Monday, March 12, 2012

P4 Lean Strategy:P2- "Develop your People and Partners-pt.1-Getting the Ball Rolling"

P4 Lean Strategy is kind of like riding a unicycle, tapping your head, rubbing your belly, and chewing gum at the same time. It's not easy and takes practice. We covered the first P , Philosophy or Purpose last week. Why are you in business? What is the one thing you are great at? (Hopefully, the reason for being isn't just money)

Next is my favorite P, Peopl/Partners which really means "Develop your People/Partners". It is probably the P where there is an investment needed. In people. After all, isn't your business really about the relationships between you and the people in your company? The relationships between your people and your customers?  And suppliers? And the community? How market disruptive do you think it would be if every person in your company was smarter at every position? How many times have you heard or read marketing material that says "our people are our greatest resource? How much time on a DAILY basis do we spend developing them? 

Toyota's Taiichi Ohno said that the biggest compliment you can give any organization is that it is a learning organization.  A great lean champion is 50% learner and 50% teacher. I promised myself  I would devote at least 1 hour of training per week to every employee in our company (~80 employees). Every week. Week in and week out. The curriculum?  I bought 80 copies of Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones. Handed them out and assigned everyone one chapter per week to read and gave them the quiz for that chapter. Every Wednesday, I got everyone together for an hour, and we talked about the chapter and did the quiz, and reviewed it in class ("open book").  I spent 30-60 minutes every day going around and asking people if they understood the reading and if they had questions, etc. For the first 3 or 4 months, the Wednesday meetings were like root canal surgery. 1/3 of the people had read and done the quiz, 1/3 faked it in class, and 1/3 refused to do anything. I recruited the first 1/3 to help me tutor the last 1/3. This first 1/3 was a cross section across departments! We didn't give up. People threatened to quit, saying it's not their job to read and do quizzes. We responded by telling them the people that read & do quizzes get more bonus and the folks who chose not to might get less bonus!  That helped get more people active. The first 1/3 became my Lean Beret. We'd meet once per week and plan the following week's Wednesday meeting.. We planned 5S activities, value stream mapping exercises, building planes with legos, picked training videos, planned field trips to lean companies, etc. When we finished Lean Thinking, we moved onto The Toyota Way. Same plan, except, the quizzes were closed book in class.  We bought Spanish versions of the books, and even brought in tutors to help people read better! We DEMONSTRATED that it was IMPORTANT. By the middle of the Toyota Way, we were pretty good at it. The biggest obstacles were people didn't have time and they perceived themselves as non-learners. Both were overcome. After The Toyota Way, we read The Goal, It's Your Ship, Jump Start Your Business Brain, and Inside the Magic Kingdom. Then we developed our company university, which I will discuss later. Lessons I learned:
1. Start now and  be the most persistent person you know.
2. Learning is hard work and takes conditioning. The more you do, the easier it gets. Keep that in mind when working with your "I just work here" people. Be prepared for backlash. Reward your early adopters by asking them to help you.
3. The real POWER in P2 is getting your organization used to learning together. Groups thinking, debating, arguing, laughing, etc. From different departments, all together. People become confident and voice their opinions freely and openly.
4. Make learning part of working for your organization. 

Here is a terrific article that directly relates to mistakes, business leaders sometimes make by Forbe's Alex Knapp: 
Five Leadership Mistakes of the Galactic Empire It is 100% worth the read!

Next up, Part 2 of P2, Develop your People and Partners-WE don't have time to learn! 

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