Lean Leadership for Ops Managers
Episode 003: Getting Lean to Stick
Welcome to Lean Leadership for Ops Managers, the podcast for leaders in Ops Management who want to spark improvement, foster engagement, and boost problem solving – AND still get their day job done. Here’s your host, Leadership Trainer, Lean Enthusiast, and Spy Thriller Junkie, Jamie V. Parker.
Hi there my favorite leaders. Have you ever tried to implement something and found it to be a struggle? Yeah, I know, right? Maybe it was operational processes or new workflow, or a Lean system like Visual Management and you just couldn’t get it to stick. It became like that wallpaper we talked about in episode two. Well, here in this episode, we’re going to build on the model I introduced in episode two. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, be sure to go back and check it out. You’re also going to want to make sure that you go to the show notes and get some links and resources from this episode, episode three.
All right, I’m going to share with you a Lean leadership related example of this model that we talked about and then I’m going to walk you through three BOLOs – be on the lookouts – and then I’m going to share how you can take next step. So that’s what we’re going to do here in this episode.
Now, as a refresher, there are three points in the Transformation Trinity – beliefs, behaviors, and systems. When these three points are all in alignment, they reinforce each other to lead to better and easier transformation. Remember that it’s not a linear path, all three influence each other. It’s not a sequential linear, we do one then we move on to the next. They’re all happening at the same time. So think back to our Peloton example, the beliefs, the why influences behavior. It also drives you to even go looking for and developing systems like buying a Peloton. Behavior influences the system because when we do the behavior consistently, the system becomes more effective. Behavior also influences belief. When we take actions, we start to believe more.
In the peloton system, the bike, the visual data, the playlist, the instructors influence the belief that you can do it and the behavior of doing it. That is, of course when they’re all working together but sometimes there are breakdowns. Remember my friend Teresa who said, “Hey, right now my peloton is basically an expensive coat rack”? Yeah. So when there are inconsistencies, when there are parts within the Trinity that don’t align, then the change, the implementation, the transformation become more difficult. That’s when we start getting into challenges with follow through and execution and sustainability.
So I want to walk you through a real-life scenario to show you how this works. Then I’m going to share with you at the end how you can take action and apply it.
So let’s talk about Brian. So Brian was a mid-level manufacturing manager who felt overwhelmed. He said, “I just don’t have time to do my day job.” He was the primary problem solver in his group. So he was the one that was figuring out new processes, that was testing, that was iterating, and while he might get his team involved, and get their opinions and their thoughts and their perspectives, he was taking the lead, he was doing the actual problem solving. Now, his belief was that people who do the work are in great positions to improve the work, that they often know more than he does about the work. So if he could develop the problem solving skills of the team, then collectively, they could deliver better results easier.
He put into place a system. It was kind of like a mini Kaizen type of system. So there was this queue of challenges or problems that the team was raising and as they would raise problems, they would go into this queue. Each little mini group on the team would select one next problem to work on from the queue. So they would usually have two or three groups working on a problem at a time. It was great because he engaged the team, they were the ones raising the problems, they were the ones prioritizing, they were the ones selecting the problems, so the system was really good in that way. They also scheduled the time. So let’s say there were two groups working on a problem at a time, they would schedule it and say, “Okay, here’s when we’re going to get together and work on this problem solving.” And honestly, they did a pretty good job with this. They were pretty disciplined. I would say probably about 90% of the time, they kept their commitment to meet when scheduled.
Now, with the system, since they were learning problem solving skills, Brian would join each group at their scheduled time to help teach and coach them, and he felt like things were working. The challenge was that when Brian started to step out of the sessions and allow them to do more problem solving on their own, then it wasn’t working anymore. You see, the belief and the system was there and Brian was saying, “Hey, I think I need to change the system. This isn’t working. I’ve got to figure out a different way of doing this.” That wasn’t actually what was going on because when we really dug down deep into what was happening, the disconnect was in Brian’s behavior.
You see, Brian had strong problem solving skills. He was good. He had built up those skills. It’s actually what helped him get promoted. But he was so good that he couldn’t help himself from jumping in. So he was doing what he thought was coaching but it wasn’t coaching. It was actually leading to the answers. He was dropping the breadcrumbs. Team members were learning how to give Brian the answers he wanted to get to a countermeasure. They weren’t learning how to do the thinking and problem solving themselves and that’s because Brian hadn’t yet developed the skill of coaching. So as we take a look at this, Brian’s initial thought was, “Hey, there’s something wrong with my system because it’s not working.” Ever see that happen where we start with a system or a tool, and then the first thing we want to do is go and tweak it, tweak it and tweak it? Sometimes that’s not actually the problem. So when we look at it in this model, we can see that the real gap where there’s misalignment is in his behavior. And not meaning behavior like “Oh, he’s a bad manager, bad manager, bad behavior.” We mean behavior kind of like the skill.
So this is how we knew what we needed to work on. And actually, what ended up being my work with Brian is actually the start of what eventually became one of my programs called How to Coach Problem Solving. I’ll put a link in the show notes if you want to learn more about that. So this is how this works. Now, this is just one example. We could go on and talk for hours about different examples. We talked about it using the Peloton example in episode two and I wanted to bring a real-life Lean leadership example here in episode three so that you could see it applied.
So I really like this Transformation Trinity model because it challenges you to not just look at the artifacts of what we’re trying to achieve, you really have to observe and listen and dig a little bit deeper. So when we do this, we can then start to see the inconsistencies and when we can see the inconsistencies, then we’re able to map out the steps so that we can get Lean or whatever you’re working on now to stick or get better execution or start to get that transformation. So before you go out to apply this using a workbook download I’m going to provide you I want to talk about three BOLOs. That’s right, BOLOs – Be on the Lookouts.
So when you start to do this work, let’s talk about beliefs. There are really a couple of different areas that beliefs can show up. There are a lot of different areas, but kind of big buckets. The big buckets are going to be our individual beliefs as leaders, as well as the collective, shared beliefs of the team. Those are those underlying beliefs that Edgar Schein talks about in his work on organizational culture. So we probably need to look at both places. We’re probably going to kind of take a look at both. What are my individual beliefs as a leader? And what are these collective, shared, underlying beliefs, the types of things that people don’t often say out loud?
And because people don’t often say it out loud, we have to actually do some work to get past the surface level. Because there is a difference between what we want to believe and what we actually believe. We want to believe respect for people and we do on so many levels. And when we dig deep, sometimes we get into those BUTs. “BUT we got to get work out the door. BUT at some point, I got to hold people accountable.” So we want to dig into those areas.
There’s also a difference between what we say organizationally is important to us – values and purpose and principles. We say, “Hey, team members, your job isn’t just to do the work, it’s also to improve the work.” Then there’s also what is an actual shared belief and that actual shared belief might be something like, “The way I add value is to get work out the door. If I’m not productive, then I get in trouble, so I’m just going to put my head down and make sure I get out the door.” There’s a difference and so we’ve got to make sure that we get past the surface level. So you might need a couple of rounds. When you go to start practicing, you might go one round and say, “Oh, let’s go back. Let’s go back to beliefs. Okay, now let’s go back to beliefs again.”
Now, when we’re working on behaviors, behaviors is not just what we do. It’s also how we do it. Think about some of the skill development that’s involved. So for our team members, there’s a lot of skill development that’s involved in learning Lean thinking. And for you as well, in learning this Lean thinking. There’s also skill development on the leadership side. So think about Brian and his coaching skills. Behaviors doesn’t mean bad behavior. It’s just what we do and a little bit of how we do it. So it might be listening. You might say, “Hey, you know, it’s this effective listening, and we all kind of have a general idea of what this is and we all know we probably don’t do it well enough or frequently enough.” So when we think about this, we say, “Okay, well, let’s go look at our Gemba walks, or our Tier 1 meetings, or one on ones with our team members”, and not just look and say, “Are we having those? Oh, yes, we listen because we’re having these activities.” We also go and say, “Okay, how are we doing that? What is the effectiveness level of that?” Thinking about how we give recognition and how we give correcting feedback, these are all skills and skills development. So behavior is not just what we do, but also some of the how we do it. Think about it from a skill perspective.
Then in systems, really important that you check for unintended consequences because a lot of times, you’re working on systems that are production-related and it turns out there are other systems going on that are also having influence. Or you’re working on a system that’s production-related, that’s impacting behaviors that you don’t even realize. So think about it this way. With the incentive setup, how do you have incentive setup for your team? How are performance metrics set up and what are the potential unintended consequences of that? How do we display and measure what’s red versus green, and what message and what unintended consequences? I’ll do a full podcast on this later, but there’s an example that I have with a manager who was using the Safety Cross. It was a big thing in their Tier 1 meetings. They were doing this whole thing with Safety Cross but what he didn’t realize is the way they had that set up, it was actually the result, the unintended consequence that people were not sharing, they were not raising and telling people when minor safety issues happened.
So here’s a good thing, Lean tool, Lean system, Safety, Cross, Visual Management, Tier 1 meetings and there was an unintended consequence there. So when we go with our systems, we always got to ask that, what are potential unintended consequences here? So we walk through an example, I talked about Brian and his example with how to develop his team of problem solvers. He thought it was a system thing. He thought that he needed to go and tweak and edit his system and make changes and make adjustments and iterate his system, when in fact, the real thing we needed to work on were his behaviors and building the skill. Then we talked about our three BOLOs for beliefs, behaviors and systems.
So now it’s going to be your turn, I put together a workbook that you can use to apply this model to understanding your current state and figuring out what are some first next steps. So you can head on over to ProcessPlusResults.com/transformation to download your workbook. That’s ProcessPlusResults.com/transformation. And then when you get this, you’re going to go through the examples and you’re going to go through the workbook, and as part of that, I want you to take one area in your work and go through this process. Don’t try to take everything all at once. Don’t start with this culture, this elusive big idea of culture. I want you to pick one area. Find an area where things aren’t sticking. Maybe you’ve had some Visual Management that’s turned into basically wallpaper. Maybe you’ve been trying to do Gemba walks and either they’re not going super well or they’re not happening all that frequently. Maybe the team is having Tier 1 or daily stand up meetings technically speaking, and most people think they’re a waste of time. Maybe you’ve got hour by hour charts or you’ve got safety talks that you expect people to do consistently and execution isn’t there. Pick one of those then go through the Transformation Trinity workbook, to identify your inconsistencies, and map out what it would look like if they were aligned. Because when you get that alignment, then execution and change and transformation all become easier.
So download the workbook and get to it because leadership happens in your every day. Your everyday beliefs, your everyday behaviors and your everyday systems. Talk to you next week.
Thank you for listening to Lean Leadership for Ops Managers. If this episode spoke to you and you’re ready to take it to the next level, then head on over to ProcessPlusResults.com/transformation where you’ll find the Transformation Trinity Workbook. The workbook includes an overview of the Transformation Trinity model, examples of the Trinity in action, links to the relevant podcast episodes so you can listen along and learn and, of course, a worksheet for you to apply the Trinity process to your work. So you can figure out why isn’t it working? Why is this so hard? Where are those challenges, and actually map your path to improvement. To help more leaders like you discover the podcast, give us a rating and review, and to make sure you never miss an episode, hit that subscribe button wherever you like to listen to your podcasts.