Saturday, May 14, 2016

"Do You Mean We Can Change the Culture With Frozen Yogurt?"

"Do You Mean We Can Change the Culture With Frozen Yogurt?"-Jim Barnes, Commercial Development Manager, Light Metals Coating (Southington, CT)

The idea was to award a cup of frozen yogurt to anyone who closes an A3 during the month of May. May was declared "Closings for Froyo Month". Part of thinking is to inject fun whenever possible. As you probably know, my wife is owner/manager of a frozen yogurt shop, so I have unlimited access to as much froyo as anyone can devour.

It's not like Light Metals needed this extra motivation. There are ~90 team members, and they currently average over 40 active improvements on their A3 board. It's also not likely that people
who may not have done A3 are all of a sudden on board for 5 ounces of flavored frozen yogurt. In this case, it's for the smiles, a frozen treat, and a colored spoon. The real payoff is in the sense of ownership as the process experts (the people who DO the work) explain to their peers how they worked through the DMAIC with their chosen temporary self directed work team to solve a  problem to benefit the entire business.

One very common question I get, especially when companies are just getting started on their lean journey, is whether it is a good idea to incentivize people with money, awards or prizes for actively participating in continuous improvement.

For example, one of my clients several years ago offered $25 gas cards for anyone who led and closed an A3. Keep in mind that in my own company, before I became a consultant, 80 people closed almost 700 A3s in one year. That would be $17500 worth of gasoline. The problem is that when you decide to stop, people want to know where their gas is. I really don't want people participating only for the gas, or the gift card.

Another good idea under consideration with another client is to put a person's name into a hat every time they close an A3, and then have a monthly drawing for a gift card. (Works like the NBA draft-the more ping pong balls, the better the chance of winning).

Many of my clients have made leading A3s part of people's performance reviews. I like this concept because it can result in a cultural shift from "it's my job to do my job" to "it's my job to do my job and improve my job." It also demonstrates to everyone that it is important to management that everyone is involved in making the company great. In my own company, a person's annual bonus % was tied to their willingness to grab an end and help carry the load. If you were engaged, you got more, if you didn't you got less. I handed out copies of the children's book "The Little Red Hen"  to drive this home. (none of the animals wanted to help the LRH with her garden, but were lined up at the door when she was baking the bread).

Long story short, you don't need to concern yourself with figuring out a way to compensate people every time they make an improvement. The payoff comes in people feeling like they finally have control and having a say in the work they do every day. Do you want to know what your problems are? All you have to do is ask them, LISTEN then give them the resources they need to fix them. The growing list of companies that create a culture of continuous continuous improvement wouldn't point to any reward-for-improvements plan as the magic bullet. It's much more about the "respect for people" demonstrated by not fixing someone else's job, and the gratitude expressed by their peers and managers for a job well done. (there just aren't enough thank yous these days)

But there's nothing wrong with a few added smiles thrown in once in a while.

Thank you Jason, Evan, Wanda, Esteban & Jackie S. for posing with your yogurt!!!!

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