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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #155 (#2536 - 2550)

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 #2536 – Don’t Try a Solution before You Really Understand the Problem
You might start out believing you know where the problem is in your processes. You might already have a solution in mind. However, if you start out by changing processes without analyzing the problem, you may find that the problem isn’t what you thought it was. You may even make it worse.

Bring together people with different perspectives on the problem in your process. Talk about what everyone thinks is going wrong and listen to their ideas about solutions. It’s likely you’ll get insight you didn’t anticipate so you can make better solutions.

Lean Tip #2537 – Mapping Can Be an Effective Tool
Mapping your business processes is a formal way to bring together everyone’s insight on the problem. It creates a consensus view of what’s going on in your organization, and allows you to model the impact of solutions on the entire process, not just the problematic step or steps.

Lean Tip #2538 – Make Sure Technological Solutions Actually Solve the Problem
Technology has solved so many problems it’s easy to imagine that it can solve any problem. However, before you deploy any technological solution, make sure that it will actually address the shortcoming in your business process and not just give your team the tools to keep making the same mistakes faster and more frequently.

Lean Tip #2539 – Make the Smallest Effective Change
You want to make a change that will solve the problem, but try to make business process changes as minimal as possible. The more changes you make, the more time you will lose in retraining and transitioning from the old process to the new process.

The more changes you introduce, the greater the uncertainty about the effect of those changes. Making precise, targeted changes to your process reduces the risk that unintended consequences can make you worse off than you were before.

Lean Tip #2540 – Management Must Model the New Rules
This should go without saying, but nothing will undermine the effectiveness of but nothing will undermine a new business process faster than management not following the new rules. The rules are either there for everyone, or they’re there for no one.

Once management starts to “cheat” on the new process, people take it as a sign that the process is no good, and everyone will look for ways to cheat. Chaos will result as everyone is looking for shortcuts and doing things the way they want them done (often the way that sloughs the most work off their desk and onto someone else’s).

You have to stick to your new process long enough for everyone to learn it thoroughly and follow it smoothly before you can truly assess its impact.

Lean Tip #2541 – Don't Forget How Processes Interact -- Think Global While Acting Local
While many processes stand alone, the chances are good that every process is a part of a bigger whole. As your team begins to consider the process at hand, don't lose sight of how that process integrates with everything else. Plan for it. Make sure that you're not making something else worse in an effort to solve a different problem. This may mean attacking multiple processes at once in some cases. As you plan for improvements, step back and from a high level, try to determine what will happen once proposed changes are made.

Lean Tip #2542 – Look for Immediate Time Savings
In one project I led, in our very first meeting, we did a quick, high-level process mapping to ensure that we have all of the process stakeholders in the room. During that meeting, we discovered that one of the process owners was spending about two days per month creating reports for the next process owner in the chain and had been doing so for years. The catch? The reports were never used. The person received them and simply discarded them. Without a second thought, we nixed that step of the process before we made any other changes. So there was an immediate, tangible benefit resulting from the time we spent simply talking about the process.

You might not have to be too formal in your efforts. Sometimes, just a bit of communication can yield huge time savings.

Lean Tip #2543 – Make Sure the Right People are Involved
Make sure you include everyone who has a stake in the process. If you don't, your efforts will fail. Those excluded will know they've been excluded and will resist any proposed changes. Further, your efforts won't be as complete as they otherwise could be.

Just because someone is involved doesn't mean that that person will cooperate. I've been involved in process improvement efforts with people who were less than cooperative, and it really affects the possible outcomes. In every organization, I believe that people have a responsibility for improving the workplace, which should be included in annual performance reviews. If someone is truly combative just to resist the change, it should be reflected there. That said, if people have valid points and you simply don't agree, don't punish them! The goal here is inclusiveness, not divisiveness.

Lean Tip #2544 – Figure Out Your Measuring Stick
If you can't measure it, you can't fix it. You must identify the metrics by which you will gauge process improvement project success. The "pain" metric was probably determined when you figured out which processes to attack first, but the success metric should also be targeted. For example, are you trying to reduce customer on-hold time for support to two minutes or less? Whatever your metric is, define it and measure success against it.

Lean Tip #2545 – Don't Assume Automation
When people hear "business process improvement," they often just assume that is code for "IT is going to automate the process." That's certainly not always the case, although IT systems will often play a large role in these efforts. It's just as likely that non-IT-focused efforts will play as big a role as -- or a bigger role than -- IT-based systems.

Don't limit yourself. Think outside the system!

Lean Tip #2546 – Define the Change
Change is often not fully articulated at the beginning of a change management process. Due to the iterative nature of change, it may be necessary to not just define the change at the outset, but redefine the change at various steps along the way. Updates should be provided frequently to mitigate rumors, answer questions, and provide reassurance. The faster change is happening, or if it begins to accelerate, the more frequent updates should be.

Lean Tip #2547 – Celebrate the Old
All too often, old policies, programs, strategies, and work are dismissed out of hand as a new direction unfolds. For employees who worked hard on those items, this can be a major slap in the face, erode morale, and lead to more concern. During a period of change, leaders should recognize that such work happened, was important, and had meaning. Underappreciated employees will have a harder time embracing new initiatives.

Lean Tip #2548 – Articulate Challenges
All changes come with risk of the unknown, uncertainty, and other potential challenges. It is important that companies are upfront about the challenges that may be faced. Even if those challenges have not been fully identified and planned for, it is a good move to try and discuss the potential challenges, the range of those challenges, and what the company is doing or will do to address them.

Lean Tip #2549 – Find Key Influencers to Promote Change
Every organization has key players who have earned the respect of their coworkers, have longevity (and therefore perspective), and are influential. Getting key players on board and letting them act as a sounding board can help senior leaders better understand how change is being perceived, refer recurring issues, and become advocates for the change. Walking these influence-leaders through the change process and getting them on board can help with communication and confidence during the change period.

Lean Tip #2550 – Prepare for Roadblocks
No matter how thoroughly you prepare for change, everything is not always going to go according to plan. You need to be ready for a number of potential outcomes.

By doing your best to anticipate roadblocks, you can take some of the mystery out of the equation. Empower your employees to modify their behavior by removing the obstacles that prevent them from working toward change. Once those hindrances are identified, even the most complex problems can be addressed and corrected.

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