Leading Process Improvement

Should process improvement be #1, #2, #3, or lower in priority for small manufacturing suppliers? Machine shops, fabrication, plastics, electronic assembly, circuit boards, etc. Whatever your business, if you’re a small family-owned company you have competing priorities. You may work on the floor part or most of the time, you may try to supervise and manage people who work for you, and some family members – it’s hard to picture yourself working in an office for more than a few minutes with so many competing priorities. And perhaps you never saw the business employing 100, 200, 300 – as the business transitions we are challenged to take on the new role of leader.

This blog will discuss the issues of being a leader. How to transition from worker to leader, what you need to know to set your priorities, how to build the business without losing control (that is if you ever had control).

I want to talk about process improvement, continuous improvement, process maturity, lean systems and implementation, 6S, flow manufacturing, just-in-time, pull systems, and more from a leadership perspective.

You have a wealth of experience so I hope you’ll contribute your comments as well.

Privacy in the New Age

In an article written for The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance citing a research study conducted by the Pew Research Center, LaFrance asks, “When pubic life becomes the new default, what does privacy mean?”

Ten years ago most people believed they had some measure of privacy. Today, most people admit that they are being watched and most likely have no privacy at all.

Most IT experts agree. For most people, your information and your activities and preferences are no longer a secret unless you have:

  1. Paid someone to keep you completely “off the grid”
  2. Intentionally refused to use email, the internet, your cell phone, faxing services – anything electronic
  3. Avoided doing business with anyone who uses any of these mediums to transmit information

In other words, your chances of being invisible are disappearing.

But if you take path #1, you could avoid most of this because in the future privacy will probably only be a luxury paid for by the rich.

Why do you want privacy?

The need for privacy is built into our DNA. We’ve had to address it across a number of generations as technology has changed our lives.

From Wikipedia on “Right to Privacy”

“Privacy uses the theory of natural rights, and generally responds to new information and communication technologies. In the United States, an article in the December 15, 1890 issue of the Harvard Law Review, written by attorney Samuel D. Warren and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, entitled The Right To Privacy, is often cited as the first implicit declaration of a U.S. right to privacy. Warren and Brandeis wrote that privacy is the “right to be let alone”, and focused on protecting individuals. This approach was a response to recent technological developments of the time, such as photography, and sensationalist journalism, also known as “yellow journalism“.[2]

Privacy rights are inherently intertwined with information technology. In his widely cited dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States (1928), Brandeis relied on thoughts he developed in his 1890 article The Right to Privacy. But in his dissent, he now changed the focus whereby he urged making personal privacy matters more relevant to constitutional law, going so far as saying “the government [was] identified …. as a potential privacy invader.” He writes, “Discovery and invention have made it possible for the Government, by means far more effective than stretching upon the rack, to obtain disclosure in court of what is whispered in the closet.” At that time, telephones were often community assets, with shared party lines and the potentially nosey human operators. By the time of Katz, in 1967, telephones had become personal devices with lines not shared across homes and switching was electro-mechanical. In the 1970s, new computing and recording technologies began to raise concerns about privacy, resulting in the Fair Information Practice Principles.”

Today, when most people are questioned and speak about privacy, their attention mainly goes first to privacy from government invasion and second to privacy from commercial invasion by companies and individuals.

What Challenges Privacy?

Privacy from government invasion has been challenged by terrorism and homeland defense strategies. Today we are subjected to many potential invasions of our privacy in the effort to thwart terrorist actions before they occur. Nobody wants to allow terrorists to operate freely against Americans but we continually question how much freedom should the government have and can we trust them to use that information wisely?

And privacy from commercial invasion has been challenged by the Internet and electronic invasions like the credit cards and account database thefts suffered by major retailers. We question whether these entities really can be trusted with our information and whether we agree with how they intend to use it.

Our right to be “let alone” has been challenged as well as world population continues to grow at an exponential rate.

We can only believe that these threats to privacy will increase in their influence.

Natural Limitations

There are some natural limitations that help us with privacy.

With billions of people on the planet accessing the Internet and using cell phones, there is a practical limitation to how much data can be processed. Government reports from the NSA in response to Snowden highlight the use of “metadata” as a methodology that simultaneously reduces the amount of data to be processed and the amount of information available to people in the government who are looking at it.

The shear massive amount of data is growing exponentially and that leads to the use of key word searches used by machines to process massive amounts of data from phones, computers, and other devices with only the matches coming forward.

There aren’t enough human beings in the entire government to look at everything a machine would flag so in terms of having human eyes on our information, it becomes more unlikely each year.

Still be are not worried about the shear odds against it but the fact that the technology can and does exist and whether it can be used illegally against us.

Another natural limitations is cell phones themselves. It used to be that a law enforcement officer would misbehave and do something to a citizen without getting caught. The FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. could take someone into custody without our knowledge. Nowadays everything that anyone does seems to appear on a video capture from somebody’s cell phone – in high definition by the way.

There is nothing better to deter this misuse of power than the sheer threat of seeing yourself on the 6 o-clock news mistreating another person and abusing your authority. We certainly don’t want to get caught arguing that we need to protect the privacy of a felon committing a crime whether he’s from the police department or the government.

In Favor of Privacy – from Wikipedia

  • The right to privacy is alluded to the fourth amendment to the US constitution, which states that ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[17]‘. The logical extension of this amendment to digital properties would make sense given that were the internet to have existed when the bill of rights was written, digital documents would have been considered more important than ‘papers’ as mentioned in the literal text.
  • Privacy helps to avoid unwanted and potentially intrusive interference in an individual’s personal affairs.
  • Privacy is one of the rights that were absent in the society of Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984. Without privacy, there would be nothing to stop a ‘Big Brother‘-like entity from taking control of every aspect of life.

Against Privacy – from Wikipedia

  • In 1999, during a launch event for the Jini technology, Scott McNealy, the chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, said that privacy issues were “a red herring” and then stated “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”[18]
  • The nothing to hide argument is an argument which states that government data mining and surveillance programs do not threaten privacy unless they uncover some illegal activities, and that if they do uncover illegal activities, the person committing these activities does not have the right to keep them private. Hence, a person who favors this argument may state “I’ve got nothing to hide” and therefore does not express opposition to government data mining and surveillance.[19]
  • In wake of the Snowden scandal, governments have claimed that there is an existential terrorist threat that warrants the obsoleting of the so-called right to privacy.

What If There Was No Privacy?

  • The Pew Research survey says most people no longer believe they have privacy and a new generation of Facebook and social media users when challenged with privacy or staying in touch with their friends will choose the later.
  • Are we gradually becoming accustomed to a “public life”?
  • If we projected the influence of all of these factors – world population growth, internet, electronic media, use of social media, wireless connectivity, and increasing concerns over homeland defense and terrorism, it would not be hard to believe that in the future we might find a population that no longer holds privacy as a significant issue. Of course that would still be a society where you could purchase your privacy if you had enough money.
  • Are the biggest proponents of privacy those who have something to hide?
  • Is privacy the “whipping post” for other emotional and psychological issues harder to define?
  • What if we simply outgrow the need for privacy through evolution associated with generational changes?

Summary

It’s very possible that privacy as we know it or have known it will not exist in another 10 years. Although the fight for privacy will not die until the last fighting member of our generation passes on, it’s clear that the new generation doesn’t have the same values or want to fight the same fights as we did. I’m not suggesting that we will suddenly find reason to trust our government and the politicians – on the contrary, history has proven that we are likely to trust them even less in the years to come. We will simply outgrow “fighting” for things as the “war on drugs” and the “war on poverty” and the “war on terrorism” has proven to simply create more of the same.

Respect

I knew a great man once. He had amassed a great fortune growing his own company. Loyal friends and supporters surrounded him. He asked me to consult by taking a look at his business and giving him feedback. His friends and loyal supporters were fearful and jealous. I only had to test it once – I said something that could be interpreted several ways to one subordinate and soon his team had used that to launch an ejection campaign to remove me. I asked him if he believed I would say something negative to a subordinate without a purpose and he said “goodbye.”

Your subordinates have an interest in keeping you the way you are and they don’t like you changing for the better.

But if you want to do the one thing that will change everything, you must become the person who achieves success through others. You must become extremely interested in supporting those who work at your company to achieve their own successes. You must serve their higher good and achieve results through them. This is the fundamental change in thinking that our offshore competitors are hoping we never discover.

Simply commit to change your mind and your actions will fall into line over time behind that. And eventually people will give up and allow you to change.

Respect

A good starting definition for respect is, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It seems like a fitting definition when we think about the leaders we have known – those we respect and those we do not.

But thinking more deeply about the subject, we may realize that we never found it easy to respect those who did not respect us. Leaders are able to trigger deep-seated memories – you might even say “cellular memories” – memories that are so engrained into our consciousness (even though many of these might be subconscious) and beliefs that we can hardly escape the similarities between the leader and those earlier memories.

Leaders can trigger memories of mistreatment by a parent, a teacher, a bully, a boss, and more. Anytime someone has a natural “positional power” over you – one born of an organizational chart – they automatically become the victim of the negative memories of those they lead.

And so people come to work pre-disposed to react poorly to a leader who doesn’t show respect.

And, it could be said that people crave respect more than they are willing to give it.

While leaving a club late in the city, we walked to the valet stand where a single young man stood ready to retrieve our car. As we stood in the street waiting we became aware of several young men and a woman moving toward us across the street. They walked up to us and stood closely to address us. They were dressed as people who might have lived on the street or in a car for while. They seemed nervous – asking where we had come from and what we were waiting for. It was clear that they were desperate and intended to do us harm. The respect we showed them disarmed them. Our kindness and fearlessness brought back memories of a parent or teacher who also respected them. Their conviction to act was softening. We asked if they needed help and their immediate reaction was “no” but after consideration they said they could use some money. We gave them $20 and they thanked us profusely and moved away with fond farewells.

Respect is so rare in the world as to disarm those who have all but given up their pursuit of it.

The “Urban Dictionary” defines respect as…

“It means valuing each others points of views. It means being open to being wrong. It means accepting people as they are. It means not dumping on someone because you’re having a bad day. It means being polite and kind always, because being kind to people is not negotiable. It means not dissing people because they’re different to you. It means not gossiping about people or spreading lies.”

Leaders who are disrespectful to others collect followers who are willing to be disrespected. Over time, anyone who truly respects themselves will find other places to be leaving those who do not.

What kinds of people are attracted to leaders who have a fundamental respect for others?

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
Jackie Robinson

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.
Bruce Lee

It’s true that people are prone to respect a principled leader – a leader with character.

Some textbook definitions for character are:

  1. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
  2. One such feature or trait; characteristic.
  3. Moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
  4. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
  5. Reputation: a stain on one’s character.

The best leaders have a “code” of sorts – a list of values that they intend to use to guide their actions. Some typical values to live by as a leader are:

Integrity – I’m going to say what I mean and do what I say.

Honesty – I’m going to be straight-forward with my feelings and intentions.

Respectful – I’m going to respect and be kind to everyone and not allow fear or anger to get the best of me.

You may have a more extensive list of values but the point is, even if you were to fully accomplish these three, most people would follow you to the ends of the earth.

If you develop your own personal “code” and focus on evaluating yourself daily on how you exemplified your values, you would find that the reaction you begin to see from others would re-enforce your commitment to change.

Summary

Leading a small business is a different challenge from leading a larger business. But both jobs require some of the same skills and qualities, just exercised on a much smaller scale.

Having people follow you out of respect is a rewarding experience. Leading others correctly make a huge contribution to hundreds of workers and in turn their families. Those who work for you take good examples of leadership home. The impact of good leadership is felt at work as well as at home.

Good leadership makes a contribution to everyone and develops leadership within your own business. A good bench strength of leadership in your business multiplies your benefits because the lack of good leadership in small business severely constrained the building of a high-performance enterprise.

Perfect Performance

SETTING PERFORMANCE GOALS

How likely is it that someone in your market will begin to deliver 100% on-time and zero PPM quality? What would happen if several suppliers began to do that? Would that affect your customer’s expectations for your performance? It’s already happening.

I used to go to the cleaners for my shirts and dry cleaning. I remember that I would either go in early before work and right after work. But everyone else had the same constraints so there we were waiting in line to check in our clothes and pickup with 10 other people and one person at the desk working very hard to make sure we didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes.

But then I happened to move and change cleaners, and the new place had three people at the counter and no waiting even at peak hours. That seemed like heaven and I would never go back to a place that couldn’t do that for me.

But then one day someone came to my home and said they would give me the same service and pricing, and pick up my cleaning and laundry at my convenience.

After that, I would never go back to bundling up my cleaning, putting it in the car, and then taking my precious time to take it over to the cleaners. I was hooked on the time savings and convenience of home service. And there was more than one choice so the best quality and fastest turnaround became my primary criteria.

I know a lot of cleaning places went out of business because they could not foresee a time when home delivery would become the norm and at the same prices.

What happened to Blockbuster when Netflix began delivering movies to your home with no late fees and a lower price for more convenience? What happened to any major video rental place?

What were booksellers doing when Amazon started selling books online?

And what were computer retailers doing when Dell computer started taking orders and custom-building your computer and shipping it the same day?

Every industry has to look ahead and realize what changes are inevitable. And even though our first reaction is, “That’s impossible,” as leaders we have to refuse to accept that things are impossible because history tells us that it is highly likely that someone else will prove us wrong. Leadership then is accepting the “impossible” and setting a goal to achieve it.

Let’s consider what changes are inevitable in our aerospace and defense industry.

  1. 100% on-time delivery – in the past we have only been able to think about this through adding inventory – more raw materials if our suppliers had long lead times, and more finished goods if our customers needed near 100% performance. But many of us have almost lost our business going down that path. Carrying costs are the “silent killer” – add $2,000,000 in inventory raw or finished goods and you’ll add 20% per year in carrying costs – $400,000 per year. (the gift that keeps on giving) And what do we typically collect from our customer to offset that cost? Perhaps a thank you but we are rarely in a position to charge for this service because we realize that we’re only doing it because the customer has asked us to deliver on-time and we can’t without inventory. But we begin to notice that our margin, what’s left of it, is dwindling away because carrying cost doesn’t show up on a line in your P&L, it just hides itself everywhere on your financial statement – hiding in plain sight. The customer has very good reasons to ask and expect us to adapt – they are implementing moving production lines and can’t tolerate late parts and assemblies. They’re looking for suppliers who can help them.
  2. Zero PPM – how did that ever become a reality? Or it is? When we realize that production lines for our customers are going to be very fast and lean, we begin to realize that they’re setting up a condition where a single part could stop workflow – and each of those delays could cost the customer millions of dollars! It’s been reported that the new Honda Jet will employ automotive suppliers for most of its supply chains. Automotive suppliers have operated at 100% on-time and zero PPM for many years. Charge Backs have been appearing more and more often. Someone has to pay that additional cost for a part or assembly that isn’t right when it gets to the customer. In 1985, Bill Smith at Motorola published a paper that would later be used by Mikel Harry to found the Six Sigma Institute. The birth of Six Sigma came as a result of the realization that Motorola’s customers could not tolerate the levels of quality previously considered adequate or even good. At 3.4 part per million, cost and customer satisfaction continuously improved. Most aerospace suppliers are accustomed to operating at 2,000 PPM or more. Drawing a line between where we are and what it will cost our customers for suppliers to remain where they are, you arrive at a point where you cannot connect the dots. Suppliers must achieve six sigma levels of quality and charge-backs will continue to exist to re-enforce that reality – the customer is saying, “Somebody has to pay for this and it’s not going to be us.” Now faced with the cost or even part of the cost of a flight test gone wrong, many suppliers will have no choice but to go out of business.

Summary

Because these changes represent a clear and present danger to suppliers, I recommend that we adopt 100% on-time and zero PPM as either a short or long range goal. Depending on your current state, you might have to make this a long range goal but the most important thing is that you have a culture and capability to continuously improve metrics toward that goal. If you don’t allocate the resources to make improvement to the goal a reality, how will you convince your customer that you’re on board with what they will need and demand in the future?

Becoming a Small Business Leader – How to Bootstrap Your Leadership

BECOMING A LEADER

Much has been written on the subject of leadership. This paper addresses the evolution of small company leadership and proposes a roadmap of sorts for identification of where you are and where you’re going as a leader.

Early Stages of Small Business

You’re the “doer” and the prime mover of the business. You probably had or learned the skills growing up. Some of you may have learned machining from your father. You’re most likely an expert even if it was just your idea (“creativity”) and you invested many years of “sweat equity” building the business.

In this stage most likely a lot of your time goes into creative activities and solving problems. In his 1972 Harvard Business Review article, Larry Greiner proposed the model below.

Evolution

His study proposed that in the early stages almost all activities were collaborative, creative, and very little time was available for management. There might even be a disdain for management activities. But eventually the need for leadership would emerge calling for an evolution to having someone “in charge.”

Each stage results from a “crisis” – the words on top are how the company evolved, and at the limit of that evolution, a new “crisis” presents itself as a strong need that is solved by the next evolution. In our case we are at the bottom right – we have evolved through hard work and creativity, and now the organization is successful and requires leadership to evolve to the next level. Leadership provides more direction and the organization grows and evolves until the need for autonomy becomes a crisis born by a leader who has become too strong, too directing, to demanding, too constraining, and a limit on continued growth. And the cycle continues. But let’s go back to the beginning and start there.

If the business is successful then you begin to get into the fringes of managing – things such as hiring, coaching employees, training, and more. But nevertheless in this stage you continue to work shoulder to shoulder with everyone and you feel less comfortable sitting in an office doing “management” duties (whatever that is).

Success Leads to Growth – Someone Needs to Manage

Why does someone need to manage anyway? We’re all adults. Can’t everyone just figure it out? But things start to surface.

People need direction.

Hiring – we need more people and someone needs to make sure we get the right ones. This is often the first management task that we experience. I remember my first hiring experience as a new manager. It wasn’t until I got into the room and sat down that I realized I had no idea what to do. At that point my goal became, “Get through this interview.” I suspect that I did more talking than listening. And as a result, most of our experience in this early stage of management is bad hiring – people who don’t fit, or become a problem later on. It becomes apparent that more attention and effort needs to go into hiring.

That realization is often followed with a series of quick fixes. Make a list of questions. Get more people to interview them. Make sure you check their references better. It’s not until later that you realize that repeating a lot of poor interviews just makes it more likely you’ll hire the wrong person. Not to mention we usually follow-up poor hiring practices with poor training practices. We put the new person with the old person.

Managing People – the next thing that usually surfaces that needs management is people. It turns out if you put a bunch of people on machines with plenty of work to do, they don’t necessarily work productively. Things happen. Mary doesn’t like Jim and is trying to make him look bad. John does like the work he’s doing and is looking for something else. Fred and Jerry are spending a lot of time in the break room or hiding out in the restroom.

High performance is not a natural act.

It takes a good manager to set clear goals for people, instruct them on behaviors that are out of bounds, provide for motivation when they’re doing things right, and to keep one bad apple from spoiling the whole bunch. Adults aren’t automatically good coaches – just go to your son’s soccer game and you’ll see that it takes a lot of hard work and study to become a good coach. More people means more needs for management. Eventually the demands of the business require you to manage and not just do.

Managing Customer Issues – at some point the customers are so large that making a mistake can be disastrous so you need to spend more time backing up your sales force – assuming you have one. Some customer problems demand management attention. They want to visit and tour your facility. They want to meet the “big guy” and you’re in a command performance.

Success Leads to Leadership

There are many definitions for leadership. Why do we need it? Because eventually managing things just isn’t enough to ensure success. Just solving problems and maintaining the status quo isn’t enough. Some simply say leadership is being someone who others will follow. I like the example of the informal leader. Sometimes there are certain people who others just naturally listen to. I’ve seen people try to fake that by using recommended tricks and techniques. That doesn’t seem to work well. Being someone who others want to follow seems to be who you are – it’s in the bones. For those who watched the hit series LOST ending in 2010 after 6 successful seasons, Jack Shephard was the unquestionable leader even though many times you had to wonder why anyone would follow him – but he was the guy that everyone just wanted to follow in spite of many obvious flaws.

It takes a decision to be a leader.

You must decide with confidence that you will step out and lead. We see this informally all the time as we watch kids on the playground and people at work. Everywhere we see the challenge of leadership picked up by someone – the group looks around at faces that say, “it’s not me you’re looking for,” and one person steps forward and says, “OK, let’s get started.”

It’s very comfortable being a manager once you contemplate the transition to leadership. Leadership is so much less tangible. As a manager you can place most of your focus on maintaining the status quo. You solve problems to bring things back to a norm. You “project manage” the business, the customers, the employees.

A leader is mainly concerned with challenging and changing the status quo. As a leader, you’re operating from a vision of the business where breakthrough performance is normal and daily miracles are common.

As I said in the beginning of this paper, there are plenty of good books on leadership – servant leadership, principled leadership, situational leadership, and more. What I want to do is focus specifically on how a small business owner can transition from doer to manager to leader. How do we focus our efforts and develop ourselves to become that leader that people wish to follow?

Small companies eventually stagnate under a manager. Sometimes that becomes a generational issue. For instance, the father manages the business until retirement and at retirement the transition to the son or daughter comes after they have acquired an MBA at a top business school and are prepared to take over the business. But the father wants to see continuing revenue and the business has declined under management control for so many years. The future survival of the business depends on leadership but the father insists on management to ensure future success.

In one case I watched the father eject the son because he feared that the son could not manage the business when clearly their survival in the market would require a transition to leadership no matter how “rocky” that transition might be.

So I will suggest that in order to transition yourself to leadership – to become that person that others wish to follow – this pathway or roadmap may resonate and make sense to you. To gain the trust and respect of others there are certain “foundational” values and skills that must be adopted. I am suggesting that you focus on the following values.

Authenticity

There are widely varying views on the meaning of authenticity. You hear words like reliable, truthful, genuine, trustworthy. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures. In the more general sense, people refer to authenticity as being true to oneself.

It is perhaps easier to identify in-authenticity as a way to define authenticity. We have all experienced a manager who says he has our interests at heart but behaves immediately in a manner that tells us he doesn’t. Or a leader who claims humanitarian motives but behaves consistent with self-serving ones.

Perhaps an authentic leader is one who has resolved the inner and outer conflicts to arrive at the truth about their core motivation and then is able to speak from that in a manner that instantly strikes everyone as true and accurate.

Another way to say that is to say that it is where you come from that’s important, not what you say.

We all have a kind of “radar” that works reliably almost 100% of the time if we listen. Some might call it a “BS Meter” but it mainly ignores the words (which according to psychologists holds only about 20% or less of the meaning of any communication) and seems to work off the non-verbal cues and even things that occur subconsciously and unexplainably in the background.

When a leader has internal conflicts between what they value and believe, and what they are saying, those conflicts are apparent. “Go ahead – it’s safe,” takes on different meanings spoken by different leaders and we seem to have a sixth sense about who we can trust when we hear these words and who we can’t.

So when a leader pretends to be unafraid, but is secretly afraid, a statement like, “Come on, let’s go – this is going to work,” raises the needle on the BS Meter while a statement like, “I’m feeling afraid, but I’m going to overcome that fear and move forward. Are you with me?” rings true as the authentic representation of the leader’s thoughts and feelings.

Leaders who try to appear confident when they’re not, fearless when they’re not, strong when they’re not, etc. just keep triggering the BS Meter until everyone with any self-worth at all has found other places to be. One of my favorite quotes is from a poster I saw, it said, “Once you lose all your eagles, you’re left with nothing but vultures.” It shows an office building full of vultures with green eye-shades and outside the windows eagles soaring free.

Conviction and commitment are powerful things. They can overcome feelings of fear and most other reservations in a very authentic manner.

When conviction and commitment are where you come from, people can read that and will follow.

For most people, developing authenticity might take multiple lifetimes of practice. The shortest route to authenticity is to hire an executive coach who can observe you and provide candid feedback about how you are doing day by day. In this respect, feedback is the “breakfast of champions.”

Integrity

Some will understand the word integrity to mean honesty, truthfulness, honor, frankness, candor, or openness. I dislike these words that describe integrity because when someone says you lack integrity you feel like they are insulting you and miss the point. I like to think about integrity in other terms that are less laden with emotion and potential disrespect.

Integrity is the degree of consistency between your words and your actions. Consider these examples:

  • You schedule a meeting with someone and at the appointed time they are nowhere to be found. You know they have a cell phone – they have your cell number – they can also text you – and they can call someone else and enlist aide in contacting you. But they simply “no-show” without notice and when you finally speak to them they tell you a story that’s equivalent to “the dog ate my homework.” No integrity.
  • You have a project planning meeting and work out a schedule of activities. Everyone agrees that the timeframes are reasonable and can be met. All of the tasks are due to be completed with two weeks. At the end of the first week you check in with someone and they haven’t yet begun their tasks. Two days later they begin talking about why they will never complete in time because the dog ate their homework. No integrity.
  • You meet with someone to discuss a project you’re working on together. You agree on five requirements. The person takes notes – you watch them. Several days later you check in to see what they’re doing and their work has omitted 3 of the 5 requirements. When you ask why they didn’t observe their notes from the meeting you discover that the dog ate their homework – again.

People who lack integrity have a plethora of excuses that they themselves believe to be adequate. Everyone else knows these excuses are just that. People who use excuses like this are labeled unofficially as people who cannot be counted on – they lack integrity.

But integrity is the thing that nobody will speak about openly because everyone understands it to be an insult to their character.

Leaders who lack integrity are surrounded by people who have given up on you. These people have signed up to the “willing to be let down every time” club. Like the night watchman who sleeps in the park every night and doesn’t wake up for the clock chiming, they have steeled themselves to your supreme lack of integrity. You’re surrounded by people who do not give you feedback and do not call you to account. They’re comfortable because they know they can get away with the same thing – like having infinite “get outa jail free” cards.

In fact, some people get so good at failing to keep their word, that they make a new persona about it. So you become the guy who doesn’t have to keep his word because he’s so important and important people don’t keep their word – they’re creative, they’re spontaneous, they’re dynamic, energetic, and surrounded by people who can live with that.

Your considerations about the integrity of others un-communicated keeps them stuck the way they are.

And if you work for someone like that and don’t give them feedback, you get to have them exactly the way they are forever.

Leaders who lack integrity feel extremely uncomfortable around people who expect integrity.

Managers who wish to become leaders must focus on moving from keeping things in their head or on “things to do” lists to keeping a calendar. Modern PDAs like an iphone make this very simple. Put something in your calendar on the computer and two seconds later it’s on your phone. Everything in your calendar can have a reminder. No excuse for not knowing you’re about to miss a meeting or phone call. No excuse for missing a project deadline. Everything you promise to do is moved into a calendar that warns you in advance that you need to do something. You can ask someone to send you a calendar invite so you know that it will get into your calendar.

Moving from a list to a calendar is square one for being a leader with integrity.

Taking notes in every meeting in a log, notebook, or daily diary is square two for high integrity leaders. You can’t be expected to remember everything you hear and everything you agree to. But consider this question – which of these two leaders do I believe has integrity? Which is more likely to impress me? Which am I going to trust and which am I going to follow-up on constantly? Which am I going to promote?

  1. Someone who takes detailed notes during a meeting and references those notes later.
  2. Someone who doesn’t take notes and has a track record of forgetting to do things.

Let’s face it, the beginning of integrity is when someone behaves in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to do what they said they would.

Nobody trusts a victim who’s constantly missing deadlines and makes “dog ate my homework” excuses. That’s right – this is a victim of life – everything that happens becomes an excuse based on their inability to deal with life – to master it’s ups and downs.

Try checking the items on this list that would excuse being on a conference call on-time as you promised or contacting the other party ahead of time to delay or reschedule…

  1. Got up late.
  2. Ran into traffic on the way to work.
  3. Cell phone battery ran down.
  4. Airplane was delayed.
  5. Car broke down.
  6. Last phone call or meeting ran long.
  7. Starbucks was running late on making coffees.
  8. Too many conflicting priorities.
  9. Dog ate my homework.

Did you check any of these? If you did, you’re the guy we’re talking about. None of these are insurmountable. None of these keep you from contacting someone to communicate that you will not be able to keep your promise.

The way people judge your integrity is not absolute. They don’t expect you to keep your promises every single time. What they do expect is that you will behave in a manner consistent with a commitment to do what you said you would.

Everything that interferes with your power to become an authentic leader rests on a lack of integrity. Therefore I would call integrity like authenticity, a foundational skill. It’s part of the bedrock on which you can build credibility as a formal or informal leader.

Some managers develop the belief that having the prerogative to blow off meetings and phone calls demonstrates their power and standing. They come to believe that everyone must wait and swallow hard while they indulge themselves in doing what they want when they want to or not – like a whim.

I can admit that you see a lot of this in the movies where everything is on a script and employees seem to ignore these abuses. But in real life that isn’t the case. Leaders who act like that wake up one day and the only people who are still with them are those who have no possibility of getting a job anywhere else. Movies and TV series are not reality when it comes to running a company. I’m surprised how many people haven’t realized this yet.

Another type of integrity comes when we vouch for others. If I tell you that Jim works for AT&T and later you find out that Jim does not work for AT&T, you wonder about my integrity. This is because in sharing a fact with you, you expect me to at least make sure my facts are accurate. As a leader, this is a standard that always applies, while as an individual contributor – not an analyst, accountant, or attorney – I might get away with this. Leaders are held to the same standards by those they lead as you would an attorney, accountant, or analyst. These are folks you expect to be certain about events, details, facts, etc. People in these roles have a form of “due diligence” that includes checking sources of facts they consider to be important. They may adopt a personal policy of checking facts with more than one person. If Jim says he works for AT&T, you might look at Jim’s business card, or ask someone else if they know where Jim works.

People expect a higher standard from their leaders. Leaders who cannot ensure that information they use and communicate is accurate within reason will not be trusted by those that follow them.

Service

Leaders that people want to follow have made a fundamental decision. Do those that I lead exist to serve me or do I exist to serve them? As a leader we need to look inside to see how we already answered this question. It’s easy because it is reflected in our behavior every day.

How can you lead and serve? More than one book has been written about this starting with the bible.

“You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

Robert Greenleaf is credited with coining the phrase “servant leadership” from an essay he authored in 1970 called “The Servant as Leader.”

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“

For a small business owner this may be too esoteric – obscure, cryptic, conceptual. Those who are the second and third generation family to manage a company that has grown tend to be more practical and pragmatic – their roots are strongly connected to the “Captains of Industry” – the leadership styles of the early 1900s.

Employees do or don’t do. The job is simple. Fire those who can’t do. Give those who can but don’t a second chance. Reward those who can do and do by letting them keep their jobs. What could be simpler?

National discretionary effort surveys have long identified the gap between the energy and effort it takes to remain employed and what people can really give when both their hearts and minds are present. But the Captains of Industry rarely captured the hearts of the workforce. You may recall that was the same era that unions were born and perhaps for very good reason.

What level of effort does it take to remain employed? Perhaps 60-70% effort at most. If everyone silently collaborates to keep performance expectations low, the 60%ers can be superstars. The 90%ers who join the company quickly get beaten down or ejected with prejudice. You have to “fit in.”

What if there is a 30-40% gap as most industrial psychologists agree? The performance differences are astounding between high performing companies and those who are just status quo.

“We are going to win, and the industrial West is going to lose: There’s nothing much you can do about it because the reasons for your failure are within yourselves.”  – Konosuke Matsushita

Our competitors have long believed that American business leaders do not know how to lead. We simply manage the business to a status quo but don’t do the hard work of inspiring high performance and the problem is rooted so deeply inside us that we cannot see it much less exorcise it.

We really, fundamentally, don’t want to believe that our job as leader is to free the intellectual resources of our enterprise. We believe that perhaps somehow good enough will be good enough, and we believe it is a risk to try to ask for more. We believe that control is the only thing keeping it all together.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

So what is the one thing that I can do that changes everything? What is the one thing that if I do it consistently, everyone will know that I intend to be a good leader – one that people will eventually follow? Notice I said “eventually” because those you lead have a strong interest in you remaining the way you are. You’re predictable and can be manipulated based on that predictability.

I knew a great man once. He had amassed a great fortune growing his own company. Loyal friends and supporters surrounded him. He asked me to consult by taking a look at his business and giving him feedback. His friends and loyal supporters were fearful and jealous. I only had to test it once – I said something that could be interpreted several ways to one subordinate and soon his team had used that to launch an ejection campaign to remove me. I asked him if he believed I would say something negative to a subordinate without a purpose and he said “goodbye.”

Your subordinates have an interest in keeping you the way you are and they don’t like you changing for the better.

But if you want to do the one thing that will change everything, you must become the person who achieves success through others. You must become extremely interested in supporting those who work at your company to achieve their own successes. You must serve their higher good and achieve results through them. This is the fundamental change in thinking that our offshore competitors are hoping we never discover.

Simply commit to change your mind and your actions will fall into line over time behind that. And eventually people will give up and allow you to change.

Respect

A good starting definition for respect is, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It seems like a fitting definition when we think about the leaders we have known – those we respect and those we do not.

But thinking more deeply about the subject, we may realize that we never found it easy to respect those who did not respect us. Leaders are able to trigger deep-seated memories – you might even say “cellular memories” – memories that are so engrained into our consciousness (even though many of these might be subconscious) and beliefs that we can hardly escape the similarities between the leader and those earlier memories.

Leaders can trigger memories of mistreatment by a parent, a teacher, a bully, a boss, and more. Anytime someone has a natural “positional power” over you – one born of an organizational chart – they automatically become the victim of the negative memories of those they lead.

And so people come to work pre-disposed to react poorly to a leader who doesn’t show respect.

And, it could be said that people crave respect more than they are willing to give it.

While leaving a club late in the city, we walked to the valet stand where a single young man stood ready to retrieve our car. As we stood in the street waiting we became aware of several young men and a woman moving toward us across the street. They walked up to us and stood closely to address us. They were dressed as people who might have lived on the street or in a car for while. They seemed nervous – asking where we had come from and what we were waiting for. It was clear that they were desperate and intended to do us harm. The respect we showed them disarmed them. Our kindness and fearlessness brought back memories of a parent or teacher who also respected them. Their conviction to act was softening. We asked if they needed help and their immediate reaction was “no” but after consideration they said they could use some money. We gave them $20 and they thanked us profusely and moved away with fond farewells.

Respect is so rare in the world as to disarm those who have all but given up their pursuit of it.

The “Urban Dictionary” defines respect as…

“It means valuing each others points of views. It means being open to being wrong. It means accepting people as they are. It means not dumping on someone because you’re having a bad day. It means being polite and kind always, because being kind to people is not negotiable. It means not dissing people because they’re different to you. It means not gossiping about people or spreading lies.”

Leaders who are disrespectful to others collect followers who are willing to be disrespected. Over time, anyone who truly respects themselves will find other places to be leaving those who do not.

What kinds of people are attracted to leaders who have a fundamental respect for others?

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
Jackie Robinson

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.
Bruce Lee

It’s true that people are prone to respect a principled leader – a leader with character.

Some textbook definitions for character are:

1. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

2. One such feature or trait; characteristic.

3. Moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.

4. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.

5. Reputation: a stain on one’s character.

The best leaders have a “code” of sorts – a list of values that they intend to use to guide their actions. Some typical values to live by as a leader are:

Integrity – I’m going to say what I mean and do what I say.

Honesty – I’m going to be straight-forward with my feelings and intentions.

Respectful – I’m going to respect and be kind to everyone and not allow fear or anger to get the best of me.

You may have a more extensive list of values but the point is, even if you were to fully accomplish these three, most people would follow you to the ends of the earth.

If you develop your own personal “code” and focus on evaluating yourself daily on how you exemplified your values, you would find that the reaction you begin to see from others would re-enforce your commitment to change.

Summary

Leading a small business is a different challenge from leading a larger business. But both jobs require some of the same skills and qualities, just exercised on a much smaller scale.

Having people follow you out of respect is a rewarding experience. Leading others correctly make a huge contribution to hundreds of workers and in turn their families. Those who work for you take good examples of leadership home. The impact of good leadership is felt at work as well as at home.

Good leadership makes a contribution to everyone and develops leadership within your own business. A good bench strength of leadership in your business multiplies your benefits because the lack of good leadership in small business severely constrained the building of a high-performance enterprise.

Process Maturity for Leaders

PROCESS MATURITY FOR LEADERS

Why is it that every supplier CEO we talk to after looking at the SEA Roadmap says, “Yeah, we do that.”? Was everyone already doing the roadmap processes before we started in 2002? Did every supplier have highly mature processes already? And if so, why was SEA formed in the first place?

Back in 2002, the founders of SEA were interested in accelerating supplier performance. In fact, the first mission statement drafted by the board said exactly that, “Accelerating Supplier Performance.” We talked them into changing to “Accelerating Supply Chain Performance” because we recognized that it would not help to always have the finger pointing at suppliers as the culprits on supply chain performance issues. If the supply chain is going to improve it’s going to be the result of collaboration across the entire supply chain, not just what a supplier can do within their own four walls to effect change.

But it was also not accurate to say that suppliers didn’t have some work to do. OTDs of less than 90%, quality ratings of over 20,000 PPM, and lead times of 12-16 weeks told us that we were never going to survive in the face of the moving production lines that were coming from our customers. These moving production lines now demand 100% OTD, 100% quality, and very low lead time across the entire supply chain. Our customers can’t be successful without this support and unfortunately the way we have done business in the past will cost too much to achieve these levels of performance.

But do leaders really understand the role of process maturity in avoiding the costs of giving customers the performance they want?

THE FIRST ROADMAP

The first roadmap had 32 processes – the result of collaboration between our customers and our suppliers. Our customers saw so many issues with suppliers that they just couldn’t stop listing off all the processes that were missing or performed poorly.

SEA staff spent some time with some of the working groups at the time for AS9100 and the Supply Chain Handbook developed by AAQG. Their plans were very sophisticated and included processes that were problems for our customers but not necessarily “core” to how a supplier does business.

Today’s roadmap has been refined to 15 processes – the experience gained by suppliers allowed us to combine and consolidate processes just as the Baldrige Criteria has developed over a 20-year span. A list of the roadmap processes is attached to this report as reference.

But the more the roadmap was simplified the more CEOs who looked at it would say, “We do all of that – maybe not so well, but we already do that.”

The idea of process maturity seems to be escaping almost everyone in the industry.

Nobody said that we weren’t doing these things – they simply said we were not doing them well.

THE FIRST PILOT

The first pilot of the roadmap was held with about 30 suppliers in 2003-4. We asked suppliers to rate their processes 1-5 using the Process Maturity Model as their guide. Most suppliers were honest and rated their processes at 0 or 1 – either non-existent or maturity so low that they couldn’t really confirm that they were being followed at all.

Here are the maturity levels for reference:

0 = The process does not meet any of these requirements
1 = The process addresses most requirements and has a process owner and value stream map
2 = The process is documented to the work instruction level for all major steps in the value stream map
3 = The process is standardized and a certified trainer has trained and certified each appropriate person
4 = The process is under control and is measured and analyzed using data
5 = The process shows positive trends of improvement over time and compares favorably with world class benchmarks

The first companies to take on the task of bringing all of their critical processes to level 3 maturity were pioneers – their owners and leaders had to move into uncharted territory. These companies were mostly “job shops” who had been manned by 2 or 3 generations of the same family – 2 or 3 generations who had done things the same way and passed them down for many years.

Of course ISO9000 had taught people the basics of process maturity but during those times the adoption of ISO was mainly seen as a compliance issue – “you must go through this to get orders from your customer.”

Nobody realized that on the other side of process maturity was a sizable pot of gold in reduced costs, improved performance, increased quality, and the big one, CUSTOMER PREFERENCE. It’s hard to quantify the last one. Customer Preference brings you more orders and more business without incremental cost. Capturing more business without the incremental cost of sales. And the impact of more volume using the same facilities, equipment, and people… How do you quantify that? Only those who have been there know how big that really is.

But what we do know is that the Cost of Quality “COQ” is as much as 30% of sales. And when you begin to seriously take out the COQ, revenue drops to the bottom line that can seriously double of triple your net profit. And as you do that, CUSTOMER PREFERENCE comes into play. No big surprise I hope that our customers like suppliers who are predictable, and perform well every single day without breaking a sweat.

When you’re running around putting out fires because nothing is a mature process, you not going to impress anyone. And therefore you’re not going to be competitive, you’re going to get the jobs nobody wants, or you’ll price it so low that you won’t make a dime. If you’ve known your customer for a long time they may give you the “pity jobs” but the “plums” will go to the guys who “get it.”

So is CUSTOMER PREFERENCE worth a lot of money? ABSOLUTELY – you can’t count how much it’s worth. So the chart above only shows the numbers on COQ, but what you get in incremental business from “growing up” is the biggest gain of all.

GROWING UP AS A SUPPLIER

So why be borderline disrespectful and imply that your company maybe hasn’t grown up? I’m taking a risk. I don’t want to offend you. Just get your attention. Growing Up means developing processes that work right every single time – from the front office to the loading dock, every single employee knows how to mature a process, how to follow best practices that have been documented, and has the discipline and skills to follow them.

It’s not a quick fix or even something that can be done overnight, but it is something that can be done consistently for a year with massive results and more the second, third, and so on.

Our customers recognize serious suppliers. They know it when they see it. When you have process owners and master trainers for each of your most customer-critical processes, your customer sees a commitment to excellence – even if you haven’t arrived, a commitment to excellence shows that you both agree on where you need to be – 100% on-time and zero PPM and anything less is just a temporary condition to be remedied with more time.

HOW THIS WORK HAS CHANGED ME

I have undergone my own transformation after 10 years of doing this work. I never realized how big an impact this would have on me personally.

First, I came to realize how important it is to have small family-owned businesses in the US and how important it is that we do everything possible to have our manufacturing businesses thrive and become more competitive on a worldwide basis. I can honestly say that I feel this one to my bones.

Second, I came to realize that even though it might be a matter of survival, some people just don’t want to change. And the biggest issue was the fact that I needed to change how I was looking at the problem myself before I could ask anyone else to change.

I remember my first Blackberry – I think it was a gift – and I immediately thought to myself, “I’m not going to use that. I don’t want to look like one of these yuppies walking into walls while they text on their ‘crackberry’.” Besides, I had a great system going with my Cadillac – a little black book with pages and a calendar in it. I could teach a course on how to think like a dinosaur.

But I worked on it and mastered it and the adoption that early moved me ahead of my peers very quickly because I gained capabilities they would never have – capabilities they didn’t want to have.

So eventually I came to realize that it wasn’t about coming up with the perfect roadmap or training methodology – it was going to be about changing minds. I was watching a movie one night called “Dune” and the hero yelled to someone “The sleeper has awakened!” in a very loud voice. I thought, “Well that certainly woke me up.”

But beyond that I came to realize that the industry has been operating one way for so long, and supplier companies have operated one way for so long, that our leaders are essentially “asleep” and missing the wake up call. Sure there’s a dance going on, but the dancers have danced it so long they can do it in their sleep.

During this past 10 years I developed sleep apnea without realizing it. One day I fell asleep at the wheel but not really asleep, just kind of dreamy as I watched everything going on including driving my car off the road into a set of very big water mains that flipped my car and totaled it. Good thing there was nobody on the road and very fortunate I got out alive.

But I realize that being asleep isn’t always as we might imagine. A few times I’ve run into people who walk and talk almost normally while they are sleep-walking. I’ve come to realize that running a company has some similarities. You almost have to force yourself to do something different – to get out of the routine of fighting fires, working long hours, dealing with problems, and so on.

The last thing I learned is that our customers know almost nothing about how to collaborate and motivate excellence. They threaten, they hold out a carrot on a stick, they set goals and limits – but almost all of that is fruitless because they really believe deep down that it is an adversarial situation.

And why not? Our customers aren’t psychologists – they’re not trained in running a business and 99% of the time they have never owned, managed, or even studied a small company. There is no reason to expect that a purchasing agent or buyer or supplier development or quality rep knows anything about what it takes for you to improve at all. And further they shouldn’t have to. You should be driving them, not they driving you.

Therefore when you are not performing, they will ask you to do things that long term will put you out of business. And it’s because you didn’t do the right things before it got to that point that you’re being asked to do the wrong things now.

I have watched our customers turn a full cycle of the “crank” of supply chain performance over the past 10 years. In 2000, every OEM was adding supplier development resources like crazy. Boeing IDS reportedly had 800 people on the street working with suppliers to improve performance in 2002. By 2003, they were developing integrating supply chains with suppliers performing to MIN-MAX, or Kan-Ban, JIT, delivering Point of Use, or some form of lean supply chain methodology.

Today Boeing is out of the supplier development business. According to them, if you cannot perform and get yourself right with what they need, they are not in the business of fixing that. Same for all the major players. Supplier development among the OEMs is over.

And I think that’s good because it wasn’t working. Not everything of course, but the massive number of people going out to do Kaizens with suppliers wasn’t working. The interventions without management involvement and commitment to excellence wasn’t working. The force-feeding of lean methods was not causing us to achieve 100% on-time and zero PPM performance. You can’t “push a rope,” as they say. The leader has to decide.

When your customer is screaming, “Get Lean!!!” and your employees are screaming, “Get lean!!!” and your consultant is screaming, “Get lean,” it’s just like standing on the diving board with everyone already in the pool yelling, “Jump!!!” and the more they yell the more you get convinced that you don’t wanna do it. Getting lean and improving performance – committing to excellence is something the leader has to do.

I have seen leaders decide to commit to excellence and I have seen these leaders transform their companies. But I have never caused anyone to do that – at least not that I know of. Rather I have had the privilege and the honor to meet people who did that.

And you certainly know them when you see them.

Many thanks to all the leaders who have changed my mind about what it takes to do this and lighted the path for many others to follow.

 

Attachment

SEA Processes

1.0 Leadership & Culture

1.1.1 Strategic Planning Process – How do your senior leaders accomplish strategic planning? What are the key process steps and who are the participants? How do you ensure that the process addresses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; major shifts in technology, markets, and competition? What are your key strategic goals, measureable targets, and timetables? How are goals and metrics deployed throughout the organization?

1.1.2 Leadership Communication Process – How do senior leaders communicate and reinforce company direction and expectations (vision, goals, mission, and values) to all employees, customers, and key suppliers/partners? What are the key process steps and who are the participants? How do senior leaders encourage frank, two-way communication throughout the organization? How do senior leaders create and re-enforce a high-performance work culture that embraces standard work, process maturity, and lean production techniques? How do senior leaders involve themselves in reward and recognition that re-enforces a high-performance work culture?

1.1.3 Organizational Performance Review Process – How do senior leaders review organizational performance to assess organizational success, competitive performance, and progress relative to strategic goals and action plans? How do senior leaders select, organize, and assess key performance metrics and measureable goals? How do senior leaders translate organizational performance review findings into priorities for continuous improvement?

1.1.4 Continuous Improvement Management Process – How does your organization select improvement priorities and review progress on improvement initiatives? How are process owners, master trainers, and strategic champions included in this process? How are improvement projects and teams selected and given direction? How is a standard problem-solving model deployed throughout the organization? How are recognition and sharing of key learning accomplished? How are process improvement ideas solicited, reviewed, approved, and implemented? How is a high level of workforce participation ensured? How are improvement suggestions recognized? How are suggestions made visible in work areas?

1.1.5 Workforce Development Process – How do senior leaders evaluate the need for workforce development and select topics for each level and function? How does the selection of training topics integrate with strategic goals and process improvement needs? How is the workforce-training plan prepared and monitored? How does your organization ensure continuous learning from improvement projects, customers, and suppliers? How does your organization integrate benchmarking into the learning process? How does your organization integrate such learning into on-going employee education, training, and development?

1.2.1 Supply Chain Integration Process – How do senior leaders select supply chain improvement projects? How does your organization integrate its customers and suppliers into its improvement strategies? How do you qualify suppliers in quality, delivery and ability to respond to pull signals? How do you integrate suppliers into your lean strategies such as in supplier-managed inventory, min-max, consumption-based ordering, pull signals? How does your organization make use of teaming agreements to drive alliances that improvement supply chain performance?

1.3.1 New Product Startup Process – How does your organization contribute to the immediate success of customer startup operations including first article and early production efforts? How are processes like Advanced Product Quality Planning “APQP” and Production Preparation Process “3P” used to pro-actively ensure value for customers? How are customers needs for reduced lead time and high levels of initial quality considered in the startup process?

 

2.0 Workforce Development

2.1.1 Job Skills & Cross-Training Certification Process – How is job skills training and certification accomplished? How does your organization ensure that processes selected are linked to key priorities for improvement? How is cross-training accomplished? How is the team of master trainers maintained and expanded? How is the training and cross-training program reviewed?

2.2.1 Work Area Continuous Improvement Process – How is continuous improvement supported in all work areas? How are improvement projects linked to work area goals? How does the work area integrate continuous improvement into their daily operations? How are problem-solving and corrective action methods standardized in all workgroup processes? How are work areas and cells reviewed by senior management? How are statistical methods integrated into the standard work for appropriate managed processes? How are process control plans developed and implemented? How are statistical methods reviewed and their application improved?

3.0 Operational Excellence

3.1.1 Kaizen Process – How does your organization set and review priorities for Kaizen events? How are Kaizen events conducted? How is recognition for team members provided and are senior managers and the workforce involved? How are lessons learned shared with others who can benefit? How are process improvements documented and deployed to others using the same or similar processes? How are internal Kaizen leaders developed and deployed? How are goals set for Kaizen leadership and how is progress monitored?

3.1.2 6S Visual Workplace Process – How does your organization ensure effective deployment of 6S Visual Workplace strategies for workplace organization? How are the 6S status, process flow, production status, employee training status, and continuous improvement effort clearly displayed and visible in the office and factory floor? How does your organization ensure that work areas are kept consistently free of dirt and clutter? How are improvements reviewed and recognized?

3.1.3 Quick Changeover/SMED Process – How does your organization continually reduce changeover and setup times? How are changeover and setup times tracked and displayed on the factory floor? Have machine operators been formally trained in SMED methods? How is progress reviewed and recognized? What metrics are monitored?

3.2.1 Material Management Process – How does your organization ensure the effectiveness of material management processes in support of its lean and flow manufacturing objectives? How does your organization maintain a high level of inventory accuracy? How do you maintain a high level of 6S in material storage areas? How are levels of obsolete, slow-moving and expedited material maintained at a minimum? How are material handlers, material planners and supervisors formally trained in material management methods? How does your organization integrate the requirements of a flow-based material process? How are “pull” methods such as material Kanbans, consumption-based ordering and min-max utilized? How are Kanban supermarkets integrated into factory floor operations?

3.2.2 Production Planning Process – How does your organization ensure the effectiveness of production planning processes in support of its lean and flow manufacturing objectives? How often are production requirements updated and communicated to the factory floor? How are production schedules communicated to different work centers? How are pull methods such as FIFO lanes and supermarkets used to replace the need for detailed production schedules? How are production planners trained in production planning methods? How does your organization integrate mixed model cell/line design into its operations throughout the enterprise? How are production and industrial engineers, production managers and supervisors, and material management personnel trained in the lean mixed model line design methods? How are major processes linked and balanced into a continuous flow? How are pull methods such as In Process Kanbans, FIFO lanes and Kanban supermarkets integrated into the production flow? How are operators cross-trained for multiple workstations?

3.2.3 Development Process – How does your organization design and develop new products or services? How are advanced techniques such as Six Sigma, Design of Experiments, Design to Cost, Design for Manufacturability integrated into your operations? How are customers and suppliers integrated into your development process? How is the development process reviewed and improved?

4.0 Business Results

4.1.1 Inventory Turns – What is your organization’s monthly history in inventory turns?

4.1.2 Sales/Employee – What is your organization’s monthly history in sales per employee?

4.1.3 On-Time Delivery – What is your organization’s monthly history in on-time delivery?

4.1.4 Parts per Million – What is the organization’s monthly history in parts per million defects?

4.3.1 Process Maturity 3 and above – What is the organization’s quarterly history in processes achieving Level 3 process maturity or above?

4.3.2 Quick Ratio – What is the organization’s monthly history for quick ratio?

Lean for Leaders

Leading a lean enterprise.

What does it take and why is it important if it is?

Certainly there are executive skills that are important for a successful leader. I spoke to someone today who believed that one of their success secrets was being able to focus on one thing at a time until completion. Kind of hard to argue with that idea until you begin to break it down.

Say my top priority is to solve a cost problem. I drop everything for a meeting with the three department heads and the accounting manager. We develop an action plan. They have daily meetings for status. All of the work to get to the bottom of this issue is in their hands. After the meeting I have a decision. Do I keep working on this problems myself and wait and see what they come put with which would be according to plan. I can certainly spend alot of time worrying about the problem – I can focus on this one issue and use my time to worry, investigate, worry, investigate, and in the process cover alot of ground that my three managers are covering now, and some ground that really doesn’t need to be covered at all.

Or I can go onto my next priority and put this one out of my mind until it comes back tomorrow. And this is where the first important executive skills is required.

Managing multiple priorities simultaneously. An effective leader cannot tell their subordinates – I’m sorry, I’m not going to meet or talk about anything else until I get this top priority problem solved. In most cases – and perhaps there may be exceptions but few – putting everything else on hold hurts the business, stalls important efforts by others, and wastes alot of your own time because you just cannot fill your time effectively with tasks that must be done by you.

Along with this first skill follows the next one. Managing information about your top priorities. You need to be able to take good notes. People laugh at the executive who takes constant notes in meetings in a big book. But this is how a mature executive manages information – by priority – along with action items, who is doing what, etc. There are those who can do this all by memory. Most of the executives I have met who believe they can do this by memory do a very poor job but nobody can tell them that because they pride themselves on remembering everything – big mistake. Ego substitution for effectiveness – “self-made-man” syndrome.

The next skill ties it together. Put everything in a time frame. If you put everything that needs to happen into your calendar as a meeting, a follow-up call, a trip, or something concrete that has to be done by a certain definite time, you will not be able to escape what you must do to be effective. You can write these things on a list but it will not have the power that placing them into your calendar has. And when you say “We’ll check on this tomorrow without stating a time and place, you will find everyone else making excuses for why it didn’t happen.

These are fundamental executive skills. Most people do not have these skills. Even experienced leaders often do not exhibit these skills. It takes a highly disciplined leader to focus on the basics and get them right continuously.

Leading lean takes the same discipline. But first let’s consider why this might be important.

Being competitive in any of today’s markets relies on how fast you can improve. So you’re delivering your product on-time 95% of the time. How fast are you moving toward 100%? Effective lean leadership relies on executives who are highly disciplined and apply the skills listed above to the task of lean leadership.

We list five processes that we believe to be essential for lean leadership.

  • Strategic Planning – setting and managing longer term priorities.
  • Leadership Communication – establishing processes for communicating priorities and status and hearing feedback from the entire organization.
  • Organizational Performance Review – reviewing performance at all levels on a regular basis.
  • Continuous Improvement Management – establishing responsibilities, assigning roles, and reviewing progress on all areas of continuous improvement/lean implementation.
  • Workforce Development – establishing and managing processes for workforce development.

Lean leadership is simply setting up conditions where a predetermined percentage of your time is devoted to sponsoring and leading improvement activities. If your lean leadership is “on-again” and “off-again” then you’ll need to give some thought to how you might establish these five processes so that you cannot escape the responsibility to continuous improve the business.

Blind Leader

Wake-up; You’re Blind

Most of us are forced to manage as if most of what we need to know about leading others is already known, already discovered, and specifically, known to us. But in our quiet moments, we would have to at least agree intellectually that of all of the vast body of knowledge on the planet about leading people effectively, we have been exposed to perhaps less than 10%. And beyond that, it is logical to conclude that aside from what we know, what we don’t know we don’t know about human beings and what makes them loyal, committed, and high performing is a body of knowledge that dwarfs what we do know.

What You Know

Given this perspective, we would have to declare ourselves “blind” when it comes to leadership. And it would be more appropriate to examine the plight and coping mechanisms of the blind when it comes to evolving as a leader.

Is “Blind” the Right Word?

Main Entry:            blind
Pronunciation:            ‘blInd
Function:            adjective

Etymology:            Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German blint blind, Old English blandan to mix — more at BLEND

Date:            before 12th century

1 a (1) : SIGHTLESS (2) : having less than 1/10 of normal vision in the more efficient eye when refractive defects are fully corrected by lenses b : of or relating to sightless persons

2 a : unable or unwilling to discern or judge <blind to a lover’s faults> b : UNQUESTIONING <blind loyalty> <blind faith>

3 a : having no regard to rational discrimination, guidance, or restriction <blind choice> b : lacking a directing or controlling consciousness <blind chance> c : DRUNK 1a

4 : made or done without sight of certain objects or knowledge of certain facts that could serve for guidance <a blind taste test>; especially : performed solely by the aid of instruments within an airplane <a blind landing>

5 : DEFECTIVE: as a : lacking a growing point or producing leaves instead of flowers b : lacking a complete or legible address <blind mail>

6 a : difficult to discern, make out, or discover b : hidden from sight : COVERED <blind seam>

Given the definition, if the practice of leadership is conducted “without sight of certain … knowledge of certain facts that could serve for guidance”, we might conclude that one way to talk about it is to say that we’re “blind.”

Blind from Birth

What is it like to be blind from birth? No remembered images for colors and sights. No sunrises and no sunsets. No visual perspectives like the view of the distance between home and the office. When you’re blind from birth, you have to make up the images in your mind from descriptions provided by others and by running your hands over things in your environment. You have no memory or experience to draw on. And you can easily reach conclusions and develop images that are far from accurate.

And when you’re blind from birth, things that you haven’t perceived don’t exist. You don’t know what you don’t know. So if you’re walking down the street and it begins to snow, you might only conclude that the air was colder and wetter than usual, but developing the mental picture of snow would be quite difficult and unexplainable in your perceptive framework. You could easily miss altogether the knowledge of the existence of a snowflake.

And when you found yourself at the ocean and heard the crashing of the surf and approached the edge of the water, you might reach down and feel a wave crashing over your hand, but without someone describing to you in visual terms what you were hearing and feeling, how could you turn that into a complete picture of a wave?

Blind Leader

What about a blind leader? We have no visual images for a high-performing organization. We can’t see what people can really do. Just like the snowflake, we have no real concept of the intricacy of organizational performance.

And like the visit to the ocean, we’ve experienced the feeling of working in an organization. We’ve had the experience because we worked in an organization and experienced leadership. But does that mean that we know what leadership really is?

If we are truly blind to leadership, how can we know what real leadership might be?

The Enlightened Leader

Enlightened Leader

Most managers will travel along the horizontal path for their entire career. They will develop their skills, and gain knowledge that will lead to becoming a better manager. Their results will improve and they’ll find it easier to manage people every year they remain committed to it. Their skills at performance management, planning, communicating, and handling conflict will all improve and at the end of their career, all those who have come to know them will praise them for their even hand and track record of achievement.

Meanwhile, because we are blind, no one will guess that the performance available from an organization under this manager could have broken all records.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

The successful person who has functioned without the use of sight since birth knows they are blind. They begin almost immediately to develop their other senses and their ability to create pictures of their world. The successful blind person doesn’t have to deal with the normal barriers that sighted people have. They develop their imagination and capacity to create clear pictures of performance in any situation from the time they are very young.

Meanwhile the sighted leader functions under the impression that because they can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, that they are in possession of all of the data they will need to build a high performance organization. Yes, having the use of the five senses is a definite handicap in the world of leadership.

The Facts

Because what our five senses tell us about the world has been proven to be false, or haven’t you heard? Think about the implication of these scientific facts:

  1. We are not separate physical bodies but a part of a universal energy field.
  2. What appears to be solid matter is nothing more than an energy field that we perceive to be solid.
  3. What we expect to observe is what we observe; our expectations cause our experiences – not the other way around.

So given these simple scientific facts, we have everything to do with the performance of those around us… in fact, we are the cause of organizational and individual performance or lack thereof.

And we’re “blind” about that fact and don’t know it. Because if we were aware of this blindness, we would begin seeking to build our mental pictures toward the end of making up for that blindness.

The Blind Leader

Here are some things that a “blind leader” might do to discover the landscape and the road to high performance.

  1. Conduct many experiments to learn what works and doesn’t work to gain loyalty, commitment, and ownership among the workforce. Develop mental pictures of people performing favorably. See people over-coming obstacles and dealing with tough problems.
  2. Establish leadership values for the organization. Make a values contract with the workforce. Rely on the self-management, personal responsibility, and innovation of the people in the organization.
  3. Explore ways of changing your perceptions to allow people around you to be OK. Provide encouragement even when there might be reasons not to if all the facts were known.
  4. Approach daily work as if you didn’t know what you’re doing rather than from the perspective that you do know what you’re doing. Assume that you don’t know everything you need to know. Listen as if everyone has the ability to brief you on a part of reality that you missed and need to know in order to be successful.
  5. Follow the road in the direction it’s going. In the song, “He ain’t heavy” the Hollies sing the lyrics, “The road is long; with many a winding turn; that leads us to who knows where.” When a team is clear on its vision, the universe conspires to place the road before us with everything we need to complete our mission. A blind leader doesn’t question the road.
  6. Learn about process maturity. Managing and accelerating improvement in an organization is impossible without a roadmap. The Process Maturity Model is that roadmap. Everything else is just firefighting cleverly disguised as progress.