Sunday, September 15, 2013

Standard Work for Leaders: People!

In a lean company, there is a clear understanding that a process cannot be "kaizaned (improved)" until it is has been standardized. Standardized work means that anyone can step in, read the documentation, and do (or at least understand) how to do that process. The best standardization happens when the people who DO the process take the necessary time to gain agreement. There is also a start and end to a process, and there is a time element (note value stream mapping). There is also usually a customer-either the people who are handed the result of the process or maybe the people who will send you money for the result of the process. Keep in mind that the experts of any process are the people who actually do it.

What about managers? What is their standard work?  Someone in the organization has to be responsible for developing people, and every employee should have at least one person responsible for their development and growth. People that are fortunate enough to be hired into your organization need to be continuously developed. It needs to be the number one priority and standardized work. Developing people is the role of management.

How often have you seen this scenario played out? The new person (let's call him "Mr. Bill)"comes in. HR or one of the bosses walks Bill around, introducing him to everyone else. Often they tell people a bit about Bill's background, and how lucky we are to have landed Bill. Fast forward a year or two into the future. Now there's a management meeting and the agenda is "what are we going to do about Bill?" I know, we'll wait until Friday at 4:30 in the afternoon, we'll pull Bill in, and let him go. We can follow him to his office, watch him get his coffee cup and pictures, take his key, then walk him out. Then we can spill the news to Bill's peers Monday morning, because they might start talking amongst themselves. (things like, where's Bill?)

My one question for anyone who recognizes this scenario is.........what in God;s name happened?!? How did Bill go from star to euthanasia? From first to worst? As leaders, what did we do to "develop" Bill? 

Standardized work for managers can minimize the number of times this scenario plays out. How much time can you invest in your #1 asset-the people who help you grow your business?  And I'm not talking about batch processing here. Not every so often-I'm talking Heijunka, load leveling-time spent every day. Go and See, Ask Why, Show Respect. Show respect by listening aggressively (not thinking about what you will say next). Show respect by challenging people-setting goals and helping people reach them. Show respect by thanking them once in awhile. Show respect by teaching people how to see and eliminate waste in their own processes. Even if just one manager "GOs and SEEs" 2 people for 15 minutes each every day, he will have spent 120 hours developing people (assuming 240 work days per year) by the end of the year.

Companies that focus on developing people dominate their marketplace, and have the absolute highest productivity (sales/employee) and the absolute lowest turnover. Make sure the people in your company are satisfied and I promise they will make sure your customers are satisfied. Nothing scarier than disgruntled employees talking to customers. Can EVERY manager, supervisor, and senior leader spend 30 minutes per day (even 15 is better than hardly any), every day, developing people? Aren't they worth it?   

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