Sunday, December 15, 2013

"If the Student Hasn't Learned.........

the teacher hasn't taught." 

It is as simple as that. 

People are smart and people care. Nobody gets out of their car in the parking lot intent on screwing up the company. Remember that The Toyota Production System is built on 2 pillars-continuous improvement and respect for people. I would say that a good first step in demonstrating respect for people is to assume that the people that YOU have hired or endorsed for hire are smart and care. (If they aren't smart and really don't care, who the heck hired them? Who developed them to the point that they aren't smart and don't care?)  I have stated many times in this column that over the course of my involvement with over 1000 A3 teams, I have learned that you cannot predict where GENIUS will come from in your company. Often what leadership interprets as indifference (don't care) is really frustration in the form of a sense of powerlessness ("I just work here")

Having said that, new habits take time. To illustrate, think about how long your resolutions stick every New Year (mine end January 5th). Companies that use A3 to execute a lean strategy make hundreds of process improvements (resolutions) over the course of a calendar year. Some of the companies I work with do four or five A3 closings almost every week. It is understandable that an A3 leader might be disappointed that an improvement he and his team led (and closed) didn't stick 100% the first time. One of the things I coach A3 leaders to do is to expect to re-train or re-teach their process change. Don't be surprised if the old way creeps back. This is particularly true of 5S. Be patient and determined. The last box on the A3 form is usually called Hensei, Reflection or Follow-Up. This is where the A3 team gets together to reflect on what went well, what could have gone better, etc. It is also where the plan is spelled out to go back and check to see if everything stuck. Sometimes, you need to re-do the closing. That means pulling everyone back together and explaining to everyone that you didn't explain yourself well enough. Go through the improvement again, and re-iterate why the change is so important (hours saved, steps saved or safety hazard eliminated). Your mindset has to be that the fact the improvement didn't stick is all your fault. 

If the student hasn't learned the teacher hasn't taught. If this isn't your mindset, then it is too easy to go down the slippery slope of "the reason it didn't stick is because people around here just don't care." Or they just don't "get it". Avoid this thinking by transforming yourself from boss to teacher, then go teach your brains out.

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