A topic that comes up a lot here and around the blog sphere is around leadership and what it looks like in a lean environment. There are many great perspectives on leading in a lean organization.
Mark Graban has done a great job breaking down some of Dr. Deming’s view on how to lead a transformation and what the role of a manager of people should be. Dr. Deming’s teachings still ring true today. His thoughts and leadership are timeless.
Mark also took some great notes from Art Byrne’s speech at the AME Spring Conference. Art spoke about why and how to do lean, but the most interesting part was Art’s thoughts on management principles. It is another great blog post summary of leadership.
Jamie Flinchbaugh wrote a great blog about the difference between tension and stress. Jamie explains a leader’s role in creating tension. Knowing you are not where you are supposed to be but understanding the gap and developing a plan to close it. Jamie does a great job of explaining how stress is not a good thing but tension is very healthy.
Steve Roesler explains how effective coaching as a leader leads to commitment from the employees. Steve’s ‘what it takes’ and ’3 to-dos’ is very insightful.
And awhile back Mark Welch wrote a great guest blog for Beyond Lean about being a Servant Leader. He looks at how Jesus was a servant leader and what we can learn from it for a lean organization.
There are many great blogs about leadership. I encourage you to make copies of a few and refer back to them occasionally. It is always good to get a refresher.
In an earlier post I mentioned the similarities in agile and lean from a problem solving perspective. Lean and agile are also the same when it comes to the learning cycle.
One of the principles of lean that I have learned is Create a Learning Organization through Learn-Apply-Reflect. This principle helps drive home the importance of reflection. Many people and organizations do a great job of learning something new and then trying to apply it. Where most people and organizations fail is forgetting to reflect. The reflection step is where all the learning and applying comes together to understand how what was learned can best be applied in the organization. What worked? What didn’t work? What should be kept? What should be changed?
A sign an organization is doing this well, is the reflection is planned and not a reaction because something went wrong. The reflection is part of the project plan and will is scheduled upfront with no agenda but to learn and improve.
Agile has a methodology and a term it uses for this reflection and learning. It is retrospectives.
Agile uses planned retrospectives, usually once a week, to take a time out and gather the team to understand what is working and they should continue doing. As well as what is not working and should be changed or thrown out. It takes a monumental act to cancel a retrospective. These retrospectives are ingrained in the methodology and help the agile teams continue to improve on their process and work.
This is a great of example of Lean-Apply-Reflect. The agile team takes the learnings from the week, apply them and then have a planned reflection time a week later. The agile methodology does a great job of fostering the principle of creating a learning organization.
Do you have any examples of planned reflection in your organization?
Recently, I reviewed The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne. The book was excellent and really struck a cord with me. So while writing the review, I paused for reflection about what are the lean books that have influenced me the most and why. I came up with a distinct list of four books. Below is the list in order that I read them and why it had such an impact on me.
- The Toyota Way By Jeffrey Liker – This was the first book on lean that I read. Of course, right? It is the foundation of everything else. All the principles clicked instantly with me. The book showed me that others are doing it a better way.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean By Jamie Flinchbaugh & Andy Carlino – I read this book after learning and implementing lean for about 4 years. The book took everything I had read from the internet and been implementing and organized it in a way that really made sense to me. The principles allowed me to organize my thoughts and actions. This allowed me to become a better coach/teacher/trainer.
- Better Thinking, Better Results By Bob Emiliani – This book was a great case study of how you can transform every aspect of a company. Not just manufacturing, but HR, Sales, and Finance. It showed how using lean to become more efficient can free up cash to grow or pay down debt. Great case study that really reinforced that lean can be done anywhere and should be.
- The Lean Turnaround By Art Byrne – This book reinforces what I learned from “Better Thinking, Better Results” but Art also laid out actions to be taken to have a successful lean turnaround. Art stresses and demonstrates the importance of having the top leadership engaged in the work and not just supporting the work. It was the first book I read that is designed for executive leadership.
Deeper reflection leads me to recommend reading these books in this order for anyone that hasn’t read any of them. It has a nice progression to understanding what lean is and what are some guiding principles to understanding how effective lean is when done throughout the entire organization and finally the need for executive leadership and how to lead a lean turnaround.
What lean/business books have influenced you?
It is amazing to me the amount of confidence a person can have of producing a successful outcome when they are supported by a strong process.
“A bad process beats good people” is a quote I picked up from Jamie Flinchbaugh and Any Carlino.
The point of the quote is to stress that even good people will fail within a bad process so design the process so it will repeatedly deliver good results.
Let’s look at the same thing but in a different way.
When a strong, repeatable process is designed and followed it will instill confidence of the people using the process. The more the people use the process and the more they see successful results the more confidence is built. The person looks like a superhero because they are delivering on results time after time. Confidence can build to a point of almost arrogance because they know they can deliver the results wanted if they follow the process.
This is true of kaizen events and problem solving as well as day-to-day work execution processes.
This does not mean a strong process can’t be improved because you can always make it stronger, but understand if you have a strong process and use it to your advantage.
Turn yourself into a superhero as well as others around you by developing a strong process for something you do and following it.
Jamie’s first strategy was “Treat them like an customer, not an opponent.”
He couldn’t be more right with this one. When meeting with an executive or anyone you are trying to get lean buy-in from it is important to view them as a customer. Ask them what their needs are? What are some issues they are having? Use lean as a way to help them resolve their issue. Work with the person so they see the benefits from a customer’s point of view. Once people see the benefits they usually become supporters and give the buy-in.
The next strategy was “Have a multistep strategy.”
This ties in with the first strategy of viewing the person as a customer and not an opponent. Ask yourself, “What does my customer need to understand what I am talking about?” Part of that strategy can be to show results through solving a problem for them. While solving the problem look at taking them on a benchmark trip to see something that relates to the problem but will expose them to other aspects of lean. Let the person see how other leaders are using lean and let them get the questions answered that they want answered from another point of view. Inject teaching about how you are solving the problem using lean so the person starts to understand how you are using lean in their world.
You may have one central approach where you are injecting other approaches to make it seem like you aren’t attacking them from a hundred directions. When learning something new teach it 7 ways, 7 times.
The third strategy was “Overcome the valid “no.”"
Jamie is right. There is a valid concern or baggage that causes someone to say no. It is our job to dig deep and find what the issue. It is natural for people to be resistant to change. A lean transformation is a change. We should be aware of their concerns and try to help them through it.
The last strategy mentioned was “Call in reinforcements.”
This can be a difficult thing to do. This does mean being able to have the humility to know when you need help getting the buy-in. This does not take away from you as an individual. In fact, it shows more character, strength and security. I have called in consultants to help reach executives or peers to reach people because there was a better relationship there. To get buy-in at an executive level, I had to get a director to agree to meet with a consultant. Then work with that consultant for a year before starting to talk about getting the consultant to work with executives. It took over two years to get there but it is happening. It takes patience and others to help sometimes.
I’m sure there are other strategies to gaining buy-in, but these really rang true to me as I read them. What are your thoughts?
I have decided to try something different for 2012. I am not going to read a single lean or leadership book for the entire year. I read my first book on lean and/or leadership about 5 years ago. The Hitchhker’s Guide to Lean by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino was a gift to me as I left one job for another. Being the avid learner, I was hooked. I kept reading more and more books on lean. As I’m sure many of yours are, my completed reading list on lean and leadership is a mile long.
So why stop reading books on the subject this year?
Not because of burn out or because I want to stop learning. On the contrary, I want to learn but by putting more of what I have read into practice.
I have used some of what I have read over the years when the time was right, but recently I seem to have read so much especially about leadership and lean that I am jumping from on thing to another without giving anything a serious try. This year is going to be dedicated to trying to put some of what I have learned about into practice without diluting it with more information.
I plan on continuing to read blogs and non-fictional and a few fictional books this year, but my lean book reading will be on hold.
My learning is going to come from doing. I will have to dig back through some of my books to refresh myself and I am looking forward to that. I am looking forward to the challenge and seeing the results.
Is there anything from your past reading that you want to learn more about?
In the spirit of other blog sites, especially the Management Carnival, I thought I would share some links to a few blogs that found very interesting over the last month or so. I hope you enjoy them.
A Tough Obituary to Write by Bill Waddell – This is a different perspective on the passing of Steve Jobs. This is a point of view I had thought about writing but Bill beat me to the punch and I didn’t want to redo something he had written so well.
Building Your Personal Value Proposition by Bill Barnett – A great post about understanding yourself and what you are interested in. Use that knowledge to know where you fit in a company and build your personal value.
Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow by Steve Roesler – Steve hits on some great points to help grow talent through encouragement. Even when you feel an employee is doing what they should be doing it is good to encourage them.
Building Manager Standard Work by Jamie Flinchbaugh – This blog will link to his full article at Industry Week. Don’t but a process in place for something that already has a process like check email every day at lunch.
Planning On Not Knowing by David Kasprzak – We won’t always know what do to next but that shouldn’t stop us from planning. Plan in spots to review and determine what to do next.
Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap by John Hunter – If the people don’t have the manufacturing skills they need is that their fault? Or do we have a gap in our management skills?
Assembly Mag Thinks Whirlpool is Lean. Really. by Kevin Meyer – This is about Whirlpool and the fake lean. It hit home because I grew up in Evansville and watch the decline of Whirpool.
Error proofing or jidoka (the Japanese term) is a concept that is common in the lean world. The basic concept of error proofing is setting something up so that there is only one way to do it. This eliminates the possibility of errors.
This concept is typically thought of as a manufacturing concept only. It isn’t though. It can be translated to the data world like an electronic form that will not submit unless certain fields are filled in.
The underlying thought with error proofing is to make the right thing easy to do and the wrong thing impossible to do. This is something I learned from Jamie Flinchbaugh.
Below is a picture of what I think is a good example of this thinking. This is outside a shop in an indoor mall.
Keeping the store clean and easy to shop is the goal. I have seen too many stores that ask patrons to not bring in food or drinks but that’s all there is. This store has placed a table underneath the sign making it easier for the customer to do the right thing and leave their food and drink outside of the store. The solution is simple and easy to understand.
Can someone not follow the instructions? Yes. But there are fewer excuses for people not to do what is preferred.
So the next time someone doesn’t follow what you want them to do, ask yourself how can I make the right thing easy to want to do and the wrong behavior impossible to do.
The pro football season is upon us and one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year is the Green Bay Packers. When thinking of the Packers I am reminded of a quote from my lean/business coach, Jamie Flinchbaugh.
Sometimes the right thing to do is the hard thing to do
Why do the Packers remind me of this quote? After the 2007 season the Green Bay Packers management decided to part ways with Brett Favre after 16 years of service. Brett Favre is a Hall of Fame quarterback that led the team to two Super Bowls and has numerous individual and team accomplishments. Brett was one of the most beloved sports figures in sports at the time and the state of Wisconsin loved him. Brett also had spent the previous two offseasons retiring then unretiring and stringing the management along. He got a pass though because he was one of the greats of all time.
Understanding Brett Favre was going to retire someday soon the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft and let him learn under Brett Favre.
In 2007, the management had enough of not knowing what Brett was going to do about retiring so they promoted Aaron Rodgers to be the starter and cut ties with Brett Favre. The management team believed they had a great replacement for the Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre. The Packers front office took a lot of heat from the local and national media for this decision. The media essentially said they didn’t know what they were doing and made a huge deal out of the situation.
It is four years later. The Packers won the Super Bowl last year under Aaron Rodgers guidance of the offense and the are the favorites to win again this year. The Packers are a young team that looks promising for years to come.
It was not easy for the front office of the Packers to cut ties with the face of their franchise for over a decade. They caught a lot of heat for it but they stuck to their decision and backed Aaron Rodgers. Could it have failed? Yes. Nobody knew, but the management team was the closest to the situation and believed it was the right thing to do. It by far was not the easy thing to do.
As humans we naturally look for the path of least resistance. As lean implementers we look to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing impossible. This makes doing the right thing easy. But as we decide if we should changes roles or companies or have to deal with troublesome employees, the right thing is not always the easy thing. We have to be prepared to do the hard thing and stick with our decision. In my experience, if it is truly the right thing then everything works out well in the end.
Before anyone understood the thinking behind the tools used by Toyota, people copied the tools. There are many examples of companies trying to copy the tools and not succeeding.
Today, many more people are starting to understand it is about the thinking and not the tools that makes lean successful. Yet, because it is human nature we still rely on tools and templates.
Last week, Jamie Flinchbaugh had a great video post about focusing on the discussion and not the template when developing a lean strategy. I would extend that thought to be the same same when creating value stream or process maps or A3′s.
Too many times I have caught myself as well as colleagues worrying about the format or template use of a map. I would get questions like, “Why didn’t you follow the normal standards for the map?” or “That doesn’t look like the A3 I was taught to use.” These questions are missing the point. The discussions we have around, “what is the problem and how did we fix it,” or “what is the lean strategy and how do we execute it” are what is important.
Discussions are where we can gain clarity and come to agreement on what is the issue and how to go about resolving it. When you have an issue at home to you ever talk with your spouse about what template to put the information on? I bet it is safe to assume no. It is the discussion you are concentrating on.
Templates are tools to help facilitate and draw out the discussion. Not hinder it. Next time you use a template, make sure you use it to enhance the discussion, because the discussion is what adds value.