Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your Best Day at Work

When I conduct lean training sessions and approach the topic of employee engagement I always ask the attendees to tell me about their “best day at work”. I believe people find satisfaction in the work they perform and this question allows me to explore that topic with them. Everyone will agree that some days are better than others but what I want to explore with them are the elements of the best day. Answers I get to the question vary but the underlying theme remains the same. Some common responses are:
• I was productive
• My equipment ran great all day
• I had everything I needed to do my job that day
• I was left alone to do my job

Based on these responses people want to come to work and do a good job and, as I stated above, do find satisfaction in the work they perform. The problem with this scenario is that many people expect their job to remain the same. In this global economy doing anything the same way, day after day, will lead to mediocrity and business decline. In continuous improvement business cultures leadership expects constant change – change for the better. It is only by letting go of control, trusting that all employees can handle more, and then driving decision making downward within the organization that a management team can truly engage their workforce in ongoing business process change. When this occurs this gives many more employees the opportunity to walk out the front door at that end of their shift feeling like they made a difference that day. That is the common theme echoed in the bullet pointed responses above - anyone’s best day at work, and it matters not if they are hourly or management is a day when they personally feel, in their heart of hearts, like they made a difference. What is your experience? How do your employees feel when they walk out the front door?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Minds you Change

The kaizen blitz has long been criticized because the improvements or gains made during kaizen events often are not sustained. To those critics I say, so what? Mature lean thinkers understand that for a business to become lean you must impact how people think, act and interact. This cultural or people side of lean is the difficult “row to hoe” on anyone’s lean journey. When businesses hold multiple kaizen blitz events a week they are doing so to improve business process cycle times and to win the hearts of their employees. They understand the biggest benefit of any kaizen event is not the process you improve – it is the minds you change.
Hourly employees, those who do the real work for your customers and are the least empowered employees in any business, need to understand how “lean thinking” benefits each of them individually as well as the business. So where should you start? Start with safety. Engage your employees in kaizen blitz events that focus on the reduction of injury risks. Skeptical hourly employees, and most of them are, will quickly become lean champions when they see management giving focus to their safety while seeking cycle time gains. Remember, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Make work safer, win their hearts and then move your lean efforts forward. It is the safe path to lean.