Wednesday, November 27, 2013
by Robert B. Camp
In my book, Go and See: A Journey About Getting to Lean, I make the statement: “You can’t lead from behind.”
Does that seem intuitively obvious? Why, then, is it so common?
Why do so many leaders stay in their offices? Why do they run things from their computers? Why do they sift through the ashes of yesterday’s performance to try to find a path toward tomorrow? Why do they keep their own counsel or gather subordinates who they won’t allow to challenge them?
I recall the statue of a young soldier that stands on the quad at the US Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Georgia. The soldier holds a rifle in his left hand and has his right extended over his head motioning to those behind him to follow. His head is turned backwards over his shoulder and his mouth is open as he yells encouragement to those behind. Get the image? The caption below the statue reads: “Follow Me.”
Leaders get out front.
Leaders go first.
Leaders show by example.
In the next few posts, I’ll talk about some of the behaviors of leaders I respect.
Monday, November 4, 2013
When you visit a KPI board, what are you looking for? Number 1: you’re looking to ensure the charts are all present and up-to-date. If they’re not, you need to be unrelenting until they are. That’s like a subordinate showing up to a meeting without his assignment complete. UNACCEPTABLE. It’s as much as yelling, “What you tell me isn’t important.”
Why make such a big deal? Because you’re changing the culture, and if one of your subordinates isn’t changing with you, they need to understand it’s not “optional.” In this new culture it’s change or perish.
Besides, your subordinates aren’t the only ones looking at the boards. In time, you’re going to create a culture in which everyone looks to the charts to see how they’re doing. If they see someone who isn’t keeping up, they will believe you weren’t really serious about all this Lean stuff. Is that the message you intend to send?
Although the charts tell an important story, what you’re really looking for are the action items flowing from the charts. Again, an example: You arrive at the chart. What should you expect? The answer is that you should see an Action Item sheet like that above. The Action Item sheet should explain what the group is doing about problems they are encountering.
You also want to be checking to see that Action deadlines (Due Dates) are being met. If they aren’t, is there a recovery plan in place? If not, a training session is needed.
Okay, can you do all this from your office? Sure you can, but don’t!
Having you seen at the board is critical. As you arrive at the board, you’re making a non-verbal statement. You are saying “This stuff is important.” When you ask questions, you’re telling your people that the answers are important. This is one of the ways you change the culture.
At first, you should train all your subordinates on how to use the chart and Action Item List. On the board, the Action Item List should hang right under it’s associated chart.
Next, meet every board’s owner at their board. Try to shoot for the same day and time each week. You may not realize how important it is at first, but you need to clear your calendar at these dates and times. It’s that important.
Initially, you’re going to ask owners to explain what their charts are telling them. This needs to start as a very collegial conversation. If they don’t know, explain. Your followup teaching will pay huge dividends.
If they explain their charts correctly; praise them. If they get it wrong, or seem unsure; educate them. The initial goal is to get owners to understand and explain each chart's trend.
Next, you want the board owners to explain what they’re doing about negative or stalled trends. You’ll introduce the Action Item list (above) and explain again how it’s used. On your next visit, each poor trend should have a written action to improve it, and that entire line on the Action List should be complete. The only optional block is the one for “Comments.”
Initially, you had the board owner explain what their charts are reporting about their business, and what actions they are taking, but in time, you get their subordinates to explain the charts and actions. What are you doing? You’re driving the new culture even deeper in the organization.
Look what you’ve done. You’ve moved from capturing data, to plotting performance, to improving performance. Moreover, you and your people are focusing on what’s really important. Remember where these metrics came from: your Mission Statement. So when you and your subordinates work to improve their performance, they are working to achieve Mission-Critical Goals.
One last. The big picture is that, while you’re improving your performance, so are your peers. Instead of protecting your personal silos, you’re finding ways to solve common problems collaboratively. There’s a tool for that. It’s called Kaikaku. I’ll address it next time. Same channel.
Until then, Get Lean, Stay Lean.
Feel free to drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org