Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Mystical, Magical, Secret Ingredient

Have you ever heard someone say "I empower my people?" Like me, do you feel a little bit of a gag reflex in your mouth when someone actually says this out loud? If this isn't the most condescending verbiage possible, then I really don't know what is.  I picture a king with his eyes closed and his hand on a subject's head saying, "I grant thee empowerment!"

As leaders, we don't need to bestow any of our accumulated stacks of power on others, we often need to get ourselves the heck out of the way.

I have been involved with many thousands of A3 teams in dozens of companies involved in all kinds of different industries. Temporary, cross-functional, self-directed work teams that go about the business of eliminating the 8 wastes (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-essential processing, transport, inventory, motion and un-used brainpower), moving toward the promised land, FLOW.  If you ever need evidence that people are smart, and that people care deeply about their business, are trustworthy, and sure as hell don't need to be empowered, start doing A3 as the mechanism to implement a lean strategy.  A3 is about solving problems and continuous improvement executed by the real process experts, the people who actually do the work. A person with 10 years experience has logged over 20,000 hours. They are probably amongst the best in the world at what they do. The cross-functional part of A3 means people have everyone they need from the different "silos" to get improvements done. If you stick with it, pretty soon the silos disintegrate, and suddenly the only focus is the customer.

For the process of A3 to work really well, all managers need to add is the mystical, magical, secret ingredient......TRUST.

I witness daily just how trustworthy people are. To get potential A3 team leaders thinking about a good problem to go after, I ask, "if you owned the company, what is the one change you would make right now?" I have asked this question countless times, and have never received a self-serving answer. The answer is always some frustration they have involving something they perceive as a waste of company time or company money. Often they follow up their answer, with "I told THEM 5 years ago, but THEY don't listen, so I gave up. I just work here." 

Occasionally, as an A3 team is working toward a countermeasure to a problem, it is necessary to consider spending some amount of money. I witness first hand how people spend company money like it is their own.

Trust the process of A3! The checks and balances designed into the process prevents "sub-optimizing", which is a fear I hear from people who don't understand A3 thinking. The process of  working to "gain agreement" and "leverage diversity" ensures excellent results. It's truly amazing when "THEM" and "THEY" becomes "ME" and "US".

I'll take trust over empowerment every day of the week.

1 comment:

  1. Great Article. You hit the nail on the head. When you think of the company you work for as "your" company (you stand behind it), it feels much different. You work like you own it. It becomes part of you and you are part of it. - Lauren from Acceleron Inc