Create engaged problem-solvers who lift results every day.
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Create engaged problem-solvers who lift results every day.
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A small group recently posed a few questions to us about Operational Excellence, leadership and change. They were looking to get started on their journey and wanted to understand our perspective on some of the critical elements. Here’s a recap of the ensuing discussion…
A. The graph below is sourced from our YE16 OpEx survey report. It shows how the surveyed organizations ranked the effectiveness of training at various levels of the organization and across a variety of business types:
We can all see the connection between better engagement scores and improved performance, however there is a lot of confusion about what good engagement looks like. Often engagement is thought to be more frequent face time between bosses and subordinates, 360 feedback, suggestion programs, and so on. Rather, good engagement is about giving people the ability to directly influence their work. It recognizes basic human needs that include the power to make decisions, the ability to control outcomes and being part of something bigger. These attributes are not naturally occurring in many work environments so equipping leaders to enable OpEx is about training and coaching them on the essential actions and behaviors they must take to engage and align the organization from top to bottom.
Our approach to ensuring effective leadership training starts with the Managers / Executive Lean Overview workshops. These sessions quickly inform the team with a common vocabulary, awareness and understanding of:
Tools and methods are covered, but gaining expert capability on them is not specifically intended. Rather, this portion of the workshop is meant to provide context for how front line practitioners apply problem-solving tools to achieve desired business outcomes.
Our primary objective with leaders and managers is to provide insights that help them define and develop their own leader standard work. This means doing the hard work of changing some of their own behaviors and habits to be able to actively coach and demonstrate support for Lean to the organization as implementation begins.
Beyond training and workshops, coaching is an important element that we always employ during project work with clients. Coaching is about observing behaviors and suggesting alternatives that can be more effective at delivering certain results. A simple example: If you want people to be more engaged, ask leading questions as opposed to prescribing a potentially ill-conceived solution. In this way, everyone learns something and engagement is supported instead of stifled.
A. No. We’re talking about a shift here that must be valued up and down the organization and especially at the top. These values drive subtle and not so subtle behaviors that become part of the culture and transcend market shifts and personnel changes. Here we assume “implementation” to be a sustainable OpEx system. A leader who is equipped to lead engagement not only understands the benefits, but values the operating norms that better engagement brings.
Since a lot of the heavy lifting and day-to-day activities of implementation are in fact delegated, it’s important to understand how to help leaders do this. We talked about the training and coaching aspect for leaders in Q1 above. In addition to understanding the value of better engagement, the organization must know how to do it.
Everyone in the organization must be expected to spend a small percentage of time on improving the business ― as opposed to running the business. In the simplest terms, this means allowing workers some freedom to fix problems that affect their day-to-day work at the micro-process level. Supervisors and middle managers aren’t exempt: They too should spend about an hour a week addressing slightly more “macro” problems that affect their areas and people. At all levels, the most effective improvement efforts are team-based to drive process ownership and accountability.
Since exactly how to do engagement can be described, the activities can be tracked. This is important because it moves leaders beyond the idea of just “valuing engagement” (because who doesn’t right?) to “knowing how to DO engagement.” Only when this happens can implementation be effectively delegated.
A. Engagement scores are important. OpEx and engagement scores (from surveys and audits) are directly related. Successful Operational Excellence is in large part the result of good engagement. So engagement scores are a good lagging indicator of OpEx and a great leading indicator of operational performance.
A focus on leading indicators is a good place to start. Here’s a way to think about indicators:
Want more detail on these topics? You can download the full survey report – An Examination of Operational Excellence – from the Resources section of our website. (It’s great, really).
To learn more about enabling leadership to connect the dots between engagement and value, check out our White Paper: Engage the Organization – And a Performance Culture Will Follow.
The cost of poor employee retention is significant and ever increasing. The ability to retain good people is a huge competitive advantage. Whether the market is going up or down, turnover is a factor for all employers, no matter what your business.
Not sure retention is an area you really need to spend energy on? Consider this… with strong employee retention strategies and tactics, you:
Those are some pretty critical wins. And, they all contribute to significantly better business performance. So why not do it right? And by right, we don’t just mean pay increases, stock options and / or bonuses. These pieces alone won’t solve your retention issues. It’s not all about the money… really. While financial incentives can buy some time, they do little to build confidence in the culture of the organization and the enterprise. A low retention rate is always a symptom of other issues.
Without a practical employee retention strategy in place, organizations find themselves parting with a higher portion of their best and most qualified talent, the result of which is losses in productivity, time and money. So how do you stop the bleeding? First, focus on the heart of the issue… people.
The number one place where organizations get it wrong is engagement. That’s right, when people leave, it’s most often because they did not feel a sense of accomplishment or belonging. People want to feel like they are part of something. For decades, surveys have concluded that compensation and benefits, while important, always rank lower than belonging and the ability to contribute meaningfully when it comes to job satisfaction. Don’t ignore this!
There are plenty of ways to improve retention by getting (and keeping) people engaged. Start by including people in improvement activities like process mapping – those working inside the process always know the most about value and waste where they work – this is their chance to contribute their knowledge! Engaging them in the hands-on work of fixing identified improvements should follow via small focused projects (Kaizen Events and Rapid Improvement Events). To ensure energy and support for these efforts, leaders should receive training and alignment coaching to help them understand that it’s OK to give up some control and let the organization contribute more from the frontlines.
To move beyond a project-based approach to engagement, consider the structure and discipline embodied in Kaufman Global’s Lean Daily Management System®. This is the real deal when it comes to sustainment and a structure that keeps people involved on a day-to-day basis within their workgroups.
Supplemental Reading Recommendation:
White Paper | Engage the Organization and a Performance Culture Will Follow
When an organization is formally and consistently engaged, a culture of performance follows. Understanding how to achieve a performance culture, why it’s so elusive for many leaders and their organizations, and what it takes to make it reliable is the key to sustainable improvement.
(This article is an excerpt from our Procedural Adherence and Risk white paper. Click here to acquire the full document in a downloadable format).
Almost never do people violate procedures with bad intent. When it happens, it is enabled by a vague work culture coupled with urgent product and service demands. The effects of rules broken ripple through the organization with a range of negative consequences: personal safety, financial results, employee morale and public perception. Learn how to reduce procedural adherence problems and boost performance with behaviors that influence how employees view and deal with risk.
The enterprise works hard to define and defend organizational procedures to maximize speed, accuracy and return — and still, rules are routinely broken. Individuals and teams opt for apparent shortcuts that appear to speed things up, but instead delay progress, sink performance or worse: put people in harm’s way.
People view and manage risk at a personal level. This sometimes results in actions that oppose the stated values of the enterprise which include adherence to procedures and rule-following. But there is a contradiction here. Instead of diligent procedural adherence, the enterprise is often more concerned with chasing (perceived) fast results and near-term profit at any cost.
The translation: The true value of the enterprise is that it is actually ok to break rules, especially when a customer-facing issue or revenue stream is in play. From the point of view of the individual faced with the pressure of “getting the job done” it’s simply less risky to violate some procedures to keep the machine moving. This fundamental misalignment of values is a breeding ground for mistakes and ultimate poor performance – including and perhaps especially, catastrophic events.
Achieving a state of better procedural adherence — that is, predictably getting employees to stick to predefined processes and standards — is a losing battle for many organizations. They desperately want people to follow the rules, yet their own culture drives decisions to the contrary. Why? Because everyone treats procedural adherence as a step in a process instead of a behavior motivated by perceived risk.
Many factors impact how employees comply with procedures: company culture, environmental complexities, the quality of existing support systems, and human nature. In this white paper, we’ll break down what drives employees to behave the way they do, so you can recast your organization as one where procedural adherence is the norm.
A popular consensus is that it’s easiest for people to follow safety rules. While a narrow view, it’s useful to illustrate some truths about risk.
The basic reason we enjoy some measure of success with procedural adherence in safety matters is because unsafe behaviors are visible and may result in immediate consequence.
But there is a more fundamental reason why. Accidents cause personal harm and enterprise disruption. In other words; failure to follow the safety rules can be bad for everyone. This alignment – a mutual understanding of risk – serves to induce a state of better procedural adherence with respect to safety matters.
Safety programs further reinforce these notions by stating that anyone can spot and audit unsafe behaviors and must do so as part of a “safety culture.” Unfortunately, easy-to-observe violations cause only a fraction of all incidents. By contrast, invisible missteps tend to stay buried deep inside complex procedures, only coming to light when something’s gone very wrong.
Given this insight, it’s all the more astounding to realize that, even where it’s clear that procedural non-compliance hurts everyone and rules are explicit, people will still make choices that put themselves and others in harm’s way. When this happens, it tells us a lot about the underlying values of the enterprise and how we all think about and deal with risk.
A procedure is a complex chain of tasks and processes that are linked and sequenced to deliver a product or service to a customer. In that “value chain”, many hands touch and impact deliverables: individuals, functions, departments, service providers, suppliers, partners and so on. Each actor has visibility into their part of the chain, but rarely to the ins and outs of the entire system, nor the potential cascade of consequences that could arise from a misstep.
Mostly, people move through the day doing their job, responding to inputs, and reacting to issues as they arise. Occasionally, there’s a need to divert attention to a more complex problem, but mostly it’s about turning the crank. Immediate surroundings and cultural norms — “the environment” — drive much of their behavior.
The pressure to perform follows a few main themes: Keep things moving, be efficient, manage costs and assure good quality. No matter what anyone says, or how many DO THE JOB RIGHT posters hang on the walls, job pressure doesn’t necessarily include following the rules. The status quo barks out: Get the job done. In such an environment, going with the flow is perceived as less risky than monitoring and complying with all the procedural requirements. After all, we’re problem-solvers, right? A little rule-bending is expected and condoned.
For all of us, two distinct modes of thinking are constantly in play: fast and slow. Fast thinking is reactive, responsive and automatic. It looks for patterns, gets us through our day and requires little energy. When considering the equation: 2+2, you quickly conclude 4 as the only possible answer. That’s fast thinking.
Slow thinking, on the other hand, is just that: slow. It uses lots of energy because it requires focused attention. You’d need to employ slow thinking to multiply fractions, for instance, or to figure out how to avoid your least favorite relative at the family reunion.
As we fast-think through our day, we’re trying to avoid risk by paying attention to what people around us expect. This is human nature and not much of a conscious decision. Cutting some corners feels reasonable.
At the enterprise level, where policy is made and direction is set, the job IS slow thinking: planning new and better ways of doing things, improving results, satisfying customers and avoiding unpleasant surprises. All of those outcomes seem more likely when people follow the rules, so adhering to standard procedures is viewed as a way to lower risk.
Table 1 contrasts these dynamics from the point of view of the individual vs. the enterprise. This misalignment between risk perceptions, plus the reactive nature of fast thinking patterns, are the reasons why your organization might be having a hard time achieving better procedural adherence. If rules are routinely broken where you are, it’s because no matter what anyone says, your organization’s true values are to get the job done — even if it means not following procedures.
A caveat: the foregoing assumes that tasks, processes and procedures are well defined, well documented and well understood — which is almost never the case. If you expect compliance but have not made the procedures clear, easily available and understandable, you’re fooling yourself and shortchanging your valuable workforce.
Given our understanding of how human nature drives or hinders procedural adherence, we can construct a simple definition. Procedural adherence is:
If we break the definition down piece by piece, these points are important to understand:
Our definition of procedural adherence goes well beyond the notion of false slogans and checklists to encourage compliance. It provides handles for people to grab ahold of. If we really want better procedural adherence, values must be aligned and why values were not aligned in the first place is the real root cause analysis that must be done.
Start by getting a grip on definitions, documentation and conveyance of the procedures that need to be followed. Focus on the ones that are most vital to the enterprise. Rationalize the list of critical expectations and then ACT on them. This requires active governance (that probably doesn’t currently exist) versus the typical haphazard, “Let’s do everything” approach.
Once you have a solid set of rational procedures that must be followed, react strongly when violations occur and dig for the cultural root cause when they do. You’ll often find the violators felt they were acting in accordance to their bosses’ objectives and in the best interest of the enterprise. Note: There is often a lot of bad precedent to be undone here.
While the conventional approaches to procedural adherence problems – Defining, Training and Discipline – have their place, they could be sabotaging your compliance efforts by looking like progress, but instead are just more of the same.
We now know your enterprise and the individuals inside it at many times think differently. People on the ground think fast and avoid personal risk by occasionally breaking rules — and if the organizational culture says it’s ok to do it sometimes, it’s ok to do it any time. Conversely, the “think slow” enterprise seeks to minimize risk by getting everyone to follow the rules.
The key is to align the risk profiles for both. It’s the only path that works because it operates at the behavioral level. This requires a direct frontal attack on the status quo — an uncomfortable proposition for most, but one that must be done if real change is desired. After all, we’re talking about replacing poor habits (behaviors) with good ones. This is a goal that can only be accomplished with an approach that is: (a) highly visible, (b) effective in its execution, and (c) simple enough for everyone to understand.
Our solution — which many high-performance organizations have successfully adopted — is an engaged and visible coalition of leaders whose implicit and explicit objective is to reinforce a set of values with which everyone can align. We call this body the Functional Steering Committee (FSC). FSC participants are directors and functional heads tasked with managing major process nodes along the value chain. They meet weekly and review procedural adherence status by asking three questions:
Why meet weekly? In our experience, a weekly cadence is vital. If less, participants lose interest and urgency. Monthly sessions result in a last-minute rush to gloss over subpar progress and shoddy work. This is the very behavior that better procedural adherence is designed to attack. But by tackling issues weekly, communicating expectations, asking the right questions and demonstrating the benefits of procedural adherence, the risk alignment profiles noted in Table 2 become the new status quo.
The chartered and structured FSC is a new behavior. It’s highly visible and is a leading indicator of better procedural adherence. Over time, the enterprise and individual employees begin valuing the same things, and decisions become more aligned, consistent and mutually beneficial. And, FSC benefits don’t stop here.
The FSC governs the technical aspects of improvement too, pinpointing gaps that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, if someone does not have a documented procedure, who better to help than the FSC? If there is confusion about how a procedure is supposed to work, the FSC intervenes. If someone isn’t following the rules, the team will find out why and encourage / remove barriers to doing so in real time. The FSC can surface innovations that can then be built into the formal, standard approach.
With respect to procedural adherence, often this governance role is not being done well, or at all. This is a gap that needs to be closed. Yet the usual objections will be heard: “Do we really need another meeting?” and “Can’t we automate this?” Some will suggest that technology is a better answer, or another meeting is too much. Technology can help, especially in the area of standard templates and sharing best practices. Remember, however, that you’re dealing with a behavioral issue. If “just another meeting” seems like too much, eliminate three useless ones or have the FSC integrate the responsibilities of the team that’s investigating the most recent catastrophe.
One of the biggest problems your organization will face is getting functions and departments to come together to solve system-level problems like procedural adherence. The solutions to these types of problems: efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, quality and customer-focus are solved using Lean and other process improvement techniques. The first step is gap identification, and this new approach with the FSC is ready-made for that.
Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. You’ve likely heard that proverb a dozen times, nodded in agreement, and returned to old practices expecting new outcomes.
Likewise, returning to traditional approaches where procedures are treated like guidelines instead of values-driven standards will result in the level of compliance in your organization remaining unchanged… or inconsistent, at best.
It won’t be easy. Old ways die hard. Your organization will face tough decisions about chasing revenue, be tempted by the notion that a small defect or minor violation won’t matter, and that speed trumps standards. These moments of truth happen every day, swaying people to compromise and make poor choices.
The payoff for doing something truly different, however, is huge. Imagine a 20% reduction in catastrophic events and the benefits when this 20% is spread across all types of incidents. Imagine a team of leaders working across functions, better understanding each other’s needs, and monitoring handoffs between them. Finally, consider the relief, shot of confidence and productivity for frontline workers who know the rules, and no longer feel the pressure to disregard them – instead, operating in an environment that demonstrably values them.
This post is an excerpt from Kaufman Global’s White Paper: Procedural Adherence and Risk. To acquire a copy of the full white paper, click here.
If you’d like to learn more about the services we offer related to addressing Procedural Adherence challenges, click here.
I recently read an article that asked the question: How many types of waste are there really? This was in reference to Lean and the original seven wastes in Taiichi Ohno’s iconic Waste Wheel, shown here.
The comments were interesting. Apparently there are tightly-held beliefs on this topic. Let’s try not to over complicate something that Ohno intended to be quite simple, but because waste is the red thread of all Lean, it’s worth consideration.
Purists believe that there are 7 wastes as described by the sensei and there shall be only 7 wastes. Period. Another faction makes the argument for adding the “waste of people’s intellect” or something similar. This notion has become increasingly popular over the years. Kaufman Global added it long ago, but I’ve always found the classification a bit difficult. Is it intellect, human potential, creativity, insight, involvement, et cetera? Unlike Ohno’s originals, these descriptors seem abstract and difficult to attach to an action.
The case for waste of intellect arose from the observation that bosses and managers tend to treat people like cogs instead of active participants in value creation. Ohno’s writings illustrate his struggles to help people understand. Who knows why he didn’t include it in his original work? Maybe he considered himself an “under-cover” social engineer and felt that sticking to hard assets was more pragmatic. Or maybe he didn’t want to too openly point out that management was missing the point? The gap shows no sign of closing soon.
If you want to get really basic, there is only one true waste: TIME. With Lean, time is incorporated in many ways: cycle time, value added time, non-value added time, downtime, uptime, etc. Ohno simply broke it down in a way that made it easy to identify obvious targets to be addressed with appropriate techniques.
My take: It doesn’t really matter. Waste can be subdivided many ways. If you think there are 20 different types of waste and this helps attack any one of them better; go for it. In the name of continuous improvement we must be willing to add or subtract in order to improve the system. Right? Yes. Be careful though: More choices seems somehow less Lean, doesn’t it?
Which brings us back to the concept of the waste of people’s intellect. When it comes to achieving operational excellence, a tremendous amount of time is lost by failing to engage people doing their daily work. Non-inclusion results in false starts, half measures, low sustainment and do-overs. Workshops and Kaizen Events may be common, but sustainable results are only achieved when people are tangibly connected to everyday improvement.
Any attempt to be operationally excellent means real and sometimes uncomfortable change; which always meets resistance in some form. Alignment is about getting everyone to support new ways of work. This is a cascading process where actions are different depending on ones place in the organization. If there was only one choice about what to align on however, it would be the need to engage everyone.
Engagement means giving people a voice in the work they do and holding them accountable for continuous improvement. Achieving broad engagement up and down the organization is tough for many. Kaufman Global uses structures like the Executive Steering Team, the Lean Daily Management System ® (LDMS ®), and Procedural Action Teams to force engagement. They’re simple enough to understand and do too. If methods are overly complicated, they are easier avoid.
When it comes to waste, everything revolves around time but it’s okay to define as many subdivisions as you like. If you had two to choose, I’d recommend alignment and engagement. When you get these right, smart people working together toward a common goal always solve the other problems.
If you want to learn more about Kaufman Global’s approach to engagement and alignment, check out SLIM-IT, Procedural Adherence and Lean Daily Management System. For a deep dive into the waste wheel and how it applies to Lean, check out our White Paper: Implementing Lean Manufacturing.
If you weren’t able to join us at the 2017 IADC Human Factors Conference in Galveston last month, you missed out on a rich dialog. Kaufman Global President Jerry Timpson presented on the topic of Procedural Adherence – why people break the rules, how individuals and the enterprise approach risk differently, and what can be done about it. See his post-presentation interview with Kelli Ainsworth from DrillingContractor.org below.
In the late 1990s, when Kaufman Global developed the Lean Daily Management System ® (LDMS ®), we recognized that “Lean” as a method for improving business was often viewed as a set of tools aimed at machines and inventory. On the surface, and in the simplest of explanations, it was considered to be a group of useful techniques that could be “directed and applied”. I think this was more of a Western interpretation that still reverberates today. In this, the practitioners of the day put less emphasis on the human element and treated engagement as a collateral benefit of Lean, rather than the primary contributor to Lean results. Much of the information available focused on technical aspects such as pull systems, inventory leveling and quick change-over with a bias for discrete manufacturing versus continuous flow, business process or service industries.
Consider these highlights from the 1990s Lean landscape:
Our fundamental belief then and now is that Lean is a people system, not a technical one. Think of Lean tools like Quick Changeover, Error Proofing, Pull Systems, or Kaizen Events as waste elimination shovels. They work great, but they are useless without some keen insight about where to dig. This was the missing link we sought to address as we first described LDMS. It gives natural work teams the ability to make decisions about where to dig based on their understanding of their issues and performance. Combine this insight with the authorization for them to actually take control and utilize some structured problem solving techniques, and you have a self-regulating improvement engine.
It’s about workgroup engagement:
Vital components of the Lean Daily Management System:
LDMS is the manifestation of work group participation and this engagement is the fastest route to the overall objective of Lean which is to maximize customer value by minimizing waste. Or said another way: Deliver, at each step, what you need, when you need it, at ever-increasing levels of quality and customer satisfaction. While this cannot be achieved via top-down control, leadership does have an important part to play. “Doing” LDMS must be supported, expected, encouraged and required from above, otherwise it won’t happen consistently enough, broadly enough or often enough to become the way the organization does business.
The constructs of LDMS are specific. They describe activities and behaviors that are observable. This gives leadership a natural and specific way to interact with and support the teams. For example, one could ask: “Do you have good teamwork? Are you communicating? Do you measure your work and performance?” In an LDMS environment, all of these things are observable and the teams are able to speak directly to how they do it. That empowerment drives accountability and process ownership downward, where it belongs.
The Lean Daily Management System gives organizations outside the realm of manufacturing something to grasp. When you think of Lean as waste elimination and LDMS as the standard work of an engaged organization, it opens a world of possibilities that go beyond the shop floor. In our experience, LDMS works everywhere. Contents are adjusted – metrics for example will be different in functional and administrative environments than in manufacturing. But when people actively participate in improving the work that they control, they always find ways to innovate and adjust appropriately.
Where is it working? Here are a few examples:
Should you do it?.. Of course! LDMS makes Lean sticky.
Even with all these positives, be prepared for some resistance. It’s something new and people will have lots of questions as the system is coached into the organization. Leaders needs to be encouraged to stay the course until the culture starts to recognize that a broad and proactive approach to performance improvement is the best way to eliminate waste and improve customer value.
Kaufman Global began teaching and implementing the Lean Daily Management System in 1999. It was first described and published in our groundbreaking White Paper: WIn-Lean® Manufacturing in 2000.
In 2017 we updated our content to include even greater emphasis on the fact that the waste of People Energy (Engagement and Alignment) is still the greatest opportunity for any organization seeking to improve performance. For a full description of how and why LDMS fits into any Lean system, download a copy of our White Paper: Implementing Lean Manufacturing: A Holistic Approach.
Results from Kaufman Global clients who have implemented and are using the LDMS:
BD uses LDMS everywhere: BDs Corporate Citizenship Report – see page 36
Ohno, T. (1988). Workplace Management. Cambridge, MA: Productivity Press.
Womack, J., Jones, D., Roos, D. (1990). The Machine That Changed The World. Based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5-million dollar 5-year study on the future of the automobile. New York, NY: Rawson Associates.
Rother, M., Shook, J. (1998). Learning To See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate Muda.
Lareau, E. W. (2000) White Paper:WIn-Lean® Manufacturing.
Clients never say: “We want to transform and do better, but we don’t care if we sustain the improvements.” Clients always profess a sincere desire to sustain results. This intent is so pervasive that during the past 20 years we’ve seen the rise of Operational Excellence as a legitimate function across wide swaths of business and industry. Yet most organizations fail to realize this apparently lofty goal. Low levels of lasting success are usually explained at a tactical level, but the reasons that leaders and their organizations get it wrong goes much deeper.
To get a handle on what is happening and why, we explore some of the traditional norms, individual behaviors and corporate incentives that must be rethought to enable transformation success. As a first step, let’s define a few simple rules that are the foundation of any successful initiative:
It’s obvious to say, but our environment is dynamic. Everything changes all the time. “Sustain” conveys a sense of holding something – a process or procedures for example – in place. It’s time to re-evaluate this concept and acknowledge that in a dynamic environment, sustain doesn’t mean we pin something to the ground. Rather, it means we stay in lock-step with a moving target, consistently and credibly adjusting and improving.
Value is best understood where it is created. People know the most about optimization of the things they work on. Even more important, people care more about the things they work on than the things they don’t. Failure to grasp this rule is why top-down control of improvement systems doesn’t work well and never lasts.
For any of this to work – meaning, ongoing improvement and sustainment ̶ the organization must be engaged and stay engaged. In simple terms:
A primary (perhaps the primary) function of leadership is to compel engagement. Easier said than done, we can state flatly that engagement is an activity that can be measured and when it’s missing, overtly addressed. Experience tells us that if engagement is not compelled, it will not happen enough to deliver lasting improvement.
When everyone works on solutions with cadence, structure and discipline, peers are required to spend time together improving their deliverables along the value stream. Team dynamics increase accountability and generate performance momentum. This is the catalyst for sustainment.
Internalizing and applying these rules to any improvement system increases the odds of success. Fail to apply them and results will be sub-optimized at best. Going to the next level requires understanding the underlying organizational behaviors that come into play in the struggle to transform and sustain. Here they are:
The building blocks of lasting transformation revolve around getting and keeping everyone engaged (Rule #3). Unfortunately, organizational dynamics and behaviors that deliver this are seldom experienced or even witnessed. And, “What good looks like…” is rarely part of one’s education or training curriculum. Understanding the structure of engagement so that it can be baked into the DNA of the system is essential to going beyond the “what” of transformation and getting to the “how” of it.
In some respects it is difficult to separate transformation and sustainment. They are two sides of the same coin. But if we see engagement as the glue that holds these concepts together, it deserves a definition that is simple enough to act upon. Therefore:
The organization is engaged when you, your peers, your superiors and subordinates spend at least one hour each week actively improving the business.
This is what good looks like. When you overtly define engagement at an individual level, the behaviors and actions of it can be observed, measured and mirrored. Too often, leaders want everyone to really “get it” before they do it. Transformation happens in the reverse.
Transformation initiatives most often occur inside a business emergency. During these times, communication spikes, teams are formed, actions are chartered and things get done. It feels great! When it’s over, the quorum disengages, momentum wanes and everyone reverts to business as usual. The final step is recognition and reward conveyed for fixing the crisis. Big changes, big projects, and big results – these are the things that get noticed and rewarded. Everyone working on small, incremental changes and improvements for the better? … Yawn.
When the requirements for sustainment are poorly defined, not well understood and appear difficult to measure, they are avoided. Success requires broad participation, openness to new ideas and a convergence of standard, simple mechanisms aimed at improving the business. Overtly make the connection between transformation and sustainment, then weave it into the compensation, reward and recognition system. Make it safe and make it pay.
The concepts and execution requirements described here are so simple that they are easily dismissed. The ideas of broad inclusion and a flatter organization often require a significant re-evaluation of organizational norms and are naturally avoided. Any distraction; the latest crisis, a new technology or any approach or method that might require less coaching and change management is a welcomed relief. Without some overt activities that demonstrate our adherence to engagement, most will shift away – usually with the tacit approval of their bosses who never got it in the first place.
When engagement and sustainable transformation starts to occur, decisions are pushed down in order to optimize absolute value. This is a shift that challenges well-established networks that are built around personal relationships and existing dynamics. It’s disruptive. This above all others is the biggest reason for failure.
The truth is this shift frees energy that is traditionally spent on re-work, redundancy and errors. Not everyone will see it this way but when the new system of engagement is well defined and well structured, resistance is easily surfaced. Shifts in organizational and personal behavior are required. Recognize the fact that something that threatens entrenched relationships and systems succeeds only with a crystal-clear mandate, a well-defined plan and adequate coaching.
With all these obstacles, it’s no wonder the majority of organizations and leaders lament an inability to sustain their transformation and continuously improve. Start by viewing the system holistically with a keen eye on organizational dynamics, individual behaviors, simple definitions and an approach that is firmly linked to activity-based performance measures. This will help avoid rework that is exponentially more difficult the second, third, and fourth time through.
For information about how to engage workgroups and push decision making down, read about Kaufman Global’s Lean Daily Management System.
When it comes to implementing any new initiative, communication is a critical success factor. A full menu of changes; some large and sweeping, some small but critical, will be generated by and with people in the organization over the course of the effort. How leadership chooses to broadly communicate these changes ― all together, in small or large portions, or one-on-one, can make a huge difference in the rate of adoption. It’s important to carefully consider how, when, why, what and where information / updates will be presented to fully engage employees and, ultimately, drive sustainable improvements.
The way information is communicated to employees during times of change has a tremendous impact on the final results. If handled ineffectively, morale and productivity decreases ― despite the best of intentions. When there are looming questions and concerns, they lose faith. If employees don’t receive enough information, speculation and rumor can become truth. In the end, a disengaged workforce emerges, resulting in reduced effort and commitment just when their dedication is needed the most. How do you stop or prevent this from happening?
Leadership should consider these 10 ideas when planning for, announcing, implementing, and communicating Lean transformation activities:
It’s important for organizations to get their internal communications team involved from the very beginning. Too often, qualified communicators are involved after a backlash is in full force ― when leaks and rumors are rampant. CFOs and COOs are not typically qualified to understand how employees will respond to change and how best to share information. On the other hand, qualified internal communications professionals typically have proven expertise in change management, crisis communications, executive communications, etc. They need to have a seat at the leadership table.
Don’t confuse process (e.g., visioning, chartering executive steering committees, planning, endless PowerPoint presentations, etc.) with communication. While those meetings and processes can be communication vehicles if designed mindfully and handled in the context of a broader program, they aren’t adequate to meet all communication needs.
Once a plan and timeline has been developed based on the initiative strategy, start communicating. The longer employees have to wrap their heads around change, the better they tend to accept it. At the beginning of the change:
Update employees regularly to share victories and address pending issues. When employees are communicated with frequently, they are more likely to support the change for the long-term. Information can and should also be repeated (through multiple channels), as research shows that most people have to hear something several times before they fully process the message.
Some organizations make the mistake of using only one vehicle, such as e-mail or signage, to communicate changes. Considering not every employee digests information the same way, and that there are so many options to choose from, organizations that leverage a multi-channel approach ― combining email, intranet, social chat rooms, newsletters, presentations, face-to-face meetings, conference calls, etc. ― have more success.
Leadership does not only need to understand how to explain the transformation, they need to understand when they should and should not be the ones to speak about it. They need to know how to keep things positive. They also need to be able to drill down and explain what change means to various audiences. Keeping them in sync is critical.
It is often useful to test out messaging on a subset of stakeholders, especially when there’s time to do so. Testing can be done through focus groups, employee surveys, or a more informal round-table where individuals can practice delivering the message and get first-hand feedback.
Giving employees multiple opportunities to share concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas is crucial to the process. The more two-way communication is made a priority, the better the organization can keep its finger on the pulse of what future communications need to include to meet the needs of the audience.
To get employees to fully embrace change, a management system, like Kaufman Global’s Lean Daily Management System® (LDMS®), should be put into place to drive day-to-day focus. LDMS helps visualize activities and promote active communication about the work of individual teams every day. It:
People judge the performance of leaders not by what they say but by what they do. Employees will watch closely to determine how leadership is feeling about the change and will draw their own conclusions based on that behavior. Leaders should:
The following is an excerpt from Kaufman Global’s White Paper: Engage the Organization and a Performance Culture Will Follow. Here we examine the reasons why leaders fail to pursue employee engagement, even while it’s proven to be fundamental to success.
If we accept the idea that a fully engaged organization is fundamental to success, then we must ask, “Why Do Leaders Fail to Act?” The simple answer may be because it is exceedingly difficult to challenge ingrained culture and belief systems. Pushing decisions down, engaging the organization broadly and deeply, and giving up some amount of control is not a simple matter. In fact, it counters the culture of traditionally run organizations.
To dig a little deeper into the reasons leaders fail to pursue engagement, Kaufman Global recently surveyed a large group of top leaders and known change agents. These individuals come from diverse industry backgrounds, such as consumer products, energy, government and technology. Averaging over 20 years of experience, each has a proven track record of successfully engaging and improving their organizations.
The question was asked, “If we accept that the leader’s function is to create value and that one vital and comprehensive way to do this is by fully engaging the organization — at all levels and at all times — why do so few leaders truly, actively pursue this essential aspect of sustainability and performance?” Six possible answers were given with a rating that ranged from 1 (seldom) to 5 (often). A summary of the results follow. Additional detail is provided within the white paper.
Distraction | The top reason at 80% is that leaders are too distracted with day-to-day operations and other external inputs to focus themselves or their teams on anything other than existing systems applied to here-and-now deliverables. This defines a mostly reactive environment and one that has multiple competing inputs — often from above. It’s true enough that “Change starts at the top.” With enough distraction the opposite is just as true (and way more common). In this instance, engaging the organization is not valued enough to make it a formal priority.
Immediacy | Next comes immediacy at 72%. Immediacy has to do with the extreme focus on short-term goals and results. There’s no time for something that might not deliver a here-and-now win, requires some level of faith and is even slightly different than anything already being done. Moving upward in the organization, if results are not achieved, personal compensation and job security are at risk.
Immediacy and distraction are intimately linked. Distractions mount as the need for immediate results rises. Two back-to-back quarters of poor performance and the level of distraction goes off the scale. If this cycle goes on long enough, pressure and confusion over priorities lead to loss of morale and disengagement. People tend to exit these types of environments, and it’s unfortunate that engagement — a major mitigation factor and the single greatest contributor to employee morale and retention — is among the first to go and is seldom pursued in a systematic fashion.
Tools | Following closely at 68% is “toolitis.” This is a common ailment of many organizations where things like Kaizen Events, Value Stream Mapping and 5S are viewed as engaging the organization. It’s true that these types of activities get people involved, but only temporarily. Six Sigma is more of an expert practitioner methodology and has even less of an engagement mandate. There are many examples of organizations stalling in their Continuous Improvement efforts when they apply a tools-only approach. They have the tools, but value workers are not compelled to pick them up and use them because they aren’t immediately aware of, or have visibility to, their own performance. “Toolitis” is a big problem within production organizations, where employees find it difficult to expand into business processes because they can’t translate the improvement techniques they started with. Tools are most effective when they held in place with engagement.
All of these factors are closely related and combine to form a powerful barrier to real change. That “fail to understand” and “don’t believe” were scored as significant factors says a lot ― and not in a good way ― about basic leadership and management skills. Training is one element that can help, but people learn through their own experiences that are illuminated by existing values and norms. To change these patterns requires a significant reset on how organizations reward certain behaviors.
These barriers — and they apply at all levels — are daunting for anyone attempting change within the area they control. Some traps are more common depending on where you are in the organization. The lower you go, the more the system will attempt to kill your initiative (i.e., “Not invented here.”, “Who else knows about this?” or “This is not part of your job description.”). As you go higher in the organization, the problems associated with trying anything different prevent ignition ― pick any combination of reasons.
Those in the middle of the organization have simultaneously the most to gain and the most to lose. Here there is a lot of local control over value creation ― therefore the gains can be fast and big. In addition, the personal risk of failure for trying something different is less; yet there is strong attachment to the status quo and disruption isn’t much welcomed. Besides, in many situations, operating marginally better than one’s peers doesn’t require anything as foreign as attempting your own fully engaged organization. Without the support of peers and bosses, mid-level managers quickly start to feel they are rowing upstream alone.
Given all the barriers, it’s amazing that anyone pursues the engagement prerogative, but some do. And when someone, somewhere intends to make a meaningful difference by getting everyone involved to the fullest extent possible, the journey can be made a little easier with well-conceived boundaries that are defined by accountabilities, expectations and metrics. Journeys begin by starting to think about engagement as a process (as opposed to an outcome)…
Ready to dig deeper? This article is continued in our White Paper: Engage the Organization and a Performance Culture Will Follow Click here to download the full text.
Drop us a line if you want to learn more about Kaufman Global’s view on engagement.