As agents of change, relationships become an important part of the work. Without relationships it becomes very hard to influence others to change. It seems very intuitive when you say it, but sometimes it is forgotten.
At the start, it is your knowledge and skills about the subject (Skills/IQ) that creates the foundation of the relationship. If you prove to the person you know what you are doing, it creates a foundation of trust.
As the relationship progresses over time, it becomes less about your knowledge. You have proven overtime the skills and knowledge to the other person. Now it becomes about understanding the other person and what makes them tick (Emotional Intelligence/EQ). Keeping the connection while still having open and honest conversations becomes the skill that helps create more and more influence as time moves forward.
I heard this and took the time to reflect on my own relationships. I found this to be true. My skills have gotten my “foot in the door” with people and then once my knowledge was established then it become about how I could connect with the person on a one-on-one level.
As you think about your relationships, do you find this to be true? What are your thoughts?
In today’s tough economic climate, it is even more important the work we do is aligned with the company’s goals and priorities.
As companies reduce headcount while still driving towards revenue growth, decisions have to be made about what are the top priorities for the company. If you cannot strongly link your work to one of the company’s priorities then you should really question yourself and/or your manager about the validity of finishing that work.
Everyone in the company should know the priorities and should be asked to understand how their work is linked to achieving success on the priorities.
One good way to do this, is through strategy deployment. This is process by which the priorities of the company are used to determine the priorities of the division and then those are tied to projects and/or initiatives for the current year.
If you cannot link your work to one of the projects/initiatives that is part of the strategy then you have to ask if it needs to be done. Sometimes the answer may be ‘yes’. An example might be updating your servers or you won’t be able to run some of your IT systems. This may not be one of the priorities but it must be done in order to keep the business running.
It is good to capture the linkages on an A3 document and use that as your guide throughout the year.
It is amazing the power of alignment has on driving a company to achieving its top priorities. Are you aligned?
As the year comes to an end, companies and organizations start to evaluate how they performed for the year and what they need to do to make next year better.
The planning for the new year starts with objectives. What is it the company needs to do to be successful in the upcoming year? Reduce costs. Increase sales. Bring new products to market.
Objectives are only half of the work though. Too often, I see companies set objectives above but never publish a goal for the objective.
Can I reduce costs by $1 and be successful? $100 million? What?
How much do I need to grow sales? What part of the company’s market needs to grow in sales?
How many new products need to hit the market? How much revenue to new products need to generate?
Without answers to these questions how are people suppose to know if they are being aggressive enough during the year? Maybe we only need to reduce costs by 5% or maybe it is 25%. The answer to this question will inform how you go about reducing costs, growing revenue or bring new product to market.
As leaders, we need to set goals/targets for each objective. Then we need to give updates during the year to understand how we are progressing towards these objectives.
These isn’t new or earth shattering. But it is something I see quite a few companies neglect.
What are your objectives for next year? What is your goal for that objective?
Scott Adams does a great job of nailing how typically organizations take on transformational change.
(click on image to enlarge)
Two concepts I see Scott Adams touch on here. The first one is the idea of just speaking about transformational change will cause transformational change. It isn’t enough to just talk about it or say it. It is very hard work to create transformational change.
Which leads into the second concept shown. Transformational change does not have to be bad or painful on people..causing us to want to hurl. It can be good and as management we need to convey a clear message and show actions that back that message up. We have to consider how people process change differently and create change plans with that in mind.
If all else fails….just show them this cartoon.
How is the culture in your organization when it comes to confronting upper management about decisions or direction that may hurt the company? Does your culture allow employees to push back on upper management about a decision? Or does your culture shy away from pushing back afraid the manager will get angry or upset and hold it against them for bringing it up?
We can’t allow our cultures to be afraid to bring up decisions that may be costing the company money. We have to have the fortitude to raise the question and challenge it appropriately. I’m not suggesting to confront leadership with every decision or to do it in an emotional way because you have passion about the decision.
There is a proper way to raise an issue.
- Understand the Current State – Understand what the decision was and how it is understood to help the organization (grow revenue, cut cost,etc…). List the ways the decision is affecting the organization in a negative manner (Causing cost in another area).
- Gather the Facts – Once you have the list of the benefits and negative impacts you need to quantify them. How much revenue is the decision actually generating? How much cost are we saving? What is the cost in the area being impacted negatively? How much rework is the decision causing?
- Make a Recommendation – If you believe a decision is not what is best for the organization then that suggests you have an idea of what would be better. What is the recommendation you have? Quantify what you believe the results would be? Why do you believe that?
- Get Your Ducks in a Row – Think of different angles upper management could take. What are the facts around those options? Would they say, “Become more efficient in the other are.”? If so, how would you become more efficient? What would it cost to implement the efficient way? What would be the savings? When would it pay back?
- Present Your Case – Set up a meeting with necessary people and present your findings. Do it in a business-like manner and stick to the facts. Don’t let emotion control the discussion.
I have found over the years that approaching situations in this manner usually brings out a great discussion and upper management respects the way you handled the situation.
Nobody likes to be lectured about how the decision they made was wrong. It can be disrespectful. Show them it isn’t emotional. It is factual. A lot of times they may not have known what their decision was doing to another area or that it was actually costing the company money looking end-to-end.
I have approached different leaders in this manner several times over the years and all but one case the leader changed their decision once they saw the facts. The other time they still stuck with their decision which was their choice since they were the leader and the decision maker but at least the facts were presented.
How does your organization handle situations like this?
An often overlooked aspect of designing a process is defining the who the decision maker is for directional decisions. When it is not clearly defined as to who has the final say then a lot of waste occurs. Decisions are made by the wrong people that can cause rework later in process. Confusion can occur as to who someone should go to for a decision causing delays or decision not to even be made.
A common tool I have been using for the last couple of years is RACI. Catchy isn’t it.
R – Responsible – This is the person who does the work. Responsible for taking action.
A – Accountable – This is the final decision maker. The “buck stops here” with this person. They own the work or project and have power of the veto.
C – Consult – This is someone who is asked to give input to the action/decision.
I – Inform – These are the people that are notified of what is being decision has been made or action will be taken.
An example would be product development.
R – Designers are Responsible for creating the product.
A – Product VP would be Accountable for deciding the product will meet the consumer needs.
C – Finance and Manufacturing Consult on what is cost and manufacturing feasible for the new product design.
I – Distribution and Sales are Informed of the new product and when it will be ready.
It is amazing at the efficiency a process can gain by defining and documenting the RACI for decisions and actions that are executed in a process.
Have you clearly defined your RACI?
A couple of weeks ago during the Lean Series week, a comment was made on one of the posts about showing more examples of visuals used in the office. That was a great question.
Below are some ways visual management has been used in the office area.
The column on the right shows the tasks that must be done each day by the managers. When the task is completed they put a check mark in the box. There are 4 managers in the area every day so there are 4 columns under each day. You can see that one manager is in a kaizen event all week so they put kaizen on the board to highlight the situation.
The above picture is a board displaying which employees are working on what work for that day. The manager updates the board every morning. The green square shows where that person will work that day. If an employee finishes their work they put a blue square showing they are available to help. If employee needs help, they can put a red square up. This has eliminated a lot of startup time in the morning when employees were trying to understand what work they were needed on that day.
This visual training matrix board supplements the visual scheduling board. This board shows who is fully trained in what skills. Green ‘X’ means they are fully trained. Purple ‘X’ means they are in the progress of being trained. Red ‘X’ means the employee is not trained to do that work. The manager uses this board to inform who they can have do what work for the day on the board above.
This is a typical way visual management can be used in the office. It shows the progress of work through stages of the work. Depending on the type of work, the stages work goes there can be labeled differently. For software development it could be Design, Develop, Test and Deploy.
I hope these examples spur thought on how you can use visual management in the office environment. If you have any examples you would like to share please feel free to send them to me so I can share them wit the readers.
Problem Solving…Keep It Stupid Simple (as in really simple).
Recently, this is the valuable lesson I learned in coaching problem solving using an A3 to show the thinking.
Typically, when I have coached problem solving using the A3 I have had the A3 broken down into big sections (Background/Business Case, Current State, Problem Solving and Root Cause Analysis, Action Plan and Results). Under each section there were more segments that broke down the process to help try to go through the problem solving step-by-step.
With another group, by necessity, a colleague and I informed them of what an A3 was, gave them a 20 minute high level explanation on the big sections and a single point lesson to help guide them. A week later the three A3s we saw were probably the best first pass A3s I have ever seen. There was still some learning and some tweaking to do to tell a good story but overall they were very good.
Upon reflection, people that got the minutia explanation were trying too hard to “fit the form” and not use the A3 to show there thinking. The coaching became much harder and the people kept focusing on filling the A3 out correctly. This cause frustration and in a lot of cases people didn’t want to use the A3.
The group that got the high level explanation felt the freedom to explain their thinking any way they saw fit. The A3s were quite different but they all had the big segments (at least through the areas they have progressed). The questions and coaching around these A3s were much different. More around different modes of thought and next steps in the problem solving process. Not what do I fill in here.
Just like physical processes…keep it simple when teaching and coaching problem solving using the A3 as a tool to make the thinking visual.
What are your experiences? Is simple better in your eyes?
While taking the tram across the airport to meet my connecting flight, my buddy and I saw this easy visual management for the flow of people on and off the tram connecting the terminals. My buddy said I should take a picture for my blog so here it is.
Simple and easy to read. There is a clear message, but it is not a visual control. It is a visual indicator. A control would prevent people from walking “in” through the “out” path. An indicator shows what should be done but can be disregarded.
What you can’t see in the picture is the man standing right in front of the “out” path. As the doors opened, he walked “in” through the “out” path. He struggled to get on the tram while my buddy and I got on with no issues. Amazing what can happen when you follow the visual indicators.
Kaizen events are multi-day improvement activities aimed at creating change to a process. During the event, the improvement team understands the current state, defines an ideal state and then develops a plan to create change headed in the direction of the ideal state.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Most teams don’t have any trouble discussing the ideal state. The team can state the ideal state of a process but don’t necessarily believe they will get there anytime soon.
The hard part comes when discussing how the improvements they can make happen will change the process. Too many times I have seen groups scale back the improvement ideas. They try to just change a few things within the current process. The team has a hard time making bigger changes, even if it is just a recommendation. In organizations where lean is not prevalent and traditional management behaviors have created silos and squashed improvement ideas from the employees, the employees do not believe the bigger changes they want will be put into action.
There can be time during the event spent convincing the team it is the right thing to recommend the bigger changes even if they think the leadership will not accept the changes. It is about painting a picture. The team has to walk the leadership through the current state and have them understand where they are. Then paint a vivid picture of the ideal state. More times than not I have seen the intermediate future state accepted by leadership when a vivid picture is painted and current and future state maps are made to make the process come alive.
Improvement teams cannot be afraid to recommend what they believe is truly the best option. If the team feels strongly the leadership will not like it, then there is nothing wrong with having a Plan B. But, never start with Plan B until you have tried everything to get Plan A bough into.