Monday, December 30, 2019

20 (Lean) Things To Do In 2020 To Improve Your Business


Goal setting is one of the most important activities you can do in your business, regardless of how old your business is, where you are located, how profitable it is, or what you sell. Goals help you stay focused and they can prevent your business from becoming stagnant. Your business goals keep you moving forward and set the stage for ongoing success. 

Although we often think of goal setting as something we do at the start of every year, the truth is that it is extremely important to work on your business goals all year long. You should be setting goals multiple times each year, tracking your progress, and refining the strategies you are following in order to achieve your goals on an ongoing basis. 

To help you get started with your business goals this year, here is a list of goals that have the potential to change your business for the better. Pick one or two that are fitting for your business, turn them into SMART goals (more on that here!) and create a plan to tackle them in the coming months.

1. 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.

2. Demonstrate Clear Goals & Vision
Creating a successful business is usually a result of clear goals and oftentimes, leaders who achieve such goals have an outstanding vision of new ideas, technologies, and industry specifics. A visionary leader can recognize new, emerging technologies and find ways to apply them in certain areas at early stages of development. This can give a competitive edge to such businesses and may inspire employees to easier gain trust in such leaders and excel in what they do.

3. Communicate the "Why" Behind your Idea.
Regardless of the brilliancy of your vision, your team needs to feel part of it and not that they're merely being told to do something. If you're giving them the opportunity to really understand why the process is happening, you're also hopefully giving them the tools to be able to innovate on that process and drive even more value back to your organization.

4. Become a Better Listener.
Many people don’t know how to truly listen. The good news? Following the lessons we learned in grade school—pay attention, don’t interrupt, don’t be distracted—is all that we need to do to become better listeners.

Of course, listening doesn’t just mean paying attention to the words that your team members are saying. It means understanding the emotions behind those words, as well as the nonverbal cues, including body language, tone of voice, and mannerisms, that speak to your team members’ state of mind. If communication is 80 percent nonverbal, as is popularly claimed, then focusing only on the words being spoken means you’re only getting 20 percent of the message.

5. Lead by Action and Example
An effective leader never orders anyone to do anything he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. If you’re going to expect certain things of your followers, then it’s imperative that you lead by action and example. You don’t actually have to do everything on your own, but if you occasionally reach down and contribute to mundane tasks and entry-level work, you’ll gain the respect of your employees and possibly even learn a thing or two in the process.

6. Instill Confidence Among Employees
A great leader can easily instill confidence among the staff. In order to maintain the positive work atmosphere which inspires creative thinking and new ideas, staff members have to feel confident about their work. A leader that simply nitpicks about everything and demonstrates extremely negative reactions for every mistake made will eventually ruin the positive energy in the work environment and ruin the self-confidence of the majority of staff members. A great and effective leader can inspire staff members to improve their performance and productivity by actively working on their confidence improvements. Publicly acknowledging those who perform well in certain areas can significantly contribute to this cause.

7. Challenge People to Think
If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.

Some of the best ideas can come from employees. They interact with clients and customers every day and have an intimate knowledge of how well practices and procedures are working. Hear them out about ways to make improvements. Make changes that will improve their ability to do their job.

8. Cultivate a Culture of Innovation.
Great business leaders drive their teams to step out of the confines of routine and achieve the extraordinary. Building teamwork and rewarding collaboration are key to achieving your goals.
Cultivating a culture that values innovation is one of the most difficult responsibilities a business leader has. Here's how the best nurture innovation in their companies:
•        Proactively introduce mechanisms that naturally boost creative and innovative thinking.
•        Make incremental improvements in the workplace to facilitate out-of-the-box thinking.
•        Use tools to measure how employees spend their time.
•        Encourage practical shuffling of duties and departments to help employees gain a wider perspective of the organization's work.
•        Show employees how they can use time-tested methods of creative idea generation (brainstorming, mind mapping, story boarding, etc.) by organizing and participating in sessions.

9. Take Lots of Leaps of Faith
Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

10. Reward Successes and Learn From Failures.
Too many leaders don't stop to reward success or recognize employees' outstanding work but are quick to point out what people do wrong. While it's good management to learn from what went right or wrong on a project, it's also important to celebrate achievements.

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them. Be willing to accept the blame and move on. Use your errors to make adjustments to the way things are done so that the same mistake does not happen again. Constantly be looking for ways to grow and improve.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. Show Respect to Everyone
Everyone desires respect. Everyone. Regardless of your position or power, ensure you show everyone respect. Everyone wants to be treated fairly.

Demonstrating respect for people goes beyond just being nice to them. Showing respect in the workplace is all about the relationship we develop with other people and how we value them.

Respect for people means developing employees latent skills in both on the job and off the job training. It is easy to invest money in new technology, software, or equipment. It takes time, effort, and planning to invest in employee skills development.

16. 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.

17. Streamline Your Processes
While you’re assessing your productivity from the past year, start tweaking your processes to help your team better reach its goals.

Analyze each step of your day-to-day processes, and try to figure out where you can save time, money or other resources. If you can save a minute here, or a dollar there, you could end up saving countless hours and thousands of dollars over the course of the next year.

Not only that, but by streamlining your processes and decreasing the amount of “hang-ups” your team faces, your employees will be more apt to dive in and get to work.

18. Focus on Small Changes
Approach change in small, incremental steps; if you improve by just 1% every day for a year, you’ll be 37 times better than when you started. Test and implement small changes. This increases the speed to improvement and reduces the pressures and risks of implementing a major change.

To this end, focus your improvements on solving the root causes of issues. This allows employees to catch and contain small issues before they become larger and costlier to eliminate, and it prevents the same problems from reoccurring.

19. Enforce Improvements
It’s easy for employees to regress to their old ways. Enforcing the changes you’ve made to your processes is important for the improvements you’ve made to last, and it’s key to sustaining continuous improvement in the long term.

In order for improvements to last, they must be standardized and repeatable. Standardizing work is crucial to kaizen because it creates a baseline for improvement. When you make improvements to a process, it’s essential to document the new standard work in order to sustain the improvements and create a new baseline. Standard work also reduces variability in processes and promotes discipline, which is essential for continuous improvement efforts to take root.

20. Be Passionate and Open Minded
If you don’t believe in your company, neither will your employees. Start each day with a positive attitude and show enthusiasm for projects and initiatives. Take pride in the services or products you provide.

Be willing to look at things from a new perspective. Encourage feedback from employees and customers and hear what they have to say. This could ultimately lead to increased efficiency and productivity.

The new year is full of new opportunities for businesses. You know how to take advantage of these opportunities by taking time out to think about where your business is heading. Decide now on what isn’t working out and make the needed changes. Focus on enhancing your customer value and your continuous improvement strategy.


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Friday, December 20, 2019

Top 10 Lean Quotes of 2019


Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we cannot improve.

10.
"The Secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda." — John Maxwell








2. "You manage things; you lead people." — Admiral Grace Murray Hopper



These are the top 10 quotes on A Lean Journey website in 2019.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2019


As 2019 comes to an end and we look toward 2020 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:

Lean Tip #2007 - Show Your Team Members That You Support Them And Are Committed To Helping Them Realize Their Goals.
The importance of demonstrating to team members that you truly care about them as individuals, that you want to help them improve their professional skills, and that you support them being architects of personally satisfying careers simply cannot be overstated.

Leaders who ask for their employees’ input when constructing development plans will gain commitment, loyalty, and respect from their team members. Leaders who treat their employees as extra bodies, on the other hand, will not manage to retain talented people for very long.

It’s crucial for leaders to listen, and listen well, to what employees really want from their jobs and their perception of how they can contribute to the organization.

Although it seems like a small gesture, leaders who ask employees to be actively involved in the creation of their personal development plans show these employees that their opinions matter and that they are at least partially responsible for ensuring that their careers are challenging and meaningful.

Lean Tip #2230 – Inspire Employees
Employees are the eyes and ears of your business operations. If there are weak spots in your system, it’s likely employees know about them. It’s also likely they want a better process for completing tasks. But when your staff thinks you’re a “my way or the highway” leader, they usually aren’t motivated to come up with solutions.

Involve your employees in improving business operations. Ask your staff where improvements can be made. Take notes of the flaws that are pointed out and solutions offered. Make sure your employees know their opinions matter and you are open to suggestions. In addition to accelerating your business process improvement, showing your employees that they add value to your small business can take the stress off of your staffing management plan by keeping employee turnover at a minimum.

Lean Tip #2285 – Commit to Continuous Learning.
Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments and professional success.

Lean Tip #2312 - Be Present and Attentive
Teamwork is impossible when people think you don't care about them.

Rather than being that person who tears around the office, constantly absorbed in the next meeting, the next quarter, the next campaign, blind to the human beings in your midst, be that team member who takes time to give their full attention to each conversation.

When team members see you listening to them, they will be more likely to buy into your teamwork-building efforts. As old-fashioned as it may sound, teamwork is the result of a group of people who care enough about each other to work together.

Lean Tip #2331 – Create Regular Thinking Time
Operations and manufacturing managers are time poor. They’re often so involved in the responsive day-to-day that very few create space in their diary to think. They often have KPIs for continuous improvement, but are limited in their capacity to point their curiosity in new and potentially impactful directions.

Make the habit: To allow yourself this ‘space’, book an hour of time a fortnight to read industry news, or analyze your shop floor data in a new way.

Consider different perspectives and possibilities and visualize how you’d do things differently. Then pick up these ideas in your next scheduled slot, and share the well-formed ones with your team or manager,  so they can be actioned or developed further.

Lean Tip #2334 – Create Opportunities for Everyone to Contribute
Getting bogged down in urgent tasks can stop the important things like incremental improvements, from being addressed. That's where your staff can come in.
Many of the best ideas come from employees, and higher levels of staff involvement will get the greatest buy-in for change. What’s more, it can also boost company performance.
But how do their ideas get through?

Make the habit: Make it easy for improvement suggestions to be fed back into the system through an improvement suggestion program:
•           Use the intranet, a social forum or a suggestions box
•           Recognize all suggestions publicly via official written communication or at monthly catch ups
•           Verbally encourage ideas from all staff levels
•           Provide a framework: outline how improvement ideas should be tied to businesses goals
•           Publicly reward any actioned suggestions, provide rewards for the best idea
•           Ensure the business is actively assessing and implementing suggestions, to keep staff motivated to contribute
•           Showcase or demonstrate ideas that were successfully implemented and executed.
•           Importantly, make work a safe place to contribute by regularly encouraging suggestions, giving feedback and admitting your own mistakes.

Lean Tip #2388 - Make the Improvement Real
Employees aren’t idiots.  When senior management seeks to drive change in the organization, they like to have a “quick win” that can be used as an example to the entire organization.  But sometimes, in their haste to have a trophy win, senior managers choose a change that yields very little result and does little to improve quality, lead times or other key performance indicators.  Employees realize this and see the program as one more in a series -- the “flavor of the month” -- for performance improvement.  Instead, work with employees to get a substantial win -- something that is indisputable and will lead the team to believe in the program.

Lean Tip #2397 – Demonstrate Your Genuine Concern For Employees
Great bosses realize that they can't achieve their goals if their people aren't performing at their very best. Employees, especially in times of stress and challenge, look to management for solutions. They seek guidance when they feel uncertain and isolated from organizational decisions that are out of their control. As a first step, be an example of transparency and honesty. Open the lines of communication between management and employees. Talk openly and regularly about what you know, and encourage input. Show you truly care about your people's welfare by understanding their concerns and by doing whatever you can to help them. This not only helps you solve any problems you have direct influence over, but also helps them by allowing them to talk freely about what is troubling them.

Lean Tip #2414 – Encourage Teamwork Among Employees.
There is a reason that people flock to team sports. When a group of people pulls together to win the big game, it often comes an infectious feeling that engulfs everyone around them—from teammates to the fans—the sense of camaraderie and success spreads to the masses. The same can be said for the workplace environment. When a large account or significant client needs your services, developing a strong team of employees gives them a sense of greater purpose. Pulling them together to work towards a big company goal can be incredibly satisfying, and allows them to bounce ideas off each other to ultimately meet the needs of your client. It adds a sense of cooperation, consideration, and confidence in not only each other but in the company, itself.

Lean Tip #2416 - Create a Workplace Environment Free of Fear.
So many business and companies tend to operate in a performance-based environment. This sort of atmosphere is a favorable environment for fear and uncertainty to grow in, so keeping employee engagement steady is especially important. Allowing your employees to make choices without having to run everything up to the chain of command, allows them great moments within their career. Coincidentally, these performance-based environments can also lead to the fear of getting reprimanded if their decision falls flat. Managing a business where employees are punished for mistakes or a wrong choice is a sure-fire strategy for staff to become disengaged and unwilling to take the risks sometimes necessary for success. This is another opportunity to choose a kinder, more positive approach with your staff that can still be effective, without diminishing their levels of engagement.


These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2020. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Top 10 Posts of 2019


The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flipped back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

10. 6 Surefire Ways to Kill Morale – Avoid these six simple blunders that are morale killers and prevent your employees from sticking around.
9. 7 Key Factors of Successful Teams – No team will succeed without these basic seven factors on your team.
8. 6 Steps to Better Problem Solving Skills – Refine your skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty.
7. 7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills and Your Business – Effective communication skills are critical in your business, use these tips to improve your skills.
6. 5 Myths of Standard Work - There are many myths regarding standardized work that if followed create a flawed system.
5. 10 Tips to a Better Value Stream Map – Tips on creating a value stream map for your organization that can bring value to your customers.
4. 5 Ways to Cultivate a Problem Solving Culture – How to develop a problem solving culture in your company.
3. 5 Ways to Improve Your Kaizens – Tips from my experience that will make your kaizens more effective.
2. 10 Tips for Being a Better Leader -  Ten simple tips can help you to boost your leadership ability and drive your business to greater heights.

1. Visual Management Boards: Manual vs Digital - When it comes to visual boards in the workplace the most common line of questioning is related to manual visuals versus computerized/digital visuals. 

What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2019? Any recommendations for next year?


Thanks for your continued readership in 2019. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success in 2020.
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Friday, December 13, 2019

Lean Quote: Reflection is One of the Most Underused Yet Powerful Tools for Success

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success. — Richard Carlson

Great leaders pause and reflect on a regular basis; leaders at their best renew themselves daily. Without time for reflection, a leader is likely to miss important cues, to forget to do the more important things. They don’t see opportunities because they are hidden by the busy and trivial things. Over time, the leader without time for reflection is doomed to run out of ideas, energy, and the ability to serve those that we lead. We simply “run out of gas.”

Unfortunately, there’s not enough emphasis in the business world about the need for leaders to make time in their day for reflection. In fact, thanks to today’s accelerated pace in the workplace, a greater focus is being put on a leader’s ability to react fast to changes and making quick decisions for their organization. While the ability to think quick on one’s feet is certainly a valuable trait for a leader to demonstrate, it’s also important that leaders develop the habit of putting aside time during their day to reflect not only on current decisions their organization needs to make, but also to review past mistakes to see what lessons their company can gain from that experience.

For many leaders, the acknowledgement that slowing down for some part of the day is necessary, desirable and valuable is in itself transformative. Even the very practical leader will discover that regular time spent in reflection will bring greater perspective and new levels of emotional clarity.  This is the time to step back and take an unhurried look at daily challenges, past “mis-takes” and future visions.

The more you reflect, the more you realize that it comes naturally, and that without it, you are not able to do your job. You will discover that we all reflect, most of the time. By relearning how to use your reflecting skills as a tool in your leaders toolbox, you can increase your ability to see possible challenges early, and seek alternative solutions before you are forced into a corner. You become pro-active.

Making time to reflect on past decisions and mistakes, and allowing yourself the opportunity to learn from it, is a critical step to continued growth and development and your ability to effectively lead others.



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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Setting Organizational Goals: Less Is More


There are two common mistakes made when setting goals.

#1 Not setting any goals

#2 Setting too many goals

Businesses flounder when they chase too many goals. If you feel you have too many priorities and claims on your attention, you are hardly alone. A recent survey of 1,800 global executives that dug into this issue revealed a wide range of related management ailments, including:

  • Most executives (64%) report they have too many conflicting priorities.
  • The majority of executives (56%) say that allocating resources in a way that really supports the strategy is a significant challenge, especially as companies chase a wide set of growth initiatives.
  • 81% admit that their growth initiatives lead to waste, at least some of the time.
  • Nearly half (47%) say their company’s way of creating value is not well understood by employees or customers.
To paraphrase the great Jim Collins, most great businesses don't die of starvation...they die from indigestion. They are on what I like to call the “Goal Buffet,” and their eyes were much, much larger than their stomach. As a result, they now have a plate of goals piled so high that they certainly can't eat all of them, and in trying to do so they will almost certainly be unhappy with the result.

Many businesses that find themselves paralyzed by this goal-overload indigestion. Things aren't getting done. People aren't effective. Deadlines aren't achieved. Companies feel stuck.

Goal setting is one of the more challenging tasks that leaders face. There are short- and long-term goals, plus overall business objectives to consider in addition to individual team and employee goals. They must be relevant and timely to motivate employees to actually reach them, but they also can’t be so fine-tuned that team members feel micromanaged. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

While keeping employees engaged and motivated in achieving those goals can be complicated in practice, the key to success is simplicity. Whether you call them goals, objectives or priorities, you should define each by a deliverable outcome. We like to call these measurable and achievable targets key results.

Focus on less in order to accomplish more. Start by selecting 1 wildly important goal, or WIG, instead of trying to work on a dozen goals all at once. I’m not suggesting you ignore the work necessary to maintain your daily operation. I’m suggesting you narrow your focus to work on what you want to significantly improve.

Most intelligent, ambitious people don’t want to do less. Especially if it means saying no to good ideas. They are wired to do more, but there are always more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.

When you choose a wildly important goal, you identify the most important objective that won’t be achieved unless it gets special attention. In other words, your normal course of business won’t make it happen.

To define a WIG, identify where you are now, where you want to be and by when. Said differently, you define a starting line, a finish line and a deadline. Psychologically it is very important to have a single measure of success.

Eliminate other goals that are secondary. This is not to say that you should never have more than one goal. Rather, you need to realize that you have only so much time and energy. Therefore, choose the goal that will give you the highest ROE (return on effort) and focus on that one goal first. Once complete, you can then focus on other goals in sequence.


In business, success comes from identifying the few opportunities that offer a real chance for reward, while ruthlessly eliminating all other goals that might be competing with the few that matter.

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Avoiding the Iceberg of Ignorance


Who in your plant knows the most about the problems that occur: the slow-downs, minor-stoppages, equipment failures, the waste, the inefficiencies, the source of poor quality, the frustrations due to maintenance work not being executed correctly, and so on? Is it you? Is it senior leadership? Is it anyone in management or engineering?

Have you ever heard of “The Iceberg of Ignorance”? Japanese consultant Sidney Yoshida coined the term in a study that he presented at the International Quality Symposium in Mexico City in 1989. It was a popular concept in its day and led to the popularization of suggestion boxes and quality circles, among other things.

According to Yoshida, 100% of an organization’s front-line problems are known by front-line employees. This totally makes sense, right?

However, Yoshida found that when he went up one level in management, to the front-line employees’ supervisors, those supervisors only knew 74% of the front-line problems. After all, people “manage up.” They want to look good in front of their boss. Plus, some supervisors “don’t want to hear it.” And people are busy. They may not have time to tell their supervisors about every problem, large and small. So ... only 74% of the front-line problems are known by front-line supervisors.

Naturally, the pattern continues as you move up within the organization. By the time you get to middle management, according to Yoshida, those managers are aware of only 9% of an organization’s front-line problems.

And top management? They’re only aware of 4% — just the tip of the iceberg!
In short: The higher up someone is in an organization, the less likely that person is to have all the information about front-line problems.

So, what can we be doing to melt the berg in our organization? The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, “Go see, ask why, show respect” are the way we make it happen.

1.     “Go see” involves (1) viewing the Gemba in order to assess the alignment of the Gemba’s purpose with that of the organization, (2) observing processes to understand whether or not they are designed to support the purpose, and (3) to engage the people to gain their perspectives on whether or not the processes are designed to help them fulfill their roles in achieving the purpose.

2.     “Ask why” can be done from four perspectives, the solution view (which looks for opportunities to employ solutions), the waste view (which tries to identify areas of waste or inefficiency), the problem view (which starts with objectives, confirms design, and asks why the objectives can’t be met), and the Kaizen view (which seeks to examine for improvement at a system level).

3.     “Show respect” is perhaps the most valuable piece, as people are the goal, not simply the means to an end. Objectives are accomplished by people, not processes. Processes ought to be designed to support people in their accomplishment of objectives. Ultimately this means developing people to be who they can be. One tremendous side effect of that development is greatly increased capability in fulfilling their roles, which leads to greater efficiency in accomplishing objectives.

       This isn’t anything new. It is at the heart of TPS and basic lean principles. Performing root cause analysis, making suggestions, and executing the solution is fundamental to how humans work. You need to show some trust and let nature take its course.

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