I like this quote because it touches on a couple of other ideas I have read before. One author I like (Joiner) states that all leaders need to treat decisions as experiments. Lean challenges HiPPOs (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) to use data in decision making instead of through assertiveness or by being charismatic. The quote below is a good reminder to always experiment with theories to be able to show data if the theory is true or not. It also helps me really notice when opinions are made verses asking for objective data to support.
“In a world without data, opinion prevails…Most managerial dictums are hypotheses. A hypothesis by nature is useless unless proven by data…Asserting an opinion as a fact is a lot easier. Pretending that our assuredness reflects objective truth is certainly convenient …we need to test our beliefs against data…Managers must see themselves as experimenters who lead learning, not dictators who impose control.” – Peter Scholtes “The Leader’s Handbook pages 29,33
I recently uncovered a box of books I thought was lost years ago (before I knew about 5S!) This time capsule contained material I read about 15 years ago while still in college and managing my own direct sales business during summer breaks. It was fun to flip through my dusty paperbacks and read my notes. One of these books was “Unlimited Power” by Tony Robbins. Little did I know it at the time, this influential book was my first introduction to Plan-Do-Study-Adjust thinking!
Robbins writes about what he refers to as the Ultimate success Formula and points out that this is the consistent path of people who have attained excellence. Here are the steps:
Know your outcome
Recognize if your actions are taking you closer to your goal or farther away
Develop the flexibility to change your behavior until you get what you want
These steps directly reflect the Shewhart PDSA Cycle which is a core principle for Lean practitioners. I truly think it is the ultimate success formula!
By following PDSA, you will save yourself the waste that comes from doing an activity without knowing the outcome you want. You won’t be stuck in analysis paralysis and will actually do something to make improvements. You will continuously improve when you seek evidence from your actions to see if they are producing what you expect. Being able to adjust and change your approach in order to achieve the results you want will put you miles ahead of someone who keeps trying different variations of the same thing but never getting different outcomes.
One big learning I had from re-discovering this book is that I have been drawn to this kind of improvement thinking for my entire professional working career. Even tough I didn’t know what Lean was, I was getting a little glimpse of it!
Does your workday frequently feel like mayhem? I have talked with many people who feel like their job is filled with unnecessary chaos. I believe a lot of organizations self-inflict themselves with craziness. There is a way to stop the mayhem!
Overburdening people (and equipment) is a form of waste. Your organization must first identify where people experience this waste. Usually it is very easy to find just by asking who feels they are overwhelmed.
Here are some examples of what you may find (also note that most below do not have a paying customer waiting for the outcome):
Leaders asking for non-standard reports with quick deadlines (usually to sit on their desks for weeks before they look at them)
Constant edits or change of direction to documents because planning is often done afterthe content was created
Support departments get projects dumped on them without ever problem solving around their ability to have capacity to do the work
Somebody’s procrastination or lack of planning becomes another person’s urgent priority
The next step is to acknowledge this kind of mayhem is a problem. This step is difficult because firefighting heroics and the rush of adrenaline from last-minute deadlines becomes “how things are done around here”.
As an outside observer, I usually see little need for subjecting employees to this kind of work condition and believe it lowers engagement. Until teams align that overburdening staff is a problem, it will continue unabated.
The final step is to identify the root causes of the mayhem and eliminate them.
What sort of unnecessary mayhem do you experience in the workplace?
(NOTE: The attached video is only related to this post because of the title and I thought it was a cool rockabilly song!)
I often see restaurants and other businesses with signs outside advertising “Under New Management” and wonder why they need to advertise this to potential customers. It got me to thinking how Lean success requires new management as well to be successful.
I think local businesses hang announcements about a leadership change because they want to tell customers they will receive better service than before. Maybe they now offer better quality, improved customer service, superior product selection, friendlier employees because they are happier, safer conditions, or a combination of all. Lean transformations provide similar benefits but they require new management to achieve them.
The leadership team might be the same people as before, but their management practices will need to change. Remember, improved results were not being created and sustained under an old management model.
Below is not a comprehensive list, but here are some of the changes to traditional leadership:
Decisions are made based on data and observation, not just charisma and intuition
Leaders act as coaches and teachers to develop people to solve problems deeper in the organization instead of being the one to solve them
The voice of the customer is primary focus
Standardized work is followed by leaders and not just those in production
Credibility is earned by practicing Lean and not just sponsoring it or speaking positively about it
Ability to fire-fight is not a sign of great Lean leaders; removing root causes to prevent fires shows lean competency
Use long-term thinking for selecting activities and strategies
Practice Respect For People for all staff, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders
Manage both the means and results by understanding how processes produce outcomes
Becoming “under new management” is not an easy task but it will help your organization remain competitive in the years to come.
“On The Mend” by John Toussaint, Roger Gerard, and Emily Adams is highly recommended for any level of leader in a hospital.
The authors stress the importance of how leaders need to change themselves in a Lean transformation. Insights to the thinking of leaders at ThedaCare will challenge a hospital’s current management approach and hopefully inspire experimentation of a new style.
Woven throughout the book is the continual discussion of the impacts of a shame and blame culture. The authors discuss some of the root causes of shame and blame. They explain some of the counter-measures they used to improve the culture. There is a whole chapter on engaging doctors that is of value for any healthcare leader.
The book greatly shows how time reduction is not only a productivity metric, but how timeliness impacts the health and safety of the patient. Other examples throughout the book demonstrate that Lean can make great improvements in a hospital.
I appreciate the credibility of the authors. Many times, they state when things did not work well, how they were the problem in some cases, and how they would approach differently in the future. I think it is important for these sort of books to be honest since a Lean journey is not easy. “On The Mend” provides a realistic look at how this kind of thinking can make lasting transformation in hospitals.
More information about the book including videos, author interviews, and a free chapter available at L.E.I.
Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.
I had an experience recently to renew my excitement to help transform hospitals with Lean. Our son’s pediatrician is helping us deal with his colic. The doctor said he wants to try one change at a time to determine what will help my boy. This is Plan-Do-Check-Act!
Some organizations want to implement a ton of stuff at once. If the problem is fixed, it is difficult to pinpoint which of the myriad of countermeasures did the trick. If the problem is not fixed, they throw a bunch more changes to the wall to see what sticks.
Our pediatrician patiently tries one thing at a time. Once the issue is resolved, he will then begin removing some of the counter-measures (medication and other soothing techniques) and continue to check that the colic is still gone. How often do organizations remove some of the counter-measures after they implement a bunch at once?
PDCA is scientific thinking and doctors use it. My excitement is renewed because I see how using PDCA with providers will help make Lean relevant for them in hospitals.
Last month I served on a jury and really enjoyed the opportunity. The pamphlet that was handed out to all jurors had some advice that I think is good for those in a Lean organization:
“It is enough that you keep an open mind, use common sense, concentrate on the evidence presented, and be fair and honest in your deliberations. Remember: Don’t be influenced by sympathy or prejudice.”
Keeping an open mind is important for innovation. So often our minds want to keep things the same or we may stretch to optimize how things are. An open mind will help you create something new.
Common sense is woven throughout Lean thinking. While the concepts are simple, the applications of them are elegant.
Going to gemba will be the key piece of evidence for you to concentrate on. The facts you witness and hear will help you make a good verdict for what improvements to make.
Lean is about focusing on your customers and what your business needs to prosper. This focus helps you to be fair and honest while avoiding sympathy or prejudice. Pet projects or individual agendas may not always fit into Lean thinking.
There is an interesting computer-industry trend called Moore’s Law that can be applied to Lean thinking.
Per Wikipedia, Gordon E. Moore pointed out since 1958, the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. It has continued for almost half a century and in 2005 was not expected to stop for another decade at least.
With performance doubling every two years as the basis for Moore’s Law, how does this apply to Lean thinking?
I think it is easy for people in Lean organizations to get stuck in the mode of always going after PERFECTinstead of focusing on 50% BETTER. With Moore’s Law, they did not wait to release electronics until the transistors were a perfect size. This thinking can help you and your team stop waiting and do what is possible now to get an improved performance.
The second way Moore’s Law applies to Lean is the continuous improvement element. There is a great thrust and expectation set by this law that performance will double every two years. This drives people to continuously improve electronics all the time with no end in sight.
Many organizations early in their Lean journey look at the thinking and tools as theory or philosophy. Many Lean articles and books have documented improvment performance with clear cause and effect connections due to Lean thinking. Maybe it is time to start calling it Lean’s Law!
Mark Graban at leanblog.org has inspired me to learn more about W. Edwards Deming. Karen Kroll has an interesting SlideShare presentation about this influential person (RSS readers might need to open post to view).