Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Coaching is Effective

coachCoaching -
1. adds what is needed, when it is needed
2. increases engagement by synchronizing development with learner readiness
3. works to successfully deliver real-world projects as education takes place
4. eliminates learning waste to deliver higher educational ROI
5. applies different learning approaches to accommodate different learning styles
6. grows capability organically to boost success in a specific environment
7. pays for itself by boosting performance immediately
8. is appreciated by employees, which leads to higher retention and lower recruitment costs
9. is flexible, always focusing on what is most important as circumstances change
10. optimizes the benefits of other forms of training
Coaching doesn’t replace the need for other educational methods; it enhances the results they deliver.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don’t be an Answer-Man Super Hero

If you are a young, zealous technical person and you think the boss wsupermanants you to personally come up with the answers, you might want to know how my first boss set me straight:
  • I wasn’t supposed to work alone to come up with the answer by myself; I was supposed to orchestrate the development of an answer using the best expertise I could find for every aspect of the problem.
  • Any answer developed without engaging, and involving, the people who do the work was unworthy of my boss's time or attention.  The answer would not be adopted.    
  • Once an answer was developed on paper, I was to begin implementation by starting with a trial, pilot or prototype in a small area.  This approach enables stakeholders to be hands-on.  By enabling stakeholders to manipulate the changes and give them a thorough test, stakeholders are able to provide meaningful, well considered feedback. 
  • Next I was to take the feedback and feed it into the design of change in order to make adjustments. 
  • Finally I was to continually practice these cycles of testing feedback and design enhancement to increase the quality of change as the change advanced through every area where it is needed. 
My boss made it clear that by orchestrating the development of answers in this way, I would be giving the entire organization a chance to engage in the process of building high quality change.   

Upon reflecting on the excellent business results this process of development has produced time and again.  And upon reflecting on how it has impacted each organization where it has been persistently applied, I recognize now that my first boss understood how to transform organizational culture.  He understood that by carrying out, and being dedicated to, the process above, he could take an organization that struggled with change and transform it into one that excelled at change. 

My first boss understood the values and the behaviors that must become embedded in the organization in order to make the transformation last.  He knew these values had to be learned through a process of "learning by doing." He understood that in a culture that excels at change, there isn't any room for answer man superheroes.    

Friday, August 06, 2010

Excellent Lean Blog Post about Lean Culture

Check out Mark Graban’s post about how the CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital is building a true culture of continuous improvement.  Another Hospital CEO Talks Lean Culture

If you want to learn more about how to establish a company culture genuinely supportive of Lean, I recommend you read the full article appearing in the online periodical Smart Business Akron/Canton | August 2010  William Considine embraces Lean Six Sigma to improve Akron Children’s Hospital  From this article, I particularly like the following quote attributed to CEO Considine:

“You’ve got to believe in your people, you’ve got to trust your people, empower them, and you’re going to be blown away when you see what they come back with,” he says. “They’re going to show you improvements that you would never have thought about. They’re going to show you ways to be efficient that the high-stake consultants you could bring in wouldn’t be able to find. You just have to keep celebrating that.”


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Motivational Power of Confident Problem Management

Executives that take on big initiatives have big expectations for results.  Big initiatives are typically cross-functional with a lot of different perspectives and mindsets in play, not to mention the many different personalities that are certain to be involved.
When an experienced change leader accepts responsibility for guiding this kind of journey to a safe and successful conclusion, the leader knows there are going to be bumps in the road. Fortunately when the change leader has the support of an organization with the capability for skillfully solving the types of problems likely to arise, the leader enjoys the advantage of positive employee behaviors needed to make he big change initiative into a success.   To  manage the focus of the organization and keep it squarely on the path to success, expert leaders jump into action when an problem arises.  The following summary explains how the leader pitches-in to maintain a proper focus:

Make a fast appraisal of potential for harmMC900231833
  • Investigate: conduct an objective inquiry to collect  the facts and various perspectives on the problem.
  • Measure: ascertain the immediate scope and scale of the issue.  
  • Futurize*: analyze the forward risk and determine the potential damage and the speed at which it could spread.
Act with appropriate energy and authority
  • Respond: produce a plan for intervention to make the right things happen within the timeframe that minimizes risk and maximizes success  
  • Communicate: list the groups that need to be involved and decide what information needs to be provided to each group, then manage the delivery of information to minimize unnecessary communications that may waste time or cause a distraction what groups need to know about the issue and who needs to be involved to get it solved.  selecting what each group needs to know in order to feel as confident as possible that the right people are applying the right approach to the problem.
Show that as the leader, you are ready to answer for the quality of response and the result
  • Solve: take personal responsibility for knowing that the right people are on each aspect of the problem.  Stay vigilant to spot difficulty and shepherd additional expertise to where it is needed.  Apply an accountability mindset form the first mention of the problem and be confident that the capability is onboard or within reach to squash the problem quickly, even if the worst case scenario is realized.
  • Update: scan and collect information to keep those closest to the problem, and those who have the biggest stake in the outcome, fully informed. Selectively manage any additional communications to limit visibility of the problem in areas where visibility is not warranted.  Do this to minimize wasteful “fretting” behaviors – worrying, speculating, gossiping, spinning.  
  • Validate: verify the success of the problem resolution from the perspectives of all the groups involved in solving the issue or with a stake in the outcome. 
Understand that during times of change, the organizations eyes are on the change leader.  The organization observes the change leader's behavior to continuously calibrate its confidence against the quality of leader's response to the problems that arise.  With this in mind, it’s not easy to do all of the above in a way that truly inspires continuous confidence throughout the organization.  At the same time, experienced change leaders know its worth the time and energy to develop the right people for the job. These leaders know that where organizations are confident in their ability to successfully manage through the difficulties of major undertakings the leader is sure to find a fresh supply of willingness to take on accountability for making each new change initiative into a story of success.   
* “Yes, of course I made that word up. That’s what I love about the English language; people just make up words as they go along.”

Friday, July 09, 2010

Natural Team Motivations

Here is a list of some motivations for contributing to change that people bring to work each day.

The desire to:
  • eliminate hassle from the job
  • gain new knowledge and stay current in their area of expertise
  • build new skills to maintain job security even as things change 
  • get recognized as qualified for a promotion 
  • feel good about making a difference to the company, or to coworkers, or to a larger  community
  • gain the sense of satisfaction that comes from improving quality for customers 
  • feel the sense of reward that comes from being respected by peers
  • feel the sense of pride that comes from having the boss and other business leaders say "job well done"  
Tapping into a wider scope of motivations increases participation rates which leads to a greater likelihood of achieving outstanding success.  How? When specific set of change tactics is selected for the ability to serve a broad range of motivations, a larger number of individuals become engaged in the effort to make the change successful. The increase in participation puts more information, knowledge and energy into the change effort.  This provides for increased refinement of change plans, actions and ultimately the design of the change that takes place.  This increase in refinement increases precision and boosts performance.  Change is more successful.   

Next week: keep motivations high even when problems crop up along the way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Great Lean Thinking in Entrepreneurial Innovation

Wordle: Lean Method Variation
The following posts discuss how Lean principles are being applied in creative areas – business startups and product development.  
Parallels between “Lean Startups” and “Adaptive Design” by Mark Graban, the Lean Blog
Four myths about the Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Lessons Learned  
image above from http://www.wordle.net/

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Workaround – Glass Half Full or Glass Half Empty?


An interesting perspective on workarounds pops into view during a recent discussion of frustrations surrounding an ERP software implementation.   
During the conversation mentioned above, a National Account Manager employed by a company serving the construction industry mentioned the term “workaround.”  As the discussion continued, it became clear to me that he saw the term workaround as having a completely positive connotation.   
When I explained how people like myself, who work with concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, usually apply a negative connotation to the term and associate it with “waste.”  He looked as if he didn’t believe me.  In an animated and slightly high-pitched voice he responded, “Really!  I would have thought you technical people saw it as just the opposite – a creative way to improve on a bad situation!”   
Days later, just to make sure he didn’t think I was the only person with a strange negative perception of workarounds, I sent him a link to  “Beware the Workaround” (you’ll l have to scroll down to the December 2009 posting).  In this humorous blog entry, the improvement specialist author, describes a bathroom workaround which at first glance seems smart, but on further review, just looks like it will lead to more waste.         
For an interesting take on how an impending crisis can make a workaround start to look just fine, please also visit Dean Willson’s blog posting Workarounds - Dreaded or Welcome?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Lean is Like my Neighbor’s Beloved Lawn Tractor

iStock_tractor5 I have a friend who loves his lawn tractor second only to his family. He talks about this grass cutting machine like it’s so much more than I would ever think of it being. He washes it, waxes it, and keeps the blades sharpened, ready to do their best work. Now this guy doesn’t cut grass for a living - he’s an assistant police chief in a large town nearby. So his reverence for the machine isn’t based on the fact it’s providing for his family; it’s based on something else.
When he talks about mowing he will tell you how it feels to sit in the seat, what it’s like to make the turns, the sound of the engine, and finally he will tell you about the great job it does cutting the grass. He talks about the lawn tractor the way other people I know might speak about a car they’ve always wanted and finally were able to buy.
It’s interesting. To me, from my individual point-of-view, it seems funny to talk about a lawn tractor in such a personal way but perfectly reasonable to talk about a car in that manner. Is it because we sit inside the car that we see the human perspective as so central to the quality of a driving experience? Could it be that the simple shift from inside the car, to on-top of the tractor, makes us think of the tractor as more of a “tool” and therefore less accountable for delivering a high quality human experience?  Does it matter?  Or is it simply important to recognize that not everyone feels the same way about things?  How does this affect collaboration and teamwork?
How does this relate to technical business improvement? Are methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma more like a tool designed to complete a chore, or should they be accountable for delivering a high quality human experience? And how would you define that kind of experience for each of the groups involved?  For example:
  • executives who launch the initiatives
  • technical leaders who drive them
  • managers who oversee adoption of the various functional changes
  • ground-floor personnel who make the changes work in the day-to-day business
How would you define a high quality experience for the people in operations, the people in purchasing and supply, the people in product and service delivery, the people in marketing, sales, engineering, IT and HR…? Can the idea of a high quality experience be used as common ground for planning and agreement?