Category Archives: Engagment
Today’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.
Have you ever walked into a work facility and taken note of an atmosphere full of complaints and unmotivated workers? I have, and let me tell you first hand it’s not a fun place for anyone to be. In fact, it is basically the opposite of what is needed for growth and success. Why are these employees creating such a negative work environment? Or is the negative work environment caused by something other than employees? Well, many times the work atmosphere is a direct result of leadership. Great leadership can motivate employees, create an environment conducive to high levels of productivity, and create unparalleled levels of employee job satisfaction, while not-so-great leadership can single handedly flush an entire business down the tubes. Whether we want to believe it or not, good and strong leadership is essential to the success of a business.
Creating Good Leadership
Good leadership isn’t something that just happens on its own, good leaders have to be trained, empowered, and willing to help others reach towards success as well. By doing this, the leaders help to motivate and grow the employees by guiding and leading by example. In order to empower employees, there are some basic elements that contribute tremendously to creating strong and positive leadership:
*Create a Positive Work Environment: A productive work environment that yields high levels of success is similar to having rich soil in your garden. The richer the soil, the hardier and more desirable the harvest.
*Empower Others to Grow: Being a leader isn’t just about focusing on being a leader and growing oneself, but it is also about empowering others to grow as well. Good leaders take the time to discuss with employees where they would like their career to go and help them to develop and refine their skills to help them achieve their career goals. One of the most depressing things to an employee is to believe that they have no opportunity for growth and that they will be stuck in a dead-end job doing the same thing for the rest of their lives. When employees elicit this mindset, their levels of productivity drop significantly and they are attending work for only a paycheck and that is it. This is poison to the success of a business.
*Think outside the Box: According to Rita Mae Brown, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Don’t harbor insanity, instead if you want to strive for different results, changes must be implemented. The same goes with leadership, when leaders embrace the practice of thinking outside the box and are willing to think creatively, the sky is truly the limit.
*Encourage Experimentation: This component of leadership is similar to thinking outside the box but this tactic is more about encouraging employees to engage in experimentation. Employees should be praised for coming up with new ideas to help enhance products and streamline processes.
*Always be willing to Help and Listen: A good leader should always be willing to help employees. Whether there is a disagreement between two co-workers or a machine that creates constant headaches, an effective leader is someone who will be there to help sort out the details and rectify any issues or problems.
Never underestimate the power of great leadership. However, it is a mistake to just assume that because someone is in a management position that he or she is or will be a great leader. Instead, a leader takes time to create and must be willing to learn the important and crucial elements that make a leader great.
It looks like others are finally catching on to something the lean community has been talking about for years. Employee engagement benefits companies in many ways. The article talks about how employee engagement does more than just boost productivity. It helps with absenteeism, delivering company results and turnover rate.
Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If you are engaged and part of the solution and the work then you pay attention and take it personally.
Harter also reiterates things the lean community has been trying to get people to understand for year.
Engaged employees “listen to the opinions of people close to the action (close to actual safety issues and quality or defect issues), and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.” When engaged employee do this they create a virtuous circle where communication and collaboration nurture engagement and vice versa.
I appreciate the studies Harter has done, but why do we need studies to know and understand all of this. Lean organizations did read a study and then engage their people. Lean organizations engaged their people out of respect. Looking at people as more than just ‘hands and feet.’ When they did they saw all these benefits. Lean organizations have been trying to tell others this for years.
It is amazing that studies have to be done to understand this ‘phenomenon’.
So how can we engage our people?
One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose,” says Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.
How are you engaging your people?
I am still amazed at what can be accomplished by improving the process first and then looking at how technology can support the process. I have always been a big advocate of looking at process first. Yet, still today I see great cases of studying the process first and then implementing supporting technology. In most cases, the technology needed to support the process is simpler than the original technology plans.
The rewarding part of the work is having success in an area that was hesitant to have the process work done. An area claiming just to need the technology. After completing the process work and seeing the benefits, that same area starts to ask for more process work to be done. That is a great feeling.
Another benefit of getting people to see the benefit of doing the process work first is they start to ask more questions around the end-to-end process. People start to see the entire process and the affects a change has in one area can have on another area. The end-to-end discussion becomes easier for people to have.
This shift in mentality can start to break down work silos and get more people engaged in the entire process.
Are you doing end-to-end process improvement at your company? Is it starting to change people’s perspective?
Last week, Beyond Lean focused on strategy deployment or hoshin kanri. A great concept to help align the priorities for the organization during the year. A term that appeared was “catch ball”. This is a term to capture the essence of gaining input through discussion with the next level down in the organization. It is a great way to get engagement at all levels of the organization and build the buy-in to what the work is for the year.
I found this great video describing what “catch ball” is. I thought it would do a better job than I could.
Do you use catch ball in your organization or do you have a straight line drill down with objectives?
This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean. The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri). Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging. This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean. I am really excited for this week’s series. All the posts are great. Enjoy!
Almost every company will say they have a strategy. While they may have a great strategy, most companies miss out on deploying that strategy throughout their organization.
Strategy deployment is a key concept that most companies don’t execute well. Typically, a communication goes out stating the strategy of the company or it may even be communicated at a large town hall. This is great, but it is only a single step in the strategy deployment process.
A great strategy deployment process starts at the top with clearly articulated goals for the company. The executives involve senior management in the process. They discuss what the goals should be across all parts of the organization and how their areas can help achieve those goals.
Once that has been agreed upon, then the senior management involves the middle management. They discuss more detailed tactics on how to the middle manager’s area can help achieve the senior manager’s goals and objectives. It is a two-way discussion with input and clarity from both levels.
This catchball or laddering conversation should happen level by level all the way down to the floor and then all the way back up to the executives. This should happen a few times. Not just once.
Here is a good graphic to try and depict the process:
When done well, the benefits of this are enormous. Everyone starts to understand the strategy and how their work is helping to achieve the vision of that strategy.
The discussion that happens during the catchball phase isn’t just between a team and their manager but also between managers that are peers. This helps to develop alignment not only up and down the organization but also across the organization. This alignment helps determine how to use the finite pool of people and cash to best achieve the company’s goals and objectives.
In my experience, company’s that have a great strategy deployment process end up with much better results year-to-year and can sustain those results because of the clear communication and everyone understanding the importance of their work.
Does your company use strategy deployment? How does it work?
When creating change it is not always easy working with people. People are the largest variable in any change you want to create. Because of this, different people and situations have to be handled in different ways.
One way is through demonstration. Do the work on a project and show them the benefits of working in the new way. Either show them after the changes are made or have them work alongside you as you make the changes and work in the new way. This way the person gets first hand experience of the benefits.
Another way is coaching. Have them do the thinking and the work on an improvement. Learn by doing. Be there with them, side-by-side. Let the person bounce ideas off you. Ask questions back to them so they develop the thoughts around what actions to take and the benefits gained. This is usually very powerful, because most adults accept change and improvement when they completely understand it and what it can do. This is a great way to gain the buy-in and understanding.
A third way is giving a large learning zone. Give people the time and the freedom to make changes on their own without a ton of bureaucracy. They will make mistakes. It is important not to make it punitive for making a mistake. Ask what they learned and how are they going to correct it. It is amazing what people can accomplish and do when they have the comfort zone to learn.
There is not one way to help people learn. You have to understand the situation and the person to best develop a plan to help them learn. If it is something critical to running the business the learning zone may be smaller because you can’t afford to allow a mistake that shuts the business down, but coaching may be a good way. The next time expanding the learning zone may be better.
If a person has baggage that prevents them from wanting to do improvement then maybe the first way is best. Drag them along and let them see how it can benefit them.
People are our biggest variable to change, but they are also are most valuable resource.
Art Byrne is an execute that has been implementing lean in several companies around the world. He started our with GE and gained experience with Danaher Corp before becoming the CEO of Wiremold where their lean turnaround is featured in the book “Better Thinking, Better Results“. Since leaving Wiremold Art has used lean to turnaround companies as a partner with J.W. Childs Associates. Art brings his vast experience to the readers.
Name of the Book: The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company
Author: Art Byrne
Publication Date: 2012
Book description: what’s the key message?
Art really drives home the message about a company can only be truly lean if the leaders are setting an example and leading the way. A lean executive does not dictate what others need to go do. A lean executive does it himself.
Also, the executives have to transform the people. Get everyone to buy-in from the shop floor to the executive suite. There is no room for people that won’t buy-in. In order to do this, as the leader you need to engage in the change and lead it. Not support it.
Art lays out his principles to follow to becoming lean:
- Work to Takt Time
- Create one piece flow
- Utilized Standard Work
- Connect Customers to Work by Using a Pull System
What are the highlights? What works?
Art does a fantastic job of giving multiple examples of how he engaged employees and led the change even as a CEO. This brings to life how it can be done and the thought isn’t some dream a consultant made up.
I really like how Art lays out obstacles to achieving his lean principles. Accounting and standard costing is the biggest obstacle because it can show a negative result or cause bad decisions when doing things that are helping. He then explains the changes that are needed and gives examples of the changes and how the finances would look different.
There are more examples of other metrics that Art recommends for a lean company.
Another powerful section of the book is how he used lean to grow businesses and profits even during tough economic times. Art even lays out a strategy for looking at companies when thinking about acquisitions.
The real life examples as a CEO and board member of companies really drives how a lean turnaround can be achieved. A CEO must do a 180 from the traditional methods to do it and a leap of faith will be needed, but the reward is very high.
What are the weaknesses? What’s missing?
This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing. Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?
One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround? Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read. How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it? Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?
The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful. Art does not say that explicitly. The book just gives that feeling.
How should I read this to get the most out of it?
I recommend this book for anyone but especially high level level executive or CEO. Art lays out a great game plan and a compelling case for the executives to transform their work and create a lean turnaround. Read the book straight through and then re-read it as you develop a plan to change your company.
I would also recommend it for more Wallstreet and finance people. It would enlighten them on how to look at companies that deliver long term value to their customers. Not just short term gains.
New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past. While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.
This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2012. Enjoy!
10. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean. Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.
9. Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #8 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with. The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.
8. Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.
7. True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.
6. Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles. This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.
My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2012.
“Give a man fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
This quote comes to mind when thinking about my role as a lean transformation leader. Lean is about how we think and behave. I don’t want to just do things differently. I want to teach and coach others how to think and behave in a way that aligns with the lean principles. There are two major reason for this.
I want the changes that I make to be sustainable. If the people involved in the changes don’t think in a lean way then at some point the changes will not be sustained. The metrics/results/process will slide backwards. In my experience, it slides at least to the previous state if not even further backwards.
The best example is a manufacturing facility that Joe and I worked at together. At one point, the facility was in the red with revenue over $100 million. The company decided to “go lean”. Joe and I, as well as another friend of ours, were tasked with leading the lean initiative in our facility. We became part of the plant staff. The plant manager and the department managers listened to what we had to say. They let us lead the lean initiative. Joe and I did a lot of great things from a lean perspective. In three years, the plant was in the seven figure profit range while revenue had dropped 25%.
This was a collaborative effort to use lean. Everyone played a part in the success. But in a big way, Joe and I failed. We both moved on to bigger and better opportunities. During the turnaround of the facility we did not change the way the plant manager and department managers thought. When some traditional mindsets started to creep back in, we were there to guide back to a lean mindset, but we never really changed their beliefs. We hadn’t taught them to fish. Within a couple of years, the facility was back in the red and back to traditional batch-and-queue mass production manufacturing. The results were not sustainable.
The second reason overlaps with the first. When you transform another person’s thinking, not only will results be sustainable, you have another person who can educate and transform the thinking of others. The lean thinking allegiance starts to spread. Instead of one person trying to transform thinking, you now have two. And so it spreads.
Transforming people for traditional ways of thinking to lean ways of thinking is not easy. The better the support system that is built the easier it is to continue to transform people’s thinking. There are times when a great support system is very reassuring.
These are the two biggest reasons why transforming the thinking is just as important as delivering the changes, driving results.
Waiting on others is a mindset I have experienced that causes things to stall out or never get started. A lean tool/concept I commonly see this with is strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri).
In an ideal state strategy deployment starts at the highest level of an organization. The executives would roll their strategy down through the entire organization to the front line level. This would create alignment on what priorities and how work is done across the entire organization.
How often does strategy deployment start with the executives? Not often.
Regularly people sit around waiting and wishing their boss or the executives would start the strategy deployment process. Waiting for this to happen is not an effective way to get strategy deployment started within an organization.
The most common way to start strategy deployment is at some middle level of an organization. Develop the strategy for your span of control in the organization and roll it down to your direct reports. Then use that strategy to reach out to your business partners (where necessary) to get buy-in and help with achieving your strategy goals. As you become successful in doing this, more and more people will take notice. It will start to grow organically across the organization. Watch it grow.
It may take some time but eventually, you may see the ideal state in your organization, but chances are the effort will have to start at a lower level.