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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Daily Lean Tip Edition #47

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #691 - Nail Down Project Details First
Before you ever start the project, make sure that it is based on a solid foundation and that you have the buy-in from all key stakeholders. Understand their interests and expectations and be aware of how they will determine whether or not the project is successful. You will also need to ensure that the project scope is distinctly identified, including the roles and responsibilities of the various project team members. Develop the project plan and verify that the goals of the key elements are clearly defined and closely aligned. You should also establish measurable and trackable success criteria, including accomplishing tasks on schedule, achieving budget targets, confirming product functionality is satisfactory to the customer, and ensuring government and/or industry regulations are met. Take care of all the details to lay the groundwork for your project’s success.

Lean Tip #692 - Define Critical Project Milestones
Identify defining moments throughout the project. You can provide a life cycle of the project by including the four main phases: initiation, planning, execution and closure. Perform a real evaluation at the end of each phase. Make sure to examine every deliverable. From parts of the product to the technical documents to the project plan, you will need all of the elements involved to ensure the product is meeting the project specifications. The product needs to be aligned with the quality your customers are expecting. These milestones will not only help you to eliminate project risk and monitor project change, but will also alert you to any continuing problems and ensure that each piece is correctly completed.

Lean Tip #693 - Keep the Communication Lines Open
One of the most critical steps in the project management process is to ensure that the communication lines are open. As the project manager, you will need to be the operator of this communications system. Keep a communications plan and stick with it. Throughout the entire project, communication should be consistent, open, honest and clear. Make sure you keep in touch with all key stakeholders and team members during the project process. Ensure that everyone has the information necessary to make decisions and proceed with the project. You can also keep everyone on the same page by creating status reports based upon the project information and updates.

Lean Tip #694 - Test Deliverables Until They Meet or Exceed Customer Expectations
Deliverables should be tested at every critical milestone and the final product must meet the project requirements. Before moving on to the next phase of the project, you need to be sure that the product is coming along as planned. At the end of the project, the deliverable must meet or exceed the customer expectations to be considered a success. The final phase of the project is closure. This grand finale is a sign of achievement for you as a project manager, as well as the rest of your team and stakeholders. Once the project is complete and the customer is happy, your mission is complete.

Lean Tip #695 - Each Project Can Be A Valuable Learning Tool
What lessons have you learned along your project management process? Each project can be a valuable learning tool. You will want to review the project as a whole, as well as analyze various project components. What were the project victories? Where were there project disappointments? Make informed conclusions about the project’s quality and the product’s performance. Compare the planned return on investment (ROI) to the actual ROI as one way to understand the level of your success. You can use the lessons learned from each project to minimize future failures and maximize future successes.

Lean Tip #696 - Empower Your Employees by Giving Them Guidelines for Making Decisions.
Far from relinquishing control of your business, empowering those who are closest to the action to make decisions, can lead to the right result. Here's one example of how this can be achieved. Laurie Benson, CEO of Inacom Information Systems, implemented what she calls an "empowerment triangle" whereby each employee is allowed to make any decision, as long as they consider the impact of their decision on three things - the customer, the employee, and profitability (hence the "triangle").

Lean Tip #697 - Acknowledging Employees for What They Bring to the Table Will Help Integrate Individualists into the Team.
A team is only as good as the sum of its parts, but sometimes egos get in the way and disrupt the delicate balance of the team. But by recognizing and acknowledging the intrinsic value of individual contributions, trust can follow and egos can be checked.

Lean Tip #698 - Form Common Skills Among Employees. 
Be sure everyone has a common skill base for communication, problem solving, giving and receiving peer feedback. I find that teams who have these common skill sets are much more productive than teams that don't. Technical expertise is only half of the success quotient.

Lean Tip #699 - Encourage Each Person to Do Better.
If someone is not doing well, you need to take the time to retrain them or help them overcome their obstacles. These situations should be viewed as an opportunity to grow, as opposed to points where you assign blame.

Lean Tip #700 - Let Team Members Solve Problems Together.
If a problem develops, there is always an instinct to jump and try to give orders. This will not give your team a chance to work together in a harmonious way. Take a step back and allow each member to be part of the solution.

Lean Tip #701 - Tell Staff What to Do, Not How to Do It
Effective delegation is an important part of becoming a good leader. Understand that employees are looking to develop their skills, so when you delegate, give them an important task to accomplish. Then stand back and let them figure out how to do it. When you tell employees how to do the task, they feel mistrusted and perhaps worthless. It is difficult to trust a leader who can't let go.

Lean Tip #702 - Be Available and Offer Help to Employees
Don't just have an open-door policy; make time to talk with employees and ask their opinions. Employees want to think they have the boss's ear and can come to you when they have issues. No matter how busy you are, when you walk through your work area and notice an employee who needs assistance, offer some. Step in and get your hands dirty. It won't go unnoticed.

Lean Tip #703 - Create a Welcoming and Positive Office Environment
Company culture is the essence of your business and will determine how your employees will act in the workplace. If your company culture is firm but fair, you can expect your employees to work hard and respect the company.

Lean Tip #704 – The Best Approach to Take With Your Staff is That of a ‘Coach’.
This means that you give your employees the power and autonomy to perform the duties of their job whilst providing them with the necessary support to achieve their goals. Micromanaging your staff will make them feel like you don’t trust them, or that you undermine their value.

Lean Tip #705 - Practice Transparency and Encourage Honesty
Be honest and open with your staff on matters that affect them and could ultimately put their mind at ease. It is important that you involve employees where you can with decision making to make them feel valued. As a manager, your aim is to have an open and honest working environment where your staff feel confident in coming to you with the truth about matters, whether they are big or small.

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