Personal improvement is important. It shows others a person is will to take a hard look at themselves and hold themselves accountable for their actions.
When others see a person doing this it can cause them to take action to improve. This is what happened with me.
I saw my colleague rating herself on skills she wanted to improve every day. I asked her how she was going about the work. It led to a good discussion and me taking action.
Here is a simple way to do it.
Understand what skills you want to improve and then create a daily chart. At the end of each day take a couple of minutes to rate yourself based on a predetermined rating system.
Even if you don’t do anything to improve the skill that day, it will be top of mind everyday as you rate yourself. Pretty soon you will be noticing you haven’t done anything on a skill. Then you will start thinking about it during the day. You become more conscious of when to apply the skill you are working on.
Before you know it, the skill will become second nature.
…it is Mandatory!
I tell my kids that if they haven’t failed then they aren’t learning. Because if you succeed the first time all the time, then you are only applying what you already know.
Where has that gone in the business world? Companies can’t be afraid to try a new product and not fail with it. Or a new process to create the product. Or anything that can create new learning.
Part of the reason is people still don’t know how to fail. I’m not saying all in on one thing and only go live with the new after having it “perfect.”
Companies have to learn how to put something new out there. Learn from it quickly and then make changes to improve it.
If companies won’t put a truly new product out there or use a creative new process, then what are they learning?
The better question may be, “When are they going to get passed?”
Fail and learn as quickly as possible so the learning can used and the company can be in better place.
With any improvement philosophy, people always want the BIG improvement. When there are none to be had a re-organization or a shift in direction is implemented. This may work for a short period of time, but eventually the results normalize back to their old levels.
A uniqueness with lean is creating a focus on getting better each day. Even it if is just a second or two better. Saving 1 second each day while maintaining the savings from the previous day will yield 8.7 hrs of savings after a work year. What would you do with a full extra day of capacity?
Paul Akers has called this 2 second lean. It is extremely powerful.
Focusing on small improvements means focusing on what bothers you and your customer and fixing it. It could be as simple as always having to search for a stapler when doing paperwork. Or moving the placement location of a label. This saved a group I worked with 1 second per label…we timed it. Over the course of the year, that was a savings of over 30 hours for the team!
People don’t like to focus on small changes because it isn’t “sexy”. Guess what? Sexy falls apart quickly and usually has no substance.
Build lasting change a little at a time. It takes patience and understanding but two years from now you will have better actual results than people chasing only the “big” improvements that never get completed.
For today’s post, I am wanting the readers’ responses to help fill in the gaps on this topic. It is one that I struggle with and thought a discussion here might be good.
What do you do when change is needed but no one will change?
I know. The question seems pretty simple, right? Leave the situation because it won’t get better. People can be so stubborn so why fight it.
It isn’t that simple.
An organization is struggling mightily. Going the way of GM in the early 2000’s. Everyone in the organization sees the need for change and agrees that change is needed.
Not small change. Big change is needed. A different way of seeing and executing the business.
Lean is being “implemented” in the organization, so the leaders sanction a team to review a process and come up with a better way of doing the work. The team develops a “new” process. The process is the same as they are doing right now but with a technology fix. When pushed by lean change agents to look for bigger change the team says they are good with what they have described themselves as “how we do it today, but with a central storage location.”
This one idea is a great one and on that is much needed but it won’t change the way the organization does business.
The concerning part was doing an interim report out the leaders who sanctioned the work were good with this. They couldn’t even see all the waste that was left on the table to eliminate.
During the final report out some of the other leaders pushed on some bigger changes, but most of that was due to the lean change agents prepping the leaders to ask the harder questions.
So. What do you do when everyone agrees dramatic change is needed but no one can see or envision what that might even look like?
I understand that not everyone can see it, but usually they are open to suggestions. I see this as a leadership issue. Leaders need to be able to see the change and help build the burning platform. Some can see it. But the extra push isn’t there.
What would you do?
Note: I want to give a big shout out to Dan Markovitz, author of A Factory of One. It is an excellent book on how to gain efficiency in your personal work. Dan outlines things you can do in regards to email that will help with efficiency. While I have been doing almost all of the suggestions for a few years now, Dan did have one suggestion that was new to me and helped me with a problem I was having. I have implemented the suggestion and it works very well. I will point it out below.
On with the blog post.
We all want to improve our efficiency and free up time. In my personal work and in observation, one of the biggest culprits of causing inefficiencies is email. Here are three things I have done to help eliminate some of the distractions and inefficiencies email causes me.
1. Turn off Email Notifications: In Outlook, I have turned off all notifications of incoming email. Nothing popping up in the bottom corner showing a new email has arrived.
Result: When I am working on something I don’t catch the notification out the corner of my eye distracting me causing the back of my mind to have to know what the email was about. I stay focused on my work and can finish what I was doing.
On my phone, I have turned off the lights, sound and vibration of new email notification. There are two reasons: 1) if I am in a meeting and it is making noise or vibrating it is distracting me and others from the meeting and 2) if I am working at my desk is acts the same as the Outlook notification as it beeps or vibrates or flashes on my desk next to me.
Results: I am not distracted by incoming emails at all during meetings or while working at my desk.
2. Open Mail Software to Calendar: This was the new suggestion I found in Dan’s book. Thanks, Dan! When I open Outlook, it opens to my calendar. Not my Inbox! Most mornings, I have a quick email I thought of on the way into work that I have to send when I get in, but I was getting distracted by waiting email in my inbox. I might even forget to send the original email I went to write.
Results: I am able to send an email from the calendar view by selecting New Items –> Email Message from the menu at top. I always finish the email I intended to send out and I am not distracted by the other messages in my inbox. I don’t check email first thing in the morning and get off on the email tangent. I am able to complete something off my personal kanban board before checking email. I feel more productive and less distracted.
3. Use the 4D’s: I have been doing this for a few years, but never had a name for it until I read Dan’s book. When I decide I have time to process my emails I do one of four things: 1) Do it: reply back if it is a short reply or completed the action if it is less than 5 minutes, 2) Delegate it: delegate the work to someone that can help, 3) Designate it: for me this means if it is a larger task I add it to my personal kanban board or 4) Delete it: I have read it and don’t need it.
Results: My inbox is not cluttered with messages that I lose. I know what I have to process when I go into my inbox. I don’t loose track of requests made of me via email.
One last thing. Just because someone emails you doesn’t mean you have to read and respond immediately so don’t feel like you have to be hovering over your email waiting for it. If the person needs an immediate response, they can call. That is what a phone is for. We all have one in our pockets nowadays. Note: I do know some jobs require constant monitoring of email, like an order processor.
How have your improved your efficiency with your email practices?
As a person helping others implement lean, there is no better feeling than knowing things have been sustained and benefits gained.
I recently had a walk through with a team I have been working with for 10 months. The most rewarding part of the walk was seeing that 90% of the things we have talked about and the team implemented has not faltered. 5S to daily metrics to visual management. It all has sustained.
What is different about here vs other places I have been?
1. The leadership commitment. The managers have been involved and leading the effort. Not supporting the effort. This does not mean they are making all the decisions and doing all the work. They are getting people involved and auditing to make sure the improvements are sticking.
2. Leadership is involving the employees. Leadership is asking what improvements the employees need and what they feel is most important. Then clearing a path so the employees can help make those improvements. Showing the employees their ideas and thoughts do matter.
3. Leadership is hungry to learn and improve. The leadership wants to understand more and learn themselves. They do not think lean is for “someone else to do.”
It sounds simple, but if it was everyone would be doing it and doing it well.
How are you sustaining your lean improvements?
All too often, this aspect of lean is missed. Most people are looking for the BIG savings. They don’t deem 2 seconds worth the savings. People miss the value of a bunch of 2 second savings adding up quickly and creating a lot of capacity and savings.
Recently, I was working with a group that found several 2 second savings in their area and it added up to over 200 hrs of gained productivity over the year.
The picture below is an example of a 2 second savings they found.
The box on the right shows where the label was outlined to be placed. The label is low and is blocked by the lip of the shelf. Every time a person has to put something in the box they have go scan the label, so they have to push it back to scan the label and then pull it forward to put the item in the box. Several people doing this over 300 boxes with upwards to 20 items per box.
The box on the left shows where they moved the label. Now a person does not have to push the box back and pull it forward saving about 2 seconds per box per item. This alone saved over 28 hours of time during a year. That is over a full day’s worth of worked that can gained from this simple change.
All savings are important. Seconds matter. Save them every chance you get.
“If it’s not improving, it’s degrading”
This is a quote that I found a few years ago from someone at Toyota. I find this to be a very powerful quote.
The quote implies there is no status quo. As an organization, a process or a person, you are either improving or degrading.
Some will make the argument that their metrics are holding steady and haven’t moved; therefore, they are holding in a constant state or in status quo. And that may be true, but while you are holding there are others that are improving. This is degrading your status.
A great example of this is GM. The maintained what they were doing for years, while Toyota kept improving, slowly degrading GM’s status over time until Toyota passed them.
We should be working to improve at all times. Being satisfied with where we are at does nothing but cause problems down the road.
How are you pushing to improve everyday? Every year?
I have talked in the past about the importance of direct observation. The power in seeing the waste for yourself. It really shines a light on what is really happening and it also is the best way for a person to continue to learn.
The question is, “What do you do with those observations?”
Most often, I see people run out and try to eliminate or reduce the waste or even assign it to someone else to do. While not entirely a bad thing, if you are trying to instill a lean culture don’t just jump to trying to improve.
Stop and reflect about what you are trying to do as an organization and use the waste you saw as a way to further the lean culture.
Most organizations I have seen do not have a systematic way to eliminate waste. Usually, this is because waste is one of the first things people learn about lean. What happens is people just go out and attack waste (again not a bad thing) without any direction.
If your organization is early on in trying to implement a lean culture, think about how you can make the waste elimination systematic.
Is this a good way to engage employees in a kaizen event to start to build trust? Could be an easy win for everyone.
Should an improvement board to post the waste seen and how it is detracting a better option? Use the waste you saw as an example of how to use the board and go and eliminate it yourself or with the help of others, but be involved.
If you observed multiple areas, do you want to concentrate in one department? Make it a model for others in the organization.
Think about how you can make the waste elimination sustainable and systematic. This will benefit you and the organization in the long run.
Then I tried again. I had great success with the 2nd board. I used it for a year and a half.
With a new role where I have multiple desks, I am constantly in different areas of the building. I may not be back to my desk for several days or even a couple of weeks. I wasn’t able to keep my board up and I had work to do written in several places.
I wanted to find an electronic kanban that would work for me. I found one that worked well. It was a computer only board. I explain it more in this post here.
This new electronic kanban work well. I could take a note or email myself on my phone with what needed to be on it and then transfer it when I got to my computer. If I had my computer with my, I just added right then.
As a person always looking to eliminate waste, you can see where there was waste in emailing myself and then re-typing it for the kanban board. A friend of mine recommended Trello for me to try. It was web-based. I was able to download an app to my phone which I could open and enter the work and not send myself emails to re-enter.
Everything looked great so I gave it a try for the last 3 months of last year.
It wasn’t hard to use. It had plenty of features and it was setup very similar to the electronic kanban I was using. For some reason, I couldn’t get the flow of it. Trello was not working for me. I tried for three months and I couldn’t get into the flow of using it and making my life easier to manage.
I have no idea why it didn’t click with me but it was a disaster. I forgot some things that needed to be done. I felt disorganized and stressed.
So, to start 2014 I am going back to my electronic kanban board on my computer and not using Trello. I already feel more organized and less stressed since I switched back.
I’m not dismissing Trello yet. I need to reflect as to why it wasn’t working for me. Was it something truly with Trello? Or did it have something to do with the enormous project I was on and I just couldn’t keep up with trying something new at the same time?
The important thing is to understand what was happening because maybe Trello can work for me and help me reduce my waste in maintaining my kanban board.
Learning is important and not just living with a change because we need to change. The change needs to be given a fair chance and if it is failing then you can’t be scared to change back if necessary.
Does anyone else have any experiences with a change that totally failed?