Recommendation Or Decision Makers

Kaizen events are a very common tool used to help kick start employee engagement and improvement.  I have led over 100 of the events in my career so far.  In leading so many, I have made mistakes along the way.  One of the biggest mistakes with any type of improvement team is not knowing ahead of time if the improvement team is making a recommendation that could be used or if they are the decision makers about the changes to be made.

I have found there is nothing that squashes employee engagement faster with a team then thinking they are the decision makers and the management team or sponsorship team considers their work a recommendation.  When the recommendation isn’t fully used it leads the team to think it was a waste of time and the leadership doesn’t value their opinion or knowledge.

This is why it is important to identify who is the sponsorship team and gain their buy-in immediately.  Without their buy-in the work that is completed will not get fully supported and therefore lack in execution.

The first question to the sponsorship team should be, “Is the improvement team making a recommendation to the sponsorship team or are they the decision makers for the changes and their job is to inform the sponsorship team of the decision so the sponsorship team can support them?”

This way the expectations of the team can be set up front on what their role is.  Also, it is good to remind the sponsorship team of the role of the improvement team throughout the process.  When the expectations are defined by the sponsorship team upfront and the team is made aware of their role the process goes smoother.  Employee engagement stays at a higher level because the team knows what to expect.

Always determine upfront if the team is making a recommendation or making decisions.

Are there other questions an improvement team should ask before getting started?

Posted on December 2, 2011, in Engagment, Leadership and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Matt,

    That would certainly be discouraging if the team thinks they made a decision only to have it shot down. Clear expectations up front would certainly help. Another method that can help is to have the process owner on the team assuming it doesn’t disrupt the team dynamics and they have time, etc. Another option is to keep the process owner up to date with regular updates, invitation to key meetings, etc, to build consensus along the way.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.


  2. Back in the stone ages, there was a book called “One Way” by John Nora that goes into the dynamics of self-directed work teams. It made exactly the point you’re making, and delved pretty deeply into it.

    What the book claimed was that self directed work teams weren’t a fundamental principle but just a situational style of leadership by senior management. There were 3 styles altogether:
    D1 – A traditional top down leadership style
    D2 – A leader makes a decision with input from the group and implements his or her decision
    D3 – The group is empowered to make decisions and implement them

    The criteria used to determine the leadership style (in increasing order) were:
    1. The operators know the most about improving the job.
    2. The operators have the best information.
    3. The support of the operators is essential.

    As lean practitioners we always believe that the 3 criteria lean towards operator empowerment, but in practice that’s not always the case…especially at the beginning of a lean transformation or at companies with a poor job training system. That’s where the misunderstandings come into place. A leader must assess the skills and culture of the work team, determine the situational leadership style, and clearly communicate the ground rules to the participants on the front end. If a leader tells a group they’re there to advise but the decision will be made by others, it prevents cynicism and actually promotes the principle of respecting people.

  1. Pingback: Recommendation Or Decision Makers | Lean Reflections |

  2. Pingback: Importance of Kaizen Event Follow Up « Beyond Lean

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