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Monday, November 15, 2010

Start a New Direction: Learning From CONNSTEP's Conference

Last week I attended CONNSTEP's Manufacturing and Business Conference in Hartford, CT.  I presented on Lean Product Development which I highlighted in the an earlier post.  For those who were unable to attend the conference this year I wanted to share some of my own learning with you.

The conference held on Veteran's Day opened with veteran and author of You Can't Predict a Hero: From War to Wall Street, Leading in Times of Crisis Joeseph Grano, Jr.  He started by saying management has 4 elements: planning, organizing, controlling, and leading.  You can delegate the first three but not leading.  When there is a problem Joe says unfortunately many managers look to see who did it instead of finding a solution.  Leaders need to have an eternal optimism and understand the self interest of those around them. People always do what they are paid to do.  Therefore the strategy and compensation must be linked.  Joe explained a rule he called the 95/5 rule.  This is where 95% of the time you challenge his decisions constructively to improve and 5% of the time just listen to him in a crisis.  To be successful leaders must be client-centric and solution based.  Joe ended with a philosophy he uses in life and business.  With one hand reach for the sky, with your other hand lift up those around you, and together embrace and reflect.

From there I went to listen to Mark Graban talk about Lean at Hospitals.  Mark explained a common reservation healthcare providers have of blindly copying tools which could impact the quality of care.  He says Lean at it's best is a management system, culture, and philosophy not tools for those on the front line.  The pillars of continuous improvement and respect for people are equally important.  As we know being busy doesn't mean you add value.  But it is hard when you are in the weeds.  You must step back and look for waste.  It is not good enough to identify waste.  You must help them solve it otherwise they just get more frustrated.  Mark's key point to make Lean successful is to go see, ask why, and show respect.

Nick Wallick, had a presentation called "The Effects of an Undercover Boss" that caught my attention.  His presentation was about leadership and respect for people.  With a brief introduction around the show Undercover Boss it was clear that while this creates an opportunity to review the process and experience employees in action you shouldn't need to go undercover to do so.  Nick says you focus on people by asking "what are people doing for people?"  People don't leave jobs, people leave leaders so start by looking in the mirror.  The traditional employment model in many companies is about hiring and firing.  He questions what is between hire and fire.  What if people management was about hiring and retiring.  Nick shared six guidelines to start interacting with people positively:
- Look in the mirror
- Provide opportunities for people
- Ask people what they think
- See the value in people (what do they do outside of work)
- Set goals and communicate
- Take some responsibility for others
He finished with this final point: Continuous improvement is applied to processes, Opportunities are applied to people. 

Jamie Flinchbaugh was the afternoon keynote speaker with a discussion on culture change.  Culture is the beliefs, habits, and learned responses of an organization.  Lean is born not from seeing but from thinking.  Jamie explained the difference between a supportive leader who says go ahead and an engaged leader who does it with you.  There are 3 elements to changing behaviors: Learning which is mental, applying which is hands on, and reflecting which comes from the heart.  Learning is comprised of training, coaching, and a common language.  Coach the method or process not the solution.  Applying is about creating experiences for employees.  Reflection is the basis of setting a good example.  People make mistakes and when that happens you have 2 choices: hope no one notices or acknowledge your gaps.  Jamie's final point is that organizations don't change people do, change starts with you. 

One of the highlights of the conference for me was connecting with the many Lean advocates from the region.  This was also the first time I got to meet Mark and Jamie in person.  Here is a photo of some avid Lean bloggers (myself with Mark Graban, Jamie Flinchbaugh, and Tom Southworth) you will likely recognize.

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1 comment:

  1. Tim,

    It's great that you have been able to take in a couple conferences lately. Thanks for sharing the highlights.