Learning Happens When Realized Value is Verified

A project is proposed.  Most projects have an return-on-investment (ROI) associated with them to help sell the idea.  The ROI lists out the benefits of completing the project.  The project gets approved.  People work on it until it is completed…hopefully.  Congratulations are given on good work.  People move on to the next project.  The End.

Notice anything missing?  Arguably the most important part?

No one goes back to verify if the project produced the benefits that were stated in the ROI.

How does the organization know if the investment was a good one?  A bad one?  Or a great one?

Checking the benefits isn’t the “sexy” part of the project, but it is the rewarding part of the project.

Why don’t people go back and check the benefits?  Is it because it is a month to a year after the project is complete before they are seen and people forget?  Is it because people put inflated benefits on the ROI statement and they don’t want to get called out on it?  Is it because putting a value to some of the benefits is extremely difficult?

Whatever the reason, it can’t stop you from checking the actual value realized from a project.  What if you didn’t reach the realized value stated?  Can something be done to increase the realized value.  What if you exceeded it?  Don’t you want to celebrate it?  Use the learnings to sustain the extra value realized.  The learning from verifying the realized value is immense.

Inspiration Update

In January, I posted a blog titled “Create Inspiration“.  In that post I stated a goal for myself.

I want to post 51 blogs in 2016, so I am going to use Seth’s example and every day until the end of February I am writing a topic in my notebook.  Some may never get written about.  Others will end up here on Beyond Lean.

The experiment has worked.  Here are the results:

  • I wrote an idea down on 17 of the 21 working days in February.
  • I documented 25 topic ideas
  • Every post since the start of February has come from that inspiration list

I still have room for improvement.  I didn’t get an idea added everyday, which was my goal.  I could also increase the average ideas/day.

There is a well wish people give to others sometimes, “I hope inspiration finds you.”

Don’t wish for inspiration to find you.  Go find inspiration!

Try Q-Storming Instead of Brainstorming

Have you ever been stuck on a project?  Don’t know where to go?  Looking for ideas?

A common tool people will use in groups to help with get things moving will be to brainstorm.  The problem with brainstorming is it helps people converge on a particular answer.

People will put up any and all ideas they have already thought about.  Then ideas are voted on to narrow the field.  When finished the group ends up with a handful or less of ideas from the person with the strongest voice in the room.  Typically, these ideas are along the lines of the current direction of the work.

What if you don’t want to limit yourself in your thinking?  Come up with idea(s) that haven’t been thought of yet.

Have you tried Q-storming?  Instead of ideas, think of as many questions as the group come up with.  In a recent exercise, the group came up with over 30 questions about the work to be done.

It caused the group to dig in more and find answers to some very good questions.  The door was opened to several different ways to attach the problem.  Some of which were not even on the radar before the q-storming.  The team was able to shatter some assumptions.  Allowing them to work in a new way.  It was very freeing.

If you want your thinking to diverge from norm then try Q-storming.  Or if you have a need to converge your thinking use brainstorming.

Collaboration Does NOT Equal Consensus

Two words that seemed to get interchanged in business are consensus and collaboration.  These words are not the same.  Definitions pulled from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Consensus: a general agreement about something : an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group

Collaboration: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something

Consensus means getting everyone to agree.  This is what happens when a jury goes to deliberate on a case.  They must come to a consensus or it is a hung jury.

Collaboration is working together towards a common goal.

People can work together towards a common goal without agreeing on the method.

In today’s world, collaboration is a must for much of what people do.  People must work together to understand a customer’s needs and then develop and manufacture that product.  If consensus had to happen before any work was started, work would never get completed.

Have you ever worked on a team where someone tried to get consensus before moving on?  It can be painstaking.  Especially, when there are varying opinions.  This is where a leader steps in and makes decisions that sometimes are very tough.

Good leaders know the difference between collaboration and consensus.  They know when consensus is important and when it is not needed.

Do you interchange the two?

What Experiences Are You Giving Your Employees?

People behave based on their experiences at work and in life.  If a person has been mistreated by someone close to them, it may be hard for them to trust others.  If a person is being told how valuable they are to the company, then people may have a positive attitude when going to work.

I worked with a group a few years ago during an improvement event that had bad experiences with past managers on trying new things.  The team had no problem identifying a lot of great improvement ideas.  When I said it was time to start working on implementing them, they sat and stared at me with confused looks.

The team refused.  Thy said it was not their place.  The manager would not allow it.  After five minutes of discussion and no progress, I called the manager into the improvement event.

I asked him, in front of the team, if it was alright if the team tried the suggested improvements.  The manager said, “Absolutely.  We can test anything the team believed would help.”

It still took a few minutes to convince the team, but in the end they made the improvements and started becoming more engaged.

The team had so many bad experiences they were guarded and didn’t trust the new manager.  The team finally got a new, positive experience and mindsets slowly began to change.

What experiences are you giving your employees?  Are they experiences to exhibit the behavior you want to see out of them?

Want More Productivity? Focus on the Whole

Ever been a part of a meeting after the meeting?  Have you tried to keep resources you had to yourself because later you know need them but now you don’t?  Are you concerned more with how your group does rather than the whole division or company?  Only take care of your own.

These things are hard to avoid and happen quite often.  In fact, we may not even think about them as it happens, but we should.  These things affect the productivity of individuals, teams and the company.

How can these productivity killers be avoided?  Through alignment and establishing high agreement of both the what and the how.

The previous post discussed establishing a true north or purpose.  Communicate this purpose repeatedly.  When everyone knows what will be said before it is said, it is a good indicator it is been communicated frequently.

Also, establish high agreement on both the what will be done and how it will be done.  Most organizations do a good job of agreeing on what must be done: Reduce lead time by 25%; Implement software X by January 1st; or Increase quality by 40%.

What most forget to is come to agreement on how those goals will be reached.  Who will be accountable for certain projects?  How do we prioritize for shared resources?  When will a project start/end?  And the list goes on.

When there is alignment and high agreement on both the what and how then productivity increases.  Meetings after the meetings are reduced.  A manager doesn’t want to horde his resources because he knows he will get them when he needs them.  And everyone starts to work for the goals of the company AS a company, not individual departments.

What Direction Are You Heading?

It’s really hard to get anywhere if you don’t know where you are heading.

Every organization needs a direction.  A true north.

True north is why the organization exists.  It is it’s purpose.  When everyone in the organization understands aligns to that purpose it becomes very powerful.  Everyone pulling towards that true north creates better, faster results.

A true north is not something that changes annually or  even every few years.  A good true north is something that doesn’t change for 20 or more years.  The graphic below is from Joe Murli.  It shows how true north guides your business.

TrueNorthPyramid

To develop a true north, the organization has to understand what and how it’s customers, employees, investors and community view the organization.

Ask, “What do we aspire to be that will differentiate us in the marketplace?”

That marketplace could be the consumers or it could be another internal department that is served.

Is everyone in your organization heading in the same direction?  What is your true north?

Examples:

Toyota: Deliver the highest quality, lowest cost automobile in the safest manner while demonstrating respect for people and society.

Internal department of a company from my past: Internal manufacturing is the supplier of choice for product A and product B.

 

How to Observe

Last blog, I talked about the most important lean tool being the eyes.  The eyes allow a person to the reality of what is happening and gather facts.

So, if direct observation is important then how should a person go about doing it?

Here are a few pointers I have picked up along the way:

  • Have a purpose before you go out to observe.  Are you going out to see a particular problem?  Are you going to audit a specific process?  Is there a process you trying to improve?  A specific type of waste you are looking for?  Whatever your purpose, understand it before you go out to observe.
  • Explain what you are doing.  People get cautious and worried when someone is just standing to the side watching their every move.  Tell them why you are there and ask them to explain anything they feel is important.
  • Be in the moment. Don’t answer the phone.  Don’t start other conversations.  Just observe.  Stand in one area and watch what is happening with scrutinizing intent.
  • Ask clarifying questions.  If you need to better understand something, ask the person doing the work questions.  Don’t leave without having answers to your questions.
  • Take notes.  You are there for a purpose, so write down what you need to remember.  Notes of what you observed are your facts.
  • Take prompt action.  Don’t wait days to do anything with the facts you have gathered.  Things change quickly so use what have you seen before the facts become outdated.

Good luck and happy observation!

The Most Important Lean Tool

Your eyes.  Plain and simple.  Without them you can’t go and see what is actually happening.

There are stories about Taiichi Ohno leaving engineers in a circle for hours to observe the process.  The engineer was to discover the waste in the process.  What was not creating value?  Then address it.

Organizations have instituted a policy stating that a person can’t talk about a problem unless they have seen it.  The goal is to get everyone to understand what actually is the problem and not what they hear is the problem or jump to solutions.

A person can walk out their doors and onto the production floor in order to observe what is happening.  But observation may not always be easy.  What if it is an order entry person that does all their work in a computer?  Sit with that person and actually watch them enter orders.  Ask questions.  Use tools like process or value stream maps to create a visual of the work to see.

Even leadership work can be made visible in order to observe what is actually happening.  I put my scheduled on a white board so the area could see when I was going to be there to look for waste.  Every Tuesday at 2:30.  If I didn’t show up, people knew it and asked about it.

Are you using your most important lean tool as often as you should?

Create Inspiration

I have to thank my manager for this one.  Before Christmas she handed out a few blog posts from Seth Godin.  One was called “Finding inspiration instead of it finding you.”

It is a short quick read that I recommend for everyone.  In it Seth talks about trying ideas and seeing what works.  It may not be the first or second idea but soon one will create inspiration and success.

This is great for problem solving.  Find the root cause.  Then try an idea.  Check the results and if it doesn’t work DON’T go back to the old way.  Try something different.

Quick example: I new my old ways of gathering tasks and prioritizing wasn’t working.  So, I tried a kanban board.  The first try didn’t work, so I tried something different.  The same thing happened when I went to an electronic kanban board as well.

I want to post 51 blogs in 2016, so I am going to use Seth’s example and every day until the end of February I am writing a topic in my notebook.  Some may never get written about.  Others will end up here on Beyond Lean.

If you have topics you want to hear about leave them in the comments.

Where do you need inspiration?