Category Archives: Development
“I don’t feel like a coach anymore. We are friends and I care about what happens.”
—Usher on The Voice
I know what you are thinking right now, “Did he really just quote Usher on a lean website?”
The answer is yes I did. Usher made that comment about a week ago when asked about his thoughts on coaching his last remaining team member.
The comment struck me because I have had the same experience when being coached and when coaching. The people that have coached me I feel that we have become friends as well as the people that I have coached.
Being a coach is more than just giving instruction, whether it is in business, sports or life. When you are fully vested in coaching you care about what happens to the other person. When you truly care it is hard not to become friends or develop a more lasting relationship.
We may say we are coaching a lot of different people but when it comes right down to it we really only coach a few people at a time. It becomes too intense to do anything more. We may instruct or guide others, but when it comes to coaching there is much more of a personal investment.
Usher wasn’t the only coach to make similar comments. I noticed that other coaches on The Voice have said the same thing about caring for their team members they coach.
Who has coached you? Do you still talk with the ones that really had an impact on you whether it be sports or business?
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.
I’ve been in a really reflective state lately as I try to weigh some different opportunities. While I have come up with some really interesting topics for posts, most of them have turned too lengthy or incoherent to clog your Lean reading time. One of the discarded themes has also come up a couple times lately in conversation and I thought I’d throw it out in print. Here are three of the less obvious skills that have served me well in solving problems and working in continuous improvement activities over the years.
The first one is utilizing some sorta advanced Excel skills. For all of you statistics nerds out there, I totally agree with you that Excel is not statistical software. But it can be really, really helpful in sorting out piles of data in to something useable in a hurry. For me, sometimes digging through the raw data can help highlight a pattern that I can’t see in aggregate. Sometimes it can help put information in context and help people make better decisions faster. I have used functions from Pivot Tables to conditional sums to writing macros (with some excellent assists from Matt) and so on. It’s not sexy, but it is helpful.
The next skill that has served me well is another Office tool…PowerPoint. I’m not talking about fancy slide transitions with animated gif’s and musical accompaniment. I’m more referring to using the existing toolbox to tell concise, effective, clean stories. You could argue that A3 reporting is much more concise and clean (and I’d agree), but PowerPoint is still massively used. The ability to create a visually appealing communication is valuable for almost everybody.
Another skill that seems to be on and off the radar is the ability to filter information. Learning how to quickly separate signals from noise is a very underrated skill and one that needs your attention. Every person and every idea deserves respect and consideration. But not every idea needs to be implemented. Abnormal situations should get due attention, but not every abnormal situation should be weighted the same in terms of response. Developing the ability to say “no” or “not right now” with a reasonable justification can save a lot of inefficiency.
That was my quick list of unspoken skills (in no particular order). For the record, I’m not propping these up because I consider them strengths of mine. They’re just things that I do well enough to not do too much harm when I try to bust them out. Mostly they’re things that I’ve picked up from others and tried to emulate. What about you? Do you think I overrated any of these? Any other not-just-Lean traits that you use or seen others use effectively?
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?
Last week I began really applying myself to my studies for the ASQ CSSBB (Certified Six Sigma Black Belt) exam. On a personal level, I’m pretty opposed to doing this because I really feel like I am chasing this certification for the piece of paper and no other reason.
My first thoughts in looking at this were pure dread. I haven’t forgotten what DMAIC stands for, nor have I forgotten what the steps entail. I haven’t forgotten what the statistics mean or how to interpret them, even if I let software do most of the heavy lifting. I still remember the quotes from famous quality people in the study manual and can recite the punchline in the Dilbert that is placed in the beginning of the book. What I did forget was to send in some paperwork on time. I’ve already taken and passed the test once, but let my certification lapse out of ignorance and inattention. In that sense this is more of a personal rework loop than a doing-it-right-the-first-time kind of step.
However, once I got past my selfish whining, I realized I could look at this completely differently. Instead of just trying to cram in enough tidbits to squeak by, I could give myself a personal “Ohno Circle” to study from. What I’ve found is that I’m not really tied to having to learn the material the same way I did the first time around, so I’m free to focus and explore some of the smaller details I may not have thought through before. I can try to seek out some new knowledge out of an “old” source. I guess it’s sort of like me trying to look for new ideas for improvements after the kaizen event report out, except there really is an exam at the end.
I realize I’m stretching the metaphor a bit far, but once I switched the way I looked at my personal learning in the same way as a manufacturing process it opened some new lanes of thought for me. I am now itching to dig back through and re-read some of the books on my shelf from Ohno and the Toyota Way series and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to see what may be in there. I’m sure there are things in each book I didn’t pick up the first time or that have slipped from my mind since I first read them. I really wonder what is out there in the material I already have. It’s almost too bad I have to wait to get there until I’m done with this test!
If you look at the page links above you will see a page that has been added labeled Downloads.
My intent is not for it to be a template just to fill in but a way for people to learn. I want it to be a tool that can be helpful to understanding lean and facilitate conversations.
Here is the template. There are two worksheets in the template.
- SWI – Intent of Use – This is meant to explain the best way I have learned to use the learning A3. It tries to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the learning A3 and how to use it. It also, gives a standard operating procedure to go about using it.
- Learning A3 – This is the template to start with. It leads you through several discussions on what business need is the learning tied to, what is the purpose of the learning, what behaviors and concepts will be the focus on learning and actions to take to reach your targets in the upcoming year.
Please feel free to download and use it. Any feedback on the ease and clarity of use would be appreciated.
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.
Mentoring is something in the business world that is talked about a lot. So what is mentoring?
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter
This is s good start. I see too much of what I call fake mentoring. Where the senior manager takes a junior manager he sees potential in and promotes them, maybe even has lunch with them a few times. It seems very superficial.
A true mentor goes beyond this superficial relationship. They take a serious interest in the person they are mentoring. Calls to check up on the mentored to see how they are doing. They have a deeper relationship with the person. The senior manager will give direct and honest feedback to the junior manager, whether it is positive or negative.
A mentor guides the mentored through experiences and learning developing their capabilities along the way. The mentor helps prepare them for what the mentored wants to achieve.
Another difference between fake mentoring and true mentoring is how the mentor is a supporter. With fake mentoring being a supporter usually means the senior manager always helps the junior manager get their next job or role. The mentor hands the next job or role to the mentored. With true mentoring, the mentor supports the mentored by encouraging them to apply for new jobs/roles that would stretch there learning and skills, but have them earn it on their own. The mentor will be there when the mentored needs support in the new job or role to help them be successful.
There may be a subtle difference between the fake and true mentoring, but it can lead to a significant difference in leadership. When fake mentoring happens the mentor is seen as showing favoritism and the mentored as not being able to perform the job. Even if the mentored could do the job there may always be a negative thought in the back of people’s mind. With true mentoring, the mentor is not seen as showing favoritism but as a person who is developing stronger leaders for the company. The mentored has to earn the job on their merits which gives them credibility. In the end, the mentored is a stronger leader and has developed more skills.
How are you mentoring?
I am always looking for inspiration to improve myself, my work and my processes. A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine caused a bright light bulb to go off. The colleague mentioned developing an A3 to show the progress of learning for the people I am teaching and coaching.
A3s are used for solving problems, developing proposals and everything else. Why not for laying out a plan to show what people are expected to learn during a project or coaching session. Layout a standard or plan so expectations and progress becomes visible.
My colleague provided me with a format to go about developing an A3 for the learning to transfer to the person being taught. Right away it made my thoughts clearer. It allowed me to communicate easier what I was hoping the person would learn over the next year and how I expected to get them there. We were able to have a good discussion about expectations and a plan to get to the target. Now we have something to use as a guide when we meet. The plan also helps me ask better questions when we meet.
I plan on doing more and more learning A3s. It is something I can also use before a kaizen event. Layout what I would like the team to learn while improving the business. There is no better way to learn then teach something and apply it right away on something that is a problem for you and then reflect. A kaizen event is setup to do that perfectly.
A3s….it’s not just for business problems.