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.