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Monday, March 11, 2024

Lean Tips Edition #296 (#3466 - #3480)

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 #3466 – Deliver Coaching on the "Shop Floor"

The majority of your teaching and coaching should happen in the workplace where the process and the teams are operating. This ensures that there is a clear link between what the employee is learning and the environment in which they act in. In the case of manufacturing companies this would be the shop-floor while for service companies this would be where the process is operating or the service delivery to customers is provided.

Lean Tip #3467 – Help Employees Break the Problem Down into Parts

Teach them to break the problem into milestones or target conditions which need to be achieved on the road to achieving the final outcome. This not only ensures regular focus on the process on its way to achieving the final outcome but also makes sure that actions are taken early if things go off the rails. Review progress using a PDCA structure.

Lean Tip #3468 – Let Them Think for Themselves

Never provide answers to the person you’re coaching. Your approach to teaching has to be through a series of questions that helps the person to find the answer. They should learn through their own discovery as they work on the project and wors on the questions posed by their coach. The process of asking-questions to help the individual come up with their own answers – also known as the Socratic method - unfurls the thought process of the student.

Lean Tip #3469 – Teach Employees Not to Assign Blame to Individuals

Inculcate into the individuals that you mentor that problems happen because of process and the system not because of people. So whenever someone reports a problem or blames someone, the first response has to be to go and look at the process / system and not to point the finger at any one individual.

Lean Tip #3470 – Help Them Learn to See

Teach the change agents the power of observation. Employees need to be taught to look for both explicit and implicit things in a process. Can this be taught? Yes, it can be. Observation is not just about the process but also about the customers, the context in which the process functions, etc.

Lean Tip #3471 – Ask Guiding Questions

Open-ended, guiding questions lead to more detailed and thoughtful answers, which lead to more productive coaching conversations in the workplace. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and what kind of attitude they have toward their work. 

This is where communication skills and emotional intelligence really come into play. Managers must guide conversations both by asking questions and listening, not by giving directives. Employees learn and grow the most when they uncover the answers themselves, making the techniques of coaching highly effective.

Lean Tip #3472 – Recognize What’s Going Well

Coaching (successfully) in the workplace requires a balance of criticism and praise. If your coaching conversations solely focus on identifying what’s not working and how the employee needs to change, it can be demoralizing rather than motivating.

Recognizing and valuing an employee’s strengths can provide a solid basis for growth and development. However, it’s important to avoid using the “compliment sandwich” approach, as it can often come across as disingenuous and lacking in authenticity.

Instead, take the time to genuinely recognize specific areas where the employee excels and let them know that their efforts are valued. Additionally, it’s important to consider how the employee prefers to be recognized. Some individuals thrive with frequent recognition, while others find occasional acknowledgment sufficient. Understanding their preferences, whether they prefer public or private recognition, is crucial in fostering a positive coaching management style. Openly communicate with your employees and ask about their preferred coaching techniques and examples of effective coaching in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3473 – Listen and Empower

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

Lean Tip #3474 – Give Them Goals to Aspire To

Great performance coaches identify strengths and weaknesses within individual employees and help them take advantage of what they’re good at. This knowledge of their own skills and competencies allows employees to target goals that align with their strengths, and perhaps aspire to promotions and leadership roles.

Lean Tip #3475 – Empower Your Team to Manage Themselves, and Achieve More

Self-aware and communicative employees are engaged, empowered, and motivated. Armed with concrete knowledge about what they’re capable of and how they can continue to improve their performance in the office, employees are likely to be more proactive about managing their own advancement and goals in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3476 – Implement Continuous improvement Based on Customer Need

Unlike what many people think, sales (and other) departments have a big impact on the production system of a company. From my experience, most of the time those departments are disconnected from the production system and the needs of the customer.

Remember that the Lean principle of “Pull” is not a concept to be implemented in production areas only. When trying to optimize your processes, always look at the system holistically. Focus your investment on real customer needs.

Within an organization there are internal and external customers. Internal customers are people who work in the various departments that we produce work for. External customers are the end users outside of our organization. An improvement is only useful if it improves upon something that customers value. Before doing any work, we must be aware of who the customer is and what is their conditions of satisfaction to be able to deliver the desired value.

Lean Tip #3477 – Reduce Non-Value Added Activities

Draw a Value Stream Map and connect the production areas with non-production areas. Teach your people to distinguish between value added activities, necessary non-value added activities, and waste. Standardize your processes. Even creative processes can be standardized. Some experts say that around 80-90% of a supposedly creative process is composed of repetitive processes or methodological steps.

Lean Tip #3478 – Implement 5S & Housekeeping

Without having a well-organized office environment, it will be quite difficult to implement any Lean continuous improvement program. These simple traditional lean tools do not need much investment. 5S and a Kanban system can improve organization and efficiency.

Lean Tip #3479 – Use Visual Management to Control the Workflow

Use visual management principles to provide visibility of work-in-progress (i.e., status of orders, projects, reports, etc.). A visual communication system ensures that standards are in place so that work is completed on schedule. Visual Management should be implemented in the office areas as well as in production areas.

Lean Tip #3480 – Take Advantage of Digital Tools

First, I recommend the use of traditional manual solutions and tools such as color cards, post-its notes, and boards to standardize the process. When you have standardized the process, you can take advantage of digital tools including apps, touch screens, and cloud computing tools. My recommendation is to start with less sophisticated or free versions of applications and software. Once you have mastered the rules and routines, search for more powerful, expensive, or sophisticated tools if needed. Remember the 8th principle of the Toyota Way: “Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and process”, a principle not yet well understood by many companies.

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