Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ten New Year’s Changes for Lean Leaders Transforming Culture


It’s that time of year again when many are making personal resolutions for change. But as I said yesterday I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. For most managers the beginning of New Year means establishing a new set of objectives. This is a good time to reflect on your progress over the past year and plan how you want improve in the coming year.

It is our role as leaders to reinforce cultural transformation in the workers perception of their work roles, to create structures for empowered workers to be accountable and successful, to communicate, support, reward and model this culture of engaged workers, helping to identify and resolve defects and eliminate waste.

As we head into a New Year I wanted to share ten changes that Lean leaders should consider to transform your culture. These changes must have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; a process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation.

1. Get Energized About Work. 

Getting energized about work usually results from a couple things. Primarily if a work culture is fun to be in, it’s a place you look forward to going because the people (and leadership) are authentic, caring and fun. And teams that are energized with what they are doing get excited by the opportunities that a day may bring.

2. Planning is the Basic Step for Success. 

You won’t know where you are going unless you know where you want to go. Confusing? Well that’s exactly how your business would be, if you do not keep things simple and organized. Planning is the basic step to succeed in business and planning accurately and developing strategies will lead you to a healthy and growing business. That means reframing the top down objectives in your organization. Don’t just work with only the large goal in mind. Set immediate and short term goals that fire up your team. Celebrate achieving those goals and adjust as the culture and needs change… We live in a very fluid business world where things change fast. Create a team that is able to change along with it.

3. Strive to Learn Something New Every Single Day.

It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information/technology age. Learn at least one new thing every day. Improve your mind and enhance your skills. Never stop learning.

4. Work Smarter Not Harder. 

Productivity comes from working smarter, not harder. That is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. You can be effective without being efficient, but, the key to productivity is to do both. Sometimes, those job inefficiencies are not very obvious. However, if you can specifically identify them, then those inefficiencies can be eliminated and staff can become more productive. By distributing the tasks and responsibilities around, you not only become more flexible and able to respond to changes more quickly, but you involve more people in the improvement process. This can increase work satisfaction as well.

5. Devote Time Each Month to Employee Development. 

 Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. You can make their career. In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee on a monthly basis (or more frequently, if possible) and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement.

6. Learn More from Reading.  

Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the Web. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt.

7. Try Something New. 

The world is moving forward, swiftly and consistently. As industry leaders, if you stop taking a breath, you will be left far behind others, competing in the race. Change is inevitable as so is it a scary concept. To overcome this fear, try doing something new. Take risks, explore ways to overcome the disabilities and move ahead. It might sound easy, but it is no less challenging.

8. Get Out of Your Office.

When you get bogged down, distracted, or even discouraged rediscover the power of going to see. There is no better way to experience the flow of value (or lack thereof) than taking the same journey that an order, new product, patient or other takes through your processes. Spend as much time as possible with employees and customers. Learn the issues first hand. Expand your focus. Many look primarily at the steps in the value stream and ask how to remove the waste. Reflect first on the purpose of the process. You must ask about the support processes to get the right people to the right place in the value stream at the right time with the right knowledge, materials, and equipment. Work to solve problems when and where they occur. Pay special attention to the way people are engaged in the operation and its improvement.

9. Focus Feedback on the Future. 

You want people to improve. In almost every case, people want to improve and do great work. Yet most workplace feedback is focused on something that can’t be changed -- the past. If you want to be a more effective coach to your team and help them make improvements in their skills and results, give them feedback, and about what they can do next time.

10. Follow Up and Follow Through. 

The primary criticism of leaders is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a manager follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality leader. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying “out of sight, out of mind”; leaders need to remind employees that their interested in improvement.

Change can only be successful if it’s truly desired. Change isn’t easy but positive changes are always worth the effort. It can be motivating to add up and consolidate all the gains that have been made so far and to acknowledge how far you have come. Lasting changes require continued commitment. Keeping your commitment isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends.



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3 comments:

  1. Excellent list, Tim. Many leaders struggle with time and compromise things like planning and self-development as a result. Hopefully your list will inspire some leaders out there.

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    1. Thanks Christian. I hope it does make others think about some changes for themselves.

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  2. Hey Tim. I agree with Christian. It's a great list. Numbers 7 and 8 hit home with me most right now. It is amazing how often I encounter a resistance to try something new. It's not really that hard. Try it. If it doesn't work, learn from it and try something else. Also, I see so many people that are disconnected from the floor. They are taking peoples report from the floor as fact. It's not that it's false, its just slanted. You need to see for your self.

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