Category: Leading an Organization (page 1 of 3)

Employee Safety is Job #1

Probably one of the hardest aspect to manage is increasing productivity without diminishing the focus on safety. The most important faction in an organization is safety. Without a safe environment your processes, team environment, and culture will severely deteriorate. There must be a plan to address any safety item quickly and earnestly. If you ask your employees to work harder and produce more, they must feel secure and safe. They also need to know that there is never a production need that circumvents superior safety practices.

The orchestration of productivity improvement is not one that is simple. First, it requires the dedication and commitment from the top level of the corporation or organization to commit to protecting employees at all costs. Sincerely, no one wants to get injured and management must endorse that safety attitude. From the President of a company to the lowest level of management, there must be a commitment to safety first. A vital part of the success in safety is the recording and mistake proofing of all corrective actions. Reinstruction and holding informational meetings stressing to your team that unsafe practices need to be halted is only the preliminary step. Management must analyze the situations and attempt to make each occurrence impossible to reoccur. There are tremendous technology innovations that can assist in making your facility injury free. Light curtains, dual electronic switches, and lasers are a few hardware improvements that expand all options. However, most injuries could be prevented by simple mechanical augmentation of the processes. One of the unfortunate anomalies of safety is that they usually are a repeat of a previous near miss that has now become serious. A foremost activity is to review all your recorded near misses during the last twenty-four calendar months and assure that the proper corrective actions have been implemented with some level of mistake proofing,

Management must understand that there is always a level of mistake proofing that can be implemented. There are always immediate corrective actions that are put in place after an incident however they are usually just an immediate action that will require follow up actions. There are times that after the initial corrective actions are in place, the focus moves back to production and a re-review of more robust corrective actions fall to the wayside. This cannot happen because a repeat event will deteriorate the workforce’s faith in management and production improvements will become more difficult to attain. Management can eliminate these shortcomings by having a robust safety counsel that reviews all incidents and adopts long term corrective actions with milestones and assigning task leaders. The council must hold people accountable to meet the milestone deadlines and mistake proofing must be a significant focus.

Once employees feel a sense of management support and embracement, they will react and understand that they must produce. Management cannot only take actions that are not all encompassing and robust but must assure that they take actions that evaluate all similar situations within the workplace and expand the corrective action plan throughout. Management will sometimes struggle to get funding for some corrective actions. We must step in the paradigm of the executives who have expending funding for corrective actions that were not effective and we now are asking for more funding to take additional corrective actions. They also may be encountering a facility where profits are not meeting expectations. Therefore, we must present sound corrective action plans that have an advantage to the business and will truly mistake proof reoccurrences. Too many incomplete or inadequate corrective action plans have cost companies monies without eliminating injuries.

Executives and management must keep employees safe not merely for productivity increase but also because we are morally obligation to care for their team members. Management has a responsibility to return employees home safely and, in the condition they came to work. We owe it to the employees and their loved ones to not hurt employees. We must take the moral high ground to protect employees because without them we have nothing.

This Year’s Production Challenge

The year has begun. There are several things to be considered when setting your strategic plan in place for the new year. What corrections did you need to make in the last quarter to bring in the previous year as a success. Did those corrections simply accommodate your metrics or did they change the business for the better? A simple example is waste control. At the end of the year, did you not scrap out hardware that you should have dispositioned to attain a cost of poor quality or financial number? Were you balancing your scrap rate against an inventory goal and abandoning better business practices to hit a metric? Did you push high dollar products in front of lower revenue ones that your customer desperately needed? All of these practices are a fault of your prior year’s execution of the strategic plan. The problem with the aforementioned is that you are probably having a very tough first quarter. With that being said, you must analyze what did not execute properly that you have to adjust in the upcoming year.

1. Were your goals too aggressive and based off a desire or ones that had a sound detailed plan that was executional? Many times we set our goals off a desire and not as a strategic plan for improvement. If you look at your projected sales for this year, have you detailed the inventory you will need to attain the increased sales goal? Drill down the data to assure that your year-end projections are based off a carrying inventory that will be required for success. Failure to do so will result in a starved inventory for production in the first month of 2023. Assure that material planning is accurate and that you realize the inventory you need for 2023 is in place that does not deficit the beginning of 2018. Realize that in the last quarter of 2022 you must execute your material properly and not delay material receipts again. Detailed and verified inventory plans are required for each year’s success.

2. Waste planning is essential to success. Whether it be productivity, effectively or scrap and rework levels, your strategic plan now has to be compared to what was executed in 2022. When you set your goals for 2023, you must ask whether they were too aggressive or too lax. Did the goals for scrap materialize or did you hold back execution burdening the upcoming year? If you let your business run and execute to normal practices at the end of the year, congratulations as you did not manage the business to metric attainment. Observe those practices that were successful and which ones required intervention. Determine what the product flow actualizes and understand that unless you have a level three plan that is aggressive for improvement, your goal cannot be aggressive for attainment. A detailed plan for improvement is necessary for any step change and that plan must be reviewed with the responsible managers and the executors of that improvement plan.

3. Plan your sales plan off customer demands. You cannot be overly optimistic in creating the annual operations plan. Base that plan and make adjustments off of the market indicators for the industry you are in, firm contracts that are in place, spares sales that are based off of previous years realizations and firm forecasts, and reasonably project any new product introductions. Being overly optimistic will realize a plan that fails and one that is too conservative will starve your business of resources.

4. Develop a production start plan. At the onset of the year, you will be able to project production starts and build in outsourcing and shared resources. You can also deliver a plan that executes the entire year. That plan will require a review and adjustments throughout the year, but you will be able to project resource and material shortages and the risks associated with them. You must finalize your start plan months in advance to set the demand for material, manpower and process capacities. The failure of many production systems is the inability to project a starts plan and executing it appropriately.

5. Review your plans with all levels of the organization. Include the quality, materials, planning, procurement, and production groups. If possible review that plan with the hourly associates that produce the product. They will either validate the plan and attempt to perform to it or they will point out shortages that you may not have realized. Communicate the entire production plan so that everyone in the organization understands where improvements must be made and when resources will be strained.

Make 2023 a business based off sound date and not from opinions or speculations. The success to you year is based off a strategic plan that executes and is measured so short term adjustments may be made accordingly.

Managing Culture Change

Managing culture changes up and down the organization can be challenging and tedious in a profit conscious environment. As we attempt to change the entire organization and methodologies in production, we encounter many different perspectives and paradigms on the path. Making a change to a leaner more productive environment will incur some costs, interrupt production in small segments, require training of employees throughout the organization, and demand patience from all aspects of the population. As we grow the mindset of the hourly and middle management associates, we must remember the true mission of business is profitability. Upper management and executives must remain patient as any quick changes are usually not sustainable and any long term changes to the business model will take time. The management of change will require a balancing of production’s current needs and the implementation future changes that will enhance growth and efficiency.

A sound plan for implementing lean and improved productivity needs to have a detailed approach. You will need to rely on your most experienced personnel and use them as a sounding board for the changes your want to make to the current model. However, those same employees may resist change as they believe they are operating as effectively as possible. You must share the vision and strategic plan with all levels of the organization and you must brainstorm the shortcomings and roadblocks the company will encounter. Employees at all levels must agree with the need for change and embrace the vision to be the “Best of the Best”. Middle management must allow employees to make decisions and empower them to design their own work areas. While all aspects of the plan may not be totally popular with the workforce, you must gain consensus. As an agent of change, you will need to prevent protectionism from the different internal business sectors. Individuals may resist anything that increases responsibility or work load. You can prevent this by guaranteeing employees that you will be keenly aware of the pain factors in the new organization and any undue workloads will be addressed and compensated with efficiency, teamwork, flexible work schedules and manpower changes.

A major challenge for any transitional change is the ability to manage the “knee jerk” reactions of executives. When profits appear to be affected in a negative manner, many will try to delay, augment, and change the path you have strategically created. You must realize their position and their responsibility to continually turn higher profits. When business markets may slow, cost cutting moves may be necessary. You need to assure that labor and costs associated with the implementation of improvements are not significantly hampered. You must assure them of necessity for improvement and continually communicate your plan, the risks, and the timeline for recovery. No executive will force you to make improper decisions that will stymie long term improvements if they understand what is causing impacts and the duration of them. A change agent cannot be inflexible to executive’s demands and they may have to comprise the length and/or effects of plan. However, a well constructive plan will have those contingencies built into them and therefore the move to a more effective and productive environment will continue. Executives must beware of the miracle promising consultants and those that do not have a plan that fully explains the time elements, support and cost associated with their program. There are many books on the subject and how to implement but most are naïve, unproven, and without the strategy of managing the implementation. There are too many textbooks on the subject and few success stories from following them.

In conclusion, the greatest asset that you can contribute as a change agent is the understanding of the paradigms, the communication of vision and strategic plan, creation of a contingency plan for setbacks and creating open communication to all elements of the business environment. Be patient and do not expect everyone to accommodate your needs. As a leader of change, you must be the most flexible and adjust your plan to accommodate everyone else in the organization. However, do not let your plan be so manipulated that it is not effective. Compromise, embrace your organization, understand their perspectives and meet the needs of the entire company. If a culture change was an simple endeavor, it would have evolved naturally over time.

Five S Implementation

The 5S initiative is one of the most difficult to accomplish in your lean journey. The efforts to sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and sustain are the backbone of lean. Many companies roll safety as the 6th S, but in reality that is a mistake. 5S is about the lean manufacturing of business. For businesses to treat the safety of employees on the same plane as lean is a critical mistake. In the hierarchy of business and employee needs, employee safety is the most critical and far more important than efficiency and is the baseline of the hierarchy. The emphasis on the 5S is overlooked and considered by many to have aspects that are optional and not necessary for productivity improvements. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sorting is necessary for several reasons. First a sorted facility reduces inventory waste, eliminate the use of un-standardized tools or parts, and eliminates confusion to employees who are at different training levels. It also increases usable space by the elimination of storage for unnecessary items, obsolete tooling, and duplicate materials. Having the correct tools visually noticeable in each workplace allows both the operators and supervisors to realize any shortages that may exist. If you look at effective assembly operations, tools are placed in the proper places before, after, and during production. Have you ever had the home project and did not return the hammer to the proper place at the end of a project? Then in a couple of months when the next project is started you floundered to find where you left that hammer. The same is said for the wrench on an assembly line. After the daily production is complete, if an operator leaves the wrench in an undesignated location, they will have trouble starting the next day’s production on time. Therefore, efficiencies are dwindled from their optimum. Communication between shifts and workers becomes more effective in a well sorted environment and much of the extraneous discussions and frustrations disappear as everything is where it should be located. Finally, a poorly sorted operation effects the quality of product. Tool substitutions are minimized as all the proper tools are always available to everyone. The application of any incorrect parts or subassemblies are eliminated.

Simplifying the operations are key to the lean process. This effort also reduces inventory as designers attempt to use common hardware that is readily on hand. This prevents special orders for unnecessary products. This also eliminates waste due to difficulty in using unique items and improves quality as options for misapplication become more limited. But the simplification goes further than design. It includes the arrangement of the workspace and encompasses shadow boxing tools and standardizing the best tools for the job. The development of simple jigs and fixtures improves the quality of product as a standard method of locating features is in place. Jigs can be designed with the same basics and mere detail changeovers accommodate mixed model production. As a manager, we should also drive the organization to the simplest functionality by reviewing each step of the operations with engineering, operations and quality concurrently. Do not merely accept the design from research and development as seldom is efficiency and productivity taken into account.

Sweep or shine is essential for several reasons. First and foremast is ensures a safer workplace. The cluttered workplace is one that is doomed for trips and falls. Clean and bright workplaces have a psychological effect on workers that is positive and is one where we are proud to employ ourselves. The lack of lighting can lead to poor morale and inefficient work. Shine can also assure that tools are in the proper condition for usage at all times. The lack of lighting also allows undetected visual defects and therefore the bright and shiny workplace is less apt to produce and ship nonconforming hardware. I painted all my machines white in a company. Initially, the thought of white machines that remove metal was frowned upon because it was not sustainable. As each machine showed a leak, the leak was fixed to prevent the need to repaint. That triggered an improved TPM program which reduced downtime by 21%.

The most difficult is the standardization of work. This effort integrates the sort, weep and shine and simplifying efforts. It ensures conditions do not deteriorate to the former state and facilitates the implementation of the aforementioned. The standardization of work ensures that work is performed the same way time after time and integrates an improved quality and predicable delivery plan. It is difficult to create the standardization of work and it is very time consuming. You must segment your workplace into sub-sections so that smaller successes can be declared and celebrated. It is essential that the format for the standardization is easy to implement and that any software you use is ready to use for its purpose. Do not use ad hoc programs as the documentation and implementation is difficult and strangling the organization with complicated programs will exhaust personnel. Eventually, your standard work will allow you to predict how many people are needed to attain takt time for work cells and will assist in allocation of resources necessary to attain customer commitments.

Making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures and installing the discipline to regress requires that all personnel including management pay attention to detail. The consequences of not allowing employees to correct standard work when needed, to clean, sort, straighten the workplace, and allowing an environment of sustainment will deter any advancement of the lean systems your put in place. It will evolve a culture where employees will consider your journey as another program that went to the wayside and will make any revitalization of the effort more difficult.

Inspiration – The Secret to Effective Management

There are many times we can make an impact on a business, but there is always the question of motivation to the workforce. Before you can inspire people to excel, you must first understand your workforce. I have written extensively on understanding both the paradigm or the organization and the perspectives of employees. If you do not understand the workforce at every level, you cannot motivate and inspire them to strive to be the best. You must understand your organization, understand what makes them excel, and then put the plans in place to motivate them. This is not a short process and requires communication at all levels of the organization.
1. Understand that almost everyone can be motivated.
2. Shake off pre-judgment of employees. No one gets up in the morning wanting to do a bad job.
3. Recognize success
4. Reward success in some manner
5. Give the employees the “What’s in it for me?”
6. Communicate with employees. Share challenges, goals, visions, strategic plans. Get input.
7. Realize that people are your greatest asset.
8. Socialize at all levels. Employees are people. They have children who take gymnastics, play football etc. A short social relationship will open communications to new levels.
9. Protect your employees for safety hazards
10. Provide growth opportunities for employees.
11. Be genuine and honest with employees.
12. Be ethical in your management.
If you follow these elements, you will begin to get your employees support and create motivation for them.

Reflections on Successful Leadership

As we walk the path of guiding organizations to success, we need to question whether we are successful. Too many leaders are greatness in their own minds and they measure success merely by business metrics. As they progress down their strategic plan, one day they are woken to realize that their workforce in disengaged, reacting only to commands, lack empowerment, seek others to represent them, and are disillusioned with what success resembles. That leader will first defend their actions and accuse the workforce of being lazy, not motivated, and simply a reflection of a poor work ethic that is a culture problem. They will increase demands and employees will react slower and with resentment. Have you ever worked for a leader like this? We all have. They end up failing and hurting companies that take years to recover. They are the egomaniacs of the world. Every other sentence is “I”. They may not have started out this way but have slipped into a false sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
There are ways to stay away from the slide as a leader. You are nothing without your empowered, engaged workforce. You cannot lead a defeated organization using the same tactics that defeated them. Below is listed ways to avoid slipping into the trap.

1. Communicate every day with someone in your workforce. A regular conversation with the people from all levels of the workforce is necessary to keep a pulse on your organization. The continued communication develops relationships and allows you to receive feedback in a real time manner.

2. Don’t dismiss criticism. There are disgruntled employees everywhere but you cannot merely dismiss complaints as those of a poor employee. There is usually a shred of truth in every complaint or statement. It may be exaggerated and at times or may be something stated with an ulterior motive, but examine what is said. Do not over-react to every comment but place some credence in it and examine if what is told you is the truth.

3. Hold regular multiple group meetings. All Hands meetings should occur monthly, sub-groups should meet weekly and work groups should have a meeting format on a daily basis. While the finance world will measure this as indirect labor charging that shows a loss, the resultants for improved productivity will far exceed those small losses. There is no format for everyone. Some people will not speak out in a large group and some will feel secure in those groups and give constructive feedback. Small groups can also be intimidating for some people and there are work group clicks that will stop some from speaking up. Finally, hold regular skip level meetings on a regular basis. They should be a minimum of quarterly intervals. Skip levels eliminate the presence and intervention of middle management. People will speak more freely in these meetings and you will receive different feedback. Caution: Do not overreact or make promises to fix problems in these meetings. Doing so will result in group leaders and middle management feeling betrayed. You are there to gather feedback, describe your vision and strategic plan, and create list to investigate.

4. Be honest, loyal, ethical, and have principles each and every day. Do not deceive your workforce. There are always business situations that do not allow you to unveil everything to the entire workforce but you can merely state “I cannot comment on that now”, “We have not made final decisions regarding that matter and when we do we can discuss it”, “I understand your concerns and when we have answers to those we will discuss at the next meeting” etc. Do not lie. Your workforce will lose your trust and everything that is discussed at meetings will be merely dismissed as a possible misrepresentation.

5. Walk the walk of you employees. Walk their job with them for an hour every year. Learn what their job is and understand their challenges. While you walk their job with them, realize they are people that work to live. They have families, children, parents, schooling issues, financial burdens etc. Talk to them as a human being and a leader. Nothing makes someone feel valued more than when you walk the floor and can say, “John, how is the boy’s baseball team doing?” Mary, how is the daughter’s gymnastics coming?”, “Harry, how is mom doing”. It may seem impossible but you can easily take 250 hours a year and dedicate it to this activity.

6. Protect your workforce. Watch and listen for unreasonable management and team leaders. Pay attention to safety and join a safety committee. Realize ergonomic challenges. Prove to people you care because you do care and react quickly to safety issues. People are your greatest asset and protect them like the jewels they are to the organization

Be a leader that people embrace. Reward, recognize their achievements, thank them and show them they are important. If you do not understand or agree with most of these items, you are on a path to failure. Don’t delegate these items to others-walk the walk each and every day.

Don’t just join an organization, lead one

Today’s world is looking for leaders. Not just leaders in politics but innovative leaders of companies. While most of us question our abilities, and ourselves we tend to overlook our capabilities and our expertise. Look deeply within yourself and see the inborn talents you have. Combine that view with your desire to succeed and a strong work ethic. You will become a leader. A leader is not a genius or someone that always has natural born talents. They are people who choose to step out of their comfort zone and accomplish the difficult tasks. Always understand other’s paradigms and perspectives. Respect those views and embrace the person. Then share your vision and describe your strategic plan. When you have many people sharing a vision and believe it is possible, your will become a leader. You will have taken the first steps in changing something and as your skill set as a leader grows, you can become as big as you desire. When you face conflict, embrace the ideas and search for ways to overcome them. It will make you stronger. When you face failure, embrace it and you will learn how to strengthen or adjust your plan. Failure, conflict, and challenges make you develop your leadership skills. Accomplish the unthinkable.


As we continue to actualize our production or service, we tend to make every attempt to hit our commitments and goals. What makes us unique as leaders is the ability to manage success. There is always a pattern of accomplishing our goals during our careers but we need to reflect on just what we are doing to accomplish those goals. There are several ways of meeting our deliverables and unfortunately we grew up in a society where leadership was recognized for “block and tackle” techniques. This methodology worked in years past and still can yield results on a short term basis today, but there are several elements that limits the success of this management technique in our present culture.

If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed. The mentality of the worker, the philosophy or labor, and the expectations of human resources are different than in the baby boomer days. Today’s workers have evolved, especially with Generation Z . The baby boomers strong work ethic was rewarded by companies by giving lucrative pensions and benefits . Companies revered loyalty and long term employment with one company. As global competition evolved, companies have been forced to pull back on benefits and have learned that employees that switch jobs and companies bring forth new diversity into a workforce. Generation Z functions different as they are social creatures that are flexible in nature and expect flexibility from institutions and companies. They are so flexible that employers are challenged to retain them if demands are too high. They expect instantaneous rewards and recognition for performance. They cannot be intimidated and sometimes can feel entitled to their job. Therefore we cannot intimidate them or insist they work long hours to please the company or their boss. They are now flooding the job market and leaders need to change their style from micro management and a demand persona.

The philosophy of labor has changed. The labor market will soon have more jobs than people as the prior boom generation retires. Labor’s paradigm is changing to one where employees desire constant increases in salaries and benefits and they do not react to an environment where people are expected to be patient for recognition. This requires that management spend a significant amount of time on the recognition aspect of employee management. Leaders must also determine how they can bridge the gap between expectations and business restrictions. There is always a way of managing a company to meet the business’s needs and employee’s expectations. This does require creativity and good communication with the workforce to determine methods that satisfy both criterion. Most studies show that monetary recognition is not the only avenue to engaging and delighting your workforce. Honest description of the business conditions will help employees understand what restrictions exist and the performance necessary to embrace monetary improvements.

Finally, the next generation of workers have different expectations of human resources. In prior work generations, the worker did not engage human resources as deeply as they do today. Human resources was the element that defended them against unreasonable management demands and was a defender of worker’s rights. Seldom did people involve human resources in anything but these matters. Today, human resources is viewed as the element that helps workers remain in a safe, politically correct, and respected workplace. Workers expect that human resources will assure they are continually trained thereby allowing employees to grow in the organization. They are looked upon as the employee’s ally and employees use human resources as a sounding board for both work and personal issues. Human resources’ tasks have grown immensely in the last ten years as they have expectations from the workforce that assimilates both a counselor and personal carrier growth advisor.

In conclusion, our success as leaders is dependent on an engaged, self empowered workforce that is allowed to be creative and involved in determining the business’s future. This workforce is more highly educated and has characteristics that will not respond to older management styles. It is the leaders responsibility to change their tactics and embrace the new workforce’s personality. It is an enriching workforce that will guide us into a better workplace and one that self actualizes itself to a more productive society if we embrace them. Do not rely on the “Block and Tackle” micromanagement tactics as they will eventually fail. Leaders will be more successful if they accept this new generation’s philosophy and work with it to aspire the business to new heights of performance.

Embrace, Lead and Mentor Your Staff

Mentoring is one of the best tools that any leader can use within the workforce. The benefits are unlimited and the value is unmatched. While this is a time consuming activity for both parties, the long term benefits will create a better leader and an engaged, enhanced, and more skilled workforce. Academia can teach the basics of business philosophy and various modeled techniques, but the inside experience knowledge that education lacks is the understanding of the real workplace. Most textbooks are dated and because the workforce is fluid in their establishment of norms and it is difficult to continually update them properly. In addition, the act of mentoring builds relationships, trust, ethics, and team building virtues.

The mentor benefits greatly from the act. This process allows the mentor to give something back to the organization and the people in the workforce. It reminds the mentor to listen and actually sharpens their communication skill set. Intrinsically, mentoring also builds on the mentor’s self worth as they are usually listened to by the mentoree with enthusiasm. As a leader , the act of mentoring strengthens our interpersonal skills and builds relationships with our coworkers. Mentoring also takes the time to understand details that hinder people’s personal and professional growth. Finally, as we mentor we re-examine parts of our own self as we, as managers and leaders, do not always do what we preach to others. Employees will also include personal aspects of their lives ad that enhances the bond between a leader and their teams.

The mentoree feels valued through the time a mentor spends with them. The exude a self confidence as they go forward. Through the process the mentoree if forced to construct logical communication paths and improve their communication and listening skills. We also bridge the gap for the mentoree regarding conversational methods to speak to management constructively. The mentoree improves their interpersonal skill set and breaks down barriers that may have inhibited communication in the past. The most important factor in the mentoring process is the mentoree begins and continues to understand the organization, goals, culture, and business innuendos that are critical for them to advance.
The process is simple and should discuss some of the following:
Where are you going in your career?
What are your visions as an employee?
What are your aspirations?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses and how are you going to correct them?
Identify their top three goals.

You should make it personal if appropriate. Find out what the employee wants out of the relationship and determine the deliverables of the mentoring process. Set a time and time limit for the meeting and shut off all other communication during this time. Setup a schedule and stick to it. Discuss the options and opportunities for learning and development. Ask for a critique and constructive criticism of the company and its leadership. Most prevalent, break down the conversation barriers and truly embrace their ideas and concerns.

It is the duty of the organization to assure that the mentoring process is active. The top leadership should insist that every manager mentors someone and preferably not in their direct reporting chain. This process shows the entire organization that the organization does care about their development and as the process develops montorees will begin to mentor others. This process develops loyalty and understanding and creates a contiguous positive culture where we foster skills sets and empowerment. Finally, it creates a culture of cooperation and takes communication to new levels. Do not wait for your executives to insist on your mentoring others. take it upon yourself to embrace the process and also seek out a mentor for yourself. Your mentor may not be within the your company as there are times that we want to seek mentors that look at new perspectives. Take the leap and mentor and your will soon see the rewards. Care about your employees and take an active role in their development.

Analyze, Standardize and Simplify

Whether you are in a supermarket, bank, hotel, car rental facility, or any service industry you may have noticed the lack of performing any work that is not efficient. When there are issues that are not standard, people stumble through the process and virtually annoy the customer. The same is true in all facets of work life and the answer is the same. There is no standard work for performing the operations, a lack or training in the unusual circumstances, and the lack of proper management planning. In many articles and books, the focus on value stream mapping and standard work is manufacturing. In reality, it affects our entire culture and lives. Little is done to assure that processes are defined and standard work created for variations to those processes. If a price change needs to occur in the supermarket or if the use of an alternate fixture in manufacturing occurs, the results are the same. The cashier should have an easy step by step menu on how to correct minor variations in processing a customer and the operator should have standard work and work arounds for the unusual cases.
Where do you begin? Take the time to hold an event and create a value stream map. Within the map flow all the work-arounds and unusual processes. Display the rework loops to a normal process and the turn backs to both internal and external customers. Assure the value stream displays reality and not opinions or the engineered belief of the process. When the map is complete, review it with everyone and assure every element in the process is addressed.
Next, compare the process analysis to reality. Witness different people performing the process on all available shifts. The variation to the process will allow you to observe the lack of clarity in your processes and the variations that can occur. Take notes and communicate with people to get input about the variations. Compile your observations and review with your entire team to determine the correct method of processing. Then recreate your future state standard work to the optimum process.
When creating the future standard work, you must consistently “step out of the box” to review if certain current steps are necessary and whether simplification of operations can occur. Always look into a leaner mentality. There is always a way of eliminating waste. Whether is simplified operations, reduction of movement, elimination of non-value added steps, or simply reducing the variation of processes by mistake proofing them, a streamlined process is the only way to operate. In the service industry, there tends to be a focus on arduous step by step intervention. For instance, checking into a hotel, standing in line and waiting can be annoying. Why isn’t there a kiosk that with the swipe of your credit card your reservation is verified and simple questions are asked on preferred accommodations (i.e. King, Queen, Floor Preference, etc.) and number of keys required is entered and the keys with the room number drop into a tray? While not all travelers may prefer that type of service, an option can lessen the lines and wait for those that do want the face to face intervention. When the waitress sits you at the table, why isn’t there a portable tablet that allows you to enter drinks and appetizers that would allow someone requiring quick service to place an order in simple easy steps? This would reduce the wait time for a waiter/waitress. Many companies are beginning to make changes and those that do make those changes are grabbing market share from others. Some medical businesses are beginning to make the change through kiosks, defined stations for check in, and lines on the floor to eliminate confusion. These all are ways to simplify the experience and eliminate unnecessary steps and costs.
Look at your service, processes and methods of operation and determine where to start. Takes small bites of you process into consideration. While manufacturing is focused on lean processes, do not believe that it is only for those types of businesses. Make your business unique and streamline it through standardization. These changes do not require a massive effort but if you do not begin the process, you may be left behind in the market place.