Great Teams

Getting the most out of yourself and others.

Perspective is nearly everything when it comes to accelerating your performance, or someone else’s.  Human motivation is more art than science.  No matter what I believe or expect about the natural laws, for example, my opinion has no impact. Gravity does what gravity does, no matter what I think.

Human motivation is different. What you believe about yourself, or others, has an impact on your behavior or someone else’s behavior. The self-fulfilling prophecy does not apply to natural laws, but does apply to us lowly humans.  This is both good and bad.

The Leadership Riddle

As a leader I find my fulfillment within the success my subordinates’ experience while executing the strategies and plans that we have put in place. This amounts to me experiencing success in the third dimension by watching others succeed.

I first learned this as a basketball coach, watching my kids on the court successfully execute strategy we had worked on in practice. That was the expression of my success. The more they were recognized the more successful I felt and the more successful I really was.

Leadership vs Supervision As reprinted from

Leadership vs. Supervision  As reprinted from

LIVONIA, Mich., June 13, 2013 — Making leaders, not rulers

Every manager maintains a balance of supervisory and leadership skills. This balance is impacted by the personality of the manager and the situation in which they are operating. These skill sets complement each other in a healthy work environment, but are in conflict in an unhealthy one.

Leadership and supervision are concepts best defined by the source of their authority to act, or their power source. A supervisor gets his or her authority, or power, from the position power provided by the organization. This is a top-down flow of power. Supervisors manage from a command-and-control paradigm that is rooted in the ongoing inspection of performance.

Rolling Out Lean Principles in a Business or Organization

A brief outline of the steps to rolling out Lean in the work place. Bear in mind that I believe success depends upon leadership and mentoring instead of supervision.
First, listen and teach. Set up brief training sessions using classroom time, Gemba walks, 5S, and identifying waste. Teach the group to use Lean tools to recognize opportunities while walking their work space. Frame what you teach in terms of the listeners’ value proposition. This is to gain trust. As a leader, you should be selling instead of telling. Teach basic tools they can use right now. Have the group document a list of opportunities.
Second, lead the group into a baby step project.  If they haven’t done so already, have the team create a list of opportunities and chose which they want to tackle as a project. At this point they become a team instead of a group of individuals. Teach them tools for use in their chosen project and go out and get it done. As others see the team’s activities, you may see the number of individuals interested in participating increase. Allow this to happen. You may have to create more than one team depending business circumstances.
Third, after a successful project, have the team re-evaluate the list they created earlier. It will change based upon what they have learned. Tackle another project from the list. Get some momentum from successful projects. This increases trust. Encourage the team to take on smaller projects in their own work space. Act as a facilitator and a supplier of resources. Lead instead of supervising. Again, as others see the team’s activities, you may see the number of individuals interested in participating increase. Allow this to happen. You may have to create more than one team depending business circumstances.
Forth, you are now in the midst of a Lean rollout. You may want to christen the rollout with a name that is unique to the team or teams. Be careful about asking the team to follow you in the Lean implementation on a larger scale. You don’t want the team(s) to see the process as a “program” they are doing for someone else. They need to see it as something they are doing for themselves (remember the value proposition they started with). The team(s) need to “own” the initiative. There will come a time for them to see it on a larger scale.
Fifth, you don’t have to use special names for tools and projects. This can create pushback. Listen to the people you are working with and they will indicate when, if ever, it is appropriate to start adding special names. The main thing is to keep in alignment with the overall value proposition of the business and in alignment with the team’s value proposition.
Sixth, “keep the main thing the main thing” by not allowing the effort to become personally yours. The effort belongs to the group and the business as a whole. As much as possible, stay in a leadership mode instead of a supervisory mode.

Change Leadership

All management strategies and paradigms, from old school to Lean, have one element that is the same. That element is people. People are not pawns on a game board, they are not machines and they don’t always follow management’s vision.

In fact, the people side of management is never clear cut, and is nearly always messy. Everyone has their motives for doing the the things they do. Not everyone has the same goals in mind.
Failure to address the human element will undermine any effort that management may take to change the culture in a business. The reason is that culture is all about the human element. You can’t dictate attitudes and motives, nor can you just ask for change.
Here is the secret. All change, all improvement, Lean or otherwise, must be lead. It is experienced together with others. Let me give you an example. Years ago, when hurricane Hugo came through South Carolina, I was managerially responsible for an industrial waste treatment facility. All retention ponds were filling and the plant could not keep up.  The state had given me permission to by-pass the rain water directly to the river in order to keep other contaminated water contained.  This required the re-routing of a 12 inch fiber cast pipe while the hurricane was in full swing. I had a staff of 5 technicians on duty that night. All had families in the storm’s path and all were worried.
This was a time for action, so I  said what needed to be done, grabbed my tool bag, and headed out the door into the weather. I didn’t ask anyone else to go, but everyone followed me into the storm. We fought the weather for more than two hours and got the job done.
After that night, I had a minimum of 15 to 20 workers from around the company volunteering to work with me on a daily basis. We had a reputation for action and a “can do” attitude. In this case strong leadership resulted in strong follow ship. The culture began to change because the employees saw the management team change.
My point is this. If you want to change the culture in your work space, let the change begin with you. If you want to implement a Lean movement, let the change begin with you. Exercise strong leadership and you will get strong follow ship.
Strong follow ship leads to a shared vision. A shared vision leads to less resistance to change.

21st Century Leadership

In the 1950’s, if you wanted to bring the world’s best minds together to solve a problem, it involved weeks or months of effort, and the exercise limited the number of participants.  Today, with the internet, a million minds can be brought to bear on a problem in minutes. If you hold to the idea that within our corporate human hearts and minds we have the answers to our most pressing concerns, than you must also believe that we are on the cusp of great change. What can hold back a million great minds communicating at the speed of the internet?

Defining Leadership

Leadership is not something that can be defined within the confines of a witty statement. In fact, it may be that you cannot easily define leadership in several pages of intelligent ramblings. My personal belief is that defining leadership is like describing a boot with nothing to go on except a boot print. Let’s see if I can describe the boot print.

First, leadership does not exist outside of the individual. It requires a host to manifest itself. This is why so many fail to capture the essence of leadership when trying to describe it as a separate stand alone quality. Leadership is not a thing to be assigned. It is, instead, a result of other “things”.

Six Sigma and Business Acumen

A common mantra in Six Sigma is to “make decisions based on data”. This is a flawed strategy that probably comes from Six Sigma’s dependence on statistical experts instead of business experts. A Six Sigma Black Belt or Master Black Belt is only as good as their business leadership skills. This is why a form test for Six Sigma certification will not work. A form test cannot measure leadership skills or business acumen. You need the full package to be effective. This is why so many Six Sigma initiatives fail. There is too much emphasis on math skills and not enough on business acumen and leadership.