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.

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Training Program

Why a job description is important?

Whenever you are evaluating if you are a good fit for that position posted on the bulletin board or you have been promoted, the job description is your best ally to learn the primary functions of the job, required qualifications including physical, work conditions and relationship with other positions.  This document plays an important role on your on boarding process and provide the basis for future performance appraisals.

If you are the hiring manager, the job description (JD) will be a great tool to communicate all the critical information regarding the position.  Clear and complete information detailing the responsibilities and expectations of the job are very important to minimize or eliminate confusion and the feeling of not knowing the expectations.  A  JD is also a legal document, you want a well written JD to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or in case an employee files a lawsuit.

To ensure the job description is align with the company goals and culture, I like to incorporate it into the training program, being the spine of the training program design.  In a continuous improvement or lean culture, the job description includes the skills and requirements to support the activities associated with it.  Every task needs to be covered during training, this is a good way to ensure the on boarding is successful and show respect by establishing a good foundation for the employees success.  Nothing  better for a good employee-employer relationship than to start with a well designed training created with the employee on mind.

The Beginning, Training Program

Got a new job?

Don’t waste time learning the “tricks of the trade.” Instead, learn the trade. ~James Charlton

Different times in my life, for various reasons; I decided to embark on a new job.  For years,  I worked for the top three competitors of the same food category.  The transition between them was fairly easy because although different companies, being the same business segment they also had a lot of similarities.  But then one day, I decided to shake up things a bit and went out of my comfort accepting a job offer in a new industry.

How you set up yourself to be successful on a new job?  During the interview process you advertise all your skills and experience and now is time to show it.  As manager, I recruited many people during my career and my objective is to help them to be successful.  With that in mind, I guide them through a couple of steps, which are the same I followed.

First thing is to make sure that you fully understand your role.  Get that job description and read it, highlight those items that are not very clear, ask what they mean.  If you did your assignment, during the interview process you ask most of the questions but ensure you know all the expectations; performance appraisal goals, work hours, travel  and others.

My second step it to meet the key people.  Start with your own department and continue with all the others.  If you are in a new industry, like I was; you will have to learn the process and those things that are different and unique to this new one. A good way to do this is to ask the department managers for an overview of their processes and if it is possible to spend some hours with the people who perform those processes. There is no better way to learn than going to the gemba and see.

This step is very important because can set the tone of how your relationship with all these people will be.  Be respectful with their time. listen carefully, learn from their experiences.  Let them explain you those things they are proud of, make questions, engage on the conversation and ask for advice.  How you can you help them?  What they think should be your top priorities? Identify the people who is willing and able to help you, those with more experience who can me like a mentor for you.

How much time you spend to go thorough those steps depend on you, the company and of course your boss.  I think this process can be anywhere from a month to three months.  Knowing how your department and your role relates with the whole is very helpful to create your work plan.  If everything went as expected, also you build the foundation for a successful work relationship with your peers.  You don’t need any tricks, just to work letting your experience be an asset but not a road block to your learning process.

 

Training Program

Have you ever considered to be a mentor?

Some years ago, the company I was working by that time establish a mentoring program.  They realize that their staff was getting older, most of them very close to retirement age and they did not have trained people ready to replace them.

The plant implemented the program and the operations manager adopted me.  Back in those days I was an industrial engineer full of theoretical information but very little experience.  It helped me a lot to have a successful manager with years of experience couching, counseling and sharing her perspective and very good information about best practices and the why’s of them.  At the time, she was not my supervisor which maybe helped to open even more the communication to discuss items like how to meet the challenges of being a young woman in charge of people with more years of experience than my years of live and some men that did not appreciate the idea of taking orders from a woman.  I became a successful supervisor and grew up relatively fast in the company in part for this

I once inherited this department with no supervisor.  The previous manager had this talented guy with no previous supervisory experience lined up for the position.  I was struggling between hiring an outsider or giving the chance to this person.  I chose the latter, knowing that he was not prepared for the position.

Without training or a role model to follow, soon he was having problems to delegate, distribute the work within the team, discipline people or even to understand what he can decide by himself and what consulted with his supervisor.  I remember my experience as a mentee and decided to mentor him.

Our journey together deserves a post by itself but for now I will say that has been very rewarding for both of us.  Now he surprises me all the time with his ideas, leadership and committment with lean manufacturing. He surprises himself and use his experience to motivate and convince his own team.

I did not know how to mentor, I was just following the steps that my mentor walked with me, the following quote from Simon Sinek summarize that relationship:  “A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us to show us how they did it. A mentor walks alongside us to show us what we can do”.

Motivation, Training Program

How we trained our employees for new jobs?

Years ago I was working with inevitable changes in our manpower.  After a revision in our business plan the entire operation was going to change requiring less manpower.  A very generous retirement plan took care of most of the extra employees under the new operation scheme.  The challenge for me was to choose what job the remaining group would have.  After a life doing a manual job that will no longer exist, these people (90% of them women) whose age was between 50 and 60 years will have to learn to do something else.

All the available jobs required to operate a machine that runs at speeds between 150 to 400 units per minute.  It was not only to feed the machine but also to be able to control the settings to comply with quality requirements, clean the machine and assist maintenance with troubleshooting and minor adjustments.

Most of these ladies were really afraid about what would be their new job.  Assigning jobs and provide appropriate training was a critical task which required to show respect towards these persons.  I interview every one of them to hear their concerns, fears and expectations regarding their new jobs.  The real intention of these interviews was to have a one to one meeting to clarify doubts, ask if they had any preference regarding what machine they would like to work with and assure them that we will train and support them every step of the way. With the information gathered during the interviews, their training records verification and skills assessment, the supervisors that work with them before and their new supervisors help me to choose the machine they would be assigned to.

We created visual work instructions for every task and every machine, design theoretical and hands on trainings, and use all these material to teach them.  We also used a buddy system to ensure that every new operator was with a more experienced operator 100% of the time during at least one week.  The shift supervisors help me to assess their job and we scheduled some additional to some individuals based on the results.

The journey was stressful at times, difficult at others and challenging all the time but at the end it worth it.  This group of operators learn at their own pace, they grew up to be an excellent group and some of them even become trainers for new comers.  Their smiles and how good they feel about themself for all their accomplishments during that time it is for ever one of my personal favorite stories.