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Monday, June 5, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #204 (#3271 - #3285)

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 #3271 – Empower Your Employees to Innovate

Set your team up for success by empowering them with the freedom to work in ways that work best for them. Provide them with the flexibility to work when, where and how they want. Try to give projects to them that best align with their strengths and preferences.

Lean Tip #3272 – Change Your Workday Habits

Add variety to your workday and challenge yourself to approach things in a way other than you normally would. For example, challenge your team to brainstorm new ideas without allowing them to use tools or resources they normally would, such as access to the internet to guide their search. See what they think of on their own as a starting point, and supplement their ideas with research later.

Lean Tip #3273 – Don’t Make Staff Jump Through Hoops

You may think that it’s easy for employees to offer their ideas, but is it really?

If managers are constantly behind closed doors and meetings tend to be one-way discussions, the message to staff is that their feedback isn’t welcome.

Make sure you and other leaders keep your office doors open as much as possible, let employees know directly that their ideas are always valued and keep formal discussions on a two-way street. Also use your intranet, brainstorming sessions or even an old-fashioned suggestion box to solicit input.

Lean Tip #3274 – Rethink Competition

Setting up contests for individuals at work can be useful for goals such as achieving sales targets.

However, be cautious about creating too competitive of a work environment when you’re trying to encourage innovation in the workplace. When employees are aiming for a reward, they may be reluctant to speak up for fear that their suggestions will be stolen. Instead, promote the value of collaboration.

For example, when launching a new project, you might pair employees to develop ideas for the best ways to tackle different aspects of the project. Encourage open communication and a team-first atmosphere.

Lean Tip #3275 – Prioritize a Learning Mindset.

A commitment to ongoing learning and skills development is critical to innovation. Encourage and prioritize personal development by offering individual and group opportunities to learn and grow. This can be done through in-person or virtual development opportunities such as workshops, personalized one-on-one mentoring, group webinars and trainings as well as in-the-moment sharing of thought-leadership articles, podcasts, websites and books. 

When you expand your and your teams’ skill set by providing access to the tools they need and push them toward new ways of thinking, everyone benefits and your company and clients are positioned for growth.

Lean Tip #3276 – Give Employees a Reason to Care

The fact is, if people aren’t feeling connected to your company, there’s little incentive for them to be innovative.

Make sure you keep your team in the loop on your firm’s strategies and challenges, and invite their input.

Employees who are involved early on in processes and plans will be motivated to see them through to completion. Their active participation will fuel more ideas than if they learn of initiatives second-hand.

Lean Tip #3277 – Do What You Can to Remove the Red Tape

Consider which internal processes might be stifling innovation.

For instance, it can be demoralizing if recommendations must go through multiple layers of approvals in the organization and take a significant time before they’re implemented, if at all.

Look for ways to streamline the process so people can see their good ideas in action quickly.

Lean Tip #3278 – Calm the Naysayers

A key reason people often hesitate to offer fresh proposals is that they worry what others might say. No one wants to have their ideas shot down immediately or become fodder for jokes. Make sure you’re doing all you can to make it safe to brainstorm.

Even if someone makes an unrealistic suggestion, thank the person for thinking creatively. Also make sure that people can offer their recommendations in writing if they’re not comfortable speaking up. Stress to the entire team that you welcome input any way they prefer to share it with you.

Lean Tip #3279 – Develop A Culture Of Constant Improvement

The most important value that companies can build their culture around is one of constant improvement, both as individuals and as an overall business (and your processes, workflows and the way you handle customers). If members of your team know and understand that the business is always looking to improve itself, then it becomes easier to talk about gaps and areas that may be able to be improved. Be accepting of proposed solutions or changes that are brought to you by employees, and reward them for what they are doing—which is actively working to make your business better. It is hearing these suggestions out and giving them serious thought and discussion rather than brushing them aside that is the ultimate incentivization for employees.

Lean Tip #3280 – Inspire People to Voice Their Opinions

Eighty percent of creative new ideas come from your employees on the front line; less than 20% of business innovation in the workplace is generated from members of the C-Suite. The question on employees’ minds should always be, “How can we do things better and how can we provide better services to our customers?” If you are willing to take the advice of employees when they suggest how they can improve operations, there will be a noticeable increase of new ideas.

Lean Tip #3281 – Build on the Company’s Values.

One way to improve the creative mindset in the workplace is knowing your values. It’s important to define your values, and make sure that everyone in the company knows them. That way, everyone is on the same page about where to go next, and there is no miscommunication.

When employees and managers know the values of your company, they feel more connected to it. They know why they’re working, and how to contribute.

Lean Tip #3282 – Be Willing To Experiment

Businesses need to be willing to experiment with new ideas in order to be truly innovative. This can be achieved through a variety of different tactics, which can help you grow your business effectively. For example, it may be beneficial to think about identifying new markets and products. They should be closely related to the work you are currently involved with, but different enough to demonstrate another value of your organization. By exploring various areas for growth, you may reach new customers and solidify your company’s market position at the same time. Moreover, this will allow your employees to utilize their skills and support you in a new phase of development.

Lean Tip #3283 – Encourage the Practice of Self-Reflection

When the workload picks up, it’s easy for your employees to become focused on the work and forget about the significance of what they’re accomplishing. 

Encourage employees to get in the habit of self-reflection check-ins. This exercise helps them to focus on what they’ve achieved, as well as what’s coming up next, and helps inspire them to see things differently. 

If possible, also share monthly or quarterly accomplishments with your team so they can see the concrete results of their hard work and innovative solutions.

Lean Tip #3284 – Support Employees in Creative Risk-Taking

Cultivate an office culture that rewards creative risk-taking. One reason why employees are not thinking out of the box or proposing different solutions is due to the fear of making mistakes and not having their ideas supported. As much as possible, make it clear to your employees that your organization values creativity—and understands its importance. This can be communicated clearly by being receptive to new ideas and recognizing risk-takers for the impact they've made.

Lean Tip #3285 - Treat Mistakes as an Opportunity to Learn

Inevitably, there will be some mistakes along the way for your team. Depending on the way they are handled, they can become big roadblocks for your team. No one ever responds well if they are called out and criticized harshly for making a mistake or failing to reach a goal. That does not mean you should let mistakes or missing a goal slide as being no big deal. Instead, use these situations as an opportunity to learn what didn’t work this time and to make better plans going forward.

Avoid assigning blame to anyone. Instead, ask questions similar to the following:

Is there something the team did (or did not do) that caused the mistake to occur?

How can we regroup and move forward to reach our goal next time? Be specific.

What can I do to help the team reach the goal next time?

Generally, when a failure occurs, it is not due to one mistake. There are a series of events that occur and the failure is the result. Spending time trying to assign blame takes away from learning how to avoid the same pitfalls next time.

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