Sunday, May 5, 2013

Critical Part of a LEAN Strategy: Develop Your People

"If you want one year of prosperity, grow seeds. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people." Chinese proverb

Has this ever happened at your company. You go out and fill an open position. Set up an elaborate search strategy. Even employ a "head hunter". Interviews, tests on-line, sorting through resumes. Or, if the position is for the floor, maybe weed through applications after putting expensive ads in the newspaper or on-line. You pick your star, and you are so excited. The week before they start, you make sure everything is ready for them, their locker, their office, everything just so. The day they start, you PROUDLY take them around to meet all of your friends. Here he is!!!! We got em! The cream of the crop. 

A year goes by, and this star is on the list of people who need to go. Or, they quit. What happened? What exactly did YOU do to let them go from excited, thrilled, world beater to disposable? 

I also hear companies say, "our people are our #1 asset" or, "our people are the difference and why our customers do business with us." If people are SO important, what did you do TODAY to develop them? How often do you work with them? Teach them, train them?

Remember, managers lead processes, leaders manage people. The goal is to develop your people to the point that they are the ones who are "leading" their own processes. Before that can happen, you need to work hard to transfer ownership of those processes to the people who do the actual value-added work. I loved it when I was the guy with all of the answers. Employees, salespeople and customers were constantly calling on me to get my brilliant answers. Step 1 of transferring ownership is to stop answering those questions with answers. Start answering them with questions. The reason your customers feel the need to track you down is because they don't trust your employees yet. Get your employees out front and if they get stuck, help them. 

Most of my current customers are using A3 to establish a culture of continuous, every day improvement. This proved to be a very effective way to transfer ownership of processes. Nothing like getting out of the way and letting the world's expert (they do it every day) improve his or her own process. They will be reluctant at first. A3 involves selecting the right team, organizing and leading short meetings, doing root cause analysis (five why most times), implementing countermeasures, then sharing the learnings of the team with a large group sometimes. Sounds scary, right? Welcome to leadership, my friends, because that's what leaders do. It is YOUR job to teach them how and then help them through it.   

Developing people has to be a conscious effort. I don't care if you are a "working" supervisor on the second shift at McDonalds, spend 1 hour each shift developing and working a strategy to help the people in your care to grow and prosper. Your people's prosperity is YOUR JOB!

So I ask again. What have you done or what will you do TODAY (right now!) to develop your people?

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