29 January 2015

Possible Answers:

1)    "I want a detailed memo about this issue till tomorrow's morning."

2)     "You were supposed to have changed that light bulb last week!"

3)    "We haven't got a policy on that".

4)    "I am on my way to a very important meeting, so we'll discuss it some other time."

5)     Three. Two to find out if it needs changing, and one to tell an employee to change it.

Change is all around us. People change, seasons change, weather changes, and pretty much everything changes. In the work place change is inevitable, however it sometimes seems that everyone and everything is against it. Following the possible outcomes of the joke above perhaps we can learn the lessons contained within

1)    "I want a detailed memo about this issue till tomorrow's morning."

a.       At times it seems that the effort to accomplish simple changes are too great. When the effort to execute change is to high, people will steer clear or avoid the topic. We have all worked in organizations where at times it appears that procedures and standards get in the way of quick and effective change. Enable change by removing unneeded barriers or by providing alternatives.


2)    "You were supposed to have changed that light bulb last week!"

a.       Change is only possible if the resources are available. All too often we manage teams that are spending 60 hours a week just maintaining the status quo. All of the sudden, a small emergency or surprise (like a burned out bulb) goes unattended. Managers need to make sure they allow for proper work-life balance so that people can proactively engage in change.

b.      Another point stands out in this response… all too often managers themselves find themselves in situation where they are unable to properly engage and follow-up with their teams, thus resulting in the dreaded declaration of “I told you a week ago.”  Make time to stay in contact and in touch with your team. Follow-up with them specially on issues that may not be part of their daily routines… (hint: Change)

3)    "We haven't got a policy on that".

a.       Don’t cop out on change! As a leader you must set the example. If you don’t have an answer, at minimum provide guidance, or commit to provide guidance at a later time.

4)    "I am on my way to a very important meeting, so we'll discuss it some other time."

a.       Similar to above, this is a way of coping out on your team. Furthermore, this also carries the message that you do not want to listen to your team, or do not think there is any urgency to change.

5)    Three. Two to find out if it needs changing, and one to tell an employee to change it.

a.       This one is a zinger for all managers. It illustrates the top heavy organization that stands in the way of nimble and agile change.  It further illustrates that management roles may not be clear, and thus a simple “Bulb Change” requires involvement from multiple managers. Of all the barriers that can stand in the way of change, this is perhaps the most significant. The more individuals that get involved in decision making, the greater the chance for disagreement and of course, delays in directing the task at hand… in this case, changing a light bulb.

As managers we are all too eager to put in our 5 cents. The real manager is able to empower his team, give minor strategic direction, but most importantly, stay out of the way of those that need to execute the change.


Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 by George R.

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23 January 2015

I speak from experience here, in fact we all do… when we were young – before we uttered our first words – we cried to get attention. We wanted our parents to listen to help solve a problem. We were cold, we were hungry, or our tummy’s hurt. In fact, reading medical journals, we never cried for the sake of crying. There was usually something we could not solve and needed assistance with.

This core human behavior doesn’t change much as we grow older, and the incredible parallels between the crying baby and those stressed out team members working for us in a crisis require that we, as mangers, pay attention to them in order to provide leadership and guidance so they can perform their functions.

This is one of the hardest things to accomplish, and I am yet to see an organization where the complete or partial shutdown of communication into the management level does not occur as a result of a crisis. Because they are tasked with leading organizations out of crisis, managers are in a particularly tough position since their job tenures are likely tied to their success.

Unfortunately crises bring stress, long hours, weekends, phone calls at 2:00am and many other circumstances that managers dislike, and that in turn has a tendency to lead to frustration which can easily be ‘shared’ with their team in the form of yelling, micromanaging, and not listening to the underlying problems. 

Unlike a baby, who’s unattended crying may result in disruptions to our sleep patterns, in the business world, not attending to our teams ‘cries’ for help can have dire consequences. Baby’s, by nature, will continue to cry until the problem is resolved, however adults, at some point stop ‘crying’ or appropriately said, they stop escalating issues and seeking guidance from managers. When this happens those issues can become the foundation of the next crisis.

Successful crisis managers, however, have figured out that in a crisis it is imperative to have a team willing to stand with you through those long hours, and endless weekends. The greatest thing you can do for your team in order to get out of crisis mode is this - Make a special effort to communicate and listen to your team – they are not babies! They will not only stand behind you in the current crisis, but they will provide the solutions for the current crisis and they will keep you from leading them into the next one.

Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015 by George R.

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15 January 2015

In my 20+ years of manufacturing I have read and/or worked on hundreds of 8Ds. I would venture to say that less than 10% of those led to effective solutions. The biggest problem in those ineffective 8Ds was the problem definition. 

If the problem is not properly defined based on facts and data you may be leading your team down a path that will yield less than optimal results. 

Think about it… how many times have you read an 8D with a problem definition such as “None-Functioning Motor” instead of the more precise definition of “Cracked magnet inside motor”.

Starting with a poor problem definition can make it extremely difficult to find the root cause without assessing every component and every process tied to those components (extremely time consuming). However, with the smaller scope in the example of the "cracked magnet" the focus of the team would be around the magnet and the factors and processes that influence it.

The best 8D methodology I have had experience with was the Faurecia QRCI. Their methodology forced a re-definition of the problem after the initial evaluation of the facts and data regarding the parts. It went as far as placing the redefinition after D3 (Containment) in order to force the utilization of the containment data to further narrow the problem. In the QRCI methodology, the 5-Why process does not begin until the problem has been properly defined.

The logical question to ask is why is this so difficult to do? In my experience the biggest problem has been timely and un-obstructed access to the “Scene of the Crime”. In many cases the parts are removed from where the issue was detected, the parts are repaired, tampered with or even lost. This significantly limits the ability to gather the facts and data, leading most individuals to fill in the gaps with assumptions and more likely than not, defining the problem too vaguely, or incorrectly.

If you place a priority on evidence gathering and put procedures in place such as stopping the production line when a defect is detected, your ability to properly define and consequently find and effective solution go up significantly.

- More on Problem Definition:

The Key to Innovation: Problem Definition (Part I)

Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2015 by George R.

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