Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Using Daily Management to Engage Employees in the Gemba

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In today’s active world we are hearing more about getting employees within the organization engaged at work. This is not only for the leadership team, but also for the hourly workforce.

For the sake of this discussion let’s define engaged employees as those that work with passion and feel a profound connection with their company. These individuals drive innovation, continuous improvement, and move the organization forward each and every day.

Why is having an engaged workforce so important? Gallup reported in their 2013 “State of the American Workforce Survey” the following key statistics:

Organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged workers for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012.

In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same period.

Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.

While there are many things that affect employee engagement, getting leadership to the place where work is done (the “GEMBA”) and actively engaging with the workforce, seeing with their own eyes the problems that occur, listening to associates and giving advice and direction (coaching) to the team is a critical factor in increasing overall engagement.

Lean organizations make use of Daily Management systems, a structured process to focus employee’s actions to continuously improve their day-to-day work. Daily Management empowers employees to identify potential process concerns, recommend potential solutions, and learn by implementing process changes. Daily Management, if done right, can be a critical tool in any organization’s toolbox to engage frontline staff in problem-solving and to deliver customer value.

Lean Daily Management includes three components: (1) alignment of goals and effort; (2) visual data management, daily huddles, and problem-solving; and (3) leader standard work.

Alignment of Goals and Efforts
When we launched our Daily Management program, we noticed that frontline staff often were not aware of the goals and targets set by senior leaders. Therefore, we emphasized the cascading nature of system goals and the importance of alignment between system and hospital goals during training.

Our goals fall under the pillars of Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, and People/Culture, Each department utilizing Daily Management set its own goals and targets in each of these pillars in alignment with system and facility goals. We found this exercise of aligned goal-setting to be incredibly valuable in that it not only improved awareness of goals among frontline staff, but it also helped them to see how their work contributes to the success of the system.

Visual Data Management, Daily Huddles, and Problem-Solving
Visual data management: Each department utilizes a visual board to display its goals, targets, and performance metrics. The look and feel of the visual board is standard across our system, with each board including the standard pillars mentioned above as well as a designated space for discussion and prioritization of improvement ideas. The visual board in each department is located in an accessible area in the Gemba so that the data and metrics stay in front of everyone.

Daily huddles: Daily huddles take place at the department level and last for about 10 to 15 minutes. Huddles are led by the staff and are attended by all members of the department Huddles take place directly in front of the visual board so that the metrics that are displayed on the board can be discussed and updated as needed.

Problem-solving: A unique aspect of our problem-solving process is the systematic feedback loop from senior leaders back to the department. We recognize that staff cannot implement all solutions or process improvement ideas alone and that process changes often involve other departments or functions. For this reason, part of the daily huddle is dedicated to problem-solving. This portion of the huddle includes a review of improvement ideas submitted by staff, a progress update on ideas that have been selected for implementation, and feedback received from senior leaders on ideas that have been submitted to senior levels for implementation and/or resourcing. Accountability is achieved through review of progress on implemented ideas with use of a simple WWW (What, Who, and When) form. This process of problem-solving (idea generation), reviewing progress, and providing feedback is key to sustaining team engagement.

Leader Standard Work
The third component of our program relates to the role of leadership. For the Daily Management program to be successful, it is critical for leaders at all levels of the organization  to be committed to the program and visibly present at huddles. The role of these leaders at huddles is to encourage teamwork and collaboration, help remove barriers, mentor and coach frontline staff (who often do not have enough exposure to the big picture), and foster systems thinking (that is, an understanding of the interactions between the work and processes from one team to another).


Lean Daily Management is a powerful and peerless method for engagement. The technical approach is simple enough to understand. But it is not a “plug and play” technique. To make it work requires a level of leadership understanding and commitment that is often missing. If you approach daily management as a stand-alone installation for the workers, it will fail. Daily Management, if done right, can be a critical tool in any organization’s toolbox to engage frontline staff in problem-solving and in bringing value for customers, employees, and the organization.

Note: If you would like to learn more consider attending the Northeast Lean Conference October 22-23, 2019 in Hartford, CT where I will be presenting about this topic.


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