Sunday, July 21, 2013

Standardized Work for Leaders

"I can’t hear you. What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. So speak to me with your actions, not your words. Speak to me with your doings, not your mouth. Speak to me with your hands, not your voice. For your actions drown out what you say to the point that that’s all I hear."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a well known fact that there is no kaizan without standardization. That is, you can't make improvements until after there is consensus with regard to how a process needs to be done. The lean tools can definitely help standardize a process. Mapping and 5S are ALL about people coming to agreement on how we will do things from now until we agree on a new standard. Standardization takes work, and it takes teamwork and trust. I have been told many times that the reason work areas are unorganized or a process is chaotic is because so and so "doesn't care". For example, if I ask "why do you have to go search for tools?" I hear "because people just take them and don't bother to return them." (this assumes other(s) doesn't care enough for his co-workers to make sure THEY have the tool when they need it). It takes time before everyone understands that everyone is smart and everyone cares, there's just no process, or the process stinks. One of the real benefits of a3 (or self directed work teams) is that a team of 3-5 people work together to leverage diversity, gain agreement, and then teach (at the closing) a better way of doing their work. Many of the companies I work with videotape processes so they can watch it together so they can hammer out consensus-OUR way vs. MY way. The video is invaluable to train new people instead of just sending them to go work with someone, who might be doing things his way. 

To accelerate this type of focus on standardization, take another look at Emerson's quote. In my own experience, leaders and managers have the least standardized processes in the company. Many a manager will admit that the game plan for the coming week is often blown up by Monday afternoon. Unscheduled meetings, calls from customers, problems to work through with employees, issues with suppliers, etc. Before you know it, it is Friday. Preach "standardization" all you want, people see firefighters. Preach "people are our #1 asset" all you want. people see flyover leaders. Once I realized this was the case, I started to think of the words of one of my sensei. If you expect people to embrace change, they'd sure better see you leading the change by changing yourself. It's not enough to announce that we are adopting a lean strategy. People need to see you doing it.

Employees do a great job of executing the game plan. Taking, making and shipping orders.They are doing the value-added work. The value-added work of leaders is people. To do this, we need to spend lots of our time with them. The problem I needed to fix was Monday morning instantly turning into Friday afternoon. But, so much of what I was doing was non-value-added. Reading, sorting, filing, answering, moving, and ultimately discarding e-mails. Reading through dozens of trade journals and sifting through junk mail. Sitting in long meetings behind closed doors solving problems better solved standing up out on the floor. 

To help me do more value-added work, I developed a checklist for myself. Daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly and quarterly tasks. I laminated this checklist, and kept it on a clipboard that I had with me at all times. One of my daily tasks, for example, was "Visit 2 A3 Leaders". Before I could check this box off with an erasable marker, I would go to the A3 board, pick 2 A3 leaders, and go see them. I'd ask them to show me what they've learned so far, or find out if they needed help, etc. The beauty of it was I was seeing 10 A3 leaders per week, which translates to over 500 per year! Our people began to understand what was important to me......them! Weekly tasks would be to sit in on Group and Team leader meetings (the time and place was right on my checklist), update the A3 board & company dashboard. Another weekly task was to count one supermarket to make sure kanban was working well. Even my weekly senior leadership meeting was on the checklist (Tuesdays at 1 pm). 

When I went on vacation, all I had to do was hand over the laminated checklist to another leader, and when I came back everything was usually checked (two or more other leaders might split my list). 

It's much easier for people to understand the value of standardization when they see some!!

1 comment:

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