Hi, I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.
It’s my granddaughter Ivy’s first birthday today. She’s a fireball already and promises to be the perfect wild child. I’m sure her moms will be able to handle it…one way or another. Happy birthday, Ivy!
For the past two days, I’ve facilitated an online workshop sponsored by Lean Frontiers that I called High Speed Problem Solving. I had 5 active participants that were just great to work with.
As each introduced themselves, they described some frustration that in their organizations, getting to solutions just seemed to take too long. Several were holding kaizen events that they hoped to shorten by applying what I might be able to teach them in this “high speed problem-solving” workshop.
I spoke to them about the Lean Adage that says “sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.” That pretty much sums up the premise of High Speed Problem Solving: Slow down and do the thinking required to find the right problem, set the right scope, find the right root causes, and evaluate several different countermeasures to find the right one. The speed comes from never having to solve that particular problem again.
I did share some very specific techniques for speeding things up, including ways to see problems more quickly through visual management and workplace organization; writing better problem statements, so we don’t have to ask a lot of questions to get the clarity we need; breaking down a big problem; stem-and-leaf cause mapping; and ways to cultivate creativity.
But all of those are just tips and techniques. The context that makes them work, really, is in the culture of the organization. Last week I spoke about cultures of defiance and cultures of compliance. To get to a culture of engagement, we have to navigate our way through involvement and excitement while we build the skills required to thrive in engagement. These include leadership skills as well as problem solving skills like critical thinking, quantitative analysis, creativity, planning and organizing, execution, and evaluation.
Getting to involvement should be easy, but staying there is very tough. To get there, all you have to do is ask people for their input. Staying there requires that you act on their input. What makes this hard is that this early input expects the leader to solve the problems they point out, many of which are beyond the leader’s authority. When the leader fails to act, people notice. They go back into their compliance mode telling themselves that the leadership was never really serious about listening to employees anyway.
To make our way through this involvement stage, we have to have systems that allow us to show that we are listening to people, but we need to make it clear from the start that the leader’s role is not to solve the problems, but to provide resources to people to solve their own. Those resources include time, coaching, and supplies. Problems and ideas have to be tangible and work related, so complaints about how lazy other employees are doesn’t count.
If we don’t think through what the new rules should be for involvement, we’ll fall pretty quickly. I’ll be happy to help you define those rules and help you begin your journey to a new culture. Just give me a call.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.