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Monday, September 18, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #209 (#3346 - #3360)

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 #3346 – Make the Problem Relatable and Put Yourself in Their Shoes

It’s critical to frame the problem in such a way that your colleagues and management relate to and identify with the problem. Remember, you’re aiming for a reaction like “Ack, you’re right! That is such a pain! You have a solution? Tell me!” Your colleague might identify with the fact that the company has an issue keeping track of project timelines and therefore they get tons of last-minute requests.

Your boss, on the other hand, might identify with the amount of company time and money being lost due to poor project tracking and low productivity. Know your audience, understand what matters to them, and speak to the problem and the possible solution in a relatable way. 

Lean Tip #3347 – Actively Listen, Measure if Possible, and Then Listen Some More

Being clear about the problem means actively listening to those around you. As you explain the problem, do your colleagues have a different view? Do they have an additional but related problem? Can the problem be measured through an employee survey or analytics? It is vital to listen to your colleagues and to management as you discuss the problem because you may very well uncover a new layer that you had never originally considered which requires you to modify your solution.

Lean Tip #3348 – Secure a Change Sponsor, Not Just a Change Cheerleader

If you are the sole person inside your organization pushing for change – whether it be a new tool, tech or process – it will fail. As the change management process teaches, long-term and sustained change inside a company requires someone at the top to “sponsor” the change, not just be its cheerleader.

A sponsor is someone inside the company, usually a manager or executive, who helps communicate, manage, and be accountable for the change. This person doesn’t need to be the CEO or oversee all the tiny details, but they do need to enjoy a high degree of social capital – meaning they are highly connected, valuable to the organization, and tend to enable cooperation and collaboration between teams. All organizations have these people. Find the person that everyone listens to, the person who is highly credible and authentic, the person who is willing to go the extra mile, and secure them as your sponsor.

Lean Tip #3349 – Communicate Clearly Before, During and After

Communication is key to the success of any change inside an organization. If your organization is lucky enough to have a communications team – or better yet, an internal communications team – engage them early and work with them often to help strategically get messages out to employees within the organization.

There is such a thing as over-communicating. No one will appreciate a daily update about how your new tool is changing the lives of your team. Pick a communication frequency that makes sense for the magnitude of the change you are trying to implement and sustain.

Lean Tip #3350 – Don’t Fall So in Love With Your Idea That You Forget About the Most Important Thing – The Problem.

It’s important to remember one thing: as much as you love your idea, your tool, or your new solution – if you’ve followed the steps, and it’s clear your suggested change is not working, it’s ok to abandon it and reassess. Don’t make the mistake of continuing to figuratively beat people over the head with something that isn’t working. Take the feedback, regroup, refocus on the original problem, and try again. 

Lean Tip #3351 – Personalize Tasks.

Make sure the tasks you assign to each person play to their strengths. When people are set up for success, they are more motivated to achieve. Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, nothing will get done if you have a big-picture person working on detail-rich tasks. Be clear with each person about how their work is vital to the outcome. Then set measurable goals and let them know how they will be held accountable. If appropriate, let the individuals take part in defining the work they will be undertaking.

Lean Tip #3352 – Follow Up and Stay Connected With Employees

Stay connected to ensure that everyone is clear about the mission that they are working toward. Keep an open-door policy as much as possible. If that's not feasible, consider making yourself available via email or during certain hours of the day. It's important that employees let you know when challenges arise. That's not to say you should listen to every gripe and complaint, but you can let everyone know you are empathetic to their concerns and are willing to work with them to find solutions. Further, encourage employees to bring a solution with them when making you aware of a problem.

Lean Tip #3353 – Nip Resistance in the Bud.

Be aggressive in addressing instances where you see resistance. This is important for two reasons. First, small problems have a nasty habit of ballooning into bigger ones. Second, you don't want unhappy employees poisoning the minds of other employees who have already bought in.

Lean Tip #3354 – Be Transparent About the Process

Employees often become stressed when they feel a sense of uncertainty around organizational changes. One of the best ways to alleviate any anxiety or feelings of uncertainty is to clearly lay out what employees can expect throughout the change process. If you’re introducing a new initiative, share the timeline and key milestones. If you’ve already introduced a new initiative and it’s hit a snag, provide an update on the timeline so employees don’t feel like they’re being left in the dark.

It’s also helpful to try to explain what any new processes or work will look like from the employee perspective. You’ve shared the “why” to help employees understand the initiative from a high-level organizational perspective, now share what it will look like in terms of the employees’ day-to-day work. Will employees need to adjust any of their normal procedures or processes? Does the new initiative take priority over existing projects? Be clear about how it will impact employees.

Lean Tip #3355 – Solicit Feedback

Meet with your team, present your idea and ask for their input. Some may bring up points you never thought of. There's no point in putting forward a proposal if you discover disadvantages you hadn't considered. On the other hand, some objections may boil down to "I don't want to learn a new system" or "The old way's good enough." If we always thought like that, we'd still be hiding from sabertooth tigers in dark caves.

Lean Tip #3356 – Visual Management Board Belongs to the Team

As a manager, you may have a burning desire to create our own vision of an information center or visual management board in the middle of your factory or workplace. It is important to resist the temptation. However, lean metrics and visual management

A monthly “cross” for quality or safety can replace complex metrics. The aim is to highlight off target performance in order to prompt problem-solving discussions.

the goal of visual management boards is for front line teams to understand operational performance and engage in improvement.

Therefore your role as a manager is to coach your teams to understand their performance and measure it themselves. This starts with a conversation about “what does a good day look like”? Ask the team how they measure performance. They may have simple indicators such as numbers of jobs completed or boxes packed, which make sense to them.

Lean Tip #3357 – The Board is Not Wallpaper, It’s About Conversation

If you think just putting information on a Visual Management Board on the wall will get people to engage, then you will be disappointed. I see many big immaculate visual displays sprawling across entrance halls and walkways with literally dozens of metrics displayed. Here is the bad news: no one looks at them. In many cases, the job of printing the graphs and posting them is delegated to an administrative staff member and not even the business leaders notice or read the graphs.

We call this type of visual management board “wallpaper” because that is the only function they serve. The boards need to be the focus of structured daily conversations about how the team is going, what are the barriers to improvement and how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore visual management boards go hand in hand with daily meetings.

Lean Tip #3358 – Boards Need to be Accessible and Close to the Workplace

The purpose of visual management boards is to be a reference point for discussions around team performance. Therefore the boards need to be located near where the teams work. That means in a safe location (not a forklift aisle) in the workplace where noise is sufficiently low to allow a conversation and where the board will not be obstructed by materials or machinery.

People stand up during their daily meetings, so there needs to be sufficient space to enable the team to meet in front of the board. Lighting also needs to be good enough to read what is on the board.

Lean Tip #3359 – Less is Most Certainly More With Visual Management

When you’re designing and developing your visual management program it can be easy to throw everything at it, but we would recommend taking a less is more approach. Ensure that you’re only using your visual management boards to track measures that drive results. Decide on an acceptable timeframe to read the status of your key measures and constantly monitor and change your visual management to ensure that it is within that timeframe.

Lean Tip #3360 – Establish the Right Mindset and Get Your Team Ready for Change!

It’s important that your business see’s problems as helpful to the organization. Many companies see problems as something to be hidden away, that they’re a source of embarrassment, or that it will only lead to blame. If you’re reading this then you should be the one to take ownership of changing your businesses culture to see every problem as an opportunity for improvement. Businesses that are serious about continuous improvement must love their problems and see visual management for what it is, a way of easily indicating where they need help!

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