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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Daily Lean Tips Edition #53

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 #781 - Follow Through– Don’t Stop at the Vision.
Casting the vision is not enough.  Starting out is always the most difficult part, but do not let the vision fall flat.  Revisit, reinvent, and restrategize until the flow becomes natural.  Get advice by networking with other Lean companies, and do not give up.

Lean Tip #782 - Be Flexible, but Committed.
This is absolutely a must.  The very nature of change is enough to generate discord and frustration.  It instantly pushes some people out.  Although those voices are sometimes the loudest, they are almost never the majority.  Be flexible in implementation, but committed to the goal.  Those who remain typically show higher productivity, and a stronger commitment to the company and to the vision.

Lean Tip #783 - Foster Excitement, Motivation, and Engagement Around The Vision By Articulating The WIFM (What’s In It For Me) Factor.
Let your employees know how they will benefit from embracing the vision. Explain and reinforce the financial rewards when the goals of the vision have been achieved, such as bonuses, recognition, and career development. Share the vision frequently through staff meetings, outings, newsletters, emails, posters and employee campaigns. Develop visuals, such as tables, charts and photos, which highlight milestone accomplishments of the vision.
Create and align company goals with the vision, and align individual and team goals with company goals.

Lean Tip #784 - Create A Workplace Culture That Values Real People Relationships.
For many employees, workgroup relationships and relationships between managers and workers drive engagement and loyalty more effectively than foosball machines, logo T-shirts, and Thirsty Thursday gatherings.

Lean Tip #785 - Model The Behaviors You Seek From Employees.
Just as the principle at the high school did, accept your responsibility as a leader and act with engagement, commitment and responsibility. Do this every day.

Each of us possesses skills, strengths, talents and flaws. Each of us seeks to belong, to be engaged, to relate to those around us. Loyalty is built on relationships, shared understanding and trust. Engagement and commitment require loyalty, shared goals and fair treatment. Don’t take loyalty and engagement for granted – create a remarkable culture where there are possible and rewarding outcomes of the workplace.

We are only human after all – Every one of us. Every leader. Every brand. Every workplace. Every person.

Lean Tip #786 – Create A Good Climate For Problem Solving
The success of a company can depend to a large extent on the ability of its staff to solve problems effectively, both in their day-to-day work and through innovation. This applies not only to senior management, but at all levels in an organization.

It's not enough simply to teach effective problem solving techniques. The working environment has a very powerful influence on the individual's ability to solve problems effectively and it needs to be supportive and stimulating.

To be truly effective in your work and to contribute to the success of your organization, you need to be aware of the influence of the working environment on problem solving.

Lean Tip #787 - Effective Problem Solving Requires a Controlled Mixture of Analytical and Creative Thinking.
Problem solving requires two distinct types of mental skill, analytical and creative.

Analytical or logical thinking includes skills such as ordering, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting. It provides a logical framework for problem solving and helps to select the best alternative from those available by narrowing down the range of possibilities (a convergent process).
Creative thinking is a divergent process, using the imagination to create a large range of ideas for solutions. It requires us to look beyond the obvious, creating ideas which may, at first, seem unrealistic or have no logical connection with the problem.

Effective problem solving requires a controlled mixture of analytical and creative thinking.

Lean Tip #788 – The Way or Style of Management Within an Organization Has a Very Big Effect on the Ability of People to Effectively Solve Problems. 
Often managers are not even aware that their actions and behaviors are contributing to the problem. People who have responsibility for and control over the work feel a greater commitment to ensuring that they work efficiently. Staff should be given the freedom to make decisions and to tackle problems without constantly having to get agreement from their manager. Some managers feel that this lessens their control over staff and their work. In fact, because people are more committed to their work, there is less need for control.

Lean Tip #789 - Planning and Preparation is the Key to Successful Implementation.
The more important the problem, or the more complex the actions required to solve it, the more thorough your planning and preparation needs to be to ensure success.

These questions highlight the main features of planning and preparation, which involve:

  • constructing a plan of action
  • the actions required
  • scheduling the actions
  • the resources required
  • measures to counter adverse consequences
  • management of the action
  • reviewing the plan
  • selecting, briefing and training those involved.
Action must be monitored to ensure that it is being carried out effectively and having the desired effects; if not, corrective action must be taken. Once the action is completed, the outcome must be measured to check that it has provided an effective solution; if not, further action may be required.

Lean Tip #790 - Company Policies and Procedures Effect on Problem Solving
Possessing good problem solving skills does not make people automatically use them to the benefit of the organization. They need encouragement, support and guidance in applying them to the organization’s problems. This can be achieved through:
  • Commitment to Innovation
  • Systems and procedures
  • Reward
  • Good communications
The most effective system is where all staff are informed of specific problems which the company faces in reaching its business objectives, and are notified of the results of evaluation of the ideas that have been submitted.

Lean Tip #791 - Make Sure Everyone Understands the Need for Change.
There are no mind readers in the enterprise - make sure you communicate why you need to change. So when you’re responsible for making process improvement happen make sure that before you even begin that you’ve clearly communicated to others about the need for change: what is the situation we’re facing? why is it serious or important? what do we believe we need to do to start addressing the situation?

Finally, don’t forget to listen to others' interpretations – they may be able to see something that you can’t.

Lean Tip #792 - Ensure Your Approach is Suited to the Problem You Face.
Just because you’ve got a hammer, doesn’t mean every problem’s a nail!

We’re often tempted to apply the tools that we know in order to solve the problems that are in front of us. But just because you’ve got a tool doesn’t mean it’s the most appropriate one to use. Always ask, is this the most appropriate method to tackle this problem? Would a more simple “Just Do It” approach be adequate or do we require more robust data analysis in order to get to the heart of the issue? A pragmatic approach is better than one that attempts to pigeon-hole everything into the same approach. 

Lean Tip #793 - Get Your Senior Managers Out of Their Offices.
The more senior you are in an organization, the more that problems - and even customers for that matter - can appear like just a series of numbers on a spreadsheet in a management report. It’s easy to theorize about numbers as they appear abstract.

The Lean management principle of going to where work gets done ("going to the gemba") is critical to ensure that managers really understand what’s going on. Get your senior staff out of their office and to see what's really going on. Even better than “management by walking around” is “management by doing and understanding.” Get your CEO manning the phones in the “customer contact center” for a few hours a couple of times a year or on frontline service. The amount they’ll learn in those few hours will beat any amount of staring at spreadsheets trying to solve the company’s problems.

Lean Tip #794 - The Best Way to Build Commitment is by Involving People.
Outside help is legitimate if you are to build the skills and behaviors you don’t currently have. But outside consultants can never be the change agents. The teams themselves and the leadership must own their own projects, from choosing what to work on, through to implementation, as well as enjoying the credit for outcomes.

The best way to build commitment is by involving people. This way they will have a sense of ownership. By involving your frontline teams in selecting the project that they believe will make a difference, you’ll build ownership, engagement, and have their commitment.

Lean Tip #795 - Communicate 'Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing'

Do not launch an improvement program without a purpose. Bereft of a purpose there is no framework for establishing priorities, aligning efforts or judging success. Many improvement processes fail because the effort is squandered in improving unimportant processes.

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