Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How do you involve and organization in PDCA and Lean Thinking across all functional areas and departments?

I would like to share another post I contributed to on Michael Balle's The Lean Edge - check it out other opinions from Lean Authors and Practitioner's!!

How do you involve and organization in PDCA and Lean Thinking across all functional areas and departments?

I often like to start off by discussing the scientific method (PDCA) by differentiating the “process” from the “tool” side of it. These are two very different things. When I visit clients or do public sessions my experience from grasping the current state that more people (various levels and industries) see it as a tool. Some would argue to say it is, my preference and how I was taught is to fully understand the thinking process behind the tool. So if you are trying to move your organization to see through the same lens its often good to clarify expectations and explain why changing a business model or how you think is necessary. I tend to refer to it (as others have) as horizontal and vertical alignment/thinking (harmonizing the silos). So vertically within all your departments from the process owner to the president there should be an alignment of “thinking” and horizontally across the functional areas (ie – accounting, payroll, human resources, manufacturing or service output, engineering, design etc) there should be a similar lens to articulate through.
Organizationally most are naturally silo’ed, some see this as a negative, I see it as a functional necessity since everyone in the organization has a different line of sight and role to the overall value stream, the commonality “should” be the company key performance indicators, true north and the people development side (back to process). These should always be your guiding beacons to guide the occasional “stray arrow” back towards alignment. I think if you focus on certain commonalities in an organization such as understanding the process from order to customer, (regardless of industry, product or service) then it will immediately give you a couple of areas to close in on which could be:
1. What are our the percentage of leading KPI’s to lagging KPI’s in your organization?
A leading indicator is one that is predictive and lets you know when the process needs change. A lagging indicator is nice to understand and necessary to see the ultimate result of business but its also historical information. Its hard to make change once something has happened. If we are only tracking results across the organization then chances are we are reacting. So a good business model through use of the scientific method is to always look for process leading indicators that in turn effect your results. My Japanese trainers would always insist – “Results are the outcome to good processes”.
2. Do you have visualization of the problem, and are there known standards?
This can really be effective if each team/department/section can develop a visual management system in order understand and grasp the current state at all times. Developing the people side of this thinking requires a certain level of standardization within your processes- this is a discipline that requires a leader at any level to hold people accountable. If you have a best practice for a process then it allows you to see abnormality at a glance, this is priceless in understanding and dialing in on process indicators that can be tracked to improve the standards, to me it is its on mini PDCA cycle that happens at the process owner level. This should then continue to work upward into the next level supervisor and assist in how they lead and develop their people. It all sounds incredibly simple and it can be if the “D and A” is being built and practiced within the culture (Discipline and Accountability).
3. Are you leaders actions tangible to the company values?
Most organizations have a set of values they go by or have a beautifully framed and matted picture of them (the values) in the lobby area. This can be spectacular for someone visiting or a customer to see, but what does it mean internally to your people? I was always taught that company values should translate to actions, this way I’m walking the walk and people belief that I have the best interest of the company and people at heart. If you can’t translate values to tangible actions sometimes the true meaning of what a company is about is lost in translation which in turn could create moral issues. This is one area that should be recognized as you are trying to “see through the same lens”. It can alleviate potential conflict, and develop your leaders to a more “servant leadership role”.
I think all these areas listed above (among many others) can help develop people and bridge the gaps of what the company is trying to accomplish through the entire value stream and how each person at a process level plays an important role in making that happen (line of sight). I think it boils down to respect for people and ensuring they understand the importance of seeing through the same lens and how utilizing their extraordinary brain power is such an asset to the organization, without people and their ability to grow could hinder your long term success and sustainability as an organization. One of the most overlooked forms of waste is the “under-utilization” of people and their ability to “think”.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

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