Continuous Improvement, Work Standards

What Standard Work is?

We need standards in our work areas to provide a guidance to our employees to do their job.  Standard work is a simple written description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way known to perform a particular task.  Once a standard is established it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes.   Standards are not written in stone, the expectation is to improve them continuously.

When creating standard work is important to focus on the employee and not the equipment or materials.  We are looking to ensure effective consistent work.  Involve a group of your employees to help on building the standard, this will minimize the resistance and increase the chances of identifying the best process.

A famous quote attributed to Taiichi Ohno say “Without standards there can be no kaizen”.   If you don’t know how you are doing something or if you are not consistent on the way you are doing it there is no way you can do it better.  Standard work is the foundation of continuous improvement, yet it is the piece of the improvement that many organizations fail to implement.  In companies where the average employee have five years or more of experience and the turn over rate is very low, managers feel that standards are not necessary because everybody know their jobs and they do not hire new employees very often.

But, is everybody doing things on the same way?  What is going to happen when that very talented and very experienced team retire?  How you make sure you retain their knowledge?  That is where standard procedures came very handy, they document the best way to do the work and provide an excellent tool for new hires and to ensure there is only one way to do things.


Continuous Improvement

Is digital clutter preventive you from being productive?

On my last post I was talking about the digital clutter created by the existence of multiple programs or applications to record information or do things on the office.  There is not much that we can do to change the applications that corporate want us to use but there are many things that we can do to fix the clutter that we create on our own.  These clutter cause lost of productivity and focus, its constitute a colosal waste of time and a good way to practice continuous improvement.

1.  Desktop icons

The desktop of some of my colleagues looks like a view of NY city from twenty thousand feet, a tiles collection so tight that there is almost no space.  The reason is the need to access the applications or the critical documents as fast as possible.  Filling the desktop with shortcuts defeats the purpose because now you have so many icons there that you waste time looking for the right one.  Start deleting the shortcuts of obsolete applications, then those of programs that you use once on a blue moon.  Same with the critical documents, delete what you do not need anymore.  I bet that from it left not all are critical; maybe you just use them pretty often.  The solution for this will be to create folders, I will mention this on my number 3 below.

2.  Emails

We don’t want to miss a piece of information, therefore the solution is to ask everybody to copy you on their emails.  The problem is that then you receive the email you want plus a lot more that you do not, mostly of people replying to all just to say thank you.  Also you receive emails that honestly you don’t need anymore, maybe because your role changed.  You spend time just browsing through them, deleting and filing.  It is better to just ask politely to be removed of those distribution lists where you don’t need to be anymore.

Another thing I do is to follow the one touch rule.  Once I open an email, I read it and decide what to do with it; can I delete it?  Should I file it?  Do I need to keep a reminder to do something later?  Whatever it is, I will do it at that moment; that way I touch that email only once, do what I have to do with it and then I delete it from the inbox.    There are a couple more tricks that I used when it comes to emails but that will be the subject of a future post.

3.  Documents

There are two things about documents:  necessity and organization.  Like with emails, you don’t need everything that landed on your hands, or your email.  Somethings are to be read and then deleted.  There are recurrent or daily reports that you receive which contain all the information year or month to-day, saving every single one of them is unnecessary and will create clutter.

If you prefer to save all of them, then you need to work with the organization.  I know people who create folders to save their documents, but there is no logic whatsoever on the folders names.  Or maybe there is some logic, but then there are a couple of folders with the same name or worst, there are folders inside folders inside folders.  You would need a map to be able to find where your document is.  I have folders by themes, let’s say: daily reports, CI projects, training materials and others.  Then your sub-folders name can be the name of the reports, projects or trainings.  You have to create your own organization system based on your needs, once you have it, use it consistently.

Finally, even when you follow these rules every once on a while you will have to take some time to browse your emails, folders and desktop and do some maintenance.  Reorganize, delete, improve your system.  Keeping clutter out of your computer will help you to be more productive and focus, spend your energy creating not looking for lost information.

Lean Quotes

Emotional Intelligence and success

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”  Daniel Goleman

Continuous Improvement, Training Program

Delegation done right

For years I heard what some considered a wonderful piece of advice, if you have too many things to do, or you don’t like to do something, delegate!  Some people delegate only if it is completely necessary because they are buried on work.  Sometimes delegation comes after the realization that you can ask somebody to do what you hate so much.  Either one of these reasons is wrong.

Many leaders don’t delegate citing reasons like: lack of time for training, it is easier or faster if they do it, the believe that only them has the necessary skill set to complete the task or the fear of not meeting deadlines or not accomplishing the expected results.  I used the same excuses to not delegate but then I realize that delegation is an excellent tool to promote the growth of our employees.  If it is done right, it is also perfect to gain some extra time that we can use for continuous improvement activities.

Once you decided to use delegation as part of your team development, the first step is to decide which tasks can be delegated and which ones cannot.  Identify those tasks that even if you hate them, you are the only one that can do them.  Only you can group tasks based on criticality, level of sensitivity or confidentiality, skill level and effort.

When you delegate you are not transferring the responsibility of completing a task, you are still responsible for it.  You are also responsible for setting up your employee for success.  Start by matching the necessary skills to complete the task with those of your employees and choose the one that matches better.  Once you identify who to delegatee, the next step is to sit down with he or she to have an honest talk about why you want to delegate and why to he or she.  Explain the development opportunities but do not hide the challenges coming with it.  Never let your employee alone on this journey, design a basic training program and execute it.  Do not pretend to dictate every step of the way, allow your employee to think on his/her own and develop his/hew own way to do it, trust but verify.

As part of the training, set up expectations, what needs to be done and how, milestones and due dates.  Also provide instructions, contact names and information if necessary and establish follow-up dates to make sure everything is on track.

Delegation done right can be excellent for both parties, but make sure that you are delegating and not just assigning a task.  Delegating is one of the core concepts of management leadership. The person who delegated the work share the responsibility for the outcome with the person doing the work. By delegating you enables the person doing the work to decide how to achieve it, gives he or she the authority to do the job and offers opportunities to develop new skills. If none of these happen then you are just assigning a task.

Motivation, Workplace

Bullies in the workplace – How they affect productivity?

Have you ever experience one of the following on your workplace:  personal attacks like yelling or threats, insults, laughing at you when you fail, spreading rumours, sabotage, personal information like performance appraisal made public, unrealistic deadlines or being push to complete a task for which you have not being trained.

Those are examples of bullying, and it does exist in the workplace.  The perpetrator can be someone who feels threaten, is jealous, insecure, unable to do his/her job or not feel competent enough to be successful.

Consequences from this behavior goes from personal issues (health complications, self-esteem, emotional) to productivity loss.  Targets are very skilled people, highly competent, perhaps a new employee who has been very successful on a similar role, likeable people or with a lot of technical knowledge and/or experience.  Targets are usually the kind of people who is more prone to support continuous improvement initiatives.

I have been witness of this kind of behavior, it is horrible.  It not only affect the target but the people around as well.  It takes away your peace of mind, your focus and make you feel that if you are successful enough; you will be the next target.  It creates stress, which we all know is a source of hypertension, depression and anxiety.  Sickness creates attendance problems, work will accumulate, due dates wont be met, maybe will affect customers.

This cost money:  higher absenteeism rate usually creates over time and more use of medical insurance will increase premiums and compensation claims.  The team stress level increases, loosing focus and decreasing morale.  The whole situation creates a hostile work environment which is a step away from possible law suits.  Eventually, bullying targets resign and with he or she, the motivation to work and practice continuous improvement goes out of the door too.  And what is worst, the bully stays and with he/she stays the fear, incompetence, inefficiency and lack of committment.

As leaders, we need to be in the look out for bullies and stop their behavior, for the benefit of our employees.  It is our responsibility to promote a health work environment and bullying is the opposite of that.  No lean journey will be successful if we allow this kind of behavior, respect for the people is the most important mind-set for continuous improvement and bullying is a disrespectful behavior.