Issue 18 – May 2014


Issue 18 • May 2014

Standards and the C-Suite?

Standard Work If you are an improving organization, this is a term you will be well familiar with. Any improvement in process, following a test of change, should be accompanied by two things: standard work and visual management.

The definition of a standard is a basis for comparison. We use standards every day in many ways. By far the most common standards include time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years), weight (ounces, pounds, grams, kilograms), and volume (teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, liter gallon, centiliter, milliliter), and distance (inch, foot, yard, mile, millimeter, centimeter, meter, kilometer). Having a common standard allows us to compare one thing against another.

In an improving environment we need standards to compare if we have actually made an improvement in our work. Standard work is a bit broader than basis for comparison, however. In improvement, a standard is the easiest, safest, fastest, most reliable way to do something. It is recipe we follow to get consistent, sustainable, and timely outcomes.

When variation occurs in an outcome, we can compare the recipe against the standard to see if we missed a step, or if the stand needs amendment to meet unique situations. Without a standard, problem solving is impossible.

In a lean organization, there are standards for all work. There are operational standards, and there are administrative standards. Every piece of work completed; whether delivering value to a customer, delivering business value add, for a corporation, and allowing the business to meet legal and statutory requirements should have a recipe. A well run kaizen event, or PDCA, or project will follow the scientific method, eliminate waste, and finish with standard work. The standard work is frequently managed visually. (I have covered visual management in earlier blogs)

What are the standards for the C-Suite? To get to C-Suite standards, you first need to define the core processes of the senior leadership team. These may include strategic planning, strategy deployment, operational reviews, council management, developing people, governance of key projects, etc.

I have never met a transformed lean organization that didn’t have standard work at the c-suite level. And I have never met a world class organization that didn’t have standard work at the c-suite level. How is your senior team thinking, acting, and behaving? Are they leading by example?

Things the team won’t tell you they need in order to implement change effectively

Let’s face it. Most people really want to do good job. Everyone wants to succeed and be a winner. And winning begets more winning. In today’s challenging work environment, getting the work done is no longer sufficient. Work must get completed and be improved.

Here’s the challenge. When major change hits staff and management, people have to assimilate to the change, while conditioning themselves. Think of improvement as preparing for a marathon. You don’t start out training for a marathon by running a marathon. You have to work your way up to a marathon distance. Yet change often rolls out as a big bang, going from to zero to 100 in a very short period of time. And people are expected to be performing from the start.

There are several valuable lessons learned from scores of change management activities that we can leverage to help with the conditioning part of the change. The first is clear and consistent communication of the need for change. Having people understand why change is necessary, what happens if things stay the same, what happens if people do not want to change is essential. This is a frequently overlooked portion of the change process.

Another essential step is to create a shared vision. What the final process will look like is unclear. How the change fits into the big picture is not always clear as well. Having staff help create the shared vision will alleviate a lot of anxiety during the conditioning phase of change.

The key role of management and leadership in the change process is to remove the barriers for the team. Every change has intended and unintended consequences. A thorough test of change will catch many of these barriers, but until the process scales to all staff, not all the unintended consequences will be known. Management’s hands on problem solving of the barriers presented by unintended consequences will go a long way to alleviate staff concerns during the conditioning phase of change.

Another often overlooked part of change management is celebrating successes. Creating double digit change in a lean environment is hard work. Stretch goals are often established and the management team is evaluated based on their ability to hit these targets. Sometimes the targets are missed. I have countless examples where a 50% target was established. The team sustained a 40% improvement, yet the project was considered unsuccessful. I’m not saying to lower your standards, but it is ok to celebrate success. How many days do you get 40% gains?

Finally, and this point is nearly always missed, share cultural stories of what good looks like. We try to keep the focus on the team in an improving environment, but culture changes one person at a time. Be sure to point out individual cultural successes along the path. This gives everyone the ability to understand the behaviors that the organization desires. Remember, just like conditioning for a race, everyone comes along at their on pace. Just like we celebrate good training days, we should share cultural wins.

This list is not meant to be all inclusive. There are many factors that help determine success or failure. But these lessons learned present themselves time and time again in quality improvement. Keeping these unspoken things in mind will pay dividends in your change journey.

The Shingo Institute and the Shingo Prize by Ron Bercaw

In May I had an opportunity to attend the Shingo Prize International conference. The conference this year focused on the new Shingo Model. For a good portion of the last year, some of the brightest minds in the Lean world spent time studying Taiichi Ohno’s and Shigeo Shingo’s books. The result of this project was a new (revised) vision for Enterprise Excellence

The fundamentals of this model include the following. Continuous improvement using Lean Thinking encompasses guiding principles to govern behavior, systems thinking to eliminate silos, and a suite of tools to see and eliminate waste, all of which drive results. Culture is in the center of the model. Culture is demonstrated daily by organizational behavior.

The guiding principles focus heavily on principles informing ideal behavior, ideal behavior driving ideal results, and beliefs and systems driving behavior.

Whether or not you believe the model, or like the model there continue to be some insights available for those who wish to achieve enterprise excellence. The key take away I will share with anyone willing to listen is improvement is not about the tools. It is about changing the culture of an organization to pursue perfection by continually eliminating wasted time and activity.


No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment