Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Ways to Encourage Collaboration within the Team

An efficient workplace and a strong working environment are the keys to business success. Getting the right people is one thing, but if they aren’t able to work together, the entire team is likely to suffer. This means that goals won’t be met and targets won’t be achieved, leading to knock-on effects throughout the business.

For that reason, it is essential to work towards improving efficiency wherever possible. Happy and contented employees make the best workers, but they also need to be able to function well as a team unit in order for things to really work to the best of their ability.

As the team leader, it is your duty to encourage this team spirit and promote a positive, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. However, this can be difficult if you find that members of your team are not getting along as well as they should. Collaboration is the key to worthwhile workplace relationships and a stronger team, but how can this be utilized and harnessed within your team?

Firstly, it is important to establish what collaboration is and how it differs to similar buzzwords such as co-operation. Of course, both are important, but it is collaboration which really has the power to bring about a real positive change at work.

Within a collaborative workplace, the entire team are working towards a common goal. Everyone shares any resources or information with their colleagues and this helps to guarantee the success of the team as a whole. It is this shared goal which helps individuals to bond with one another and will provide a focus on promoting greater levels of success and achievement.  

Here are five of the best ways in which you can encourage collaboration within the workplace.

Improve the Environment
It is common knowledge that the right work environment can do wonders when it comes to boosting morale and improving the overall happiness of employees. However, how can the environment help with collaboration? Creating the right environment will not only improve rates of motivation and productivity, but it can also work as a great shared incentive for reaching targets and achieving goals.

Ascertain Leadership
The best leaders have the ability to inspire colleagues and team members, helping to make the entire team more successful. Strong leaders are motivational yet also understanding, recognizing that the success of the entire team rests on the shoulders of each unique person as an individual.  

Partake in Team Building Activities
Team building activities and corporate events can be a great way of re-energizing employees and promoting workplace relationships. Fostering strong friendships at work is a great way to help employees to bond and get to know one another, which is something team building is geared towards enabling. Whether it is indoor or outdoor activities, there are plenty of different alternatives for team building out there, providing plenty of opportunities for you to find one to suit the needs of you and your team.

For more team building ideas, Team Challenge Company can provide inspiration.

Share Knowledge
No two people are exactly the same, meaning that everyone is going to have different strengths and weaknesses. Within the workplace, this can combine to create a useful database of shared knowledge – a real bonus when it comes to problem-solving, for example.

Adapt to New Ideas
Within business, it is important to recognize that sometimes, things just don’t work out. Therefore, it is vital to allow yourself and your team the room for growth and development. Trying out new strategies and adapting to change can bring about a real positive impact, helping to improve the workplace for the better.

By following these handy tips, you should soon be well on your way towards creating a more positive, efficient and successful collaborative approach to your team. 

Author Bio:
Maise Hunns is a business journalist and works with many Team Building Companies to help broadcast the benefits of healthy employee well-being on a business.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Be FAIR with Your Strategic Initiatives

One of the most persistent challenges that managers face these days is “initiative overload” – having too many projects on the plate and not enough time to get them done.  If too many projects are launched, too many improvements strived for or too many goals targeted, chances are that despite great efforts and spending, the dilution of limited resources will not earn noticeable / satisfactory progress.

It's about prioritizing. If you chase two rabbits, you won't catch either one of them. So you have to prioritize.  - Eric Thomas

The lesson of focus and choice is certainly a driver of success with strategic initiatives. Effective leaders have the discipline to focus, choose the best target, and pursue: it is the #1 characteristic of outstanding performers.

World class organizations focus on the vital few projects, instead of the trivial many. If you want to improve your revenue and profitability performance, you will get better performance by limiting your portfolio to a few key strategic initiatives. And it’s worth abiding by the definition: not everything is a strategic initiative. As it becomes clear which are the strategic initiatives, it becomes easier to give them sufficient resources and the best of leadership.
Improvement opportunities are infinite in any organization. Think about a factory, a hospital or an office building. What comes limited are resources: money, people, equipment, material, floor space… and time.

Hoshin Kanri or Hoshin planning, strategic planning or policy deployment is a method designed to focus and align all contributions of the organization’s staff on required breakthroughs in order to achieve the top strategic objectives.

The Hoshin framework is made up of four phases similar to the PDCA cycle. The entire process is also designated as 'F-A-I-R'.

1. It begins with the Act stage, where senior company executives, along with general managers, revise the company's corporate strategy. This is termed the 'Focus' phase of Hoshin Kanri, where a few vital strategic objectives are determined for the company.

2. Next is the Plan stage, termed the 'Alignment,' when the select few vital objectives are rolled down cross-functionally within the company to each division or business unit. The divisions work to develop the plans necessary to meet these objectives.

3. The Do stage is the 'Integration' of these plans into daily management and project working.

4. The Check stage, known also as the 'Responsive' phase, refers to the management of the strategic objectives in the processes of daily working. It involves both daily and periodic reviews of the work in progress. While the processes should be continually monitored, and modified as necessary, a major quality audit is conducted annually.

Hoshin Kanri is an excellent method for improving communication within the organization. It works on both a strategic planning level and an everyday level to make certain that all levels within the company are aware of the major goals of the organization and are implementing processes to successfully to achieve them.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Lean Quote: Never Stop Learning

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.

"Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of non-knowledge." — Isaac Bashevis

No matter how smart we think we are, how much we study or how much we actually know, it will never be close to knowing all we can because knowledge is endless. There will always be someone who knows more than you, there were always be new knowledge about certain things being brought to our attention and we will never stop learning, even if we want to.

The most successful people I know all have one primary thing in common. They never stop learning. They are continuously interested in and looking for better ways to do what they do: To train; to teach; to learn; to perform. They never stop looking for the competitive edge! They intuitively know that the competitive edge that they may have mastered today will be replaced soon enough by the competitive edge of tomorrow! Simply put, no matter how successful they became, they always maintain a beginner’s mind.

What's a beginner’s mind? You go into situations open-minded like a "beginner" with the attitude that no matter how much you know, there's always more to learn! When you approach experiences with a beginner's mind, wonderfully surprising things happen! You make unexpected discoveries that will help you become smarter, faster, stronger and a more highly evolved athlete/person. Maintaining a beginner's mind will insure that your passion and motivation for your sport remains at a high level. This is what happens when we learn new things. It creates an excitement which, like a building, surging wave, you can "catch" and ride to new heights!

The day that you think you know it all, is the day that you stop learning and growing. It's the day that you start regressing and going backwards!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Simplicity and Employee Engagement

Does being less engaged make employees less productive... or vice versa, are they disengaged because they have so much more pressure to produce more?

In this age of global competitiveness, organizations are challenged to increase productivity, accelerate innovation, and maneuver themselves into a position of strategic sustainability. This requires strong alignment of motivated people to deliver results.

Here are four simple rules for achieving real and lasting collaboration throughout the organization:

1. Understand what your employees actually do. "Most management approaches pay less attention to the day-to-day reality of how people behave and why, and instead add unnecessary functions and procedures. People act rationally, even if their actions create problems for the organization. They are trying to look after their own interests. Change the conditions inside the organization so their interests align with what you need them to do.

2. Find your fighters. Conflict is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. But it can be a sign that people are actually doing the hard work of cooperating, which can be difficult and create tension and resentment. But the people who are resented might be the glue that holds cooperation together. We call them 'integrators.' They're often not in positions of formal power. They often operate at the intersection between two groups. They have an interest in cooperation and the power to make collaboration happen. Integrators can be well-liked, but they can also be resented. They are forcing others to make hard choices. You can identify integrators by the fact that they are the focus of strong feelings, either positive or negative. Give integrators the power, incentives and authority to succeed."

3. Give more people more power... The real key to performance is combining cooperation with autonomy. The problem with standard approaches to an increasingly complex business environment is that by creating new layers and processes and systems to deal with these challenges you also sacrifice people’s autonomy. That makes the organization less agile. One of the effects of simplicity is to balance autonomy and cooperation. It gives people enough power to take the risk of interpreting rules, using their judgment and intelligence. If more employees have power to make decisions in your organization, that means they can solve problems on their own.

4. Don’t punish failure—punish the failure to cooperate. If people are afraid to fail, they will hide problems from you and your peers. Reward people who surface problems—and punish those who don’t come together to help solve them.

Simple rules work, it turns out, because they do three things very well. First, they confer the flexibility to pursue new opportunities while maintaining some consistency. Second, they can produce better decisions. When information is limited and time is short, simple rules make it fast and easy for people, organizations, and leaders to make sound choices. They can even outperform complicated decision-making approaches in some situations. Finally, simplicity allows members to synchronize their activities with one another. As a result, companies can do things that would be impossible for their individual employees to achieve on their own. 

These rules present an interesting approach to employee engagement. Employees are empowered, work together, know how their contributions matter, and are allowed to take risks and fail - all in an environment where complexities, in general, have been removed.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

4 Tiers for Daily Accountability

Lean (continuous improvement) organizations make use of daily management systems that are designed so that problems can be quickly identified, front-line staff are empowered to fix the problems that they can, and problems that the front-line staff cannot fix are escalated and countermeasures created quickly.

Daily tiered meetings are an integral element of daily management system. The number of tiers might vary with respect to the size of the organization. The objective of the tiered meetings is to have an alignment across the organization to achieve a common goal. The result KPIs & process KPIs are monitored on a day-to-day basis. The result KPI of one tier might be the process KPI of another. Thus the linkage between hierarchies too is maintained in achieving the common goal.

Tier 1: Start of shift, led by production team leader with production team. The idea is to focus on abnormalities. That’s an opportunity to get better.

Tier 2: Led by supervisor with production team leaders and any dedicated support group representatives.

Tier 3: Led by value stream manager or equivalent with supervisors and support group representatives or staff members. The goal is to visualize gaps in the system, drive team problem-solving and to improve the overall business. Tier 3 is the first place where the overall business goals are being addressed in the problem-solving process.

Tier 4: Led by plant manager with production and support staff members.  Focused on "run-the-business" as well as "improve-the-business" activities.

Characteristics of all meetings:

  • Brief - rarely longer than 15 minutes
  • Standing up
  • Located immediately adjacent to and not physically separated from production floor
  • Agenda and content defined by a visual display board

The backdrop for tiered meetings is primarily a visual process performance metric board and is supplemented with things like a task accountability board, posted leader standard work, and suggestion status board.

The meeting is an opportunity for the team to reflect on the past day, anticipate the next day and discuss issues, problems and opportunities. Engaging people in the meeting is too important. The team leader should engage as many people as possible in this problem solving exercise as to develop more problem solvers. Thus everyone becomes a leader and the behavior gets built in.

Daily accountability is a vehicle for ensuring that focus on process leads to action to improve it. The structure of the daily accountability process is straightforward — a series of four brief meetings to review what happened yesterday and assign actions for improvement. These are fast-paced, stand-up meetings at the work location that emphasize quickly resolving or investigating to the next level interruptions in the defined process.

Daily accountability is the vehicle for interpreting the observations recorded on the visual controls, converting them into assignments for action and following up to see to it that assignments are completed. As with the other principal elements of lean management, daily accountability relies on disciplined adherence to its processes on the part of those who lead the four-tier meetings. 

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Lean Quote: The Waste of Talent, Skill, and Knowledge

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 buried talent is the sunken rock on which most lives strike and founder." — Frederick William Faber

The waste of Talent, creativity or your people is an addition to the seven wastes of lean manufacturing (Muda), it is the failure to make good use of your employees; all of them. Your employees are your most valuable resources when it comes to ensuring that the business runs smoothly and continuously improves.

When companies fail to recognize or utilize people’s talents, skills or special knowledge, not only are they missing the benefit of these resources, the underutilized are likely to become dissatisfied and may begin to perform poorly, or leave. This waste of talent happens when management is not responsive, does not assign tasks appropriately or does not train properly.

Without the involvement and loyalty of all of your employees your company will fail to compete as effectively as it could do with their help. In today’s global marketplace we need every advantage that we can get to maintain and improve our businesses.

Examples of wastes of Talent
  • Problem solving conducted only by experts, ignoring the input from other employees.
  • Improvement ideas that are forced upon different sections of the company rather than invented within them.
  • A workforce that feels that there is no point in making suggestions for improvement.

The main cost of the waste of talent within your organization is in time wasted to make improvements and meet changing customer requirements. You will be far slower at making improvements and solving problems if you rely only on your “experts” to come up with the ideas, whilst your engineers, supervisors and managers may be highly skilled they are small in number compared to your other employees.

This failure to make improvements at a good pace will eventually mean that your competitors will move ahead of you and will lead the way within your industry whilst you lag far behind. They will win the business from you as they are able to offer enhanced service and lower costs.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

5 Questions to Ask When Drawing A Process Map

A process map is like a flowchart. It is constructed for the purpose of showing the flow of a process or cycle over time. The detailed sequences of activities, inputs, and outputs for a particular process is the key information needed to construct the map. The way in which this information is obtained is by asking a series of questions aimed at tracking the flow through each function or activity.

For any process map generated, the questions are similar in content and purpose, but are phrased to elicit the process flow being mapped. Start your questions at the beginning of the process:

Question 1: Where does the process begin – what is the very first thing that happens to initiate the process – and who does it?

Question 2: What happens next and who does that? 

On the simplest level, the map may be constructed by repeating question 2 until the entire process is mapped. However, there are some specific situations and items that you should know how to represent on your map.

It is likely that there will be some “if/then” situations in the product or information flow. These are decision points that will necessarily create branches in the map illustrating alternate routes for the product or information to flow, depending on decisions made. It is important that these situations be identified and mapped, which can be done by asking:

Question 3: Is there a decision to be made after step x ?

If so, what is the decision and what are the branches that the process might take after this decision? What are the first steps in each of the branches? Continue with Question 2 for each of the branches. 

The product or information flow may cut across different functional areas, or the same step may occur at the same time. Also, different steps may occur in different functional areas at the same time. This usually means there are various product or information components that will be rejoined. To cover this type of situation ask:

Question 4: Regarding the last step performed by function x, is there another function that is performing that same step simultaneously?

Or, is there another different step that is happening simultaneously, and if so, what is it and who does it?

You should also identify the inputs and outputs from each step in the process flow. Inputs are the products or information required for a step to be completed. Inputs can include orders, decisions, policies, specifications, subassemblies, raw materials, etc. Outputs are the outcomes from a step that are passed on to the next step. The outputs from one step become the inputs to other steps. 


Question 5: What are the inputs and outputs associated with step x ?

Often there is an issue among team members over what level of detail is appropriate for mapping. Additionally, it is sometimes unclear if a step should be included as part of the process if it doesn’t happen all the time. This is where I use the 20% rule. This rule states that you should map a step if it occurs 20% or more of the time. This is not, however, a hard-and-fast rule, and there are exceptions. Think of this rule as a way to help you determine whether to map a step if there are no obvious indications for or against including it.

It is important that you clarify and confirm the map. Review it with those who provided the information and expect changes. Building the map is and iterative process.

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