Category Archives: People

Employee Engagement Starting to Be Recognized

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.

Well said.

How are you engaging your people?

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Managers Are Crucial to Problem Solving Success

One of the fundamental differences in a lean company versus a traditional company is how they go about problem solving.  In a traditional management company, problems are hidden and managers want the problem “solved” and move on.  This usually leads to problems having band-aides being put into place.  Later the same problem surfaces again and another band-aide is put on again.

In a lean management company, problems are looked as a way to get better and are not hidden.  Managers want the root cause of the problem found so the issue doesn’t arise again.

In both traditional and lean mindsets, I do believe that managers want the issue resolved so that is never arises again.  It is there behaviors that truly dictate whether a band-aide is put on the problem or if the root cause is found.

A traditional mindset manager continually asks, “Is it solved yet?” or “When will it be solved?” or something very similar.  They are pushing for action to be taken without understanding anything about the problem.  It is a ‘just solve it and lets move on’ mentality.  Hurry up!

A lean mindset manager asks questions also, but more to get an understanding of how your process is coming along and driving to complete the next step of the process.  Questions might be something like, “What have you discovered about the problem?” or “What have you learned?”.  The manager understands there will be a lot of time spent in the discovery mode investigating the problem.  The manager supports the process and helps the person through the process.

An example from my personal experience.  I was working on an issue that had been around for 40 years.  Everyday my manager asked, “When are you going to have that solved?”  Finally, I said “The problem has been around for 40 years and no one has solved it.  I think I get 3 months not a week.”  Not the smartest thing to say to your manager but in this case it gave me some room to find the root cause, which the team did.

Later that year there was another issue that we had to work 16 hour days to solve but we followed the process and we nailed it.

After that extremely hot issue, my manager saw the benefit of following the process.  He then would ask, “Where are you on that problem?  Are there roadblocks I can help with?”

It really changed the environment to problem solve.  In fact, the problem solving process started moving faster and he ended up getting the results he wanted faster.

The lesson was the manager’s mindset, attitude and support around problem solving creates the type of results gotten.

What is your mindset towards problem solving and supporting your employees?

Guest Post: Can Lean be Taught to Children?

blogphotoToday’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.

Lean is something that is often associated with businesses and focuses mainly on reducing waste and adding value. However, lately I have been pondering the thought “Can lean be taught to children?” Wouldn’t it be great if children learned the concepts of lean at a young age? My mind literally boggles at the sheer possibilities. I’m not talking about sitting children down in a classroom and teaching them lean exclusively like reading or math, but instead just weaving the concepts of lean through life’s regular and everyday activities.

Imagine the Possibilities

The concepts of lean have been credited with high levels of success in the workplace, so why can’t the same concepts be beneficial in other areas of life as well? The truth is, they CAN! Creating a generation of innovative thinkers, ready to add value to society sounds like a pretty wonderful idea to me. Many of us have not been introduced to the concepts of lean until later in life, and unfortunately our minds have not had the opportunity to truly expand and grow with the concept. However, we can change that with the introduction of lean.

How to Start the Lean Mindset

The first thing we have to remember is that children are just children. We cannot expect them to act like adults. However, one of the benefits of starting lean concepts early is that when children are young their minds are very malleable. If children are taught to reduce waste and participate in value added activities early in life, that mindset will usually follow them through into adulthood. The key is to really start out simple and introduce the obvious and most tangible ways to reduce waste. This may include engaging in activities such as reusing and recycling. Instead of simply throwing out old clothing that does not fit, teach children that it can be reused and given to places such as the “Goodwill” or “The Salvation Army” so other children can wear the clothing, thus adding value for another person. Engaging in activities such as this puts the act of reducing waste into terms that children can understand. Furthermore, children can also be involved with activities such as household chores to practice lean. In fact, lean can be weaved into even the simplest task such as dish washing. For example, loading a dishwasher by putting all forks in one compartment and all spoons in another takes less time to unload since the flatware has already been separated. Doing this reduces wasted time.

The possibilities are limitless when it comes to the lean mindset. The truth is that lean can be implemented anywhere and everywhere; it is not just strictly for business use. When lean concepts are implemented and practiced at an early age they become just a normal part of life. Providing children with the tools necessary to be independent thinkers, who are capable of seeking improvement and reducing unneeded waste, will help to create a society of endless possibilities and opportunities.

Coaching Takes Personal Investment

“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?

 

Great Posts on Leadership

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.

Emotional Intelligence The Key To Sustaining Relationships

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.

RelatinshipEQ_SkillsIQDuring a class that discusses the importance of having open and honest relationships, the graphic to the left was shown.

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?

Working With People

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.

 

H&H Color Lab – American Company Growing Through Lean

HHLogoH&H Color Lab began in the basement of Wayne and Shirley Haub’s residence in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1970. Wayne and his brother, Ted Haub, owned a portrait studio that had just landed its first high school senior contract. With a background in and love for color printing, Wayne chose to install his own color processing equipment in the basement of his home.

Business increased, and so did the need for additional space and employees. What began with Wayne doing everything from his basement has grown to 165 people and 55,000 square feet of space over 40 years later.

H&H customers are primarily school/portrait/wedding photographers.  The offer a wide range of products from photo prints to books to Leather bound albums and digital products.

In 1999, H&H Color Lab started is Lean journey led by Lee Gabbert.  Lee had been with the company for 5 years at the time and was chosen to learn more about lean and teach others at H&H.  They started by reading “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Daniel Jones.  H&H also decided to get a sensei to help them learn as they traveled the bumpy road down the lean path.

H&H Color Lab started by setting up work cells, going away from a department mentality. H&H moved to smaller batches, moving cells closer to the monuments (that they couldn’t move), standard work, and lots and lots of 5S.

Muda (waste), lead times, late work and quality all had improved. In fact, the gains from lean had now freed up space that was once occupied by manufacturing departments.  It allowed H&H to take the space and use it as a training facility to help customers from all over the United States. Thus, H&H University was born. Roughly 3,000 square feet of space was now designed and transformed into a learning center, working photographic studio with equipment, mock up photography sales room, photography studio work area, kitchen to host all day training, library sitting room with sample products that H&H produce on the book shelves and restrooms. By providing training for customers (mostly free of charge), you truly can engage in a partnership that can grow.

All of this work allowed H&H Color Lab to make a success transition from the “Age of Film” to the “Digital Age”.  Understanding their customers and providing training and education others companies do not, shows how the most important part of lean, focusing on the customer, helps you innovate, grow and thrive.

Here are results that H&H Color Lab have seen from their lean implementation.

 

1999

2012

% Change

Late Orders

3,076

25

99% reduction

WIP

10,421

1731

83% reduction

Redo

5.3%

1.3%

75% reduction

% Shipped Late

49.3%

5.8%

88% reduction

Time in Plant

7 days

1.1 days

84% reduction

Sales

22% increase

 

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 5 Thru 1

2013 is now in full swing.  Before 2012 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2012.

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!

5.  Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #3 – Manufacturing is fundamental.  The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy.  The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.

4.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

3.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Most viewed post for two straight years now.  A look at using 5S in the office.  What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

I look forward to more posts in 2013!

Top 6 – 10 of 2012

Best of Beyond Lean in 2012

I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10.  Both posts were from earlier in the year.  I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.

I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) – How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.

4.  Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.

3.  Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.

2.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

1.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!