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.
Why were you hired? Chances are it was for a set of technical skills you had at a time the company needed them. You interviewed and were hired based on those set of skills you brought to the table, whether it be lean, six sigma, engineering, accounting, etc..
Now, think about the exceptional leaders you have had in the past. What made them exceptional in your opinion? Some of the responses I have gotten from groups in the past are:
- Cared for people
- Understood the business needs and could relate it to my work
- Kept us focused on the top priorities
- Worked with integrity
- Knew what each individual needed to get the job done
- Helped me grow and understand the business better
- Removed roadblocks for my work
This is just a few, but I think it drives home the point. The leaders that stand out in people’s minds as exceptional knew how to connect with people and worked to develop them or support the individual. It centered around relationships.
While we are hired in for a set of technical skills, the leaders that do well and are looked at for promotion do well with relationships. Not sucking up and creating a good old boy/girl network. Not that type of relationship. People can see through that. But the type of relationships that helped people get their jobs done.
As leaders, the relationship skills are even more important than the technical skills. Yet, people spend more time developing technical skills and not the relationship skills. Why is that? Is it because the technical skills are more tangible?
Relationship skills are hard. In order to become better with relationships a person has to learn more about themselves and how they act in certain situations. What can cause them to overreact or become uninterested? Self reflection is hard for a lot of people to do. The people that can self reflect and work on relationships have a very good chance of improving their relationships. This is a big step in becoming a person considered by others as an exceptional leader.
What do you work on improving most? Technical skills? Or relationship skills?
Which do you think is more important?
The other day I was listening to a speaker discuss manufacturing jobs in the the U.S. The speaker hit on a reason why there are fewer and fewer people with the job skills needed for the manufacturing shop floor. The reason was employer paid training is being cut.
Manufacturing has a lot of technical based jobs. People need to run equipment and know about machinery in most industries today. In order to get training and stay up-to-date on the latest technical training, the employers pay for people to go to training.
In the past, this wasn’t an issue. Employers were happy to pay for the training. They expected people to be with the company for a very long time, so it was an investment in the employee. Today, the expectation that a person will stick with a company for a long time isn’t accurate. I think of myself. The automotive company I worked for paid for me to get a lot of training on problem solving skills and techniques and some in lean, but as soon as my growth potential topped out I left the company. That was within a year of completing my training. The plant manager was upset but he was the one that told me my growth opportunities were topped out. What did he expect? I was 29 at the time.
What makes manufacturing unique is the fact that employers do pay for the training. In healthcare, legal, or IT the individual pays for their training on their own time. So the individual has more responsibility to not waste that training by using it wherever it fits best.
I know technology is changing fast and keeping up with it can be hard. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And the ones that do keep up with be rewarded with better paying jobs and more opportunities.
Would manufacturing skills be more plentiful today if the individuals had to keep up with it on their one? I don’t know. I’m not saying that is the right answer, but it is something to think about.
What are you thoughts? How can manufacturing skills of individuals keep up with changing technology and employer and employees feel good about the training that was done without the fear of an employee leaving once they have developed their skills?
I am a firmly believe the Human Resource department needs to be a leader in the transformation of the culture during a lean implementation. HR can and should play a role in helping with training of lean tools and concepts as well as the cross training of employees so the staff is more flexible. HR can help with people having trouble transforming from a traditional culture to a lean culture.
A common way to understand lean in is through two pillars: Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. In my opinion, the greatest impact the HR organization can have on a lean transformation is the education on what respect for people really means and looks like.
Lean is about people and gaining everyone’s engagement in continuous improvement. One reason an organization would like everyone engaged is to show respect for them. It shows they value their brains and hearts and don’t look at them as solely hands and feet.
So if lean is about people, who better to educate and train on skills and behaviors to show the respect for people principle than HR?
HR can help with personality assessments, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This allows people to get a better understanding of how the people they work with think. When the group understands each other they can show respect for how one another operates and thinks.
HR can also train the group in skills on how to have open and honest communication based on your relationship with a person or group of people.
HR can also give training on the Woodstone Principles that are aligned with lean thinking. The principles are:
- You are accountable for your performance
- You are accountable for the performance of your stake holders
- Subordinate your agenda for the betterment of the company
Finally, HR can help by educating on how to include people. When people feel included in the business they are more likely to understand and engage in the improvement of the business.
Lets respect Human Resources and ask them to use their knowledge in people to help the organization become better at showing respect for people.
I am continuing to reflect on some of the thoughts and principles from the Lean Experience presented by the Lean Learning Center. This one centers around standardized work instructions (SWI). Most people are aware of the benefits of having standardized work instructions:
- Provides a baseline to improve upon
- Reduces variability in the process
- Increased predictability in the output of the process
- Reduces ambiguity in what is expected
- Enables troubleshooting when there is a deviation from the standard
I can’t say that any of this was a new epiphany to me, but the quote from Jamie Flinchbaugh that really sunk in was “Standardized work instructions are not a replacement for skill and knowledge.”
I have always taught that SWI is not meant to turn people into robots. It is there to free up the person’s mind from thinking about the routine, repetitive tasks and let them think about how to improve the process. No matter how I explained it, I always had a hard time getting people to buy in that have great skill and knowledge in the area.
A great example Jamie used was an airplane pre-flight checklist. I might be able to go through the checklist (which is a form of SWI) and complete, but there is no way you would want me to fly the plan. I do not have the skill or the knowledge to do so.
To me just saying the words, “SWI does not replace your skill and knowledge,” would seem like it would engage the employees more. It can reassure them that we aren’t trying to replace them by creating standardized work instructions. It is there to help apply that skill and knowledge in a consistent and effective way.
This was a point that really resonated with me.
Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class: