Friday, April 20, 2018

Lean Quote: Communication and Continuous Improvement

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience." — Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group

Continuous improvement means exactly what it says: It’s a nonstop effort to provide better products and services at lower costs. It’s the only way to maintain a competitive edge over companies that are out to grab your customers for themselves.

There are two reasons why good communication has to be at the heart of any continuous improvement process.

To do their jobs well, people must know what’s expected of them. It’s up to their manager to make those expectations clear.

This next reason is not so obvious and is related to the continuous aspect of continuous improvement:

It’s easier to get people to improve their work for short while than to get them to sustain that improvement over long periods. To do that, you have to keep reminding them of why they should use new methods, since they are often less convenient than older methods.

But those reminders become ineffective if people have to repeat them again and again. To avoid boring your audience, you continually have to find new way to get your “old” message across.

The key to keeping your communication improvement program alive is to keep workers focused on the right methods, and on the reasons for using them. Otherwise, they inevitably will regard the program as just another management fad: something we talk about today, and then forget about tomorrow.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ten Tips for Improving Communication

Real communication opens the tap for unrestricted flow of information. It’s not an easy process. It must be gradual. It requires trust and courage. To maintain credibility, management must strictly follow its own message. Real communication is based on mutual trust.

Ten Tips for Improving Communication
  1. Manage by walking around. Interact with as many people as possible, at all levels. Walk around. Comment on company business, problems, opportunities, and plans. Communicate informally.
  2. Substitute one-on-one exchange for unproductive meetings. Learn by listening. Make your message clear. Achieve more in less time.
  3. Reduce layers and stretch the organization horizontally. Communication will be faster, more reliable.
  4. Make the organization flexible. Avoid rigid organization charts and restrictive job descriptions. Flexibility allows new situations to be met fast by rearranging the troops, by forming ad-hoc teams. Informality lifts barriers in communication.
  5. Make written communication short and clear. To the point. Easy to understand. Avoid excessive explanations and arguments.
  6. Learn to listen. It provides information to the president or the sales person. The talkative sales person cannot hear the customer. A good listener does not interrupt, but shows interest and tries to understand the other party – what makes him or her tick.
  7. Accept frank opinions from peers and employees. Criticism is communication too. Don’t shoot the messenger.
  8. Think before you communicate. Consider the other party, anticipate reactions. Don’t tell people only what they want to hear. Give bad news in a sensitive way.
  9. Stay well informed. Via networking; interacting with colleagues, clients, and suppliers; with others connected to the business. Their input is important.
  10. Other methods. Include information to new hires; periodical briefings; information on notice boards; a professionally edited newsletter, using appropriate language to boost team spirit and promote new ideas.

Among all forms of communication, nothing equals a face-to-face exchange. There is no substitute for body language. The tone, facial expressions, and gestures that go with the words cannot be expressed in writing or even over the phone.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Leadership Behaviors That Show You Care

Strong leadership is essential for the success of any organization. Research shows that direct leaders bear the greatest influence on their organizations. In 2014, a group of Harvard researchers conducted a study of 3,200 employees in seven industries. They found that employees who felt they worked in a caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork, had less absenteeism, and had better organizational results.

There is not an objective measure to show how much a person really cares. As a results, we all have learned to make educated guesses about how much a person cares, based on a set of observable behaviors.

These are the tops behaviors which best show that you care:

1.     Builds Trust
It is difficult for leaders to communicate that they care about others when there is a lack of trust. When trust is missing, everything that is said or done is subject to question.Trust is built over time. It’s the foundation for positive relationships. It is built through knowledge and expertise. It comes from consistent actions and decisions that predictable and build confidence.

2.     Respects Others
Most people know that disrespecting others communicates a lack of caring. Take time to look at your actions and ask yourself if they might appear disrespectful to others. It is critical for leaders to gather feedback from others, not only to show respect but also to understand if their actions are having the intended positive impact.

3.     Is Approachable and Friendly
Leaders can a do set the tone for their workplace. There is tremendous power in a smile and in setting a positive atmosphere.

4.     Is Fair
Employees keep score: when their peers receive something they don’t, they notice. Lack of fairness it one of the most significant negative triggers of caring that is associated with leadership.

5.     Encourage Input and Involvement
Encouraging input from every person on the staff and asking their involvement in important decisions communicates that the leader cares for and values them and their ideas.

6.     Builds Unity
Leaders who encourage cooperation and collaboration among employees and between groups in the organization are perceived as much more caring than those who compete internally for people, equipment, and resources. Leaders who have the ability to unify and collaborate send the message that everyone in the organization is important, not just their team.

7.     Give Honest Feedback
Delivering tough feedback is often difficult and it can strain relationships; nevertheless, giving honest feedback ultimately shows caring. A leader who truly cares will tell others the truth about their performance.

8.     Develops Others
It is hard to think of a much better gift than to help another person learn a new skill. When leaders work with employees and push them to develop new skills and abilities, they are truly showing their concern for those employees. One way an organization develops is when leaders create an learning environment ins which people are encourage to learn from their mistakes and to analyze their successes to understand what went well.

9.     Resolves Conflicts
Most people assume that others will help in a difficult situation and therefore rationalize their apathy. Leaders need to acknowledge conflicts and work to get them quickly resolved.

10.  Walks The Talk
Leaders who actions match their word are more likely to be perceived as concerned and caring. Leaders can be tough-minded in their views and strict about rules, as long as they consistently enforce those standards.

11.  Is Open to Feedback and Willing to Change
A forceful way to show that you care about others is to be willing to change your own behavior. Leaders who are open to feedback from their direct repots and are willing to work on personal improvements are perceived as caring individuals.

12.  Gives Recognition
Most accomplishments mean very little until other people notice; recognition by others increases the value of those accomplishments. Leaders will never be hurt by finding more opportunities to recognize and reward other for their contributions.

Being a leader requires many important skills, one of which is the ability to make your staff feel valued for their contribution. Everyday leaders need to create an environment of inclusion and support where every member of the team can succeed. Imagine how every member of a team can thrive when there is an environment of support and understanding. Show them you care!

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Lean Quote: Communicate, Every Day, Every Way

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The art of communication is the language of leaders." — James Humes

Good communication is at the heart of great teamwork. Great teams communicate well and often, their members are happy to share ideas, brainstorm together, ask for feedback, and be contradicted.

This doesn’t mean team members always agree, but they’re able to communicate through their differences to settle on a sound solution and continue moving forwards as a team.

So, how to enable good communication?

  • Be clear: Set the tone for communication among the team. When is it acceptable to close your office door? Is it okay to contact someone after hours? How often should the whole team get together? This outline will help to keep everyone on the same page and communication flowing.
  • Listen: Communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Make sure you’re listening to fellow team members and actually considering their thoughts before offering your own solutions and input.
  • Method: There are so many ways to reach each other in the modern age. Try to use the most suitable tool to communicate for your specific needs, whether that’s email, a chat tool, phone call, or face to face. We’ve got an article that’ll help you decide which communication tool is best for what.
  • Touch base: Encourage informal meetings, information sharing, and huddles between team members. People shouldn’t have to wait for a weekly catch-up meeting to get together. Collaborative team members are comfortable communicating as and when they need to.
  • Collaboration tools: These enable workers to connect across the world, or across the office, in a group or one-to-one conversation. They also make progress on group projects at the times that are most convenient for them.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Five Keys to a Successful Change Management

The ultimate goal of change management is to drive organizational results and outcomes by engaging employees and inspiring their adoption of a new way of working. Whether it is a process, system, job role or organizational structure change (or all of the above), a project is only successful if individual employees change their daily behaviors and start doing their jobs in a new way. This is the essence of change management.

Giving employees a significant part to play in the transition process facilitates new beginnings in five ways:

  1. It gives employees new insight into the real problems being faced by the organization as it comes out of past and redefines itself. When employees understand the problems, they are in the business for solutions.
  2. By sharing these problems, you align yourself and your employees on one side and the problems on the other. The polarity is not between you and them; you are allies, not adversaries. If relationships has been frayed by change, this is a chance to rebuild them.
  3. Giving employees a part brings their firsthand knowledge to bear on solving problems. Joint decisions are not necessarily better than unilateral ones, but including employees makes their knowledge available to the decision maker, whoever that may be.
  4. The knowledge thus provided is more than the facts about the problem – it also includes facts about the self-interest of the various parties in the situation. Outcomes work bet if they serve the self-interest of those involved. Without that knowledge, the results are likely to be solutions that, however technically or economically satisfactory, run afoul of human respect.
  5. Finally, everyone who plays a part is implicitly implicated in the outcome. That is, after all, how democracy works: you vote, and your vote is an implicit promise to abide by the results. Although actual votes are rare in organizations, this essential strength of democracy is still attainable and advantageous. As in the political arena, it is more important that people accept the solution, whatever it is, than that it is the ideal solution. In most cases, excellence is about seven parts commitment and three parts strategy.

Plans are immensely reassuring to most people, not just because they contain information but because they exist. The existence of the plan sends a message: somebody is looking after s, taking our needs seriously, and watching out so we don’t get lost along the way.

But even the best-laid plans leave a troubling doubt in the minds of some people. You need to give people a role in dealing effectively with the change process itself. The easiest way to do this is to be sure that everyone has a part on planning, problem solving, and implementing the change.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Take Personal Responsibility For Your Future

Organizations can't stop the world from changing. The best they can do is adapt. The smart ones change before they have to. The lucky ones manage to scramble and adjust when push     comes to shove. The rest are losers, and they become history.

As organizations maneuver in an effort to cope with rapid change, some careers always get caught in the cracks. It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable. Some employees get pinched and, naturally, people cry foul. They accuse top management of “breaking the psychological contract,” of changing the rules. But it’s more accurate to say the organization is merely responding to a rule change called the world. The irony is that executives are in no-win situation.  If they’re smart, and change early like they should, they’re described as uncaring and over-reactive. If they drag around and don’t change until the world forces the issue, they’re considered inept as well as cruel.

Part of the problem lies in the “entitlement” mindset that has crept into our thinking over the past several decades. People come to believe that, because of all the years of work they put in, the organization “owes” them continued employment. Sticking with an outfit – loosely referred to as loyalty – was supposed to entitle a person to job security. Employees learn to expect regular pay increases and periodic promotions. Some folks even go so far as to presume they have a “right” to expect their employees to keep them happy and provide job satisfaction. The burden of responsibility for people’s careers shifted further and further away from employees, and more onto the back of the employers. Both parties bought into this system, and it has been bad for all concerned.

Too often employees rested on their past achievements, instead of requiring themselves to constantly improve their skills. They counted on their work history to qualify them for a promising career future. They became too dependent on their employers, expecting protective policies to shield them from the raw forces of change going on around the globe.
Obviously, it hasn’t work. High-velocity change has eliminated the need for many jobs. Because of new technology and global competition, organizations are being reshaped and work is being done differently. The marketplace is merciless, and it puts definite limits on how generous or protective an organization can be with its people.

This means you should reframe your relationship with the organization, just as it must reframe its relationship with customers and competitors. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you’re automatically “entitled” to pay increases, promotions, or even your job…even if you perform well.  Circumstances will keep changing. The best thing you can do is constantly improve your skills, stay flexible, and never con yourself into thinking that your employer is supposed to protect your future.

The era of entitlement is ending. Instead rely on your “rights,” take personal responsibility for your career. Put your faith in the future…and in yourself. Embrace change, and develop the work habits you need for job success in the Information Age.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Lean Quote: Build Trust With These Actions

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything." — Mark Twain, American Writer

There are two sides to trust: the first is outward-looking and grows from a person’s past experiences with that particular person or group; the second is inward-looking and comes from the person’s own history, particularly from childhood experiences. The level of trust that anyone feels is fed by both of these sources. You have control over the outward-facing source, so start there.

The technique is simple—simple to explain anyway: start being trustworthy.

Trustworthiness is encouraged by a number of actions that are within your power to take:

1. Do what you say you will do. Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. Most people’s mistrust has come from the untrustworthy actions of others in the past.

2. If for any reason you cannot follow through on a promise, warn the person as soon as the situation becomes clear to you, and explain the circumstances that led to your failure to do what you promised.

3. Listen to people carefully and tell them what you think they are saying. If you have it wrong, accept the correction and revise what you say. People trust most the people whom they believe understand them.

4. Understand what matters to people and work hard to protect anything that is related to what matters to them. People trust those who are looking out for their best interests.

5. Share yourself honestly. A lot of mistrust begins when people are unable to read you. And remember: while hiding your shortcomings may polish your image, it ultimately undermines people’s trust in you. Admitting an untrustworthy action is itself a trustworthy action.

6. Ask for feedback and acknowledge unasked-for feedback on the subject of your own trustworthiness whenever it is given. Regard it as valuable information and reflect on it. Feedback may be biased, and you don’t have to swallow it whole. But check it for important half-truths.

7. Don’t try to push others to trust you further than you trust them. You will communicate subtly whatever mistrust you are feeling, and it will be returned to you in kind. Trust is mutual, or else it is very shallow.

8. Try extending your trust of others a little further than you normally would. Being trusted makes a person more trustworthy, and trustworthy people are more trusting.

9. Don’t confuse being trustworthy with “being a buddy.” Being a buddy for any purpose besides friendship is an untrustworthy act. Besides, trust doesn’t automatically come with friendship.

10. Don’t be surprised if your trust-building project is viewed suspiciously. Asking people to let go of their old mistrust of managers (and of you in particular) puts them into a significant (and dangerous-feeling) transition. Their mistrust—justified or not—was a form of self-protection, and no one gives up self-protection easily.

11. If all of this is too complicated to remember and you want a single key to the building of trust, just remind yourself, “Tell the truth.”

As to what you can do with the inner face of mistrust—which goes back to people’s childhoods—the same advice holds true. The difference is that if a person’s history has reinforced their mistrust of others, you will make even slower headway than you will in combating the mistrust you’ve earned by your own actions. But you can make headway with even the most mistrustful person, so get started.

Every hour that mistrust continues makes transition more difficult to manage than it has to be.

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges

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