This is a compilation of the most popular posts in 2016. Enjoy!
- Myths about PDCA: Learn why people don’t use correctly this powerful tool: link
- Effective vs. Efficient: Is there really a difference? Why does it matter?: link
- Book summary, “Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise”: How can you use Hoshin Kanri to do an effective policy deployment? Learn from the experts! link
- Hoshin Kanri and policy deployment: Learn the basics of Hoshin Kanri: link
- 3 signs that people are not on board: Engagement is key for the success of Lean. Do you know how to read people reaction to change? link
- Lean, common sense and apparent contradictions: Why are Lean principles difficult to understand? link
Lean principles are based on common sense and experience, but at the same time might be counter-intuitive and in contradiction to normal practices. A Lean mental journey takes time, hands-on experience and the help of experts to be successful and understand Lean concepts in-depth. A superficial analysis of Lean can create false myths, some of which are really popular today. Let’s discuss some:
- Middle managers hate Lean: Experience has taught some people that middle managers are always against Lean transitions. Therefore they must be fired upfront: FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean means abdication: Some think that Lean means letting people do whatever they want without ony type of management: FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean principles are not consistent: Some Lean principle are apparently inconsistent or in contradiction to experience after a superficial analysis. THEY ARE NOT. Learn more here
- Lean equals “Just-in-Time”: It’s a popular belief that Lean and “Just-in-TIme” are equivalent terms. FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean hates functions: Lean puts focus on the process, which is a sign for some people that Lean does not care about functions or functional knowledge. FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean kills creativity: Lean gives extraordinary importance to standards. Some people assume that standardization implies creating robot workers without ideas. FALSE. Learn more here
- PDCA myths: There several myths about PDCA out there, like “PDCA is only for engineering” or “PDCA is just do-things-and-see-what-happens”. FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean is a set of tools: Very popular, it is easy to think that Lean is just the sequential application of some tools like VSM, 5s, kanban,… FALSE. Learn more here
- Lean hates automation: Lean loves simplicity and easy to change solutions. Some may misunderstand this love for simplicity and believe that Lean hates automation. FALSE. Learn more here
Some days ago I was at a meeting where we were discussing how to improve a process. The process team members and the team leader said that they felt ultimately responsible [sic] of the process performance and requested more authority to test their ideas and do changes. This proposal is very well aligned with Lean principles like:
- Involve front line in improving their work
- Promote learning through repeated practice in solving problems
So we scheduled a meeting to present the idea to the area director and define how to give the team more freedom to try things and learn. To our surprise (well, not really), the area director refused to do so. Her arguments were “I want to keep control because I’m ok with delegating, but not with abdicating”. Off with their heads!
This situation is easy to find. Not every manager is ready to move from the classic thinking trio: “command and control” + “experts own improvement” + “compliance at any cost” to Lean management principles. The presence of these ideas is a very good predictor of problems during a Lean transformation, so please beware if you hear things like “control”, “this is too risky”, “do whatever it takes” or anything similar.
However, the area director was right in some way. How? Managers have to delegate and stop telling people what to do. Telling people what to do takes away responsibility from the person. But managers still have a job in Lean:
- Ask questions that provoke the right thinking
- Understand problems by observing the process (at the gemba)
- Challenge, enable and remove obstacles for workers while they are solving problems
In other words, “abdicating” in the sense of disappearing from the gemba, asking nothing, hiring Lean experts and asking them to do the improvement work for you, ignoring the process, avoiding coaching, etc… IS NOT AN OPTION. If we use the classic RACI matrix, managers must move from Responsible (do everything, take all decisions) to Accountable (make sure things happen, help those doing the job). Follow this Wikipedia link to the RACI matrix for more information (link here).
And now, a very important final warning:
Middle managers are a common source of problems during Lean transformations. They are typically hard to convince and, when they try Lean, it is not unusual to see them go back to classic thinking after some days / weeks / months. Why? It’s a “delegation” problem.
Lean transformations usually start at the gemba: operators, analysts, technicians… those people whose boss is a middle manager. Middle managers learn how to empower their people and give them freedom to try and learn. But the boss of a middle manager is a director, who has never been exposed to Lean and still uses the classic “command and control” style. Long story short: the middle manager feels he has lost power/influence/capacity because decisions are taken either by his people or his boss. He might think he is not useful anymore and might be fired. This situation is extremely dangerous for the Lean transformation.
That’s why education and communication are so important in Lean. Directors must be trained in Lean and know what to expect. Managers must have the opportunity to explain the Lean transformation at their area to their bosses and the new way a great manager looks like with Lean. This is REALLY critical for Lean success.
This is an old story (2009) I read many years ago but it is still valid and I keep using it very frequently to explain leadership and how cultural change works. It is a video by Derek Sivers, there it goes:
My main conclusions are:
- Leadership means being ready to stand alone and look ridiculous to many.
- You must be easy to follow: easy message, clear ideas, be public.
- You are not a leader until you get your first followers: treat them as equals because new followers will follow previous followers, not you.
Keep that is mind because one day:
- You will get momentum.
- Following you will not be risky anymore.
- Change will happen (learn more here).
The video finishes with the most important idea of all: if you find a crazy person doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in! Following others who deserve it is another way of leading, maybe the most important.
Many blogs shared this video before, here you have some:
I liked very much this article by Justin Bariso at http://www.inc.com because it highlights the most important Lean leadership principle: Lead by example. The “Do what I say, not what I do” motto has never been valid, and it will be a total killer when applying Lean or any other continuous improvement methodology.
Lead by example is easy to say and difficult to do. I’ve seen this error happen over and over, but there are certain situations when it is extremely common:
- Starting a Lean transformation: Some think Lean can happen even if the leader is not present. This is wrong. No Leader, no Lean.
- Creating a learning culture: When problems arise and Lean looks like a bad decision, it is easy to look for someone to blame. Leaders must be the first who keep calm, promote real problem solving and avoid witch-hunts.
- Involving others: If, as a leader, you take all important decisions, how will you teach your people to trust and cooperate with others? Delegate, create an environment where testing is welcome and focus more in “how can I help?” and less in “how can I control?”
- Outsourcing Lean work: Lean might be considered as something an external consultant can do for you with your team. Wrong. Consultants share knowledge, leaders make change happen.
A final thought:
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.
One frequent question when working with Lean is “are we going too fast/too slow”? Changing is always uncomfortable and it is normal to question yourself if things are going as they are supposed to be. Well, speed matters in Lean but, as usual, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer here. Each situation is different and needs different approaches, so what to do? Let’s see the problem from its 2 sides:
- The risks if change goes too slow: people feel that problems are not solved, people feel their work is not bearing fruit, higher probability of rumors, higher probability of “I told you it wouldn’t work” and other similar sentences. In summary, Lean loses momentum and looks like “the improvement initiative of the month”
- The risks if change goes too fast: people feel that things are changed with too little analysis, risk looks is higher, there is a higher feeling on improvisation, the valuable ideas of those who don’t speak up easily (introverts, new employees…) may be lost. In summary, Lean looks like something imposed from top management.
Yes, practicing Lean might be complicated. My proposal is to move “as fast as possible”. Start slowly to make sure a) everybody is on board and b) the first “projects” are a success. Then increase speed incrementally. When everybody has been exposed to the cultural part of Lean (we all know people will be respected, lay-offs will be the last option, speaking up is safe…), it is better to go a little bit too fast than a little bit too slow because speed will help create quicker PDCA cycles and learning happens (obviously) also quicker. Change will be evident and everybody will feel it. Always get people’s feedback: the sweet spot is where people feel challenged without being scared.
Lean is like riding a bike: moving either too slow or too fast will make you hit the ground. Start slowly and increase risk and speed as you gain experience.
This happens all the time. Everybody knows that innovation is all about the customer, but we tend to forget that we have to understand customer needs before we do anything else. Customers put us in a different point of view and empathy maps are tools which can help us see the world from our customer’s perspective. Validating ideas is the basis of user centered design (vs. solution centered design)
Empathy maps were created and first used by XPLAIN. Today there are several slightly different templates available, most of them with 6 different blocks like in this example:
Empathy maps help you think and feel like one of your customers:
- What do they think about the product? How do they feel about it (is it a good experience, is it painful?)
- What do they see when using the product? Where are they? With who?
- What do they hear others say about the product? Has anyone recommended it?
- How do they use the product? What problems do they face? How do they solve them?
- What are their wishes?
- What are their pains?
Some questions are easier to answer (behaviors, problems, recommendations) because they can be seen or heard, others are difficult (pains, wishes, feelings). Do your best and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Try hard!
This is the typical process to use the empathy map:
- Select a team: Developers, Managers, Stakeholders & Customers (if possible)
- Segment your customers. This is not mandatory but it will help you “feel like a customer” and avoid generic ideas, which are useless. Think the way a “traveler” feels at an airport; now think about “a pregnant woman at an airport” or a “person with limited mobility at an airport”. See the difference?
- Choose a customer segment and make them personal. Draw a picture of them, give them a name. Empathy is about feeling close to people: thinking about a “traveler” is one thing; thinking about “Peter and his two kids, Susan and Kevin, who are traveling to Miami to see their grandmother” is something different.
- Go question by question and fill the empathy map: “How do I feel?”, “What do I see?”, “What are the problems I face?”, “What could make me happy?” and so on. Write answer on post-its and stick them to a flip chart. Seriously, no computers.
- List ideas of innovative potential solutions.
The empathy map creates many assumptions and hypothesis that must be validated before moving on. Validating data with customers is critical and is trickier than it seems. Interviewing and asking the right questions can make a big difference.
- Bad questions: Feeling-based questions like “Is this a good product?”, “Do you like it?”, “Is this something you would pay for?”
- Good questions: Fact-based questions like “What are the main problems?”, “What do you miss?”, “What happened last time you used it?”, “Where do you use the product?”, “Has anybody recommended this to you?”, “How do you use this product?” an so on.
This video (from The Lean Playbook) shows the importance of validating data and asking great questions:
The empathy map is a great tool to help a development team understand customers. Don’t waste time and money building something nobody wants.
Find out more here:
- Empathy map image from: http://www.solutionsiq.com/what-is-an-empathy-map/