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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #122 (1831-1845)

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 #1831 - Give Employees the Chance to Problem Solve
Remember, a Gemba walk is more than just an intelligence-gathering trip for you, it is a potential learning experience for the employee. When you ask them why something does or does not work, let them figure out the solution. As managers, we often want to jump right in and solve the problem. However, by empowering your employees to tackle their own challenges, they become more skilled at finding and eliminating waste.

Lean Tip #1832 – Do Not Be Afraid To Ask Questions
A manager must understand what is occurring at their facility, but that does not mean always remembering every single detail. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Your team is there to help you just as you are there to help them. If they can help you understand a process, you can bring that understanding into the decision-making process. Never fear looking foolish, we are all life-long learners.

Lean Tip #1833 - Focus on the Process, NOT the People
The Gemba walk focuses on the process flow, not the people who work in the process. One of the facilitator’s main jobs is to create a blame-free environment during the walk. A Gemba walk is not a search for the guilty! The management should NOT be pointing fingers during the walk. Workers are often victims of a poorly designed process but unfortunately they can also be blamed for that broken process.

Lean Tip #1834 - Share Your Observations with the Team
Whether you plan to make changes as a result of your walk or not, be sure to provide feedback and follow up with employees. They will likely be very curious about what you observed and took away from the experience. Following up with your comments will make your next visit even more effective.

Lean Tip #1835 – Don’t Confuse Gemba Walks with MBWA (Management by Walking Around)
Management by Walking Around is an approach that encourages management participation in the work affairs of employees. A Gemba walk, on the other hand, is about observation and deliberation. MBWA has often devolved into walking around, saying hello, and slapping people on the back. That's not very helpful.

Lean Tip #1836 - Get Out of the “I Know Everything” Mentality
Try and understand the fundamentals of the process pertaining to the problem area. Confirm how it works or exists in its very basic and current form. Get out of the mind-set that you know everything, because if you did, you would know the problem area, cause and its solution as well. Understand the nuances of the techniques which exist in the process. Ask all the basic questions to really understand the problem and note significant points of the process which would then bring immense clarity to the part of the problem you are attempting to solve.

Lean Tip #1837 – Visualize the Problem
Try and document a picture of the process depending on the problem. This may or may not be relevant, but we all know pictorial representations often help. Draw a simple diagram without worrying about technical conventions, specific constraints etc. A simple picture diagram can help visualize the most complex of problems in any area. Use any simple tool like PowerPoint, white boards, sheets, and papers and never shy away from starting to draw these on the fly if understanding a problem is becoming a challenge.

Lean Tip #1838 - Focus on the Root Cause, Not the Symptoms
It’s very easy to get caught up in the symptoms of the problem and most problems are incorrectly attempted by suppressing these symptoms. Abstain from thinking like “The bucket gets filled with water and starts to overflow, so let me get a bigger bucket”, “High CPU usage brings the system down, let’s put more CPUs”, etc. I am not saying you should not suppress the symptoms to give you some respite until the root cause is identified, but abstain from a “fixing the symptom” mind-set. This mentality will keep you away from solving the real problem. Once you know the root cause, not only can the problem be solved, it can be prevented in future too.

Lean Tip #1839 – Implement a Step-By-Step Plan of Action
When you approach problems systematically, you cover the essentials each time–and your decisions are well thought out, well planned, and well executed. Provide a checklist and mark off each item as it is achieved so that others feel that they are achieving their goals and moving away from problems, obstacles, and challenges as they take action steps. This will keep them motivated and in motion.

Lean Tip #1840 - Learn How Things Work
Don’t just find the solution but know how exactly certain things work. By scrutinizing how things work, you will have a better understanding of the process which is vital in stimulating your analytical skills. Asking more questions can help develop better problem-solving skills, retention, and memory of a subject. So don’t be shy to ask questions.

Lean Tip #1841 - Be a Champion of Change.
For successful change to occur, you need to be a dynamic role model. Employees need to know that their leader is personally committed to the success of the change. Practice this by removing barriers, providing resources, ensuring learning, partnering with stakeholders, supporting employees through change, measuring progress and quickly managing resistance.

Lean Tip #1842 - Get in Front of Problems.
Concern is a normal response to a change initiative. Create a safe environment and a mechanism that allows employees to air their issues and bring forth problems before there is any chance of escalation or derailment. Respond fairly, reasonably and in alignment with the vision of the change, regardless of anyone’s role or level in the organization. Keep in mind that what you think is a small issue may be a large concern for the person affected.

Lean Tip #1843 - Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement
Always be looking for ways to improve your business processes and performance, and invite your staff to share their ideas and observations for improvement. Organize forums and online contributions to capture and recognize their input and celebrate your shared successes. Your steps will help your staff recognize change as a positive part of driving continuous improvement and build their morale and investment.

Lean Tip #1844 - Lead by Example
It is vital that your senior leaders model any change initiatives for your employees. If your senior leaders do not “walk their talk,” employees will quickly stop trying as well. Your staff will think, “Why should I make these extra efforts if the people running the organization aren’t bothering?” Leaders who don’t back up their words with actions lose employee trust. A change initiative requires a team effort, and management should be fostering trust and leading their teams. Senior leaders can introduce a change process, but it’s their active participation that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to change.

Lean Tip #1845 - Get Everyone Engaged. 
Figure out a way to get all of your employees engaged in planning and decision-making. That way the project becomes their baby: something they’re willing to fight for. To do this, whenever possible, ask for input and use their ideas.  This way, they have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed.  This can not only empower and motivate employees, it can also lead to new and more productive ways of working that normally would be overlooked during more stable times.

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