involved.

Read the article "Hoshin Kanri - Get Ready to Move Her In" to learn more about the the star processes's pleasant alter ego.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Healthcare Manager Swallows Bitter Lean Pill and "Likes" It

A chance conversation uncovers a troubling, unhealthy perspective.

Last weekend I attended a social function where I had a chance to talk to a woman from a neighboring town who works for a large hospital and provider of healthcare services. 

During our converstaion I recognized her position at the hospital as being a middle management role so I asked her if she new about "Lean" entering the healthcare industry. She immediately new what I meant, told me her hospital was involved, and then quickly began describing a project impacting her area. The description she gave included several details, all of which seemed technically correct. Based on what she said, the work seemed admirable and I am sure the hospital is realizing good benefits from their efforts.

Then, just out of curiosity, and in the regular flow of the conversation, I asked how she personally felt about the new Lean program. She replied almost matter-of-factly but with a bit of sarcasm clearly evident in her voice. This is what she said,

"It doesn't matter what I think. Everyone knows they are supposed to smile and say how much they like it."

It took a little while for her answer to sink in. Later, when I recalled the candid comment, and some o the detail she mentioned that indicated the leaders of the project were making an effort at enabling employee involvement, I couldn't help but think, "maybe the executive management team believes they have genuine employee involvement on their side, when in reality, what they really have is a weaker, somewhat artificial form of employee involvement."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rescuing Lean

When Physicians See Lean as Unhealthy, Bad Medicine

photo of surgery courtesy of sxc.hu asterisc21A recent blog posting, Criticism of Lean at Park Nicolett Hospital, and the comments following the posting, brought out an important issue facing passionate Lean practitioners. I consider myself among this group. Check out the ninth comment below the posting - it appears to be from someone in the health care industry, possibly a physician, who has recently been part of a Lean deployment effort at a hospital. The commenter, who appears to be sincerely upset, sees Lean in a very poor light. For example, he made the following point which summarizes his thinking

"Running around with stop watches on a nursing floor and putting up charts about flow and such do not encourage "buy-in". Nurses and doctors are there to serve the patients. They do not view patients as part of an assembly line."

Clearly the commenter's viewpoint of "Lean" is negative and not a fair representation of "Lean", but, for all we know, may be legitimate based on the experience of how "Lean" was introduced into the hospital environment in question. To be fair, the commenter, who signed the comments as "anonymous", may represent a rare, outlier viewpoint not consistent with others at the hospital at all.

For the sake of discussion, let's suppose the following:

  • the commenter is a physician who has been involved in a lean effort
  • the implementation has missed the mark in a few ways; maybe
    • the implementers relied too heavily on "tools and templates" and essential "Lean" management and "Lean" social aspects were absent
    • project selection was not truly driven from the "bottom up"
    • the effort advanced with physicians under-represented or otherwise not "on board"
  • the physician now has a sincere, strong negative view of Lean
  • the "physicians" as a group share this same negative view of Lean
  • other groups still see "Lean" as good but the effort will not be nearly as strong as it could be without the physician "buy-in"

What is the approach you must take to rescue "Lean" in the eyes of the physicians?

Based on my experience in a variety of industries, the following must be done:

  • take "Lean" back to its core meaning - principles and methods used to add or strengthen value
  • review the cooperative nature of "Lean" - all stakeholder groups should see Lean as "good"
  • use basic terms everyone agrees represent "good", for example "Lean" is about getting more of what you want and less of what you don't want
  • discover value through the eyes of the physicians
  • translate value, or "getting more of what you want", into the real world benefits the physicians agree they would like to see happen, for example, maybe they would like "more time with patients"
  • list the issues and pick one near the top of the list to solve
  • partner with the physicians to solve it or significantly improve it
  • make "lean" principles and concepts part of the problem solving effort
  • take only the time the participating physicians are willing to give based on the perceived value of the issue (in other words - don't waste their time)
  • make your effort light on complicated tools and heavy on common sense, hard data, and real world experience
  • work through implementation and beyond addressing all group concerns
  • work thoroughly to put the changes in place as a system-based solution; one that will last
  • verify the physicians as a group see the improvement as "as a better way"; one they will protect

Applying the above in the right way will correct the problem (the right way - common concern, common understanding, common goal, executive support, group agreement, group resolution, group benefit). Physicians as a group will now see "Lean" as good and will agree to contribute to the effort.

Moving forward, to keep the physicians "on board", the local deployment leader must tell the physicians to hold the "Lean" effort to the standard of "more of what you want and less of what you don't want". Explain the standard applies to the physicians as a group. The deployment leader will need the backing of executive management and the freedom to take corrective action when the standard "takes a hit". Correcting problems as they crop up along the way will demonstrate to the physicians their interests are being taken seriously and emerging problems are being quickly resolved to their satisfaction.

Applying the same standard and protocol to all stakeholder groups will keep all groups on-board and the effort moving forward with maximum benefit and minimum waste.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Choosing Which GM Dealerships to Close

A Difficult but Necessary Strategy to Deploy

How would you go about selecting the dealerships to shut down? My colleague, Dean Willson, has posted a well written potential scenario on his Practical Business Improvement blog - "One Strategy to Describe GM History in More than 11 Chapters"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Staying on the Winning Line

It’s Tough Out on the Track

The Indy 500 is this weekend of course. There are certainly bigger fans than me, but you don’t have to be a fanatic to find the race fascinating.

For me, at any competitive event, it's the psychology that captures my attention most. I've never been that close to the participants, but the psychology of the race must be intense. After all, there may be one driver per car, but it is a team sport and there is a lot on the line. All kinds of unpredictable stuff happens between the start and the finish. How people work together before and during the race must play a huge part in the outcome. Surely it’s an environment where cool heads and cooperation have the greatest chance of prevailing.

500 miles is a long way when you’re frequently exceeding 200 mph. Tires wear out, the car suffers from the strain, unpredictable events like crashes and rain mean everyone suddenly has to make decisions – do we pull into the pits and make changes to the car?, what changes do we make?, or do we stay on the track?

In the end, it’s all about whose on the winning line and in position to win on the final lap. It isn't easy to put yourself at the front of the pack; to keep your nose always pointed toward victory. It takes:

  • the right plan
  • the right preparation
  • fast reactions
  • cooperation
  • smart adjustments along the way
  • vigilance and discipline

Sounds like a job for hoshin kanri, doesn’t it?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Winning the Lean Race - "What's the Right Lean Implementation Speed?"

If accomplishment wins the race, why do we often drive at the speed of activity?

Is it because those above us can't see our true "Lean" speed? After all, business scorecard measures usually aggregate too much data to be good gauges of Lean progress over short time periods. With this fact in mind, and in the absence of a good "lean speedometer", maybe executive management interprets more activity as "moving faster".

If this is the case, how do we correct the situation? Is it managment's job to come up with the right measurement to accurately indicate Lean progress? Or is that up to a technical person in charge of the technical side of your Lean effort? Or, maybe a financial person on your "Lean" team?

If you took on the challenge to create a "Lean Implementation Speedometer" what would your design look like? Would you be able to get agreement on one, or maybe a few, simple measures? Or would you want to try-out several measures, "dashboard" style, to give a larger audience a way to help you sort out what the indicators should be? If so, what metrics would you shop-around first?

blog posting - Dashboards - Not Just for Cars

Friday, April 17, 2009

Are There Good Reasons to Resist Change?

We have all seen good changes and bad changes before. We have seen them at work, at home, and out in the world at large. We've seen changes that appeared good at first, turn out to be bad later and vice-versa.

So what should people do when they see bad change coming their way? Should they just let it happen? or should they make their concerns known? If they are forceful in making their themselves heard, will their actions get labeled as "resistance to change"? Will this "resistance" then be seen as a negative trait of human nature and therefore something that must be overcome? Or will their concerns be taken seriously and viewed as issues to be resolved?

article - "Resistance to Change - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Attacking Implementation Resource Bottlenecks

Major change initiatives are often supported by many people who already have full time jobs. This can make it difficult to come up with enough resource hours to get the job done.

If you look closely, you often see "project leaders" are the bottleneck. One tactic for getting more done is to widen this common pinch-point by finding more of these leaders. You can do this by creating an environment where people feel safe exploring "widening boundaries of accountability". Done properly, "hidden leaders" nearly always emerge. These strong players end up providing much of the additional horsepower needed to be successful, and, as a bonus, they don't go back into hiding after your initiative is complete. Instead, they become key components of your organization's increased capability to implement change from that point forward.

article - "Getting More Done ..."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Practical Approach for Large Scale Performance Improvement

Executive strategies require a journey to a rumored destination.

The rumors almost always turn out to be true, if the organization successfully navigates the trip; too often though, the expedition falls short of the goal, or ends up someplace else.

Five stages of deployment will ensure safe arrival at the desired location.

  1. exploration - if we are going on a trip, what's it's going to be like out there?

  2. discovery - what benefits can can we expect to gain for our trouble?

  3. expedition - how will we get the entire crew there safe and sound?

  4. settlement - can we get everybody settled-in so they don't want to go back?

  5. evolution - now that we have arrived, where can we go from here?
As the questions above are answered, the strategy itself becomes better informed and more precise.

The hoshin kanri / strategy deployment process acts as a guide map for organizations blazing new ground

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why so much trouble with partial implementations? What can be done?

Studies repeatedly show major change initiatives frequently don't fully deliver the expected results. Surveys indicate "partial implementation of change" as a common contributing cause of this widespread problem.

Here's one take on why this is so:

Most major initiatives slow or stall during implementation. This is caused, in large part, when "change leaders" move on to their next objective before the work is complete. This is understandable - these leaders are often problem solving and process design experts whose skills are in high demand. Once they have made their valuable contribution to the effort, others can handle the drudgery of implementation.

Unfortunately, implementation is often where many issues are uncovered - issues requiring dedicated expertise to resolve properly.

Here's what can be done to keep it from happening to you:

  1. Identify the project finishers on your cross-functional teams right from the start. Choose these key players based on their previous performance in a similar role - it takes a certain stick-to-it-iveness to do “finishing” work. Include “front-line” people - they know they have to live with the changes and will be motivated to get it right.

  2. Audit and verify changes for completeness and effectiveness through observation, measurement, and, most importantly by talking things over with those whose work has been impacted. Do they think the changes are working? Have they noticed problems? Do they have concerns?

  3. Once your implementation is well under way, hopefully you'll be seeing measurable benefits. If so, to prevent backsliding, put an easy-to-use metric in place to identify a future slip in performance. Place it in regular view of a person with the authority and incentive to make the changes stick. Make sure this person agrees to perform this role.
In my experience, following these guidelines makes the implementation of sustainable change easier and less stressful.