Lean Engagement Team

The Tribe of Me, The Tribe of My Group 0

Before Personal Kanban was published, I had Jim Benson on the podcast talking about team work. During the podcast I asked, “I noticed, on your website, where you talk about if you optimize your team and not your people, you’re not really optimized. I really like that statement. We all realize we have to make the individuals work to make a team work, but I noticed that the gradual progression from personal to team, and maybe even Agile to Lean. Can you explain that progression and what you mean by that a little bit?”

Jim Benson: A hierarchy or a series of levels going from a personal level to a small team level to the group level and so forth up an organization. The personal or the individual level is, “I am here, I am part of this company and I want to do a good job, and I simultaneously belong to a couple of different tribes.” So I have the tribe of me, the tribe of my group, and I relate to all of those differently.

But the level of difference between them becomes more pronounced as I become more disenfranchised from that group. I’ve seen many teams that operate very cohesively as a team, but they are outside of the organization. The organization doesn’t value them and vice versa.

Any productive group that is inside an object that isn’t part of that object is basically a cancer. So I’ve seen extremely productive, thoughtful, wonderful groups that act contrary to the needs of their organization, because of their disenfranchisement from that organization.

What I’m trying to do with using the Personal Kanban as a personal Lean. And then the Agile methods, and then the Lean methods is create information flow throughout the organization so that the individual feels like he or she completely understands what’s going on at all the levels up and down from that person.

What’s been my experience is that organizations are very good at blocking information and knowledge from being transferred from place to place. When that happens, the cohesion of the organization starts to break down. The more it is pronounced the more of a breakdown there is. Until you finally get people who are just like, “I’m going to come here. I’m going to act like I’m working. I’m going to get my paycheck. And I’m going to go home.” Because they don’t feel like if even if they worked they wouldn’t be producing anything that anyone cared about.

We use these tools. We use the Personal Kanban on the personal side. This is what I’m doing and this is how I’m dealing with my day. Your team members can see that or if you have a team based Personal Kanban you see at a task level what everybody’s doing. The team then has clarity around what’s happening around the team. This can be augmented with Agile techniques of the daily stand up meetings or retrospectives or even in some cases time boxing, in order to give coherence around the product that they’re creating.

Agile is a strongly team based approach. It was developed, because it was reacting basically to the same forces that I just mentioned. Agile was developed because previously there was only a waterfall approaches. What would end up happening is people would come up and say, “Here’s 250, 000 functional requirements, I’ll see you in six months when you’ve completed my software.” And then they would get to the six-month point and they say, “This isn’t what I asked for?”

That wasn’t a very good way to manage things so Scrum, and XP and other Agile methods came along and said look we’re going to come and we’re going to talk to you much more quickly. We’re going to talk to you every month, or every week, or every couple of weeks, and we’re going to show you these little packets of value. The great benefit of that is that it greatly increased the amount of focus within the team.

Some of the issues that I’ve had with Agile methodologies, and I’ve been working with them for over 13 years now, is that they’re so focused on the team, that the team stops looking outside of the team for guidance. The assumption is that since it’s an Agile group, the rest of the organization is like “Oh, well they’re Agile, so they can get things done really quickly. That’s all we wanted in the first place, was for stuff to be done faster, so we can start ignoring them too.” That didn’t work very well. Agile supercharged the team, but it disconnected it at the same time.

Using the Kanban in the team, the big team, that’s an information radiator, not only to those people in the team saying “This is what we’re doing, and this is what’s blocked, and this is how things are going.” It’s an information radiator out to the rest of the organization, because anybody can come by and see it at any time. It says at every moment what people are doing and since you can see what’s coming up in the backlog, it shows everybody what’s coming up. If anybody up the management chain can come and see what’s going on, and they can make decisions based on that.

From the upper side, the C-level and VP’s and so forth, ideally, those should be the guys that are feeding information into the teams at a rate which they can afford. When the team is pulling their tasks, those tasks should be in a queue that’s not necessarily decided by the team, but by the people above them.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Jim Benson Talks About Personal Kanban

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My Current 7 Step Marketing Outline 0

The last few weeks I have been writing a post a week on how my marketing has transformed over the past several years. I started with, 7 Simple Steps to Improve Your Marketing and followed up with Revisiting the 7 Steps to Improve Your Marketing. Today, I will visit what I might call my current state marketing outline. I have used a 7 Step outline.

As I progress from what you might call a traditional marketing approach in my first 7 Steps and gradually becoming more customer-focused, I moved to the traditional flow that was depicted in the following diagram labeled Value Stream Marketing and explained in a blog post, A Scrum Drawing for Lean Marketing. This approach eventually led to the development of Lean Marketing House: A starting point for creating true iterative marketing cycles based on not only Lean principles but more importantly Customer Value.

Value Stream Marketing
It still forms the basis of my thinking. However, my approach is somewhat different now. In the Lean Marketing House, the foundation was the marketing collateral with the traditional marketing department, the pillars were the Lean Engagement Team, with the ceiling the multiple value streams and the roof was the overlaying vision. This works well in describing a Lean approach, but I found it limiting with the different opinions of actually what Lean is and found myself generally in that discussion over the primary discussion that was needed; Sales and Marketing.

My current approach centers on the Funnel of Opportunity, using an Outcome Based Mapping approach. In this approach depicted on the right, I look at our capabilities, customer behaviors that we are trying to change and of course the over-arching vision. A brief overview of each block: Outcome Based

1.  Standard Work (SDCA): Define core business and put the majority of company resources into the core until it achieves its full potential.

2.  Continuous Improvement (PDCA): Most big ideas are made up of a series of successful smaller ideas driven by a simple and repeatable business model.

3.  New Markets and Products (EDCA): After defining what it cannot do and exploring what it may want to do?

4, 5, 6.  Customer Behaviors: In the Outcome-Based Mapping approach, we view the outcomes as the central part of our theme. We recognize that a change of behavior must occur for us to achieve our goals or make the desired impact that wish to obtain. In traditional sales and marketing we can develop the simplest of all marketing funnels based on (4)pre-purchase, (5)purchase (buy), and (6)post purchase. We have a tendency to complicate this into numerous steps and activities. When we view an outcome-based approach we like to separate the group very similarly into (4)Expect to see, (5)like to see and (6)love to see.

The strength in this process is that you look for changes in behaviors versus trying to move a customer/prospect down a path. When you view your customers/prospects in a linear path, it becomes a manipulative path towards a transactional event. If we view the process as a set of outcomes, we work towards understanding and agreement. In each of these columns, we list progress markers that demonstrate positive movement towards changes of behaviors, actions, activities or relationships of our customers. These changes allow us to support our partner towards a more meaningful outcomes while empowering a more cooperative relationship.

7.  Vision: Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play, published a book taking these concepts one step further. Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? challenges us to take our value proposition of use to a longer term growth platform. He dares us not only to have a corporate vision statement, but a customer vision statement saying that our future depends on their future. He phrases all this in something he calls “The Ask.” I discuss this concept in more detail in a blog post, Shaping your Customers Vision.

I happen to be a big proponent of understanding your own capabilities and working from your strengths, see my musing in the Lean Scale-Up. This leads to a different way of engagement, a strength-based approach over the traditional problem-solving approach.  I think working from a vision of opportunity allows you a clearer vision and more direct approach.

Mix this approach with Tony Ulwick (What Customers Want) thinking of Outcome-Driven Innovation (Jobs, Outcomes, Constraints), where he claims that these three distinct outcomes are what organizations need to know in their marketing practices. Expanding on them….

  • Jobs (to be Done) are the tasks or activities that customers are trying to get done
  • Outcomes are what customers are trying to achieve
  • Constraints something that may prevent a customer from using a product or service

This really provides the foundation of my present work which I can summarize actually in three steps.

1. Capabilities: Define my work and how much time, resources and money I will devote to each area.

2. Understand my Customer Behaviors (What Customers Want)

3. Provide a Vision (What You Want Your Customer to Be)

Having an Effective Conversation 0

An innovation and strategy consultant, Chris Ertel has years of experience advising senior executives of Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and large nonprofit. Chris talks about his new book Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change in this Business901 Podcast. I thought this excerpt from the podcast was a great “How to” for explaining his message.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Planning Your Strategic Conversations


Excerpt from the Podcast:

Joe: How should the book be used? Is this, as you said, you get a bunch of talented people together and you create a strategic conversation but could it be used in other arenas? Could it be used in weekly meetings? Should I be using some of the points in it or, how should I use the book?

Chris: I think there would certainly be things you could take a way, after you have a standing meeting and that sort of thing, you would be able to take some things away. Its highest value is going to be when the stakes are high, when you have these complex situations, that’s when it’s going to help the most.

I can give you a reader’s essence, a kind of trade craft that’s involved to, though, from a regular meeting because I was involved in a regular meeting. Recently, somebody brought me in and said, “Hey, can you just help out with this,” and it wasn’t a very complicated situation. I said, “Sure,” and in that situation though, one little intervention that I did that’s consistent with the spirit of the book is they had some survey results that they wanted to share and the survey results were, it was one slide and had 11 questions and each of the questions had an answer against, an average number against it. These were the survey data was from customers of the group who was in the audience, so it was important to them and some of the findings were actually quite surprising. There were some negative findings in particular, that were disappointing and surprising, and they had it just on one slide and they were just going to show the slide and have a conversation about it which is pretty straight forward, and I thought, well, that’s not such a good way to go about that. So, let’s have a little more drama to this.

I had them give each, we had 20 people in the room, we split the room into four teams of five people and each team got one big flip chart with the 11 questions on it and then they got post-its that had the 11 answers, the 11 values and we asked them to match the two. So, it’s to rate them like how do you think we rated with our customers in each of these 11 things. They each did that little quick exercise and that was pretty energetic. And then, what I did at the front of the room was I read the answers, the real answers that the customers gave going from the things that they were the best at to the things that they got the lowest response to. So, that created a moment of drama.

It’s like the first one is like, “Hey, good news. You got 5 out of 5 points on this one. You know, pat yourself on the back, all these good stuff, then the next one, the next one, the next one, then the scores start getting low and there’re some big issues remaining. We touched the last ones, they were very surprised. The people who had the highest scoring team on the matches got 5 out of 11 right. With that we launched a good conversation. What I found in other situations that if you share survey data like that, just cold and don’t make people guess or think about it a little bit in advance, they will always almost say, “We knew that,” after they see it. You need to establish the expectation that they have first and then show the results in contrast to that, for them to really make meaning of it and in this case it was pretty effective.


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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.