Sunday, December 1, 2013

A3.....Celebrating the Left Field Thinker

Since we were kids, we have heard the expression "two heads are better than one". Obviously, any company that consists of more than one person needs to have good teamwork in order to be successful. That sounds simple enough. Now add a few hundred more people. How do you create an environment where everyone continues to be better and better "team" players (scary group to compete with)?  

My answer might surprise you. Just make sure people work on a lot of teams. This is a benefit of using A3 & temporary, self directed work teams as a way to develop a culture of continuous continuous improvement.  Can every team member spend time every single day making small improvements toward "flow" with a relentless pursuit of eliminating the 8 wastes? The people who actually DO the work are MOST qualified to make improvements.

Look at it this way: if there are 100 people in your company and they can each lead 3 A3s over the course of 1 year, that's 300 improvements and 3 00 opportunities for people to practice learning to be GREAT team players.  A3 teaches people to pick the right team, leverage diversity, gain agreement, determine root cause, and implement countermeasures that stick. This process shouldn't be done once in a while when you have time (there will never be time), but is done every day for 15-20 minutes. The key new skill is to learn how to get people together routinely and quickly for those 15-20 minutes. Another key skill people need to learn is how to truly work together.

When companies begin to use this method of lean execution, they usually are not great at team selection. A3 Teams are comprised of 3-5 people, and in the beginning, people pick people they eat with, drink beer with, get along best with, or think like. Remember that one of the key benefits of A3 thinking is "leveraging your diversity". This is hard to do if you pick people who think like you all the time. As a lean leader, one goal is to convince people to give some of the "left field" thinkers (LFT) a try on their teams.

A left field thinker can be best described as someone who goes against the grain. Someone who races blind pigeons on weekends, or brings egg salad & cantaloupe sandwiches every single day for lunch. You know, the people who just don't think like everyone else.

One of the most important lessons I've learned after thousands of A3s:  you NEVER know where genius will come from in your company. I have witnessed first hand the pure genius many times that comes from someone that everyone was afraid to pick on their teams because they don't think like everyone else. I would hear "he's not a team player", or  "she's too argumentative, better leave her out."  DO NOT WRITE ANYONE OFF!  I have convinced A3 leaders to add LFTs to their teams. as "wild cards", someone unfamiliar with the process being improved.  The "left field" thinker, in many cases, won't say much at first. Just sheepishly sitting in as the rest of the team (all right fielders) works through plan-do-check-act.  The team was pretty much in agreement with regard to a predictable, mediocre, common sense improvements. Then, almost in a whisper the LFT mutters "I don't know why you just don't ------". The ----- was completely different from where the rest of the team was going, and the resulting countermeasure, in one case,  saved their company ~$650,000 per year. This fact came out at the closing, and this LFT was suddenly being asked to be on dozens of teams.

Technically, the work of leaders is "non value-added".  In reality, it is EXTREMELY important when leaders understand that their primary objective is to develop people. That means EVERYONE, not just the stars. Remember, you don't need to be Vince Lombardi to coach Bart Starr. My greatest sense of satisfaction has always come from celebrating the accomplishments of another human being that I would not give up on. When you find yourself stuck on a problem, go find a LFT. You never can predict where genius will come from.

3 comments:

  1. This process shouldn't be done once in a while when you have time (there will never be time), but is done every day for 15-20 minutes. That seems to stick with me. Never going to have the time, just make time everyday to get better... Good Stuff Coach!

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  2. As always love your post. The person in left field is a big asset to any company, However you can tell your a football guy. The guy in the baseball photo appears to be in right field. :)

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  3. Thank you so much for reading my post. That is hilarious, you're right, that kid is in right field. Amazing you're the only person who caught that! Thanks again, best regards

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