Monday, September 17, 2012

Create a LEAN Population of General Practitioners Who Make "Housecalls"

Let's talk about our customers. Two words. Unpredictable and demanding, just the way we like them. Unpredictable because you never really know for sure when they will want something. Or how much. Or when. They may need a lot fast, or they may not need any for a little while. This unpredictability challenges us to get better and better to delight them-not merely satisfy them. (out of ALL of the companies to give their money to, they picked you!!). For most businesses, demand is not a straight line. There are peaks and valleys. Some may even have big peaks and valleys if their business is "seasonal". So how do you make sure your team has the right number of players, without overburden or people waiting around? One of the most costly mistakes we can make is to throw bodies at high demand, and one of the biggest punches in the gut is laying people off.

The goal is to develop a team of players who are willing to systematically learn other people's jobs and teach others THEIR jobs. You have to start somewhere and all you need are two people to start. Ask one person if they would be willing to teach someone else their job. Then ask them who would be a good candidate to teach. Then, work with the teacher to set up a 10 hour curriculum based on their job. Set a specific time each week for the student to spend one hour each week for 10 weeks with the teacher. Some may say one hour is not enough. If the teacher is well prepared when the student shows up, an hour can be plenty of time. Others may say the student can't afford an hour with the teacher. In reality, most people spend an hour a week talking about fantasy football or the Mets. You always make time for things you think are important! At the end of ten weeks, ask the student to get up in front of their peers and present what they learned. Help the student do this. Do it where the work is, not in a conference room. As the leader, imagine this teaching happening a few times per week. Imagine 5 sets of teacher-learner spending 1 hour per week together at all times?  That is 260 hours of instruction that occurred painlessly?I tell people that we NEED to develop General Practitioners who make house calls (at GEMBA), not Specialists (experts in the left ventricle of the heart). Encourage and emphasize and reward versatility in people.  

Imagine a world where you never miss a beat when people are on vacation? Or imagine a world where people are able to move to different areas (value streams) based on demand? How about when someone retires, you have backup person who may want to step in permanently who has already been trained! This type of load leveling of teaching, done continuously, helps move your business toward recession-proof. It's all about just getting a little bit better every day.
And to make it happen, all the leader has to do is make it important!!!

1 comment:

  1. I have learned one of the biggest roadblocks when approaching your people about cross training is fear. As soon as you mention to someone that you want someone else to learn their job, they instantly replace "multi-functional" with "replaceable". I can't stress to anyone enough that if you are not replaceable in what you do, then it's harder for a company promote you. Learn everything you can about the company you work for, do it all. If things get real bad and a company had to make some tough choices, they will opt to keep the people who can easily move around and wear more hats. There's more than one flavor of ice cream out there!