Sunday, June 14, 2015

Doing LEAN Well: Be the Bull in the China Shop!

I think I will rate this post "PG-13" only because I don't want anyone to follow my advice and then find themselves fired.

Proceed with caution if you work in an environment where managers need to have 100% complete control. My way or the highway. Just do your job. That's the way we've always done it, etc. If that's the case, then just go ahead, punch in, and do your job, punch out and go home. 

If this is a not a concern and you work for a human who understands that a manager's only job is to develop leaders, then keep reading.

I have asked hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people "what is the one change you would make right now, if you owned the place?" Interesting study, because the answer is never, ever, self serving. It is about something that really slows them down or seems to them to be a waste of time and money. Sometimes they follow up with, "I told them years ago, but THEY don't listen. 

In the terrific companies I work in, people are welcome and expected to make endless improvements in the hundreds of processes in the business (using A3 as the vehicle to create a spirit of kaizen). This process starts with giving people the opportunity to work to make their "employee suggestions" become reality. Employees begin to think like owners, and incredible improvements in productivity will result. 

Everything is going along, hunky dory, morale improves, etc. This is what I refer to as "peeling the onion." Then, all the smiles and giggles start to disappear because as you peel the onion, you start to encounter some sacred cows. These are paradigms that everyone accepts as true that are most likely costing people lots of time and money. The sacred cows are defended to the death fiercely by their gate keepers.

Keep in mind that that if someone has an idea that everyone automatically and seamlessly agrees and goes along with, it really is not at all innovative. When everyone starts sweating bullets and dream up hundreds of reasons it isn't possible.....well now you're onto something. That, my friends is true innovation. If they scoff, you're getting warm. If they nod, it's probably more of the same.

One example. Someone suggested that customers (the people who do the paying) should never, ever go into voicemail. Whether they need a quote, have a complaint, a question, need a sample, or want to place an order. Never, ever. Now, there was a debby downer of an idea. There are a zillion reasons why that is hard to do. Everyone has voicemail, everyone puts people on hold. This bull in a china shop of an employee was suggesting that we can be meaningfully unique and different from the others. Again, a zillion reasons why not, but one reason to do it.....if you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do stuff others just won't do. Think about the best companies in the world and how they do business......different than anyone else. Long story short, and about 8 A3s later, customers don't have to wait. They are treated like the Kings we claim they are. 

Be that bull in the China shop, question the unquestionable. The best of the best of my customer's A3 leaders have a very "healthy disrespect of the current condition". They answer no with why not. In the best companies, they are considered the best employees.

So, I ask you, what is the one change you would make today if YOU owned the company?

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