Monthly Archive : October 2008
by Lee Fried, on 26 Oct 2008 03:01 pm
The Journey | Tags: Daily Management , Value stream; cross-functional management; three management systems
For the last year my focus and the focus of much of our Lean efforts in the organization has been in putting in place an effective Strategy Deployment system. This included completely changing the way we develop and deploy goals and strategies as well as putting in the foundational processes and systems to support checking and adjusting. It has been a very successful year thus far and we have a very engage leadership team and the foundations of a management system that we can continue to build out over the years to come.
From a personal perspective I have learned a lot this year, but over the last couple of months I have grown inpatient. For people that know me I am a person that thrives on the tension that is created by learning new things by doing them, especially when there is a lot of pressure to get things done quickly. I get bored quickly with doing things I have done before and as a result often go out and find ways to get myself into new types of work that will require big organizational change and the associated learnings that will come with this change. One of the Sensei I work with called it last week “creating opportunistic trouble.”
So back to my inpatience. As the Strategic Deployment system has become more stable, which is a good thing, I have grown a little frustrated with the process. Not to say that there are not plenty of opportunities to improve the process. Its just no longer has the edginess it once had when we were first putting it in place. So the good news is that there are plenty of opportuntities to take on new, and challenging work. Over the next year we will be focusing on putting in place the cross-functional and daily management systems across the organization. We have early experience in both systems, but they are not widely integrated into our management system. Figuring out how to put these systems in place will cause all kinds of “organizational trouble” and it seems like the natural place for me to focus. This work will allow me to spend more time in the gemba, to learn new skills/thinking and to hopefully bring new and more interesting content to this blog. So stay tuned…
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We are now at a place as an organization where we are struggling with how we can effectively “scale” our Lean work across an enterprise of over 10,000 employees with locations across two states. As you can imagine there are all kinds of people and process challenges. One of the most interesting is how do we manage the effective “spread” of standard work across individuals, teams and locations. We have thirty specialty service lines, twenty-six clinics, ancillaries, dozens of administrative teams, etc. all either already standardizing their processes or about to start. Many of these teams are focused on delivering to the same set of customer requirements, but do not currently have the same baseline that they are staring from. For example, everyone of our clinics has a different work environment (some very big and some very small), different staffing ratios and different processes. Its hard enough deploying standard work in one location, but daunting to think about trying to spread it across twenty-six!
Over the last six months my thinking has greatly evolved. I now believe that it is less important for every one of our work teams to have shared standard work for all their processes. To try and drive that level of consistency across work teams would not only take an incredible amount of resources, but also create an enviornment that would be ridgid, slow to improve and take creativity away from the people doing the work. Instead, every team needs to be focused and held accountable to developing their own standard work that everyone follows within the team that reliabily meets the standard each and every time the work is completed. In other words, all teams must meet the standard, but they don’t all have to have the same processes in place to meet that standard. There may still be certain processes that in order to meet customer requirements need to be performed consistently across teams, but most processes are invisible to customers and will not meet this requirement.
By taking this approach the organization can focus its time in more effective ways. Rather then spending a huge amount of resources and time trying to maintain standard work across teams the organization can instead focus on developing systems that make performance transparent and developing incentive systems that encourage teams to share their work. If done right, low performing teams for any process should be incentivized to learn from high performing teams and possibly adopt their standard work. Conversely, high performing teams should always be looking to find low performing teams that they can lend a helping hand in support.
I am wondering if others have thoughts on this approach?
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This last week we began the second cycle of our strategy deployment process with a catchball event that brought together the top 100 or so leaders of the organization. During the event the broad goals for the year were shared by the executive teams and our major Operating Divisions began vetting the potential list of strategies for 2009. This process will continue for the next four weeks as more and more parts of the organization are brought into the process and the sufficient means are identified to achieve our yearly goals. During this time the organization needs to decide what current improvement work will continue and what new improvement work will begin.
As I walked around the room it was exciting to see how engaged everyone was in the process. Its fun work to vet and define improvement work. And boy as an organization we sure are good at it. This is evident by the dozens of improvement strategies that are currently in process and the dozens more that are waiting in inventory. And yes, this is a problem. A problem that we all know about, but have not been very effective in solving. We are really good at saying yes and really bad at saying no and equally as bad at stopping work that no longer should continue. This leads us to each year take on far more improvement work then we can complete with available resources. This causes all kinds of inefficiencies that are no different then allowing a production process to develop inventory and backlog. Long cycle times and low throughput means that improvements end up being outdated, slow to mature and often lose much of their potential for results as time slips by.
So how does this happen? There are many causes all of which we can solve over time (many we are working on right now). Looking at the history of the organization causes include:
- A lack of sufficient data and information meaning that all improvements are good improvements
- A lack of a Value Stream view meaning that each silo is focused on improving itself, but loses the large potential improvements that come from improving across our system
- A lack of understanding of capacity and how much discretionary resource is available. This leads to over and under commitment of resources
- A lack of a strategic planning and deployment system that makes work transparent and drives organizational focus
- A lack of stable and standardized processes that means leaders who should be working on improvement work are often called to stop what they are doing and focus on firefighting
The good news is that we are making improvements on all of the causes listed above. While our new strategic deployment process did not help us stop a lot of working during its first cycle it did help us for the first time make all the work visible. This is a huge improvement and should allow us to get a little better this year at focusing our resources. Additionally, we have Value Stream work underway, we are engaging far more people in the planning process, more and more processes are being standardized, etc.
Over time we will become more focused, but there is no silver bullet. Just a lot of really hard work at breaking down barriers, connecting and putting in new management systems and learning more and more about the organization. In the interim the heavy lifting will fall to our senior leaders in making tough choices with incomplete information. We all will need to help them in making it okay to say no and okay to stop work. I remember reading an article a while back that said something to the effect of ‘leadership is more about knowing what not to do then it is about telling people what to do.’ I could not agree more.
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