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Monday, March 6, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #200 (#3211 - #3225)

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 #3211 – Innovators Need a Purpose

Innovators need a purpose. They need to believe that their suggestions have a realistic chance of being implemented. They need to feel that time spent developing an idea is time well spent. If they know good ideas will come to fruition, it is easier to bring teams together to develop those ideas. It is easier to sell ideas up the corporate ladder. Perhaps most importantly, regular implementation of ideas invites people to think creatively and that results in more innovation for your firm.

Lean Tip #3212 – Transparency of Ideas is Critical

In fact, ideas submitted to suggestion boxes are occasionally implemented. The problem is that there is often little or no communication with the idea submitter. Hence as far as she knows – nothing has happened to her idea.

Thus, it is critical that any idea generation initiative is transparent, not only during the idea generation phase, but also during the idea review and testing phases. Regular reports to the idea submitters lets them know how their ideas are developing and demonstrates the value that the firm gives to good ideas.

Lean Tip #3213 – Positively Accept the Feedback You Receive.

The way you handle employee feedback is very important. Any type of feedback should be met with positive language. If the employee hears phrases such as “I don’t think so” or “that’s a problem,” you will have a difficult time opening the lines of communication. Be encouraging at all times, even if the employee is saying something you disagree with completely. The fact that they’re even offering feedback is a positive development for the type of culture you’re trying to build, so honor it accordingly.

Lean Tip #3214 – Creating a Space for Open Communication

Gathering ideas from your employees is key to moving your company forward based on the people most involved in your day-to-day operations. As you build a space where your employees can feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions, keep a consistent open-door policy. This way, you’re inviting your employees to share their ideas even when you’re not sending out surveys. You’ll remove communication barriers between employees and company leaders – and show your employees how much you value them.

Lean Tip #3215 – Show Them Their Ideas Actually Make A Difference

One of the big reasons why employees are hesitant to speak out is because they feel like it’s not worth their time to do so. While they might feel listened to, they rarely if ever see their concerns taken seriously or their ideas have an impact. As a leader, it’s important to not only make an effort to sit down and listen, but also to take that information and insight and use it. Show your team that it is worthwhile to speak out. Prove to them that their feedback is a valuable piece of your leadership strategy, and show them how you incorporate their input. When they see that they are heard and are part of positive change, it will be easier and easier to get your employees to speak out, be productive and engage in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3216 – Identify a Problem That Can Benefit From Standardized Processes

A process map is set up to fail if it isn’t tied to a strong goal right from the get-go.

Don’t limit yourself to a specific type of process map until you’re 100% sure of the problem you’re trying to solve.

Are you trying to improve an existing process or plan an entirely new one from scratch? Do your desired results impact your customers, internal employees, or product or technology stack?

Answering these questions will help you determine the right starting and ending point for your process map.

From there, it becomes easier to visualize the actions needed to take you from your starting to your ending point.

Think about the levels of visibility you need to execute the process, whether that’s resource expenditure, cross-functional collaboration, system workflows or more.

Make sure you have someone in charge of documenting these planning notes so you can refer to them later when you’re ready to map your process out.

Lean Tip #3217 – Use Pen and Paper for an Effective Process Map

Even if you’re working in the high tech sector, you can begin business process mapping in a fairly low tech way. Don’t try and start mapping immediately in Visio, Powerpoint or Word. Start as simply as possible with a pen and a flip chart, it’ll help you really stand back and look at your process as a whole as you go along. It’ll also help you collaborate more successfully with other members of your team.

Lean Tip #3218 – Get Outside Input on Your Process Map

Although you need the people who undertake the task to help you document it, it can be useful to employ someone from outside the team to manage and adjudicate the mapping process. A neutral observer can bring a fresh perspective on thinking that has become entrenched and ask important questions to prompt new ideas as you proceed.

Lean Tip #3219 – Map the Process Together

Bring together the people who carry out the task you are documenting to help you get it down on paper. The people who do the job know everything about it, after all, and are best placed to understand and explain the pressures involved in carrying it out. It’s no good someone who is removed from the process deciding how it is done or how it should be done without consulting others. If the ‘process maps’ are worked on and developed by the team who deliver the tasks they describe, they will be much more accurate representations of the task itself, and there will be a greater sense of ownership of the output.

Lean Tip #3220 – Optimize the Process Using Your Map

If you are working with the team who undertake the tasks on a daily basis, they may all approach the job in different ways. You need to understand how and why these approaches differ. As your objective is to document ‘the way you do things’, at this stage you need to decide definitively how a task should be done in the future. A collaborative approach will help you agree the best way of tweaking processes so that particular objectives can be met and the risk of process failure minimized. Collectively, it will help you decide on and agree the best and most efficient way to perform a task, so that it can be replicated consistently and to the same standards time and time again.

Lean Tip #3221 – Don’t Dictate, Participate

Your employees will judge your commitment to improvement by what you do, not what you say. Set the right tone by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work alongside the rest of your team. Build a team of leaders who continuously improve their own processes and talk about it every chance they get. Once people see that improvement is worth the time of the leadership team, they'll know that it's worth their own time as well.

Lean Tip #3222 – Be Deliberate and Patient.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement is an exercise in demonstrating continuous improvement. You need serious commitment and sustained energy. Many of us make a practice to look for the quickest, highest value wins. Kaizen is more like the effect of oceans on the beach. It’s relentless and disciplined. It can take time to produce the results that many organizations want. A company with this kind of mindset may not be completely ready for kaizen. Also, keep this in mind: even if you have a healthy organization, it will likely be resistant to change.

Lean Tip #3223 – Emphasize a Personal Understanding of the Philosophy of Kaizen Across All Levels of the Organization.

Instilling an understanding of kaizen as a long-term practice, rather than a management initiative, is important in order to sustain continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is as much about mindset as it is about actions.

Making sure your employees understand the history and philosophy of kaizen will help sustain a culture of continuous improvement that permeates the company. Building a company culture with a steady focus on improvement is critical to maintaining momentum in your kaizen efforts.

Lean Tip #3224 – Enforce Your 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.

Documenting improvements, making sure standard work is up-to-date, and training employees on new procedures can help sustain the progress you’ve made in your continuous improvement efforts.

Lean Tip #3225 – Encourage Leadership to be Open-Minded

Continuous improvement works especially well when individuals are encouraged by senior leaders. Prepare your leadership team by offering special training to encourage new ideas and removing any blockers that may be in a team member's path as they are trying to improve a workflow.

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