“If someone isn’t following standard work then it becomes an individual performance issue.”
Have you ever heard a leader say something like that?
It is important to help leaders understand that there are many reasons why standardized work may not be followed and creating a human resource performance improvement plan should not be the first step.
A leader must go and see the actual condition that is causing the employee to not follow standardized work (SW). Leaders need to ask why SW isn’t followed. Here are some potential reasons:
They don’t know about the SW: How was the change communicated? At a team-meeting where not everyone was present? Via email buried under other announcements?
They aren’t trained or capable to do the SW: They may not have the tools or the environment does not allow then to follow it. The training provided might not have been enough for them.
All situations not considered when creating the SW: In order to respond to customers, the SW may not be capable to meet their needs. Do not jump to the conclusion that there isn’t a good reason why an employee did something different. They are on your team because of their hearts and minds and not just a pair of hands right?
They already discovered a better way: Help them know how to spread improvements discovered by frontline workers.
No leadership involvement: If leadership does not show they care the process is being followed on a regular basis and helping solve problems uncovered after implementation, then how can you expect employees to care?
Outcome not achieved but SW still being required: Standardization is not a Lean goal but a tool to help improve outcomes. If your hypothesized outcome didn’t come true, why are you still requiring staff to follow the SW?
You aren’t improving the SW: Over time the SW will unconsciously change if the continuous improvement of it is not designed or part of your culture. The SW may have had elements missing or wasn’t fully tested.
Leadership has placed the wrong person in the role: There are some people who willfully do not follow SW. Leadership must take responsibility for this too since they either tolerated bad behavior because of their productivity or have been so uninvolved to know a person does not fit in their new culture.
As you can see, there are many reasons why people do not follow standard work before you need to punish with HR.
What are some other reasons you have seen why SW isn’t followed?
I have been reading the excellent book ON THE MEND about ThedaCare’s Lean journey. The authors talk about the importance of having a burning platform to drive change since the clearest way to get someone to jump into the water is to burn the platform.
I started to think about what happens when an organization takes this concept too far and begins to torch the entire field and surrounding buildings. Everybody thinks their platform is the one that should be lit and nobody is controlling the distribution of matches, lighters, or moltov cocktails. Here are some of the results:
SMOKE FILLS AREA: Direction becomes unclear. People can not see where they are headed.
PEOPLE BECOME TRAPPED: If all the surroundings are on fire, people can not reach the water to feel a sense of accomplishment. People will become tired trying to fight all the flames and will either melt-down or burn-out.
THINGS DIE: Even if firefighters quickly dash in to extinguish the blaze, not everything can be saved since the fire covers a lot of ground. People, equipment, and resources such as water become scarce as many people fight the fire across such a wide area. A lot of effort is made but only ash remains.
Organizations need to work at aligning over lighting only a few platforms to get effective change for their performance. Identify your organization’s pyromaniacs to help them not set everything else on fire!
I recently discovered this funny online webcomic 1.00 FTE. This particular one reminds me of the waste of overburdening people. An unreasonable request is made to a team and escalation is conducted to force it to action.
What is a better way to meet with senior management about this?
Bring the senior leader to watch and talk with the team (gemba) to find out why they can not do the task. There may be waste causing them to not be able to complete the task. They may not have the resources or skills. There may be other barriers for them.
Deeply understand the task that is being requested. The task may not fit into the organization’s strategy or help your customer. The task might not be worth doing right now (or ever). It may just be someone’s pet project. The team may have bigger priorities.
WHY is one of the most important questions for your Lean journey. Here are the reasons:
IMPROVE ROOT CAUSES – Instead of fixing symptoms, determine what is causing the problem by asking WHY five times (Wikipedia example)
GOOD CHANGE MANAGEMENT – Ensure your staff knows WHY an improvement is made or the reasons for standardization. This is only helpful if the answer to WHY isn’t “because I told you so”.
SUSTAIN GAINS – Just because a brilliant process has been designed for standardization does not mean all staff will follow it. Leaders need to ask WHY an individual does not perform to standard. It could be because of lack of training, a misunderstanding of WHY change was made, a physical or space limitation preventing the ability to follow it, a flat out refusal to adhere to it, or many other reasons. You can not sustain unless you find out WHY people are not following it.
BETTER TEACHING – In my experience, teaching the reasons WHY behind the Lean tools helps people think critically. Just explaining how the tools are used can lead to a misuse of them.
IMPACT PERFORMANCE – Your organization probably has a lot of demand for projects. Find out WHY the projects are needed and use that information to select those that impact your performance. Projects can keep a lot of people flurrying in activity but are not always conceptualized to achieve improvement for the organization’s performance, creating value for customers, or achieving strategic aims.
What other use of WHY have helped you on your Lean journey?
Just because a project is a good thing to do does not mean it should be done now. It is very easy to spend time and resources on these “good” projects if your organizational strategy is not deployed throughout all levels.
At my hospital we have many areas now doing Lean improvements and achieving good results. The challenge our organization is facing is there are other strategic initiatives losing momentum due to competing resources. We are currently learning how to do strategy deployment in an effective way.
The Lean Enterprise Institute is providing an interesting resource that I think will help us featuring Dr. John Toussaint, from the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. The first part will be a 30 minute video where we see how ThedaCare cascades their strategy through all levels of the hospital.
I really appreciate the idea to do a virtual gemba walk at ThedaCare. I feel one of the biggest barriers to lean success for hospitals is isolation. I think it is great that ThedaCare is “opening its’ door” for us to learn from them.
The second part of L.E.I.’s product is a 60-minute Live Q&A Video Event on February 24 at 11:00 AM EST, where Dr. Toussaint will answer your questions. This too will be recorded for viewing at a later date.