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NDAs…Disrespectful?

I know that in today’s world there seems to be a lot more innovation happening.  If you are innovating you are dying.  At least that is what you are led to believe.  Companies now are requiring employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) just to work on a new project within the company.

How are we going to produce this new product?  Sign an NDA.

What new products are we working on? Sign an NDA.

How will we work as a new organization and what will it look like?  Sign an NDA.

NDAs are being signed for any significant work and it seems to be getting worse with the work environment today.

I find this to violate one major tenet of lean.  Respect for People.

The NDAs don’t allow for people to discuss the project internally with other members for the company.  This screams “We don’t trust you enough to let you know about this without reacting inappropriately.”

This counter productive to being transparent, which is discussed at great lengths with showing respect for people.

Imagine the scenario of developing a new product or program but it can’t be discussed openly until it is about ready to roll out.  Does the company truly not trust their employees enough that it won’t be blabbed all over the internet?

Rumors always swirl.  Rumors tend to lean towards the negative.  Why not get out in front of it?  Why not control it?  Explain the new product/program.  How the company expects it to help and why it came about.  This gets a good message out and reduces the rumors.  It shows the trust and respect for the employees.  It makes for a better work environment.

I understand there is a time and place for NDAs.  Just evaluate how often you are using them and really question yourself to understand if it is truly necessary.

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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?

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?

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?

 

Using Technology to Take Notes

A few months ago, I read a blog (I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it) about how note taking in meetings is changing in today’s world. With tablets and smartphones and laptops and WiFi, etc…more and more people are taking notes electronically.

The blog was about people who get upset when technology is used in a meeting because they think the person isn’t paying attention. The thought is the person is doing email or something not related to the meeting. And yes I have seen that.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been inching towards using technology to take notes even though I still like my pen and paper. I have found it is easier to share with others and storing takes up little memory versus large filing cabinets with all the paper in it. My computer search is faster than going through a filing cabinet and Microsoft OneNote makes it note taking easier on a computer.

With that, I think there is still etiquette to be used when using technology to take notes.

  • If it is a large meeting (about 10 or more people), it may be OK just to open up the computer and take notes because several people will be doing it
  • If it is a large meeting and no one else is using technology you may ask the leader of the meeting if it is alright to use your computer or tablet device. You can ask off to the side before it starts or at the very beginning of the meeting with the whole group because others may want to do it also.
  • If it is small meeting (less than 10 people) or a 1-on-1 type meeting, you should ask if it is alright to take notes electronically.
  • A 1-on-1 meeting you still might consider using pen and paper. I know this is extra work but sometimes if you are using a computer, it can get in the way and block the view of the other person. The computer can feel like a wall between you.
  • Understand the meeting before taking notes. Some meetings don’t require you to need to take notes, so there is no need to have your computer or tablet open. Maybe detailed notes will be handed out. Another example are kaizen events. Notes don’t need to be taken by individuals in kaizen events. All the notes are captured on the flip chart paper and post-its. It is more important to have everyone 100% engaged.

All and all, taking notes electronically can be a good thing and is something more and more people are doing. It is alright to do. If you are a person using technology to take notes have some etiquette and understand who is leading the meeting and the purpose before opening your computer or tablet and typing away.

 

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.

 

Book Review: The Lean Turnaround

Art Byrne is an execute that has been implementing lean in several companies around the world.  He started our with GE and gained experience with Danaher Corp before becoming the CEO of Wiremold where their lean turnaround is featured in the book “Better Thinking, Better Results“.  Since leaving Wiremold Art has used lean to turnaround companies as a partner with J.W. Childs Associates.  Art brings his vast experience to the readers.

Lean_Turnaround_CoverName of the Book:  The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company

Author: Art Byrne

Publication Date:  2012

Book description: what’s the key message?

Art really drives home the message about a company can only be truly lean if the leaders are setting an example and leading the way.  A lean executive does not dictate what others need to go do.  A lean executive does it himself.

Also, the executives have to transform the people.  Get everyone to buy-in from the shop floor to the executive suite.  There is no room for people that won’t buy-in.  In order to do this, as the leader you need to engage in the change and lead it.  Not support it.

Art lays out his principles to follow to becoming lean:

  • Work to Takt Time
  • Create one piece flow
  • Utilized Standard Work
  • Connect Customers to Work by Using a Pull System

What are the highlights? What works?

Art does a fantastic job of giving multiple examples of how he engaged employees and led the change even as a CEO.  This brings to life how it can be done and the thought isn’t some dream a consultant made up.

I really like how Art lays out obstacles to achieving his lean principles.  Accounting and standard costing is the biggest obstacle because it can show a negative result or cause bad decisions when doing things that are helping.  He then explains the changes that are needed and gives examples of the changes and how the finances would look different.

There are more examples of other metrics that Art recommends for a lean company.

Another powerful section of the book is how he used lean to grow businesses and profits even during tough economic times. Art even lays out a strategy for looking at companies when thinking about acquisitions.

The real life examples as a CEO and board member of companies really drives how a lean turnaround can be achieved.  A CEO must do a 180 from the traditional methods to do it and a leap of faith will be needed, but the reward is very high.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing.  Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?

One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround?  Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read.  How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it?  Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?

The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful.  Art does not say that explicitly.  The book just gives that feeling.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

I recommend this book for anyone but especially high level level executive or CEO.  Art lays out a great game plan and a compelling case for the executives to transform their work and create a lean turnaround.  Read the book straight through and then re-read it as you develop a plan to change your company.

I would also recommend it for more Wallstreet and finance people.  It would enlighten them on how to look at companies that deliver long term value to their customers.  Not just short term gains.

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!!!!

Guest Post: Business Leader Antics That Fail to Inspire

Patrick and Joyce Del Rosario are Filipino business and career bloggers. They work at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of diploma of management and small business courses.

In every business there are defined leaders that help steer teams in the right direction. Problems arise when these leaders put antics before strategy and begin to conjure up different and detrimental ideas about how the business should be motivated to operate. These antics have the potential to change the course of project or company and can be either the success or the downfall of an organization.

If you are a leader, chances are you are aware of the tactics and strategies you use to keep your employees motivated. What you are likely unaware of is the true impact this can have on their motivation and work performance – that is until you get the end results and then it may be too late. Here are some of the top antics to avoid doing as a business leader.

  • Don’t treat employees like a number – Your employees are people. They come to work like you do and they have lives away from the office like you do too. Treating your employees like a number and pushing away their personal needs is a sure fire way to lose acceptance in your leadership skills and respect for your position.
  • Don’t forget your own mission statement – You may have sat down with your team to outline a mission for a project or for the company, but can you remember all of the components that went into drafting this important statement? As a leader, you must live and breathe this mission statement in all you do and all you motivate your employees to do. Not knowing it shows a lack of care on your part and your team will notice.
  • Don’t forget to encourage positive performance – Praise goes a lot ways, especially in the workplace. When you praise your employees, you inspire them to continue doing their best. When you recognize them for nothing but their downfalls, they will curl away from you for fear of more lashings and not have the motivation to do better.
  • Don’t leave your team behind – When you show up late and leave early every day you are sending a signal to your team that you have no care for your position or for their hard work. Instead, as a leader you should stick by their side as they tackle a difficult project or encourage them as they put in the extra effort it will take for your team to go from good to great.
  • Don’t look like a slob – Non-verbal cues are just as meaningful as what you say. When you show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed with stains on your shirt and your hair a mess, your employees will see your lack of care for your position before they hear it. Instead, wear clothing that you will be proud to be seen in. This will allow you to command respect instead of disgust.
  • Don’t blow off e-mail or voicemail responses – When a person takes the time to e-mail you or call you, they have spent a portion, albeit a small portion, of their time reaching out to connect. When you blow off this connection you essentially let the other person know that you have no respect for what they were calling to tell you leaving them feeling frustrated and pushed aside. This can be detrimental to team morale. To avoid it, keep current on your e-mails and do your best to call people back quickly.
  • Don’t make threats – Threats can come in the form of something as simple as telling someone that they could be easily replaced or by commenting about future performance reviews. If an employee needs a boost a better tactic is to encourage and mentor them to achieve their best.

As a boss, the way you act and speak has a profound impact on an office. Use these tips to help remember what not to do.