Intro to Continuous Improvement in Human Resources – Organizing for Wealth Creation

Butterfly metamorphosis

Is your Human Resources function geared up to tackle the challenges of a Continuous Improvement implementation such as Lean Six Sigma or other? Is your company leveraging it’s training, recruiting, compensation, and performance review processes to instill a culture of CI or one of stagnation and status quo? The ultimate function of the Human Resources system in acquiring, developing, and retaining the optimal mix of people needed to deliver the goals of the business. If your business is serious about driving out waste and optimizing the customer experience, shouldn’t your HR function be able to demonstrate how it systematically delivers to these expectations? In many businesses, Lean concepts have begun to infiltrate administrative and non-value stream functions. However, the approach has been to streamline administrative processes to reduce lead time for given tasks. This series of posts looks at re-designing the critical functions of HR such as recruiting, training, performance evaluation, and compensation to embed the incentives that help generate the momentum needed for a CI implementation, especially in American manufacturing. The four areas of focus are as follows:

1) Training Future CI Leaders at All Levels – When the business sets the ambitious goal of implementing Lean, Six Sigma, or other improvement initiative, the company has committed to a full throttle operational transformation. The biggest change happens with the behaviors and attitudes of the people doing the work. It is no long enough to just go to work and do your job. Just hiring one or two CI Leaders is a recipe for failure if everyone else is given the option to buy-in or opt-out. This type of transformation requires all hands on deck. The training function needs to re-tool itself in a way that employs every set of eyes in the organization on eliminating waste.

2) Data vs Non-Data Based Performance Reviews – One of the most dreaded processes in business is the Performance Review process. If you get to the root of why this process is so painful and damn near impossible to do right, its because the feedback is coming from the wrong direction. The people most closely connected with the actual customer are the ones doing the work that the customer is paying for. Yet, often detached managers are providing feedback to those who are closer to the customer. This opens the door for managers to carry out their personal agenda for or against lower level employees and erodes the credibility of the process. It also erodes the capability of the organization. Ideally, the “noise” of the performance review process needs to be removed and made real-time and data-driven so those doing the work can readily see when there is a problem and can simply take corrective/preventative action on the fly. Then systematize the process of escalating production system issues as needed in effort to create a perfect system.

3) Merit-based Compensation – As any Lean practitioner can tell you, the most efficient way to organize a supply chain is to link the elements together so that production can be pulled from downstream (as opposed to pushing from upstream). This concept also applies to compensation where pay can be linked to value created for the customer, which from the factory’s view is income created for the company. In other words, its possible to tie individual employee income directly to company income. In this model, the employee makes money based on the amount of value they contribute. This gives the operator more freedom to create greater wealth for themselves by making a stronger contribution to the company’s bottom line. It also creates a dynamic where those who make wasteful decisions struggle to make a competitive wage.

4) Hiring, Firing, and Promoting for Growth – During a CI implementation, every job description should come with a disclaimer. WARNING: Transformation in Progress – Yield to Change Agents. There are two types of people in manufacturing and in business. One seeks to make themselves comfortable and the other to make things better. In a non-CI culture, comfort seekers rule. When the company decides to undergo a transformation, the scales need to be tipped toward the change agents by hiring and promoting based on people’s track records for successfully driving change. Even better, driving change without leaving a trail of bloody victims in the wake. Comfort seekers in critical leadership roles need to be moved to positions of lesser consequence, then have their talents re-deployed when stabilization (or conformance to standards) is needed as the next phase in improvement.

The HR function plays a critical roll in implementation of any CI initiative. Gaining alignment between HR practices and the goals of the organization are critical for growth and wealth creation in a manufacturing environment. A poorly structured HR system can stagnate growth and add to the stresses inherent in driving change. A well structured system can accelerate growth by embedding the incentives needed to turn the corner.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Get Undeniable Buy-in for Driving Change in Manufacturing

Manuficient - Thumbs Up / Change Management

Have you ever had the feeling that someone was telling you they were on-board with a change but they didn’t even fully understand or think through the change you were proposing? Or maybe they were just saying yes because they like you but not taking your idea very seriously? Or perhaps you’ve done all the groundwork for a change and one or two people are just dead set against it for no rational reason. And then you go ahead and make the change as promised and two things happen: 1) those same people who said they were all for it are now visibly uncomfortable with what you’ve done and 2) those who were against it before have now declared you public enemy number 1.

If you’re already in this situation, this blog post won’t be very helpful for you. Good luck and stay tuned for the post on How to Dig Yourself Out of Whatever it is That You’ve Stepped in. Fortunately, this post may help keep you from stepping in it again in the future. I’m going to share with you a process for garnering stakeholder support for the changes needed to drive manufacturing efficiency in your organization.

There are many reasons people hold out from making the changes that are needed for progress. The change could pose a legitimate threat to safety, quality, productivity, morale, or some other important aspect of the business. It could also be that the change threatens someone’s personal position of authority. However, no matter the reason, the bottom line is that people are going to be uncomfortable with change. And the bigger the change, the more resistance you will face. The key is to take the burden of change upon yourself to make sure all risks are identified and satisfactorily mitigated to address and minimize the discomfort of your stakeholders. The way to do this is as follows:

1) Organize a risk-assessment. Invite all relevant stakeholders to participate in identifying the risks involved in making the proposed change. If the stakeholders themselves cannot be present, have them substitute a representative that they can trust to effectively express their interests. Make sure everyone understands that the proposed change is just for discussion at this point and you want help understanding some of the risks involved. Try to keep this session to under an hour because that’s about as long as you can reasonably hold people’s attention; especially in a manufacturing environment. Make sure to capture all identifiable risks. This means giving your participants free-reign to add risks to the list at will. The last thing you want is for someone to come out in the 11th hour before implementation with the objection that you did not capture during the risk-assessment. Also ensure the group’s leader is present  to keep some of the risks grounded within the realm of reality. Even better, get the boss’ general buy-in before going into the risk-assessment.

2) For each risk identified, work with the stakeholders to develop a course of action that would satisfactorily mitigate the risk. Its important that the person who raised the risk agrees that if the mitigating action was completed satisfactorily, they would have no further objections. Here is where artful facilitation is needed. If you’re not a skilled facilitator, you will need help to get good ideas out and keep the meeting on coarse. Ideally you can get the concerned party to propose the solution themselves; second best, you or another attendee propose something that they can publicly agree to. This may mean slightly changing the scope of your initiative, completing more testing to verify the cost / benefit, including additional training or documentation, or expediting planet’s revolution around the sun by 6 or 7 days. Whatever it is, you as the change agent need to build consensus around what specific actions are needed before you can earn the stakeholders’ buy-in. In a group setting, people’s personal intentions are a little more difficult to hide and they tend to engage with the idea that their concerns can potentially be addressed, especially if everyone else is playing along.

3) Take your mitigating action items list and get to work. Complete every single item to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter if you complete these items yourself or delegate. In this case, you cannot afford to deny or delay any of the items. Gather proof that demonstrate the completion and quality of workmanship of each item. Use pictures, standard work documents, data or test results, sign-off sheets, or whatever else it takes to provide a paper trail of thoroughly completed action items. Neatly package the artifacts and preparation to get sign-offs. Then create or use a sign-off sheet and have all the key stakeholders sign the sheet saying they are satisfied with the mitigating actions taken and that they are ready to proceed with the change. Then you are clear to proceed in changing the world – your world at least however small it may be.

Going through this level of rigor to get people’s buy-in has a psychological effect that the change is worth it and it shows that you value the authority and professional integrity of the key stakeholders. I’ve seen cases where people have forgotten that they ever were opposed to the change by the time the mitigating actions are taken and its time to sign-off. In this case, they just sign-off so they can hurry up and jump back into rescuing the plant from today’s crisis. Either way, this process covers your bases and lays out a path for continuous improvement both in the manufacturing and leadership buy-in process. Keep a record of the sign-off sheet, risk-assessment, and proof of completion artifacts in case you need them for future reference.

Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Leverage Opinion Leaders to Implement Change in Manufacturing

Manuficient Opinion Leader

In every organization, there are people who have formal and informal authority. The folks with formal authority are fairly easy to spot. They usually have the biggest office, fanciest clothes, and sit at the head of the table. Spotting the ones with informal authority can be a little trickier. Sometimes they are more vocal and aggressive. Other times they are silently controlling the tides from behind the scenes in your organization. Either way, it’s one of your key responsibilities as a change agent to identify these people and leverage their influence to drive change. Here are a few techniques you could use to make this happen:

1) Build a solid business case for the change you wish to ensue. You can do this with your internal resources or leverage outside help. Make sure you cover all the most important bases, especially those that closely align with your core business values. Also, your business case needs to be data-driven including identified risks, costs, benefits, and key milestones to implementation. Also, your business case needs to be formatted in an easily palatable story so that anyone can quickly understand what you have in mind.

2) Identify the opinion leaders in your organization. This includes the boss in the corner office, the tenured machine operator whom everyone highly respects, the aggressive manager, or the Admin Support whom everyone loves. Pay attention to who everyone waits to speak in meetings and then tend to just go along with. Also identify the more vocal employees who put off the vibe that they’re not playing the same game as everyone else.

3) Get the opinion leaders on board with your idea before anyone else even hears about it. Opinion leaders value their position (of either formal or informal authority) over almost all other things, and you should too. The last thing they want is to have someone else (the change agent in this case) encroaching on their territory. By befriending and giving the opinion leaders a stake in the change you are pursuing, you gain powerful allies in the initiative. By not acknowledging them, you gain powerful enemies.

4) Deliver on your part of the deal. Opinion leaders usually expect something from you in return for their support for your initiative. They might want you to speed up the process for getting a nagging maintenance issue fixed or help resolve some other ongoing conflict they’ve been having. They may just want assurance that their place in the new kingdom is safe. Either way, you’re going to have to help them with that issue in exchange for their full cooperation. And they’ll probably want their issue resolved in short order.

Once you’ve successfully executed on these steps, then you’ve paved the way for smooth implementation. Miss any of these critical steps and you’ll be swimming upstream for a long time before any relief arrives.

© Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.