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.
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?
Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing. I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment. I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.
It is no secret. A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.
A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment. This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge. I took it on. I have worked with product development and retail management teams. Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.
This summer I took on the role of project manager. I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments. The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment. After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work. Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.
I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology. I see how the work and how the product works. I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team. I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.
The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs. We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved. We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.
Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched. We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.
Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it. This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.
Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration. Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.
The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.
How about you? In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?