Lean Engagement Team

Telling a Great Business Story Starts With… 0

Dr. Nick Morgan:  Good stories reveal their structure and they tell you where they’re headed and yet, still provide surprises, so you’re interested. When we go to a Hollywood movie, we have certain expectations. We know things are going to start with a bang. We know that the hero is going to off on a long journey and things are going to happen to him and it’s going to be tough. We know that he’s going to win in the end if it’s a happy ending. nick-morgan

We have certain generic expectations. What surprises us then, is the detail along the way. We care about detail. We care about the story only when we know what the overall structure is and we sense that there’s a good story going to happen. When somebody tells an anecdote, there’s no story there and so, we don’t know where it’s headed and we don’t care about it.

Dr. Nick Morgan’s New Book: Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact

Joe Dager:  In a business story, should I be making sure people understand how the story is going to unfold in the beginning?

Dr. Morgan:  Yes, but you have to do it in artful way. You can’t say, “So now, I’m going to tell you a story and it’s going to have a beginning, a middle and an end.” You have to tie it into one of the great basic stories that I talk about in How to Tell Great Business Stories, and is the book that you referenced. There are five of them. There’s the quest. That’s the one that Hollywood tells most often, by far. There’s a stranger in a strange land, there’s revenge, there’s a love story and there’s rags to riches. If you tell one of those five basic stories, then people get it.

If you say, to your business audience, “We’re about to head out on a journey and it’s going to be a long journey. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to work late nights and we’re going to have to eat a lot of junk food and drink a lot of Pepsi. We’re going to have to work harder and pull together as a team better than we ever have before.”

If we do that, we’re going to come out with this product, which is going to reinvent the paper clip industry in a way that’s so astounding. We will be heroes. They’ll stand up and cheer for this paper clip that’s like no other paper clip. It’s going to be incredible.

What I’ve done there is I’ve made the audience the hero. I told them that the journey is going to be long and hard. I’ve told them there’s a cool goal that’s worth striving for at the end: that amazing paper clip. That’s the beginning. That’s sketching out a quest story. If you do that, people know where you’re going because they understand the demands, the aspects of the genre. Then, they’ll want to hear the details of what the journey is going to be like.

Joe Dager:  I hear “stories, stories, and stories.” Is it just a catch phrase? Do wWe need to describe everything in stories? Is it practical? People want information, not stories, don’t they? We’re in this Sound bite, Twitter world and we want to get in and out as quickly as we can. Do we want to sit back and hear a story?

Dr. Nick Morgan:  Well, it’s amazing. Even at the same time Twitter is succeeding beyond its founder’s wildest dreams, yes, people do want it short and sweet, they don’t want the detail and so on and so forth. At the same time, people are binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix and they’re binge-watching Game of Thrones. They get into the detail of these kinds of things because those are well-crafted stories. I would say people still love stories. When it’s told well, then they want to get involved. Most of the time, we just want the quick version because it’s not interesting. That’s the mistake that businesses make.

If it keeps it at that uninteresting and superficial level, then, sure, give it to me short because it’s not going to reward me for hanging in there for a long time. But when you tell a good story, a rich one, an interesting one, then we want to hear more. Some businesses are very good at this. Most of them are not. It’s the few that do it well.

This is an excerpt from tomorrow’s Business901 Podcast with Dr. Nick Morgan, who is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. A passionate teacher, he is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache. He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He has worked widely with political and educational leaders. And he has himself spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world.

 Dr. Nick Morgan’s New Book: Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact

Your Ability to Succeed Comes Down to How Good of a Team You Put Together 0

I think a Kaizen Event  offers leadership a unique opportunity to “walk the talk.” They can participate in open and frank conversation, promote empowerment and break down many organizational barriers. This may be the first step in developing an ongoing continuous improvement culture. Their expressed enthusiasm for recommendations and recognition of other participants will go a long way in implementing the course of actions. Even if they raise the negatives they have the opportunity to state the reasons in a non-leadership role that can be very much more effective. However, they must be willing to accept being challenged and must not start exercising a sole person power of approval. Leadership should enjoy a Kaizen event. It gives them the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and participate, solve problems and communicate with the people that actually carry out the implementation. In fact, I think it would benefit any manager if it would be required that they participate in a Kaizen Event at least once a year.

The Hidden asset of a Kaizen vent is its ability to develop Leadership. The story Copy This!: Lessons from a Hyperactive Dyslexic who Turned a Bright Idea Into One of America’s Best Companies, discusses Paul Orfalea difficulties, which gave him “learning opportunities.” He explained that it propelled him to think differently, and to develop an unorthodox, people-centered, big-picture business model that relied heavily on the intelligence and skill of his franchise managers. Orfalea’s exuberant and irreverent attitude — he freely admits to cheating in school and relying on others to get him through college and his positive acceptance of his dyslexia should inspire many others. He mentioned in his book that when he walked into a room, he knew he was not the smartest person in it! Wonder if most leaders do that when they walk into a Kaizen Event?

The book; Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground. was written by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. The pair that wrote The Disney Way, Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. It wasn’t long into the book that they discussed stories and development that my mind drifted to agile and scrum comparisons. What they really brought home was the importance of collaboration and building a team. They even discussed the great lengths they go to hire people who are interested in working in a “network” type environment in solving problems, building and supporting each other. Here is a short excerpt from the book; the definitions of a set of proficiencies by Bill Nelson of Pixar:

  1. Depth – demonstrating mastery in a subject or a principal skill; having the discipline to chase dreams all the way to the finish line.
  2. Breadth – possessing a vast array of experiences and interests having empathy for others; having the ability to explore insights from many different perspectives; and being able to effectively generate new ideas by collaborating with the entire team.
  3. Communications – focusing on the receiver; receiving feedback to ascertain whether the message sent was truly understood. Realizing only the receiver can say, “I understand!”
  4. Collaboration – bringing together the skills(depth, breadth, and communications), ideas, and personality styles of an entire team to achieve a shared vision. Fostering an attitude to say, “Yes, and…”, rather than “No, this is better.”

Collaboration is critical to the process of generating ideas and problems in any organization. When you review the principles of Kaizen and Agile, your ability to succeed really comes down to how good of a team you put together. Very few times in an initial read of a book, I started reading this for pleasure, have I ever stopped so soon in a book and reread an entire chapter.

The rest of the book proved to be just as valuable and I think the authors did a very nice job of displaying the brilliance and the imagination that is taking place at Pixlar. I encourage you to read the book before you put together your next team.

Lean Engagement Team (More Info): The ability to share and create knowledge with your customer is the strongest marketing tool possible.

The Team is Not Responsible for Teamwork 2

Successful Lean teams are iTeams

When I use this term, it is based on a simple theory that Teamwork Is an Individual Skill. In this book by Christopher Avery he describes a team as a group of individuals responding successfully to the opportunity presented by shared responsibility.

Paraphrased from the book:

Your ability to create high quality, productive relationships is fast becoming the most important factor in getting your work done. It once was management’s job to hand out individual jobs and then integrate them. Now, organizations are giving the work to teams in larger chinks and expecting teams to divide the work in an effective and efficient manner.

In Lean Engagement Teams the individual must come first and the reason there must be an I at the beginning of team, hence the iTeam.

Avery goes on to state:

  • Every individual at work can be far more productive if they will take complete responsibility for the quality and productivity of each team or relationship of which they are part of. It means that..
  • You may have individual accountabilities, but accomplishing these will almost always depend on successful relationships with others and their work.
  • You can better attend to you own accountabilities when you assume responsibility for a larger, share task or deliverable.
  • You success depends on teams. Teamwork is an individual – not –group – skill and should be treated as such.
  • Individuals make a huge difference in teams, for better or worse. You can easily earn what kind of difference you make and how to build and rebuild a team.

The team concept in Lean thinking is very much individual driven. The individuals that form the team are the reason for the failures and the successes. Dr, Michael Balle and I discussed Individual Kaizen in this video:

As we start engaging our customers in the spirit of collaboration, co-producing and co-creation we must remember that are internal actions will mimic our external actions. The importance of the iTeam will become intensified and transparent in all of our external engagements. We must be willing to accept that as individuals and organizations as we move forward.

There is always a debate on tools and the thinking processes of lean.When you talk about a system, one of the first things that I think of is the tools that are used in the system. I use the tools to make sense out of a system, but I thought that Michael Balle might feel differently with that statement. In a Business901 Podcast (recommended) I asked him, “How do you relate the tools and the thinking processes of lean?”

Michael responded: “I don’t know if you know this Zen story: when you haven’t studied Zen, you see the mountain as a mountain. Then if you really study Zen very hard then you no longer see the mountain as a mountain. But when you understand Zen, you see the mountain as a mountain. I feel the same thing about the tools.

When you first study lean, you start with the tools. Then you study it more and you get into something that is about thinking, or philosophy, or whatever. But when you do it a lot, you forget about the tools. I think the tools are essentially very important. However, I have a different take on what the tools mean.

The way I see lean as a management system is essentially a knowledge transfer system; it’s a training system. So what the tools are, the tools to me are self?study exercises to understand your processes better, it’s like a microscope or a telescope. The tool is a way to look into problems and they never solve problems by themselves.

Many people have used the tools or have wanted to implement some sort of solutions to these tools thinking it would make them better. I think that’s kind of beside the point. What makes you better is using the tool rigorously, so you understand your problems, and your own processes and then, with hard work, take the time to figure out how to solve them. It’s this process, it’s the process of solving your own problem that empowers you and which leads you to create better and more performing processes.”

I think the trend right now is to discourage the use of tools and treat Lean as a culture. I believe we are not seeing the mountain. I believe we should be embracing technology. When used correctly, I think Michael is right and leading with the tools and embracing them will empower us to do greater things. They are meant for us to see deeper, not less. We need to see the mountain again.

Lean Engagement Team (More Info): The ability to share and create knowledge with your customer is the strongest marketing tool possible.

Standard Work building Flexibility as Brittleness is Found 0

Many organizations start practicing the tools of Lean and fail to understand that it is the people side that makes Lean effective. I have seen where organizations will develop the skill set of Value Stream Mapping, A3 Problem Solving or even Hoshin Planning. But spend little time developing a Lean attitude around the most basic concepts of Visual Management, Overlapping Responsibilities or Individual Kaizen. As a result, they simply do not act like a Lean Company. They are a collection of their tools not a collection driven by culture. The mistakes that you were trying to correct by instilling Lean continue to happen. Teamwork is non-existent and individual silos remain.

The Lean Concept of Respect for People was the topic of a podcast with David Veech (@leansights). After reading the transcription of the podcast, I realized how much we talked about individuals and how they perform within teams. David has some great points. This transcription is well worth the time to read.

Jim Benson, author of a Personal Kanban made the following quote:

A system that is not malleable, is brittle. A process which cannot adapt to context, is waste. One size does not fit all.

Terry Barnhart, a former podcast guest of mine, Applying the OODA Loop to Lean expanded that thought….

Have you heard about anti-fragility? Taleb’s account is brilliant, it is like the package that says “Anti-fragile: Please handle poorly, it will improve the contents”. This means a flexible system, but one that builds additional flexibility as brittleness is found. It means an adaptable system that gets more adaptable in adapting to emergent issues. It means a size that adjusts by itself.

As a result I found this video with Nassim Taleb,the author of The Black Swan describe Antifragility for the Economist.

From Amazon on The Black Swan book page:

Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat, when unrepeatable chance is a better explanation. Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, “all swans are white” had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia.

Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it’s practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, “History does not crawl, it jumps.” Our assumptions grow out of the bell-curve predictability of what he calls “Mediocristan,” while our world is really shaped by the wild powerlaw swings of “Extremistan.

There is also brilliant conversation between Daniel Kahnemann and Nassim Taleb discussing biases, the illusion of patterns, the perception of risk and denial at the Digital, Life, Design Conference in Munich. It is on the bentatlas.com website: Risk and Denial, Daniel Kahnemann and Nassim Taleb in Munich.

I think this is very interesting on how this all applies to the future of business.

A system that is not malleable, is brittle. A process which cannot adapt to context, is waste. One size does not fit all. – A Quote from Jim Benson, co-author of a Personal Kanban.

Leader Standard Work is the foundation required for flexibility. It does not hinder the development. It provides the foundation to adapt.


Applying Standard Work to Sales and Marketing 0

People struggle with Lean in knowledge work, services, sales and marketing because they don’t believe that many of the fundamental concepts of Lean, such as Standard Work can apply to the S & M discipline. If you review the slide shows under the Lean Engagement Team section on Slide Share, I think you will find how much they are based on standard work. Think about Leader standard work, it is intentionally designed to focus multiple layers of attention on the same process. For example:

The Team Leader’s Standard Work might including adding new call scripts into a follow-up campaign for a certain webinar or trade show. The team leader also heads a brief daily stand-up meeting with the team which is part of the regular agenda to ensure that appropriate action has been taken or initiated. The Team Coordinator should attend but not head the meeting.

The Team Coordinator might then work with the team to go over playback of scripts for training. He may bring in additional trainers as part of a weekly program to improve delivery. The TC ensures that program has been coordinated with other actions in the marketing communication department.

The Marketing Communication department sends follow-up emails, auto-responders and/or direct mail.

The Value Stream Manager might allocate budget for calling program and meet once a week to check progress and to lead a regularly-scheduled meeting with the TC, TL and MC to discuss the problems or opportunities.

It is this way that standard work is layered to ensure focus on the processes that produce the results. It is one of the most challenging aspect of the transition from a traditional results-only culture to a lean results-and-process-focused culture.

A quote from Dr. Michael Balle, “Lean is not a revolution; it is solve one thing and prove one thing.” Leader Standard work is the foundation of Lean Sales and Marketing and the fundamental process that replaces the “Silver Bullet” found in most typical marketing jargon.

In the sales and marketing process we have always stayed away from a process. Things were just not consistent enough to enable us to install a process.

Very few people take on the challenge of bringing continuous improvement to sales and marketing and one of the reasons it is so difficult is that sales always has been about relationships and people. And when you are a “people person” you blame errors and faults on people not the processes. You just don’t consider a process at all. I would argue that you cannot improve a system without a process and that sales and marketing does things within the boundaries of a process.

In fact, I am going to paraphrase the Six Best Practices outlined in a book by Daniel Stowell, Sales, Marketing, and Continuous Improvement . And if you would like to know how large of a gap we have to close to bring continuous improvement to Sales and marketing read the one review on this book: “The author couldn’t lead a fly to cr*p, and the book is poorly written. Don’t waste your money.” Quite a significant gap because I think the author, considering it was written in 1997, lays out a good guideline.

The Six Best Practices needed:

Manage for change: Change, whether incremental improvement or radical restructuring, does not just happen. It requires leadership and management based on a foundation of a lasting commitment by everyone in the organization. Of all of the best practices, management commitment stands alone at the top of the priority list.

Listen to Customers: Sales and marketing need input from their current and past customers, prospects, and competitive users on which to have their continuous improvement activities. To be most effective, they need to use several complementary listening methods tailored to their specific customer set. Although listening to customers appears to be easy to do, there are pitfalls and barriers along the way. However, the input from listening will provide the requirements and feedback that they need to implement the other best practices. Without that information, they are just guessing.

Focus on Process: Leading companies have applied all five of these process improvement techniques to sales and marketing processes. As we have seen, when process improvement techniques are focused on the most important processes and used properly, they can make dramatic improvements in an organizations effectiveness and efficiency.

Use Teams: Teams are not appropriate for everyone or in every situation, but virtually every organization can benefit from expanding its use of teams. This is especially true of sales and marketing departments. They can apply teams in almost every combination of scope, size, mission, authority, and duration. These teams build on the synergy of the team members, improve communication and buy-in, increase productivity, raise employee morale, and provide a forum for personal development. To achieve these benefits from sales and marketing teams, organizations must be prepared to address both the critical success factors and the issues unique to teams in sales and marketing. When they do, they have taken another major step toward an open organization culture.

Practice an open Organization Culture: To be effective, all the elements of the open organization culture must be used together. Gathering information by practicing awareness and taking a global view is of no value if the organization does not share the information or take informed action. Reserving action for the top of the business does not support fast response or take advantage of the skills of the people who really get the work done. Taking action without questioning the organization’s underlying beliefs and assumptions may lead to repeating mistakes. It is when all the elements of an open culture work together that an organization becomes more effective and efficient, whether that organization is an entire company or a sales or marketing function.

Apply Technology: Of all best practices described in this book, applying technology is today’s most visible. It has reached this status within the past five years and it appears that it will continue to revolutionize the way customers buy and companies sell in the future. That makes it important to stay aware of changing technology, looking for ways to use it to address opportunities and resolve problems. It is the companies that find ways to use technology, frequently ways it was never intended to be used, that will create and maintain their competitive edge. The others will just be playing catch-up.

His book lays out a good foundation for the above practices. Granted it may be dated but it reinforces not so much the ideas that I have been writing about but just how wide of a gap that we have bringing continuous improvement to sales and marketing. To have a chance resides in the power of Deming’s concept and its simplicity. The concept of feedback in the Scientific Method is firmly rooted in education and well understood.

The tools used in a Lean process are very visual and deceptively simple to start with (as you understand them, they tend to get harder ;)). And for the “people person”, Lean is all about people; training, empowering and respecting.



Mastery of Lean: Culture, Standard Work, Ideal 0

Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is an excellent description of modern day Lean practices. Just using the example of Mastery from the book will give you an idea on how powerful of a process Lean actually is. I would encourage you to visit the Mastery chapter in Dan Pink’s Drive book for more background. He states that mastery is based on three laws:

  1. Mastery is a mindset
  2. Mastery is a Pain
  3. Mastery is an Asymptote

He also states that flow is essential to mastery: “But flow doesn’t guarantee mastery—because the two concepts operate on different horizons of time. One happens in a moment; the other unfolds over months, years, sometimes decades. You and I each might reach flow tomorrow morning—but neither one of us will achieve mastery overnight.”

In Lean terminology, I can restate these same three laws this way:

  1. Lean is a culture
  2. Lean is grounded in Standard Work
  3. Lean is an Ideal

We also think of Lean in terms of creating flow. But just as flow does not guarantee mastery, flow does not allow us to become Lean. Flow happens along the way of becoming Lean. Many people think they are Lean companies once they have done 5S, Value Stream Mapping or held a few Kaizen Events. The truth is just like mastering anything, it does not happen overnight.

Why does it take so long? Why do so few achieve it? From Dan Pink again: “Mastery is a pain.” That is why it seldom is done. When implementing Lean, most people draw the wrong conclusion and assume it is Leadership. They blame leadership as being shortsighted. This view is not only wrong; it is dead wrong. Our primary problem is not leadership but a long standing culture that is engrained within our organizations. It’s the way we do things. But worse it is also the way others help us do things. The outside forces that surround us to include vendors, customers and for that matter our entire supply chain simply supports the way we have always done things. So, not only do we have to create change internally but externally as well. It is not only a pain but it has to be someone else’s pain. Or does it?

From my blog post, If less than 1% of companies are successful with Lean, why are we doing it?, I stated: What does work is the same thing for both people and organizations. It is the scientific process of trial and error. You don’t get it right at first, you have to break habits, personal habits as an individual and company cultures as an organization. Successful companies do it a little bit at a time. In Lean, we call this scientific method PDCA. We plan, do it, check the results and adjust. It is a purposeful experimentation.

In the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success the authors created a strategic, step-by-step guide to breaking longstanding bad habits introduce a system for adopting-and sticking to-better behaviors. I found the work paralleling Lean in many of its approaches and put Lean practices in parenthesis. Their strategy is based on four simple steps:

  1. Identify Crucial Moments (Identify Value)
  2. Create Vital Behaviors (Map Value Stream)
  3. Engage All Six Sources of Influence (Create Flow – Enable Pull)
  4. Turn Bad Days into Good Data (Seek Perfection – PDCA)

Organizational Motivation will never persist without the change being tied to the marketplace. Dan Jones recently wrote in the blogpost, How can Lean Survive that“The best chance for lean to survive a change in top management is if it is seen to be delivering significant results, not just point improvements in key processes but bottom-line results for the organization as a whole, which would be reversed if support for lean disappeared. I disagree with the statements that you just have to accept that it is going to work and not expect results. Results are the motivating factors.

Organizational Ability requires learning new skills if you are going to change. If change is difficult we will take the path of least resistance. Mastering a new set of tools is never easy and that is why Lean is so powerful. Lean is based on standards, knowing how the process should work because if it’s clear, then when we see a variation from the process we can react immediately. This allows us to choose one problem from the other and just solve them one by one. This is incredibly powerful because with lean systems we rely on increasing our competency, increasing our training without having to take people off line, without having to get to classrooms, but by building it into the way we work.

Social Motivation and Social Ability go hand in hand. Employees, Suppliers, and even Customers would rather you not change. They want to deal with the known. Even voters will vote for someone that they know and disagree with over the unknown. You have to re-define the norm for example through Value Stream Mapping or an A3. You have to get those around you on board with the new ideal or without you will fall victim to those old tired out ways that have become ineffective. Surround yourself with willing partners that will push you to this new ideal. This is sometimes where a consultant can play a role.

Structural Motivation can be difficult in organizations since external goals are difficult to recognize. We can see internal improvements sometimes immediately. But these internal improvements may not result in the needle being moved in the marketplace. An effective motivator may be the fear of loss. Can you tie lost market opportunities to your change efforts? Can you demonstrate even the smallest of wins? If you can, it will significantly increase the odds of success.

Structural Ability small changes in your environment have a surprising effect on your choices. This is where Lean plays such a huge role in change. Lean is not rigorous. It uses visualization and it’s a ready made tool set that reduces the resistance to change. What Lean does require though is rigorous use to be successful.

What people forget about Lean is that it is the change agent for an organization. In its simplest form, you first go and see the current state. Second, you visualize your process. You make your process steps visible. You visualize things in a way that reveals your problems, not in a way to hide problems. If you understand what standards are, how the process should work because it’s very clear, then whenever we see a variation from the process we react immediately. This allows you to choose one problem from the other and just solves them one by one. This is incredibly powerful, this vision we have with lean systems of increasing our competency, increasing our training without having to take people off line, without having to get to classrooms, but by building it into the way we work. It is this empowering aspect that is not easy. But it may be the only way an organization can master Lean.



Focusing on Improvement, and Not Training 0

I find one of the problems that exist in Leader Standard Work practices is not at the Team Leader Level nor even the Supervisor Level but many times right at the top. In David Mann’s book Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Second Edition (which I consider the bible for Leader Standard Work), states that Leader Standard Work should break down in this percentage for standard work:

  • Operator – 95% their time might be devoted to completing leader standard work
  • Team Leaders – 80%
  • Department Supervisors – 50%
  • Value Stream Managers – 25%
  • Executives – 10%

These numbers will differ according to the environment and whether it is production, office or development work but Leader Standard Work should be consciously designed to be layered from bottom up. The act is what produces results, not the thinking. There should even be a degree of redundancy between the layers to ensure accountability. This is where I believe that the problem starts developing.

Tracey Richardson wrote a blog post, You want a tangible action for your leaders trying to do Lean? Try this! GTS “squared” where she states that one of the fallacies of problem solving is the inability of Leaders to “Go See”. I find that true outside of the factory as well. Leaders seldom do the 10% or 25% of Standard Work required. They even will sit down in a meeting and go over the subordinate’s standard work and instruct him on how to improve without ever observing the process. Even more importantly that shared accountability through redundancy is seldom instituted.

In Knowledge Work, Services and Lean Sales and Marketing, Standard Work will have a difficult time achieving 95%. In fact, most “front-line” knowledge workers will have responsibilities that clearly cannot be defined as Standard Work. Leader Standard Work may often only border around 50 to 80% or lower. I think immediately of the conversation I had with Joseph Michelli on Zappos company culture. Joseph’s latest book, The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW discusses the relationship of employee and customer experience as demonstrated in my blog post, Is Zappos the Next Toyota?.

As we progress up through leaders, supervisors, etc., the percentage of Leader Standard Work should not drastically be reduced as it does in a manufacturing environment. It is the Servant Leadership role that must surface. Empowering the front line staff with the necessary resources to enable their actions to deliver an outstanding customer experience becomes Leadership’s primary function. The Leader Standard Work may actually become more standard as we move away from the main influencer and/or disruptor – the Customer.

The key issue for most organizations are increasing revenue or decreasing cost. At the present time, most companies are in the decreasing cost mode. Training events are getting canceled or postponed in the effort to decrease cost. Training budgets are often the first to get cut when business takes a downturn. Time is also scarce. With cutbacks in practically all departments there is little time to participate in training events.

So, how do we correct this and train our workforce. Maybe, we have been going about most of our training wrong. Michael Balle, author of the Lean Manager and The Goldmine brought up how Toyota creates training opportunity. He said; “Now, let me take an example, for instance, an andon system, what an andon system is when operators have a problem, they pull a rope, have lights, lights with a station and their team leader has about a minute to two to react and if not the line stops. What happens is that every time an operator has a doubt, they pull the cord, the team leader comes and what the team leader does is to check whether there’s a problem or not.

I’m wandering around looking at pictures of guys and going, “mm, very good for management reactivity, yes?” I said. The Toyota representative says, “no, operator training,” so of course I went back to him, “you mean management reactivity?” I said, “no, it has nothing to do with management reactivity, it’s operator training,” so we’re having this back and forth and he says, “OK, what do you mean by operator training?” So, he says “this is an opportunity to have a conversation about work centers and about standardized work with operators, conjointly. Now when the line actually stops, then yes, it becomes a management reactivity issue, but we don’t want to stop the line.” LSDT-Visual-Management-Board

Viewing training from this perspective results in a new context for organizations. They will be working more closely, more hands on with the individuals actually doing the work. It will also identify more opportunities for improvement. It may identify skills that are lacking and prioritize the actual improvements for them, but don’t call it training.

Focusing on improvement, and not training, requires a totally different thought process. This is a great STEP IN STARTING A LEAN CULTURE? Listen to this presentation of Leader Standard Work from the Lean Service Design Trilogy Program: Leader Standard Work

PDF Download of Visual Management Boards