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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lean Engagement

Lean Engagement from Lean Sensei's newsletter Q1 2014 issue

If you are a typical organization, you likely struggle immensely with the whole concept of employee engagement.  Discouraging, yes, but true.  Please allow me to explain, and keep in mind that I care about you and want to help you and your business to succeed.  First, I must admit that my research is based only on a “small” sample size: a few thousand managers, a few hundred clients, dozens of business leaders, and multiple industry sectors.  Yet despite these logistical limitations, patterns have emerged in overwhelming regularity.  Yes my lean friends, I have come to the conclusion that most organizations don't really measure engagement well or even understand what it is.  I have seen companies and government agencies equating and measuring engagement through employee surveys, job satisfaction scores, retention rates, and other symptoms that represent a complex set of employee relations issues muddled together in a satisfaction score.  Frankly, these measures fail to get to the root of why people stay or go.  I see many initiatives intended to build team morale that have nothing to do with real work in the gemba.  Sometimes I see hard-nosed managers press their staff and criticize them relentlessly, oblivious to the resulting disengagement. I also see executives and managers pandering to employee whims and apologizing for organizational shortcomings to improve engagement scores, while ignoring needed action to improve business effectiveness.  Sorry, my job is to point these things out, even though few leaders like to hear it.  Thus, the topic for this blog is building real employee engagement. 

It seems many businesses would be happy to ignore the truth about employee engagement.  The stark truth is that engagement is not about having employees feel good about what your company does for them.  It is not about knowing the names of your employees spouse, children, dog, cat, and goldfish.  Yes, you have to care for them, but in the context of what a man or woman can do and how you can help them do it.  It is about employees intrinsically feeling good about making a contribution to your company.  “Wow wow wow!”  That is what we need—a big paradigm shift about what engagement really is.  Let me state this emphatically - from a lean perspective - engagement is about feeling that you are making a difference in the company you work for.  It is not about feeling that someone else is making a difference for you, or gives your trinkets because you are an employee!  It helps if the difference you make is explicitly understood and recognized at the time you make it.  It hurts if someone tosses a few general platitudes out to everyone after the fact without ever acknowledging your specific work, and then HR organizes another company picnic so you can burn another Saturday in an attempt to feel good for the team.   Hmmm.  Time to check the rear view mirror.

I suggest a fundamental re-definition of "Engagement" is needed if we want genuine positive feelings and retention of good dedicated employees to persist.  Here is the key premise: Engagement = the degree to which employees demonstrate a shared destiny with the organization by proactively solving the problems of the business.  Lean engagement is not simply about employee happiness.  It is about commitment to mutual destiny and actively fighting for the business.  It is about working together with your manager, peers, staff, and cross-functional teams to make ‘how you do work’ better.  So from this perspective, voluntary participation in problem solving teams and kaizen activities is the purest form of engagement.  Yet very few companies measure and celebrate problem solving engagement.  Taking ownership of processes and seeing improvements through will not only get results, but will build mutual trust which improves all those employee relations issues, and reduces the relevance of many predictable employee relations symptoms.   

So what are the implications for leaders to promote an engaged workforce?  Here’s a secret ten-step engagement program that any manager can do:
(1)    Stop relying on employee surveys and start having real 1-on-1 “real” conversations with your team
(2)    Find out what makes them upset and frustrated more than anything else at work
(3)    Make sure you and they understand the root cause of the dissatisfaction
(4)    Figure out how to solve it, or who has already solved it (but don’t tell anyone that you know)
(5)    Equip your team to solve it; ask the right questions that will cause them to discover solutions on their own; be delighted in the creative ideas they come up with and assess them objectively
(6)    Coach them through solving the problem, clearing roadblocks but letting them take the lead
(7)    Congratulate them for solving it, and show how it helped the business and the customer
(8)    Ask them how they can pass on what they learned; get them to tell their story
(9)    Have them take ownership of the new standards, and re-training / maintenance of those standards as inevitable changes are realized
(10)  Follow-up to ensure their kaizens do not fizzle out, and their efforts are not diminished.  Show pride in their accomplishments, not your own.

If you do this (or are doing this already), you are actively building engagement.  If you are not doing this, what are you doing?  Whatever it is, please don’t call it engagement.  Have a look at the ten points.  There are always a couple of them that leaders recognize that they can do better.  Commit to doing it.  Engage.

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Stay tuned for our last issue for the year!
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Bonus Day 5 Japan Lean Tour

Our apologies for the delay in uploading photos from day 5 of our Japan Lean Tour, which was an optional cultural site seeing to the ancient capital city of Kyoto. Perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Kyoto's historic temples and its amazing fall colors were appreciated and admired by 13 Blackbelts who joined David and Jake.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Greenbelt Service Vancouver Fall 2014 Graduation

Our second last program of 2014 has finished! Each Greenbelt graduated with flying colors, even amongst the rainy Vancouver backdrop.
It's obvious to see the changes that have occurred in the group through the three modules through a combination of perseverance, teamwork, camaraderie, and value stream mapping!

In recognition of the top performers of the class, three medals were presented to the group. These awards are cumulative and look at the overall performance throughout all three modules. The criteria for the awards include:
-Teamwork & Leadership in Kaizens and group activities
-Project achievements & total cost savings
-Overall transformation over the three modules
-Final Presentation
-Final Exam score
Medalists: Tyler (Bronze), Deborah (Gold), Marcie (Silver)

We had to seek shelter from the pouring rain to take our final group photo together:

Tyler and Deborah lead the Greenbelts with a rousing Lean version of the American and Canadian National Anthem! We have some great harmony in this group:

This is the last local Greenbelt program of the year. The next round of programs starts in January 2015. Please see our calendar on our website here for dates, and contact our team at 604-264-1000 or at Hai-ya!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Japan Lean Tour Flashmob

Japan Lean program members were challenged to perform a Flashmob dance in a busy tourist district in Tokyo! The purpose of doing the Flashmob is to let our program members step out of their comfort zone and be comfortable with themselves in different cultures and situations.

Here is the clip. Keep on watching as there is a special guest towards the end!

Everyday of the Japan tour will be posted on our blog, so come visit us again tomorrow.

Japan Lean Tour Day 4

It's hard to believe but today our 2014 Lean Tour is coming to a close!  Day 4 featured a visit to the always popular Mitsubishi Nagoya Works facility and the gold standard of Lean, Toyota city!

Our ever present and helpful Mitsubishi guide, Imai-San.

A group of lovely servers at our traditional "Kaiseki" meal pose with some of our Blackbelt candidates.

At the Toyota Kaikan.

The Farewell Party at the hotel in Nagoya.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Japan Lean Tour Fall 2014 Day 3 Blog Report

Day 3's Blog Report is brought to us by Mr. Roger Cooke.  Many thanks to him for this submission.

"In the first part of day 3 we visited Asahi Printech’s Funabashi Plant. The Funabashi Plant is ranked number 1 for printing quality and as a company they are the leaders in newspaper circulation for Japan. What impressed me the most about their operation is the high level of lean in their processes. From the daily delivery and consumption of news print, to the automatic AGV transport and loading of the 2 ton paper rolls to the presses, to the automatic counting, bundling and labeling for shipment of the finished newspapers, it was a model of lean flow.

After Asahi Printech we said good bye to Tokyo and boarded the bullet train for Nagoya. Traveling at speeds over 160  MPH was pretty impressive all by itself; Mount Fuji in the distance was an added bonus!

In Nagoya we visited the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. A lot is known of Toyota’s car manufacturing over the last 30+ years, what is less known is where the foundations for JIT and Lean originated. I was impressed by the extensive history of continuous improvement and innovation that were driven first by necessity and then by choice.  I was most impressed by the Toyoda/Toyota strategy that if a specialized tool or piece of equipment or process did not exist they would create it themselves.

All in all today was another great day in Japan!"

Japan Lean Tour Day 3

ANA Maintenance hangar group shot!

Day 3 - Asahi Printech 

On our way to Nagoya via bullet train!

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

It all began with the loom...

...and into the future!  Already on to Day 4 !  How time flies!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photos from day two Japan Program - Toyota Logistics

Day 2 has come to a very successful close.  First stop was Toyota's impressive Logistics and Forklift company, Toyota L&F.  This facility is always a popular stop on our tour, but this time there were a number of new innovations and kaizen improvements on display that added even more excitement to the regular program.  

The tour features 3 separate floors that focus on explaining Toyota's impressive warehouse management expertise, automation and employee training practices. 

Large piece load handling area tour is translated by LSI founder and master coach, David Chao.

An in-depth explanation of the small piece load handling and the amazing "Pick-Navi" cart.