Kaufman Global 2022 Accomplishments

Here we share a few project highlights and accomplishments from our work in 2022. Diverse client challenges spanned everything from manufacturing site selection to ERP readiness to managing contractors and work quality in a call-out environment.

  • Order-to-Cash Process Simplification. For an industry-leading Consumer Goods company we decomposed 42 macro processes across Finance, Engineering / NPD (New Product Development), Sales and Customer Service, and Planning, Procurement and Manufacturing. Significant process improvements were made in critical areas while defining ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) requirements to assist in a subsequent system selection.
  • Manufacturing Strategy: European Geo Selection. This industrial manufacturer needed to identify the best location to increase Eurozone capacity outside of the UK and enable growth through customer proximity. The analysis evaluated a dozen decision criteria across 10 short-listed countries. We analyzed: Supply chain cost and efficiency, proximity to customer, labor availability and rates, tax burden, quality of life, political stability, and facility and infrastructure costs. Outcome: Optimal country and zone identified from the very top three contenders; defined business case; and leadership consensus on the decision. Robust methodology aided quick accurate assessment of regional alternatives, which facilitated a collaborative client / consultant team.

Kaufman Global Accomplishments: Criteria Weighting for Site Selection Analysis

  • Analysis: Lead Time Optimization for Contract Labor in a Job-Call Out Environment. This client does installation work for homeowners across the US. The analysis focused on optimizing installation capacity with a focus on resource availability and retention, labor costs (regional and seasonal variation), process gaps, and revenue generation. Results included a significant opportunity to increase sales, fewer cancellations, lower contractor turnover, inventory reduction and strategically phased implementation plan for recommendations.
  • Rapid Performance Evaluations (manufacturing / office / enterprise): We conducted multiple RPEs in 2022. These two-day benchmarks provide insights into site performance and identify issues and opportunities to improve. Evaluation results are immediately actionable. A joint team of KG and client participants conduct the RPE, ensuring buy-in and a balance of internal and external viewpoints. We:
    • Tour, evaluate and score the current state of site performance via 20 Keys® and Vital Systems benchmarking tools
    • Assess leadership alignment on organizational objectives and priorities
    • Identify, rate, and rank the portfolio of improvement opportunities

Our approach delivers baseline performance scores and recommends next steps to achieve tangible results. Our clients use it for health check-ups, benchmarking multiple sites, and to quickly reduce uncertainty and create consensus in pursuit of results.

You have important business objectives to achieve this year. We can help accelerate them, bring outside perspectives, and up-skill your team to enable more effective change and sustainable results. Let’s talk about your needs for 2023.

The Kaufman Global Team

Use the Trust Equation to Make Better Decisions

Getting anything done between two parties requires trust. Even the simplest matters need it. When evaluating confidence in any relationship it’s helpful to use some simple logic — it’s time to revisit The Trust Equation.

Maybe it’s the engineer in me, or maybe the social biologist. Or perhaps it’s that part of me that wants to use equations to understand human interactions. Whatever it is, I use this formula often and it has a prominent place on my list of important things to keep in mind.

Trust = (Intimacy x Credibility) / Risk

  • Don’t get hung up on numbers. It’s the ratio that’s important. You can fill in the equation with subjective observations like: High/Low or Yes/No.
  • The bigger the deal, the more trust is needed. Basic transactions don’t need so much thought. I buy gas where it’s cheap and convenient. Risk is low and I assume the service station is a credible supplier of petrol.
  • Intimacy is a function of time and space. Being closer and having more frequent interactions brings greater intimacy. Intimacy is generated via personal and in-person interactions.
  • This might be the simplest explanation for what gets lost with remote work and virtual meetings. At the same time, it shouldn’t be assumed that physical proximity automatically generates intimacy. The point is; intimacy is part of the equation and when fostered, improves trust.
  • Credibility is gained by keeping commitments. Even the smallest commitment – like being on time for a meeting – builds credibility. So, credibility is a series of data points connected to commitments. Since it’s data now, one could easily draw a trendline. Interestingly for these calculations, a single data point is a trend – miss one commitment and you’ve lost some credibility. Lose too much, and you can never get it back. When this happens, the players must be swapped-out for any chance of success. A lot of credibility is determined via small interactions – so don’t mess around with this one.
  • Risk is always personal. There is no such thing as organizational risk. People’s sense of personal risk (as opposed to physical) almost always revolves around their perception of how they are or will be viewed by others. The question people ask themselves is: “If this turns out bad, how will I look for me? How will others view me? How will I view myself? And, will this affect my future success?” For humans, negative perceptions, especially from others IS risk.

It’s fairly easy to see how intimacy and credibility offset risk and how balancing these qualities leads to greater levels of trust. The greater the risk, the more intimacy and credibility required. Try it for yourself by applying it to some of the issues you’re dealing with now. The trust equation can help us all navigate relationships, tough decisions and any transaction that requires human-to-human cooperation.

Why Is It So Tough to Be Lean in a Relationship-centric Organization?

Relationship-centric organizations rely on personal networks and channels to get things done. These networks develop organically based on personalities, individual tendencies and the almost universal desire to avoid conflict.

In relationship-centric places, value streams flow along the path of least resistance. As processes are run, priorities are set and problems solved in a quid-pro-quo environment that attempts to minimize conflict. Here by definition, the optimal path is the one that causes the least friction. This always seeking-to-minimize-conflict to get things done is sometimes viewed as a strength. One will hear: “We’re great at problem-solving.” In reality, this approach is a hindrance for any business that wants to improve.

The Lean enterprise is process-centric. It seeks to understand process parameters first and then look objectively at performance. Here processes – not relationships – are meant to be optimized. People’s feelings, subjective by their very nature, are not a major part of the equation. Good performance and bad performance are simply metrics on a scale. In process-centric organizations, pointing out problems isn’t an attack on an individual or function, it’s an objective way to identify opportunities to improve.

It’s difficult to switch between the two. Relationship-centric organizations are conditioned to minimize problems that expose “my people”. Individuals gain status and their ability to perform by integrating into the network and getting along with others. Conflict isn’t constructive because it saps people’s energy and doesn’t really lead to solutions. The networks that enable work are not always obvious yet they tend to be stronger than any org chart. Changing to a new system that has a bias-for-process – something that transcends heroes and administrators – is a threat.

The status quo is strong. It’s aligned with human nature where avoiding conflict is a survival mechanism. It’s impossible to simply tell an organization to make the switch. This change is one of the hardest endeavors any organization ever pursues. It takes tremendous strength of leadership, patience, coaching and tactical implementation. But it’s doable and worth it – it’s just going to take more work, more time and greater discipline than you might initially think. In the change game, sustainability comes from endurance.

> Relationship-centric organizations are particularly susceptible to high turnover. When key people leave, they take with them their piece of the puzzle – one that isn’t on a process map or org chart.

> Process-centric organizations honor mistakes and problems because they are easily plugged into a constructive problem-solving mechanism.

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Employee Engagement Surveys … Why Bother?

Employee Engagement SurveyApparently, organizations are losing their often stated, but rarely demonstrated, most valuable asset – their people. You can’t open your news feed without seeing an article on The Great Resign. The media has latched onto the idea that workers are leaving their jobs in droves — which is great news for employee engagement survey companies.

The problem is bigger than it appears because we use the most obvious metric, people quitting their jobs. What about everyone who disengages without leaving, treading water for a paycheck and, at least in the US, health insurance?

The good and bad news is, for individuals who decide to leave their unfulfilling situation, there are plenty of other jobs to slot into that probably aren’t much better.

If we hold that better engagement leads to greater job satisfaction and higher retention rates – trust me, this equation is proven – then we can imagine there must be tactical solutions. No; more pay is not one of them. The fixes require a fundamentally different take on how people work together inside the organization. The effects of greater engagement and employee enthusiasm are fairly easy to understand – we can all relate. But, challenging the status quo of traditional organizations that think in terms of bosses and subordinates is hard. In other words, what needs to actually be done isn’t such an easy change.

Companies that understand the basis for the problem are better suited to develop effective solutions. They will be the ultimate winners in the current and ongoing musical-chairs-employment-job-fair extravaganza.

Unfortunately for employees in less enlightened organizations, engagement surveys are often the beginning, middle and end of failed endeavors. Mostly, because they’re easy. Here’s some advice that could save a lot of time and energy and actually avoid additional discontent related to typical surveys: Don’t do them at all. Even without a survey, we know that better engagement delivers results. It’s like communication. You always need to do more than you are.

So, forget the survey and just focus on better engagement. That said, if you decide to do one, share the results. It’s a pretty big disconnect when people are told their input is valued and then hear nothing about their valuable input. Better yet, have a tactical plan for how to address areas of concern – something beyond an employee newsletter, one-on-one feedback sessions and the one-off town hall meeting.

Let’s look at a few of the more obvious problems with the surveys:

  • Fear of retribution – Employees often avoid these types of inquiries or give elevated ratings. A lot of people believe they are tracked (unthinkable I know) and that their honest inputs or critical feedback will only make their situation worse. “No way am I doing that survey – I don’t believe that it isn’t linked to me. If I’m forced, I’ll just say it’s all good.”

Here is an idea for a simple employee engagement survey that would tell you everything you need to know. Ask just one question: Are you be interested in taking an employee engagement survey? Have everyone put their answer on a piece of paper, fold it in half and drop it into a sealed box. If the trend is no, well, then… engagement is poor.

  • Cognitive Dissonance – No one likes to admit, especially to themselves, that they are not really valued and their opinion doesn’t matter. So, when asked for their input, people tend to be a little optimistic. When we experience one thing, but need to believe something else – especially for our own self-image – we feel the discomfort and anxiety of cognitive dissonance. For most, it’s easier to modify one’s beliefs than to change their work environment. In other words, if I’m forced to fill out a survey, things look pretty good.
  • Hopelessness “I’m not doing a stupid survey. I’ve given my input for years. They know what I think and nothing ever changes.”

Translation: I’m not engaged enough to tell anyone I’m not engaged enough.

  • Management doesn’t know what to do with the results. Even if engagement surveys are perfect, ask all the right questions, and everyone completes them as accurately as possible, many managers don’t understand how to use the information. “We received the feedback, but it’s only the disgruntled employees who responded.” This may be somewhat true because the most irritated of the lot are already over the edge and don’t care much about retribution. Yet this comment misses the point in some obvious ways. It also shows that cognitive dissonance happens at all levels.

“Our ratings were low, but we were able to identify some individuals who are really upset. I spoke with them, heard their view and now things are better.” No, they’re not.

“We had a nice team-building event sponsored by the VP. The food was very good and everyone had fun. Our engagement scores were no better the next year.”

Some Things Change Quite Slowly

A recent article from McKinsey (link below) covers this topic well. It discusses what employees want from their workplace and how employees and management perceptions diverge. It’s a good article because it reminds us of something we’ve known for decades.

Every analysis of this type for the past 50 years has told us the exact same thing. Employees want to have a voice in the work they do. They want their opinion to matter. They want to participate in meaningful work and they want some recognition for their efforts. It’s really this simple.

To do this however, means that bosses and managers must give up some control. In many organizations, this is a foreign concept. It requires a deeper sense of trust, a common focus, greater understanding of work flow, distributed decision making, clarified roles and accountabilities, effective feedback mechanisms, and most of all the willingness to change. To be clear, it’s not just about managers giving up control. It’s also about subordinates accepting more. We have found that both sides of the equation resist vigorously.

These days, hard things are avoided and fundamental change is impossible for many. Without a significant emotional event, this slow drip (or flood) of employee attrition will be viewed as inevitable – just something we all need to get through. By paying attention now and using the current environment as a necessary catalyst for change, the best will rise to the top and take concrete measures to truly engage their people in a way that really does deliver employee enthusiasm for the place they work.


All quotes in this article are real quotes from individuals we have spoken with first-hand recently about their current work experiences.

Links for additional information

‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The Choice is Yours

Results Improve When Managers Give Up Some Control


Employee Engagement Definition


The Lean Daily Management System



The Grand Reopening … Everything is a Startup

As global economies reopen, we are presented with unique challenges and opportunities. It is possible however, to take advantage of the chaos and make positive impacts and a more resilient future.


In April the US began to emerge from the grips of the pandemic. It’s not so much a slow unwinding but more like an exploding spring. Demand for products and services is intense while companies’ ability to deliver is, let’s say… challenged.

Grand Reopening Globe with BannerDifferent parts of the world are coming on line at different rates and in direct correlation with decreasing Covid19 cases. That means for example, that Europe is about four months behind the US. Other geographies are slightly ahead or further back for various reasons, mostly related to vaccine access or acceptance. The demand curve will continue to oscillate up in predictable ways, along with the chaos of restarting literally millions of businesses. This syncopated global start-up means the economic tsunami will be roiling around a while – years perhaps. With that comes plenty of uncertainty, along with now obvious problems in supply chains, human resources and constrained capacities.

Caught Off Guard

Because there was an expectation that the ramp-up would be more gradual, businesses were caught off guard by the demand surge. There was a lot of tinkering during the last half of 2020. Everyone was working on things like line moves and people reorganization, inventory and asset rationalization, ERP implementation, cloud migration, etc. While various projects aimed at fixing things were (and are) underway, the resources required to complete them are trapped in a real-life game of Whac-A-Mole, trying to hammer down the most pressing emergencies as they arise.

When something happens that is a threat to survival or success, there is a strong tendency to react. This is a basic survival behavior – we all do it. Along with everyone else, you’re now operating in reactive mode. The question is, will you also integrate broader, more proactive solutions to drive sustainable, long-term resilience and come out of the current environment better positioned than your competitors?

Let’s take a look at several areas currently plaguing the global re-start, what you’re likely already doing, and what you should be doing to create a better foundation for success.

The Supply Chain is (Still) Broken

No surprise here. Every element of the supply chain from raw materials to sub-assemblies to shipping and warehouses is in recovery mode. Talent and labor pools are dry, assets are in storage, businesses have disappeared altogether or are entangled in mergers and acquisitions. Everything is (dis)connected. Supply and demand will sway back and forth as the recovery unfolds. But one thing is certain – demand will continue to outpace supply. This problem isn’t going away any time soon.

  • Reactive Mode (You are): Chasing critical part shortages, balancing labor with material availability, over-managing inventory and paying premium freight. And don’t forget time spent dealing with customers who are being shorted by ‘your’ supply chain issues.
  • Proactive Solutions to Pursue (You should): Rationalize suppliers by category of importance (A-B-C) and build better relationships with critical suppliers. Conduct a real risk-assessment with an action plan and review quarterly at least. Dual source the most critical components and optimize your network to shorten lead times.

Human Resource (HR) – Big Challenges Here

Everyone needs key talent in key roles. It’s not so easy now. People were released, retired or found other things to do. Many remaining workers are in new positions. Those with the tribal knowledge who could have prepared new team members are gone.

A hybrid model of remote and in-person work is here to stay. The nature of the work itself is different and continues to evolve. Employees have tasted the freedom of remote work and they want choice. Companies who do not offer some form of hybrid where possible and, who do not work to optimize this model, will lose people to those companies that do.

The rapid shift from downsizing to upsizing has caught Human Resource in many organizations off guard. For more than a year, all energy was put into getting smaller. Suddenly everything shifted to adding and retaining talent. It can be difficult for organizations to turn so quickly, especially in cases where HR processes were not robust to begin with.

  • Reactive Mode (You are): Filling critical vacancies NOW and dealing with stay incentives. If external resources are not available, internal resources are being reassigned. You’re attending to morale and engagement issues after a year of high anxiety.
  • Proactive Solutions to Pursue (You should): Simplify and streamline underlying HR processes like Hiring, Onboarding, Engagement, Training, and Retention. Focus on waste elimination and capture relevant metrics (time-to-hire, turnover, engagement). Elevate the Human Resources function – it’s going to be even more vital in the years to come.

Demand Exceeds Capacity

In the fight for customers and revenue, “out of capacity” is one of the most difficult things for any organization hear or bear. Yet, it’s quite common now. Businesses that made it through the pandemic have current demand and forecasted business that exceeds pre-pandemic levels. That’s right – more business than they have ever seen before – and this is with the global economy less than half up and running.

Besides the obvious pent-up demand from a year of lockdowns, businesses that survived or even thrived until now are gaining new opportunities and sales from competitors who did not make it. It’s a good problem to have but frustrating when so many puzzle pieces are missing. Gaps in asset availability (people, facilities, tools and equipment), quality and material flow are targets for quick capacity improvement.

  • Reactive Mode (You are): Doing triage – addressing each emergency as it occurs and ignoring everything that isn’t. Over-communicating with customers about parts and service shortages to avoid surprises. Re-balancing workloads in the bottlenecks and carefully managing inventories. Enabling quality at the source to improve yield. Paying overtime. Meeting each critical need with its own solution.
  • Proactive Solutions to Pursue (You should): Analyze the value streams that are struggling and implement solutions that go beyond single function quick-fixes. Performance problems such as efficiency, quality or asset utilization are always multi-faceted and span numerous areas. Beyond technical solutions, get your people more engaged in solving these kinds of problems and sustaining the results.

No Easy Answers, but Some Logical Steps Forward

The problems described here are rampant across the board, so you’re not alone. Many leaders and organizations will continue in reactive mode – bending to the tyranny of the emergency. This is a cycle that leads to faster burn-out with teams already fragile from 18 months of pandemic-related stressors. Others will recognize the opportunity to lean into these problems and make fundamental changes to processes and systems. To get started:

  • Prioritize and bin opportunities. Look for synergies.
  • Align your Leadership team around a cohesive plan and articulate it with one voice. This will reduce organizational anxiety and prevent assets from being pulled in opposing and un-prioritized directions.
  • Clarify objectives for the entire organization and describe the ways they will be achieved.
  • Use a formal project structure to get more of the organization engaged, spread the load, and speed implementation.

It’s a strange world right now with lots of distractions. The true opportunity lies in getting organized and addressing the system, not just the symptoms.


If you have a comment or story about any of this, we’d love to hear it – drop us a note.

If you’d like to hear more about this subject or how we can help with your business specific issues, call us at +1 317 818 2430 or hit the contact button on this page.

Feedback from Colleagues – A Moderated Thread

If you have a story to post, send it to me: jtimpson[at]kaufmanglobal.com

Putting on a lean hat I’d say:

  • Review your value streams, especially those hostage to supply chain problems or a real capacity constraint, for near term improvement opportunity.
  • Prioritize value stream improvement projects to quickly fix what you can, perhaps freeing up labor for other areas.  I use 25 – 30% for first pass VS capacity improvement, which could potentially reduce the need for more labor relative to historical performance.
  • Conduct 80-20 analysis on products and customers.  Though most companies are loathe to do this it may be a good way to further focus on the most important stuff.  Perhaps some products and customers can be offered  lower service or higher price, or dropped altogether.
  • Such an approach would fit within your leadership alignment and formal project structure approach, but perhaps with a more action oriented approach. The whole system doesn’t need to be in place before you start improving things and train by doing is a good way to build buy in to move forward.  Also, for labor constrained operations an employment security pledge at the outset should be easy to give to address fears of employment loss (but not necessarily job change).

~ Bill Roper, Roper and Associates


I always tried to maintain my focus on Adam Smiths principals and barriers of trade. They formed the base of how I developed many of my solutions.

  • Information: What do you have that I want or need?
  • Negotiation: What will I have to give to get what I want or need?
  • Transportation: How do I get what you have to give me to where I want to use it?
  • Enforcement: How do I know I will get what I want, in the quantity I ordered, with the quality I demand?

All of those 4 things have costs, reducing any of those costs will increase trade and profit to all involved. It’s that simple and that complex. But the important thing is ALL business fall into this, all of them.

All business:

  • Take something (Inputs Accounts Payable, RAW Inventory)
  • Do something with it (some sort of process, WIP Inventory)
  • Put it in something (wrap or container, Finished Goods Inventory)
  • Exchange it for payment (money, Accounts Receivable)

Just keep the focus on the essence, all the rest is noise and distractions.

~Martin Donegani

Respect for People Leads to Better Employee Retention

With the first quarter underway, everyone is leaning into 2021 with great expectations. Last year, technical and process levers were pulled to address business problems brought on by the pandemic. Now that things are settling a bit, it’s time pay more attention to people – your people. Doing a few things to ensure health and cohesion at work has as much impact on your business as any process or technical solution. Showing respect for people and following a few simpler rules leads to happier, more productive teams and better employee retention.

Telling Stories

Whether 2020 was crushing for your business or gave you an unexpected boost, everything changed. Job changes, pay cuts, more work, less work, remote work, lost colleagues, family stressors… the list goes on. People are still under stress. But from this chaos there is an opportunity to draw people closer, be attuned to their needs and be thoughtful with your intentions. Leaders must pay attention. Mis-steps here will shape their future and the futures of their companies. These are the things that people remember and the experiences from which stories are told – both good and bad. 1

What People Expect in a Relationship

Interactions at work are relationships. They are important. Good relationships have certain qualities. People expect things from them. For example, they want to be kept in the loop with information that is relevant to them. Seems reasonable. Or, they notice and appreciate when those inside the relationship keep their commitments. No surprise here. The point is, work relationships with team members, peers, subordinates and bosses are no different than any other relationship when it comes to what people expect. And you know what happens when people don’t get what they expect, right? They get upset.

Good communication is important. Showing respect is important too. It’s tough to argue against either of these. But in this instance, they’re too vague. They don’t give enough texture to what must be done to foster better connectivity and teamwork. So here are 5 specific things that everyone expects in a good relationship and that anyone can do.

5 Relationship Expectations

  1. To Be Kept Informed
    People need to know what is going on and how it might affect them. Communicating what you know, when you know it. Say what you don’t know too. Try to have the obvious questions answered beforehand.
  2. No Surprises
    Surprises are triggers. See Rule #1.
  3. Accessibility
    Being accessible is not the result of emails or standing meetings. It sometimes happens during the after-meeting and is harder to do in the virtual world.
  4. Commitments Kept
    Be prudent with your commitments. Keeping them is vital. Credibility is on the line.
  5. Follow Through
    Maintain momentum and cadence. Simple responses and acknowledgements help. Ask questions. Dig deeper when you need to.

On Balance

Sometimes we forget or even avoid the human side of the equation. How we treat others is more noticed than business processes or technology innovations. If people are your most important asset, treat them that way and do the small things that build stronger bonds and better teams. Everyone will be more engaged; your business will be better and so will the stories that are told.


  • A 2019 Gallup poll estimates that voluntary employee turnover costs US businesses alone $1 Trillion annually… and much of this is fixable.
  • 1If you are interested in how experiences, memories and the stories we tell about our lives are connected, check out Daniel Kahneman’s epic TED Talk on happiness: The Riddle of Memory vs Experience (20 minutes).
  • For a deeper dive related to this topic, register and download Engage the Organization for a Performance Culture white paper.

Feedback from Colleagues – A Moderated Thread

If you have a story to post, send it to me: jtimpson[at]kaufmanglobal.com

The Importance of Trust

Certainly the 5 steps go a long way to building or destroying trust.  I view trust as the accelerator in a change model.  If you have trust you can go a lot faster.  We did some things right out of the gate last year that I believe proved critical to our success.  In March we told our employees we were going to keep everyone employed even though we knew business was going to drop.  We wanted to remove uncertainty for them and their families.  We asked them to take the time they would have and double down on improvement efforts.  Our improvement efforts sky rocketed.  We focused on improving efficiency and increasing capacity.  We also accelerated our digital transformation and accelerated efforts to automate processes and cross training as we were concerned about how quarantine would impact absenteeism.  To improve communication we developed our own 5 tier system on how we would operate, later the state adopted a similar approach of color coding counties.  We provided daily, then weekly video updates on what we were doing as an organization. 2020 was certainly a challenging year.

~Bryan Debshaw (CEO Polaris Laboratories)

Personal Responsibility

This is a great article. However, I would like you to consider another point of view….honesty and transparency. Everyone is accountable for there performance and if they are falling behind, their leader must be honest with where they are not living up to expectations. We should be clear, performance is up to the individual, not the leader… we are all accountable for how we perform, our leaders should help us, but success is up to me!

~Matt Taylor (ex-Woodward Inc.)

Rational, Emotional and Political

I watched the 20-minute video, The Riddle of Experience versus Memory.  I found it fascinating. My key takeaways.

  • Experiential happiness and memory happiness are different; this distinction must be understood and recognized when attempting to affect either.
  • Because experiential happiness is fleeting and memory happiness is error prone; businesses utilize performance metrics to enhance their business decisions.  (The 20-minute video did not say this – nonetheless, this was my key takeaway).

My second point stated another way: Businesses are affected by the rational, the emotional, and the political.  Experience and memories affect our emotions and our politics.  Performance metrics affect the rational.  Because businesses are run by humans, we will never eliminate the emotional nor the political.  To the extent that organizations can minimize the emotional and the political and maximize the rational, they will be more successful.

~Bradford Anderson (Ex-Saudi Aramco)

Good (and Great) Leadership

I gave your article some serious thought and offer some commentary.  I agree with five keys points to build strong relationships.

From my perspective, a good leader takes a genuine interest in people at a personal level and not just on a professional level.  A good leader recognizes that people are motivated by many factors and one of the strongest factors is friends/family.  The need to financially and emotionally support a family is a key driver for the actions of most everyone.  Let’s face it, work-life has morphed in many ways to a 24/7 culture, especially with the continued evolution of technology.  It is a challenge for people to leave work at the office/factory/field and focus on the family.  Good leaders recognize the need to let people take a break from the “grind” and recharge their energy for the coming days.  This recharge usually happens at home.  Good leaders also take a deliberate approach to acknowledge the personal side of employees’ lives.  This might be done by opening a conversation about someone’s family, hobbies, favorite sports team, or many other topics.  Communication is key and listening is an imperative.  A leader should also not be afraid to talk about their own personal lives.  Strong relationships are built around an understanding of what drives people.  Many years ago, my wife and I were going to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and we were planning to dine at a restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I reported to a leader that was very good at interfacing with me on a personal level, and through our daily conversations, he became aware of our marriage milestone.  This kind of conversation was a regular part of our daily interaction.  When my wife and I arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by the server, we were told that a bottle of champagne was waiting for us.  Much to our surprise, my manager had contacted the restaurant and purchased the champagne to help us celebrate!  This kind action sent a powerful message and became a learning moment for me as a developing leader.  My manager’s action told me that he recognized I have a life outside of the office and that he had been listening about my upcoming plans. The fact that he took time from his busy schedule to contact the restaurant and surprise us made me feel valued and motivated to follow in my leader’s footsteps.

~Mike Whittenberg, Repeat Precision

Communication is Key

What comes to my mind is an experience we have had at one vendor’s manufacturing site, south part of Russia. We came to a final inspection and to discuss terms of equipment punch list fulfillment after delivery. It was a big piece of equipment (a vacuum column with weight over 560 tons) and required water logistics before ice closes navigational period in Omsk. And the window was about to close, we could not afford waiting for another year. So the supplier was in a hurry, their local management explained an action plan and that there were some defect spots on few welding seams (4 meters in total) – welders had to cut out these spots and weld them all over again with further NDE (non-destructive exam). My colleague and I were at the shop floor next to our unit being processed. I began to suspect that the repairing activities were not up to promised schedule. So I asked my companion to climb to a welder and talk to him, find out if something is missing or he needs help. After 5 minutes conversation we realized that the welder was irritated, he required consumables and assistance of a metalworker, he was waiting for more than 3 hours. Next I talked to another worker and find a similar situation. Long story short – we have investigated this and realized that there was no communication or connection between production management and their value adding personnel at the shop.

Before we experienced this scenario our inspector was meant to execute both inspection and expediting activities while visiting manufacturing site. As a corrective measure we separated these tasks when managing vendors with low rating. In other words if, for some reason, the vendor experienced difficulties to keep up mfg schedule, two resident inspectors were engaged at shop floor and the one doing expediting performed daily milk runs to make sure production management and value adding workers linked together and daily schedule/plan was followed.

I hope my example helps you adding some value.

~Pavel – Oil and Gas Industry

Making The Case for Value Stream Analysis

Value Stream Analysis or Straight to Implementation? That’s the question.

Complex operations problems are never solved by picking around the edges. Take a deeper view and do the examination that actually gives you the results you need.

Process Problems and Business Issues

Most process improvement techniques available today include some form of evaluation or assessment to baseline performance. This is good but it doesn’t replace analysis. Techniques like Rapid Improvement Events, workshops, A3s and even six-sigma’s DMAIC are mostly aimed at micro-, or best case, macro-processes. As such, they’re fantastic for fixing small problems using bottom-up methods and countermeasures, but they aren’t going to impact extensive value streams. Consequently, when these improvement techniques are applied as core practices to solve more complex, overarching business issues, the results often fall short of what actually could have been achieved.

Analysis Graphic with world and people and barcharts

People, geographies and data – important considerations for analysis

Value Stream Analysis – the examination of causes, effects and solutions – is a better starting point for macro and mega business issues. Typical targets include things like supply chain, sales and operations planning, consolidation, expansion, order-to-cash. Here, cross-functional and often tangled value streams are thorny and resilient. Addressing issues like these yields far greater results. Yet, these processes that are the fabric of the enterprise are often avoided to instead work on the pockets inside of them. This is because the modern organization promotes functional silos and when the inevitable push back comes, it’s simply easier to move on to something that can be more narrowly accomplished without attempting cross-functional cooperation.

Business Performance Fixes | Two Approaches

There are two ways to move forward: Direct to Implementation or Value Stream Analysis then Implementation. With direct to implementation, after some process evaluations or organizational surveys have been done, the decision to proceed is fueled largely by instinct and intuition; capacities proven to be seriously flawed in human beings. Conversely, with analysis, instincts and emotion are continually challenged with facts and data because change management is included in the analysis. Both ways can work, but be aware of the decisions you’re making when you go one way or the other.

Anyone tasked with improving business performance needs to manage risks and expectations. So it’s good to state the expected results at the start. With a narrow focus, there are fewer expectations and less risk – it feels safer. If goals are bigger and bolder, then doing some more thoughtful analysis and implementation design is essential. In this, the biggest problem to be solved isn’t the technical description about how results will be achieved – this is straightforward. Rather, gaining consensus about the path ahead is the most important outcome.

Direct to Implementation

This happens frequently. Sometimes process improvement itself is the objective. Here, the idea is to conduct a series of workshops, value stream mapping, training and such. Often, we’re told that for smaller direct to implementation projects, the business case isn’t important. We have never, no not even once, found this to be true. Business results are always important and inevitably someone is going to ask for them. Be ready.

Direct to implementation requires a lot of faith that process improvement will roll quickly to improve business performance. But, compared to what? Here, pay special attention to the starting conditions – the baseline. This makes measuring any improvement that follows a little easier. For example, if you’re working on solving a quality problem, be sure to understand the current level of defects and their cost, what reducing them would be worth and how any improvement becomes obvious and visible.

If direct to implementation is the only option on the table, then it should follow a specific pattern. If any of these steps are missed – particularly the steering team, there will be trouble.

  1. Steering Team formed and actively engaged
  2. Target Ideas generated via interviews and team working sessions
  3. Simple, prioritized opportunity list from impact-difficulty session with baseline performance data provided by the target areas
  4. Metrics identified and documented. We call this the metrics dashboard. It’s a baseline measurement of key performance indicators
  5. A plan that connects implementation activities with target opportunities
  6. Implementation with a sequence of activities intended to affect the performance baseline
  7. Monitoring and adjustment of the performance dashboard throughout the project – and beyond

Value Stream Analysis and Implementation Design

Value Stream Analysis and Implementation Design Cycle

Analysis and Implementation Design Cycle: functional, operational, behavioral and financial inputs deliver a doable implementation roadmap

If you have the option, or maybe more importantly, if your issues are big enough that they warrant an up-front understanding of specific results and, you suspect you’ll encounter functional boundaries with numerous stakeholders then; start with an analysis. This is a highly accelerated mini-project. The deliverables are informed clarity, organizational alignment and mobilization, a time-based action plan and a business case. It follows these basic steps:

  1. Governance – Steering Team formed that lasts through the project (and beyond)
  2. Targets and opportunities developed via interviews and working sessions
  3. Solutions attached to business performance objectives and metrics
  4. Everything tested with data and analysis — including financials
  5. Direct observation of measured work processes
  6. Process decomposition (mapping, measurement, and lots of other analytics) – to connect specific improvements to business performance
  7. Final report and decision for a go-ahead to implementation

This is a cycle with numerous inputs validated against data and consensus. As new information emerges, it’s evaluated again, and again, until well-informed, well understood and potentially big decisions can be made.

The Steering Team meets every week for review, discussion and re-direction as necessary. This keeps stakeholders actively engaged and informed throughout the entire process — the surest way to enable consensus.

With an Analysis you get:

  • Less ambiguity and an up-and-running governance structure (the Steering Team) to deal with any obstacles and barriers to progress that arise
  • Strong consensus across the organization — especially with the leaders who must champion it, and,
  • A validated business case; the reason for doing any of this in the first place. A business case is an “if-then” statement: “If we do these things, then we will get these results in this time.”

Either Way, Make a Plan

You might be thinking: What’s the difference? There’s a business case – or at least a result – for both. Keep in mind:

With Direct to Implementation, results are going to be less strategically chosen and less impactful. Cross-functional boundaries are harder to breach and the business case is lagging because it is stacked up during the implementation work. There is more inherent risk because of the ambiguity that persists with the “We’ll figure it out as we go,” trajectory. Without the structure prescribed from an analysis you’ll need to watch for waning resources and organizational focus.

With Value Stream Analysis then Implementation, results bear greater fruit with higher confidence. The business case is predictive and validated within the project work. The team-building, fact-finding and planning that are part of analysis makes results from implementation more prone to happen because expectations and the steps required to achieve them are completely, explicitly and thoroughly vetted. In other words, less risk for all stakeholders.

Sometimes you have no choice, the only way to start fixing things is to start small and work within a confined process, organization or functional boundary. If this is your best option for taking action, do it! On the other hand, if you have the ability dig into the more complex and interesting problems of extended value streams, be bold and begin with an analysis.

It’s ok to be bold sometimes.

If you want any help on filling in any of the details beyond a 1000-word blog post, you know where to find us.


The Missing Link of Lean Success

Anyone who has been involved with Lean for any period of time has probably concluded three things:

  1. Once demonstrated, lean concepts are relatively easy to understand.
  2. With support, lean concepts and tools are relatively easy to apply.
  3. No matter what, lean concepts and tools are difficult to sustain and expand once implemented.

Often, lean success is defined as the existence of a “kaizen culture” in which lean tools are effectively applied, by enthusiastic employees, to eliminate waste every day.  If this is true, then many organizations should probably quit their lean programs now, as they will never succeed by this definition.

There is no roadmap for achieving a kaizen culture, and left to their own devices, most organizations will run out of time and patience before they discover the path.  This article explains a process used to develop a kaizen culture and with it, achieve lean success.

Kaizen culture is characterized by:

  • Extensive knowledge of, and success with, the tools of lean manufacturing;
  • Ability to apply the tools every day to improve operational performance without overt management direction; and,
  • Knowledge of where to apply the tools, or a process for continuously refocusing on problems and opportunities.

This level of lean success requires incredible focus and discipline over an extended period of time (50 years for Toyota), extraordinary management leadership, vision and commitment, and enlightened corporate leadership.  Most companies that have succeeded with lean have done so because a small group of people have driven it relentlessly, achieving gains by the application of lean tools and then, transforming the culture to embrace the tools and build the discipline to ensure continued adherence to lean concepts.

Lean Daily Management System is vital for Lean success and Kaizen culture

Unfortunately, most organizations lack the charismatic, committed leader capable of driving such a change by force of personality alone.  Such organizations need a more structured process for achieving the discipline and focus necessary for lean success.  This process is the Lean Daily Management System®, or LDMS®.  While LDMS implementation will not guarantee lean success, it will, if properly applied, gradually build the foundation skills necessary for success.

LDMS is focused on intact work groups of five to nine people.  It provides an integrated set of planning, measurement and problem-solving tools to help the work group:

  • Focus on daily performance measurement and improvement
  • Improve effectiveness of supervisory communication
  • Solicit and evaluate employee improvement ideas
  • Assess lean status and define improvement objectives

The LDMS is a process that, if diligently followed, will build the new “habits” necessary to develop a kaizen culture.  LDMS has five key elements:

  1. Primary Visual Display (PVD) serves as a central communication point for a work group. The work group members themselves maintain performance metrics, schedules, improvement actions, cross-shift management issues and other useful group information on the PVD.
  2. Shift Start Up Meetings, of ten minutes in length, are held daily in front of the PVD and serve as a forum in which to recap prior day’s performance, communicate critical information for today, reinforce safety and other work group practices, solicit solutions to problems, etc.
  3. Work Group Metrics and Short Interval Coaching, such as hour-by-hour charts, display expectations, actual performance and problems or issues through the shift. Performance metrics are essential to instill the discipline necessary for standard work and other lean practices to be sustained.
  4. Kaizen Action Sheet (KAS) System is a tool to systematically collecting and evaluating employee improvement suggestions. Most employees are full of ideas and are willing to share them, but lack a process to capture the ideas, evaluate them and ultimately implement them for operational improvement.
  5. Long-term Improvement Planning Tools, such as the KG 20 Keys® assessment, help facilitate improvement planning and goal setting. While day-to-day problem solving is important, it is also critical for work groups to focus on longer-term improvement needs and maintain a plan for achieving improvement goals.

The LDMS seeks to build new lean habits in the work area.  And, like any new habit-building program, the LDMS must be practiced diligently for a period of time, (90 days seems to be the minimum), until the new processes gradually become “business as usual.”  Day-to-day, hands-on coaching of work groups and team leaders is essential to ensure LDMS acceptance.  Initially this is accomplished through process compliance, but ultimately through knowledgeable use of the tools.

LDMS implementation is a slow process, but one that must be undertaken to ensure that lean implementation does not turn into yet another “here today, gone tomorrow” improvement program.  LDMS for a work group will typically be implemented over a four to five-week period, introducing one element each week and extensively coaching the element’s use after introduction.  Once the elements are fully implemented, it can take another six to eight weeks for a team to “get it” and begin to work effectively on their own.  During introduction and on a regular basis thereafter, LDMS process and performance must be assessed to ensure success.  Diligently following the process is the key to LDMS success, which in turn, is the key to establishing the kaizen culture so essential to lean.

The LDMS is focused on improving micro-process (work group) performance in a lean system.  It is part of a broad-based lean deployment, not a substitute for value stream mapping, kaizen events and other methods to identify and implement lean improvements.  Think of LDMS as the glue that will hold lean improvements in place and gradually broaden the application of lean tools within your organization.

Work group LDMS must be linked to higher-level operational management activities within an organization to ensure seamless communication of expectations, feedback on results and review of improvement ideas.  As teams and organizations gain experience with LDMS, work groups become more empowered and the freedom to act increases dramatically.  LDMS will help bind lean changes to the process and build lean thinking into the culture at the lowest manageable level of the organization—the intact work group. The LDMS enables average groups of employees to form into teams and begin to self manage.  LDMS is the missing link of lean success for many organizations.

This article was written by William Roper in 2001 and published on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) website – it has since been hidden behind their firewall. Over the years, the article has been cited many times as people try to explain what makes Lean work or fail inside the organization. Bill is an authority on Lean and all things related to operational improvement. I have learned much from him. Early on, he taught me and many others about how to conduct the Kaizen Event – before it was even slightly in vogue and since then, about the absolute importance of leadership and employee engagement. It seems fitting to re-visit this article now 20 years on, to see how much or how little, things have changed. ~ Jerry Timpson, Kaufman Global

Lean Daily Management System®, LDMS® and 20 Keys® are all registered trademarks of Kaufman Global.

Bill Roper is a Lean and operational excellence expert. You can find him here on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bill-roper-a197581

The Law of Holes and Restoring Margins

Restoring Margins

It’s al about margin restoration! The business impact of Covid19 is unquestionable. For some, results have been positive but for many, not so much.  Most outcomes have been devastating and the hole (loss of margin over time) keeps getting deeper. This article outlines three types of businesses and encourages leaders to expand beyond their standard playbook, even in this time of uncertainty.

The Law of Holes - When you're in a hole, stop digging #marginrestoration

The Law of Holes

When you find yourself in a hole… Stop Digging.

A hot topic for all businesses should be Margin Restoration. Owners and investors have shown a degree of patience with their Boards of Directors and executive leaders. So far, they have tolerated low margins. However, this patience and accommodation will end. Their capital flowing from high-risk low margin businesses to low-risk high margin businesses. Getting to better margins to fill the hole is imperative. Waiting and hoping are not good options.

The hole has been dug. Whoever fills it up fastest not only survives, but thrives. Acceleration up the curve is a window of opportunity. The good news is that the pandemic provides a lot of cover for anyone willing to try new things. If something doesn’t work out, one can always blame the pandemic or any other weirdness going on in the world today.

Yet, I find many businesses are still in triage mode with persistent emphasis on cutting, organization flattening and virtual operations. Not much energy is going into solving more complex process and operational issues. Instead, businesses have jettisoned their internal fixers with little thought beyond the next quarter. This isn’t an indictment. On the contrary, with so much uncertainty it’s difficult for any of us to consider much further than a month or two out. But for the same reason; that abnormality is the only certain thing we have right now – we must embrace a more creative approach to close the gap.

In the past, fixing operations took guts, as in: Do we have the guts to do transformative things without the cover of a crisis? Now, since we’re dealing with a crisis of gargantuan proportions, it’s not a matter of guts but rather a matter of survival. In the fog of war, everyone’s distracted. Deliberate and coordinated focus on core operations and processes is key now.

Businesses are Affected Differently

Let’s consider three categories of impacted businesses you’ll no doubt recognize.

  1. No way out until customers can return – think airlines and airline manufacturers or cruise ships (which are now being sold for scrap), along with the hospitality and entertainment industries. All stunned by the turn of events. There isn’t a clear path forward. Air travel for example, is down between 50-75% for 2020. This trend is expected to continue.
  2. Less than expected revenue and margin – Manufacturing, oilfield services, healthcare, brick and mortar retail, etc. are trying to weather the storm of decreased demand and broken supply chains. Ultimately the margin and cash hole is so deep that fundamental change happens one way (transformative change) or the other (the business fails).
  3. Little or no negative impact – Pharmaceuticals, Amazon, food and several others have been little affected or even positively impacted. People still need medicine, still need goods to maintain their homes and still must eat; the same as before Covid19. The opportunity here is to apply lessons learned from everyone else – like how to make customers and employees feel safe enough to engage or how to make supply chains more resilient.

The Pressure is On

It feels like we are in the flat bottom of a U-shaped recovery and the edge curving up is nowhere in sight. Who knows, maybe next week will feel different? There’s always hope…

Yet, this margin issue is not going away. Pressure intensifies for those businesses that fall short. Cutting and flattening is already done. The objective now must be to accelerate out of the situation. Process redesign, functional integration, simplification and supplier capability are all valid targets.

Where to Start

All can take advantage of the chaos. In the three types of business described above, #2 – places that make products and deliver services – have the greatest potential. By the way… going virtual won’t fill the hole for these enterprises.

Acceleration requires a transformative approach. Major disturbances spell opportunity with indicators such as staff reductions and furloughs, facility closures and material disruptions. Those organizations that embrace fundamental shifts in the way work gets done will take more than their fair share of competitive advantage.

Processes, systems and organizations should be re-defined and implemented quickly. New operating models will emerge. Good initial targets include:

  • Peak performance in manufacturing and service delivery (start with an analysis)
  • Integrated supply chain – including supplier capability and resilience to reduce risk
  • 1 or 2 core processes – simplification and functional integration vs. a re-designed org chart


How we respond to chaos in the world today sets the stage for everything that comes next. Those who make specific, tangible changes focused on top performance and resilience will accelerate out of this and be set up for better results in an uncertain future. None of this is dependent on a vaccine and frankly, waiting for anything is the wrong approach. Remember, playing it safe and being bold are not mutually exclusive.


If you’d like some input on how to think through next steps and how to best target your opportunities, drop us a line.

Why It Is Difficult to Follow Rules

Three icons with two wearking facial protection masks and one not

Businesses are accountable to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. This means things like wearing a mask and social distancing during a pandemic. These are the rules, but as we’ve all seen, it’s difficult to follow the rules. In the age of Covid19, the potential to show you care has never been greater. Yet, many businesses are not taking advantage of the opportunity. As people strive to get back into the economy, everyone will remember if they felt safe with you; or not. If any enterprise wants to lock in loyalty now and for years to come, they would do well to pay attention to the current environment and implement appropriate safety practices. We’ve all seen examples of good and bad. So we must ask ourselves:

How do we make good practices, like wearing masks and social distancing, work?

Road Trip!

As with all things, the answer begins with a road trip! During the last week of May and first week of June, I took a 6800 mile (11,000km) road trip across the United States. At this time, quarantine restrictions were being eased. Many places were still closed and a lot of people had not yet ventured out. Yes, I took all sorts of precautions. I wore a mask everywhere, even while refueling. I used alcohol wipes relentlessly, did not enter a single restaurant and minimized grocery stops. I ate all meals in (or near) my SUV, and slept there too for 15 nights.

Map of the United States with Trip Route

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As you might expect, I saw examples of good and bad Covid19 management practices. Social distancing and masks were prevalent when I stopped briefly for supplies in Oklahoma City and Napa CA. Most of the California coast for 100 miles north of San Francisco was closed, and while some felt this was over-kill, it sends a clear message that danger exists. In fact, along this stretch of highway there were still shelter in place signs up. At almost all of the McDonalds drive throughs the servers wore masks and gloves, credit card readers are presented so no cards are passed back and forth and your meal is given to you on a tray. In Denver, almost everyone was wearing a mask and staying distant in both public places and private businesses.

On the other hand, as I drove through Flagstaff Arizona and Moab Utah, the crowded streets and few masks were a preview of problems to come. In Moab, it felt too risky to even get out of my car. Along the way, more than half the rest areas on the highways were closed due to Covid19. While this may seem like a good way to ensure social distancing, all it really does is make service centers and truck stops even more crowded.

Perhaps the most discomforting situation I encountered was in Redding, California. Of the 150 or so people I saw at three locations (Walmart, Sonic and ampm service station), only about 10 people had their faces covered even though masks were mandatory in much of California at that time. I felt I should have warned them that there was a pandemic in progress because no one seemed aware. It felt unsafe. I had to wonder; do these businesses care about my safety? Do they have a policy or a process? If they don’t, why not? If they have rules, why aren’t they enforced? These seem like logical questions that all businesses should be asking themselves because their employees and customers sure are. (As of July 15, Walmart is requiring masks at all US locations.)

A Big Experiment and Lessons Re-Learned

Experiment graphic with beaker and gears

For Covid19, the use of face masks and social distancing are the best weapons we have right now. These methods and practices are accessible to most everyone. When given a choice, many who could use these techniques choose not to. Until we get a critical mass of people to participate, we will continue the cycle of cases spiking up followed by lock downs and restrictions. And it’s not just the United States. This cycle is in progress around the world.

Without being pedantic, masks and distance slow the transmission of the virus. Less transmission means fewer people get sick and die. It also means more people feel more comfortable being out and engaged in the economy.

The issues related to wide-spread use or non-use of masks and social distancing in response to the pandemic is a lesson about rules and compliance on a scale rarely seen. Similar problems arose during the Spanish Flu, but that was a hundred years ago so this is new for all of us. Well… dealing with a pandemic is new. Issues with people following or not following rules isn’t so new. With so much at stake, it’s worth examining why it’s hard to achieve compliance with even simple things and what can be done about it.

Why Better Procedural Adherence is Important

Foremost; the incalculable cost of health and human lives. A recent meme addressed this issue with this interesting take:

The mistake we made was telling people that wearing a mask would protect others.

Implying that if we believed wearing a mask would help prevent one’s own death, it might lead to better compliance. Sadly, this isn’t true either. But, just a slight increase in uptake would make a difference, so the idea isn’t without merit. The only thing we can conclude is that even an awareness that not wearing a mask could kill you or someone else isn’t enough to compel many.

Then there’s the economic value of reducing the incidence of Covid19. Whether you know someone affected by the disease or not, you are for sure personally affected by the economics of the pandemic. The economy won’t really open up until the majority feels safe within it. We are a long way from that.

The Individual, The Enterprise and The Culture

Survival is the most basic human instinct. People naturally avoid danger. But everyone has a different danger gauge. The notion of danger and safety is subjective. We as individuals evaluate each element differently about what is safe, what is necessary, how much social pressure is tolerable and what we might get away with. We’re dealing with an infinite number of variables. Many people conclude that avoiding danger is the best option and decide that wearing masks and staying some distance from others are reasonable. Not everyone comes to this conclusion.

Because of this disparity, individuals who neither wear masks nor social distance, keep many others away and out of the economy.

Each of us make choices based on our personal biases. If you want to compel a different behavior broadly, you will never do it by convincing everyone it’s the right thing to do. But let’s get beyond the individual for a moment and talk about culture and the enterprise. It is here that the levers of change operate.

Culture and Governments

At the top of the food chain we have culture. Since culture is often associated with countries, we can combine these in a way; recognizing that countries contain many cultures. Where caring social structures that attend to people’s well-being exist, it is easier to apply social pressure for compliance. In other words, if caring about people’s health and safety is highly valued, then people feel more obligated to participate and move toward this social norm.

In places where governments are more willing to establish and enforce rules  for dealing with Covid19, the odds for compliance are greater too. Often the work required for enforcement in both the public and private sectors is perceived to be more trouble than its worth. It seems so much easier to side-step the issue so we end up with few standards or even worse; inconsistent and confusing ones. Meanwhile cases and deaths rise while economies crater.

Everywhere around the world has a different mix of these attributes – caring social structures and the willingness or ability to enforce. The United States is at the low end of the spectrum on both counts and therefore experiences high numbers of Covid19 cases. Anywhere that is sort of “squishy” about this will find it difficult to manage the pandemic.

It’s Only Business

We cannot wave a magic wand and change the beliefs and biases of every individual and we can do little to change established cultures. When it comes to rules and compliance, the enterprise / business entity is the best control point. Here, it doesn’t matter whether or not someone believes the requirement’s for entry are good or bad. Products and services and even employment are only available to those who comply. It’s transactional.

If we look at it from a strictly business perspective, its worth noting that:

Those who feel endangered because safety protocols such as masks are being ignored, will stay away and they will remember that their well-being was compromised long after the crisis has subsided.

Employees who are forced to work in what they perceive to be an unsafe environment will at minimum resent it. Yet many businesses default to the lowest common denominator – no mask required, mask optional, or masks required but terrible procedural adherence. This is a bad business decision.

Businesses that don’t take decisive steps to ensure safety and reduce the transmission of Covid19 or are waiting for the government to solve this are missing the point. They have a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership and connect with their employees, customers and suppliers by showing they really care and are willing to make and enforce rules.

How To Have Better Mask Wearing and Social Distancing Compliance

Let’s imagine a business is grappling with the idea of implementing procedures to keep their employees and customers as safe as possible and still conduct business during the pandemic. If the goal is to achieve compliance and get more people to wear masks (correctly, over the nose) and social distance (2 meters between individuals) — three things must happen.

A cycle diagrap showing 1 Define, 2 Teach and 3 Reinforce

  1. Define the rules
  2. Teach the rules
  3. Reinforce and adjust the rules

Define: Not guidelines: Rules / requirements. Unambiguous and clear. When they’re violated, mitigation steps must be clearly defined too.

Keep everything as simple as possible. For a single location this is easy enough to do. For a large, multi-national corporation, processes and procedures need to be both global and local. Establishing requirements, how they are going to work and how they will be enforced requires significant process understanding and review cycles. It is essential to involve those working within the processes to gain insight about what really needs to happen.

Teach: This doesn’t mean distributing and posting a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about communication, alignment and refinement through lessons learned. Context is important, particularly for employees. Be clear about why are you asking them to behave in a certain way. For visitors and guests, your objective is to teach as quickly as possible the rules and what is expected of their behavior while visiting.

Visual systems and signs are a great way to teach, but are not enough by themselves. Direct interaction and communication are among your best tools for conveying what’s expected and how to behave inside your business.

Reinforce and adjust: We’re changing people’s behaviors. To accomplish this, we must change our own behaviors. Now is the opportunity to lead by example, model the behaviors and demonstrate your values.

Assuming requirements have been clearly communicated and trained, then we deal with enforcement. This is often where trouble begins because it deals with conflict. Most people prefer to avoid conflict. Having clear and concise processes and procedures, that are well communicated helps with enforcement. To figure this out and develop a standard process, start with “what if” scenarios and establish standard mitigation steps.

Leadership is key here. When there is a violation, it is not ok to look the other way or manifest exceptions. When someone says, “Well, I don’t know, I think it’s ok this time…” you just took 10 steps backwards. Leadership must support those who are following and administering the rules by actively governing:

  • Dealing with exceptions. The situation on the ground is always changing. There will be exceptions and new twists. These need to be understood and integrated into the process.
  • Communication: Inbound (what’s working and what’s not) and outbound (any changes or lessons learned that need to be spread out).
  • Metrics: What are the numbers related to Covid19 safety compliance? What needs attention and where are we performing well and why?
  • Status Review: At least one a week. The situation on the ground is changing so fast that anything less won’t work.

The situation is dynamic. It’s ok to adjust the rules. As best practices and lessons learned are identified, they need to be quickly integrated into the three phases noted here: Define, Teach and Reinforce.


There are certainly those who are waiting to see if this thing – Covid19 –  just goes away and we can get back to normal. It is painfully obvious that it’s not going away nearly soon enough for businesses to simply tread water. Everything is a choice. Either way you go, people will remember for a long time.

Organizations that take the steps outlined here will get their businesses up and running faster and will forge important connections with their employees, customers and suppliers. They will be doing it in a way that shows that they really do care about the health, safety and well-being of the people within their sphere of influence. In a genuine and business-smart way, they really will be helping to get the economy back on track.


The steps for better compliance outlined here are high-level. If you want to learn more about how to achieve better compliance fast, Kaufman Global can help. For you and me, be safe, wear a mask and social distance.