Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2014

As 2014 comes to an end and we look toward 2015 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

1. Lean Tip #877 - Turn Employees into Problem Solvers and Improvement Specialists.
The most important aspect of lean is to involve employees in developing lean processes. Many times companies create a culture in which the employees don't make the decisions, management does. Then when problems occur, employees are unable to diagnose or solve problems without involving a supervisor. lean reverses that by revolving around employees and looking to them as the improvement specialists.

2. Lean Tip #902 - Establish and Communicate a Clear Message on Lean
Have a plan to communicate the value of lean throughout your organization. It should not only address the benefits of lean to the company and customers, but also how lean can improve the work life of your employees. A clear vision needs to be repeated regularly to show the company's commitment to lean. We highly recommend that company leaders make lean a part of their everyday pulse checks.

3. Lean Tip #915 - Help Employees Succeed to Motivate Others
People go to work to succeed, not fail.  It is your job to understand your employee’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can put them in the best position to succeed.  If, for example, you find out that an employee is lacking in a certain skill set to succeed during a change then provide the coaching and training to make them and your organization successful.  The best managers minimize or eliminate their employees weaknesses and while building on their strengths.  Remove any and all barriers to success.

4. Lean Tip #929 – Empower Employees to Contribute. 
Control of their own jobs is one of the key factors in what employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimize resistance to change. Give the employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage. If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale, the goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your job is to empower the employees to make the change work. Practice effective delegation and set the critical path points at which you need feedback for the change effort - and get out of the way.

5. Lean Tip #940 - Ensure a Penalty-Free Exchange of Ideas. 
In many organizations, expressing one's opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn't take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

6. Lean Tip #982 – Smart Team Leaders Listen for Problems
Every organization has its share of problems. And the front line teams encounter many of these problems daily, up close, and directly. A smart front line leader wants to foster open and lively conversations about these problems, conversations that become more structured and focused on finding solutions. The leader gets the team together and listens to their descriptions of the problems that are identifying. They guide them into a problem solving process, teaching the steps and the tools at a pace that they can absorb. This listening strategy coaches the team to develop into effective problem solvers.

7. Lean Tip #1010 - Create a Supportive Environment For Collaboration
If your organization focuses on rewarding employees for individual performance as the main driver of success then it will become quite hard to encourage employees to share and communicate with each other.  Why would they want to?

There is nothing wrong with rewarding employees for great performance but it’s also crucial to reward teamwork.  For example, organizations can make a percentage of an employee’s bonus tied to how well they collaborate with their co-workers.  A supportive environment also means having training and education resources available for employees as well as evangelists within the organization.

8. Lean Tip #1020 - Show Employees Why Their Work Matters.
Even employees who are passionate about their jobs can lose sight of the bigger picture if they can’t see how their work impacts the company. To help boost morale, introduce them to some of the customer their work impacts. This will show them the results of their projects and provide a valuable opportunity to receive feedback from the customer. Positive reinforcement from the customer can make employees feel more connected to their work by giving them a sense of pride and ownership. It also provides greater incentive to perform well, boosts confidence in their work, and increases overall job satisfaction.

9. Lean Tip #1024 - Share Knowledge Within Your Company
 If you don’t share knowledge within your company, your customers will suffer. Many managers are unaware that the team that sits right next to theirs is doing some great work that that could help the business deliver a better service to customers, or open the door to a new market. 

Host regular knowledge-sharing sessions – whether virtual or real; keep your knowledge management system updated and make it interactive. Or invite individuals from totally different parts of the business to team meetings and then reciprocate. Start with some of the managers. Proactive knowledge sharing is one of the key ways to remain one step ahead of your competitors – and senior people need to make the time to lead by example.

10. Lean Tip # 1043 - Stop Doing Things That Run Counter to Your Desired Culture
Each day, your existing culture is either moving closer to, or further away from, the type of culture that you want it to be. Cultures are a system in themselves - they have momentum, and they are either spinning in a negative or positive direction. Desired, or undesired, behaviors and work practices are being reinforced on a daily basis by the work systems you have in place right now. Until you recognize this, you won't be motivated to identify and change those systems that are reinforcing those things that you don't really want to reinforce.

These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2015. What advice would you share for the new year?

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