Category Archives: Business

Motivating Knowledge Workers

Dan Pink has an outstanding TED talk about how to motivate workers in the 21st century (some readers may need to open this post to be able to view the 19 minute video).  Dan’s message about the difference between what science knows versus what business does will hopefully give you a new perspective. 

Leadership can get into a trap when it tries to get compliance instead of commitment or engagement.  Dan discusses how incentives can do more harm for your business.  The speech discusses the need to move from a reward by carrot or punishment by stick practice. 

Dan also speaks about an interesting study by Dan Ariely whom I greatly admire.  I wrote about how his findings can help you connect actions to cost.

Please comment with your reactions to Dan’s speech.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Project Management, Respect For People

Windows Of Frustration (part 2)

To get new windows in our house it has taken a minimum of five installations due to lack of inspection. 

After the problems with the first installation (see part 1), I kept in constant contact with the sales person to ensure the windows that will be replaced are double-hung, has the same grid pattern, and the same energy efficiency.  The sales person advised me the windows will be the exact same as the first installation except double-hung.

I had a family member at my house while the crew came for the second installation since I have to work and they only come M-F 8:00-5:00.  After the windows were installed, my family member called to advise there were grids in both the top and bottom glass instead of just the top (which is how the single-hung windows looked like at the first installation).  We also advised the crew to inspect one of the other windows that were installed previously because the framing was chipped.

The sales person advised me that I now have to work with the manufacturer since his company finished the install.  The issue was now part of the warrantee with the window company and not the sales/installation company.  The sales person told me the window company has a week backlog before they are even able to call people back to discuss problems.  The sales person added that the window company will have to deal with the chipped framing as well.

I finally got a call from the window company and they advised they will come out to replace the windows with the incorrect lower grids.  I asked for an evening or weekend install and they refused.  I asked them if their refusal was serious especially since it is to fix a mistake they made.  They advised they were serious.

The correct windows were finally put in for the third installation.  They looked at the chipped framing window and advised they will come out again to replace it (M-F 8:00-5:00 only again).  Luckily I happened to have had a weekday off to be there when they came a fourth time to fix the chipped framing but the installer ordered the wrong parts and needed to come back a fifth time.  This Thursday will be the fifth time so my fingers are crossed but the cynic in me is expecting trouble.

I share this story to help highlight where Lean could help this situation.  Below is a partial list:

  • The sales/installation company should have done a quality inspection before spending the resources installing the wrong parts.
  • The window company should have a better quality check before they wasted time building incorrect custom windows.
  • I am sure there was a communication flow issue between the sales/installation company and the window company that can be standardized.
  • The fact that there is a weeklong backlog before problems can even begin to be addressed should be seen as a problem for the window company.  Getting to the root cause will help them fix the issue instead of always putting out fires.
  • An understanding of what is value added to the customer will help both companies.  I expect more value when a problem is identified but they treated the issue like it was normal.  From my experience, most customers judge a company by how they deal with problems if they unfortunately encounter one.

What other opportunities do you see for either company?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Waste

Windows Of Frustration (part 1)

As someone who helps people improve their processes and quality for a living, being a consumer can sometimes drive me batty!  I think there will always be a need for the lean principles to be applied (although some companies do not recognize the need).  My wife and I recently purchased new windows for our whole house and have had cascading problems since. 

The sales person did a quote while we were at work and mailed it to us.  To understand what the windows he quoted were, we visited the showroom and the sales person showed us a double-hung window where both the top and bottom opened.  We advised we wanted the energy-efficient and gas-filled glass.  We pointed out the measurements on the quote weren’t correct so he was going to send someone out again and provide us with a more accurate quote. 

The updated quote came and the price was good so we agreed via telephone.

During the day of the first installation I stayed out of the way from the crew.  I popped out at one point to see one of the windows that was finished.  It was a single-hung window where the top did not open like I ordered! 

I called the salesperson who was very rude stating it was on the quote I agreed to.  I advised it was not the window my wife and I saw in the showroom.  He said that was just a demo of the window brand and we were not clear to him we wanted double-hung.  I asked where it said on the quote that it was single hung to alert me as a customer that I might not be getting what I expected.  He said next to each measurement is the code “SH” for single hung.  I advised him that as the window expert, I would have expected him to explain technical codes to me the consumer and asked why he would not have tried to up-sell me on the more expensive window anyways.  We eventually came to agreement to get the correct custom windows installed.  This was truly a test of my respect for people principle!

Besides the obvious upset customer (me!), there was a lot of waste for the sales/installation company and the manufacturer: 

  • The installers have to send their crew out twice (you will find out it will be three times in part 2!). 
  • The single-hung custom windows are now scrap cost to  the installer and/or manufacturer. 
  • The time the salesperson spent fixing our problem took time away from him to generate new business for the installation company.

Potential counter-measures: 1) Train salespeople to ask customer’s the right kind of questions to ensure their needs are met prior to ordering.  2) Make quotes visual with descriptions with explicit explanations with no code so the customer can understand what they are agreeing to.  3) Don’t blame the customer when problems happen but own the issue.

I will share part 2 next week.  Any other wastes or counter-measures you see in this story?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Information Flow, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People, Root Cause, Value Added, Visual Communication, Visual Language, Waste

Martyrs and Hidden Problems

There are people in your organization who live with drastic waste everyday but they do not communicate it to anybody as a problem.  I call them martyrs.

They take on work that is not value added for your customer.  They perform duties that are a waste of their skills and pay level.  Most of these activities have no thoughtful processes and are highly subject to variability.  Martyrs usually do this work without productive complaint because “someone has to get it done and nobody else will do it.” (I say productive complaint because they most likely share their frustration with coworkers and families).

Leadership must actively identify and help martyrs. 

  • Only by observing people doing the work will leaders see the problems martyrs face – because they will not tell you.  Some do not even recognize it as a problem. 
  • Help these martyrs recognize problems and do everything you can to help them solve it. 
  • Assist them with understanding processes so they can remove waste from their work.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Productivity, Respect For People, Standard Work

“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”

Remember the song “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”? 

I was thinking how appropriate some of the lyrics are for people who see problems in their work area everyday that never get fixed.  Encourage your teams to make problems visible so they can begin to solve issues. 

  • Make a whiteboard where everybody writes problems they see. 
  • Have blank A3 paper handy so someone can begin to uncover the root cause. 
  • Remind people to not just keep problems limited to memory because in a fast-paced workplace it is easy to forget or trivialize as time progresses.
  • Assign or facilitate someone in the workgroup to own the resolution of the problem.
  • Reinforce a culture where leadership supports problems being visible and not used as an easy punishing device.

Giving your team an avenue to express the problems they see will bring massive improvement to your organization.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under A3, Business, Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Respect For People, Visual Communication

Rent-A-Wait and Inflexibility

Inflexible staff responsibilities and lack of cross-training leads to customer waiting.  Simple changes can help your organization easily achieve customer satisfaction.

My wife and I rented a car for our vacation last week and experienced a very unnecessary 20 minute wait to return our car.  This company definitely was not a Lean Enterprise.

The rent-a-car location has two connected offices.  One office was for Cars and the other was Trucks.  We returned the car about an hour after it opened only to see a sign on the locked door for the cars division stating they were dropping off a customer and to call a number if needed.  We called the number and was advised the Car Division employee would return in 20-25 minutes. 

We went into the Trucks Division office and two employees were talking together.  They were not on the computer or phone.  They advised they can only take the keys from us but could not give a receipt or change the credit card like we wanted to.

About five minutes later, a guy in coveralls drove up and parked behind the building.  We saw him enter a back door of the Cars Division.  We knocked on the glass and the new guy advised us he just takes care of the cars and would only be able to take the keys from us.

After 20 minutes, the Cars Division salesperson showed up and took care of us.

Our waiting could have been avoided by having more flexibility between divisions.  If the Truck staff was not silioed and was able to cover the Cars returns while they dropped off a customer, we would have been more satisfied.  From our perspective, the employees all worked for the same company and I did not care if they were in different divisions.

Another way to avoid customer wait would be to provide credit card and return authority to the person who takes care of the cars.  If the company is hiring people who they do not trust with customer credit cards to take care of the cars, then I seriously worry about the quality of the vehicle I am renting.

This experience just drives home the importance of physically going to see how your customers interact with your company and products.  The contermeasures I provided are simple and easy to implement but you have to see the problem to know it is a problem.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, customers, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Information Flow, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Productivity, Respect For People

Learning Mindset

Learn something like you will be required to teach it someday.

That advice was given to me when I was in college and selling knives to pay my way through it.  We had sales conferences and some speaker, I cannot remember their name, gave this principle to me and I try to use it every day.  This blog is a reflection of this mindset.

When you read a book/article, hear a speaker, or get mentored, try to learn with the intensity that you might be called on to help someone else learn the same thing.  You take on an additional responsibility if you know you are not learning just for your own sake.  Not everything taught to you will be perfect or relevant but you will begin to look for the gold nuggets to pass on to others.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Personal Development, Productivity, Reflection, Respect For People

Brain Rules for Presenters (and Lean)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I have not read John Medina’s book “Brain Rules” yet but this presentation from Garr Reynolds makes the book look fascinating (RSS readers may need to open post to view presentation).  If there is any trouble with the embedded video (sometimes SlideShare loads forever when I embed it), the original source is here.

Some elements really fit in with Lean thinking:

  • The comments about instruction space sucking the brain power out of people is quite apt to consider if you are trying to create a learning organization. 
  • The focus to minimize interruptions to gain quality is a form of waste to remove. 
  • I love the phrase “going analog” because it does not have to rely on technology.
  • Noticing where there is force feeding but little digestion makes me think of how respect for people is being practiced.
  • “Pictures beat text” is a great clarion call to make the workplace more visual.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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more about “Brain Rules for Presenters“, posted with vodpod

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Filed under Business, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Project Management, Respect For People, Visual Communication, Visual Language

Book Review: Flawless Consulting 2nd Edition

Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting Second Edition” is an outstanding book and I recommend it for anybody who is ever asked for advice.  Consulting skills are not limited to people with a consultant title but anybody who helps others but has no authority over the outcome of their advice.  Leaders, project managers, church elders, event planners, and many others will find benefit in this book.

I bought this book because I am an internal consultant.  I had a coach challenge me to define my role as a consultant.  I was not able to do so in a way that satisfied me.  This book helped me tremendously to be purposeful in all of my consulting work.

Block defines the roles and needs for both consultant and client.  He provides the thinking behind the business of each phase in consulting.  The definition and encouragement of how to be authentic are very actionable.  The book also highlights the differences between external and internal consulting. 

Some stand out chapters cover: 

  • Contracting with a client (this is not just a formal & legal contract but a relationship contract)
  • Understanding, recognizing, and dealing with resistance
  • Obtaining data
  • Engagement thinking and tools

”Flawless Consulting” has many elements consistent with Lean thinking such as whole system engagement, being a learning organization instead of only focusing on teaching, and moving away from just engineering to include the social side of change. 

I really like the wide margins in the book to be able to write my notes and thoughts.  A good sign that I get something from a book is the amount of pencil marks inside of it.  Practically every other page has some notation from my pencil!

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Project Management, Respect For People

Lesson: Consulting Is A Different Beast

I am an internal consultant but just recently learned I do not fully grasp what consulting is.

I feel I am an effective communicator, I can train, I have a good understanding how to implement and sustain Lean improvements, and I can help people solve problems.  I was under the impression that all of these skills added together to equal consulting.  I was wrong.

I have been pressing in with my coworkers to get coaching on what consulting skills are and I am reading Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting“.  I also have another book someone lent me as well.

You will see some of my reflections as I get a deeper understanding of consulting.  I welcome your comments about consulting or suggestions for blogs/articles/books to further help me understand.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Consulting, Improve With Lean, Problem Solving, Project Management, Reflection

Oil and Water

If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one.” – W. Edwards Deming

A lot of organizations call themselves Lean because they use the tools yet they still manage the same way as before their journey began.  You will never gain a deep learning of Lean by trying to live in both worlds.  This formula is like oil and water becasue they do not mix. 

When leadership asks their front-line workers to change, the managers have to change as well for it to truly work. 

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How To Get People To Change

“People do not change when you tell them they should; they change when they tell themselves they must.” – Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy specialist at John Hopkins University

Jonathan Frye from LeadershipJot.com has great comments about this quote and the source where it came from.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Respect For People

Fun With Post-Its

We use Post Its a lot for teaching people how to improve processes and understand the current state.  I thought this 1.5 minute video was fun and creative (RSS viewers will need to open post to view video).  Thanks to the Visual Management Blog for alerting me about this video!

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Communication, Visual Communication, Visual Language, Visual Systems

The Perfect Pitch

How do you show your customers you are competent about your product/service?

My wife and I noticed a small leak near our chimney recently and was advised it most likely was coming from our roof.  We called for three roofing quotes to validate if it was truly a roof issue or if it was something else.

The first contractor came out and pointed out things on our 15 year roof to look for.  He showed me where the previous homeowner did a bad job near some pipes and that we most likely were leaking but can’t see it due to three layers of roof.  He showed where some of the roofing is curling which is a sign of needing replacing.  He inspected around the chimney (even on the side of the house away from the roof) to see where our water was coming from.  He explained how water runs around a house and what signs to look for.  He went onto our roof and measured the pitch.  The contractor gave me a quote and said I should consider replacing in a year.  The transaction was about 35-40 minutes.

The second contractor pulled up to our house and walked immediately to the door.  He sat down with me and said I needed a new roof.  I asked him how he knew since I did not see him stand and look at the roof and didn’t even look at it from the back yard.  He said he can tell because the shiny surface was missing from the front tiles.  He gave me a quote.  The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

The third contractor never came out.

The first contractor provided a lot of value added service to me.  He educated me.  Measuring the pitch made me feel the quote was more accurate.  He provided advice on the real problem why I called him but still explained that the roof will need replacing.  He actually looked at our entire roof before he provided the diagnosis.

The second contractor approached me as though he was the expert and I should just trust him.  He did not demonstrate anything to make me believe he was competent like the first contractor did.  A roof is not cheap so do not discount time spent to build credibility with your potential customers!

Do your actions help your customers see that you are competent and credible?  Do your processes allow value added time for your customers?  Do you think the first contractor wasted time with what he did to give me a quote since the second contractor was more efficient (not effective though)?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Value Added

Psychological Impact of Change

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”King Whitney Jr, President, Personnel Laboratory Inc

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