Peter Drucker is considered the leading management thinker of the last century.  He recommended that organizations do a self-assessment based on 5 key questions – What is your mission? Who are your customers? What do they value? What are our results? What is our plan?

 

We believe now more than ever, we need to help our teams focus on the future.  It is a great way to create a discussion with your team on how we can all contribute to our long-term success.  We developed a guide on how to use the questions for your own team.  

 

Check out Tools Page out for the Guide to asking 5 Important Questions

 

Please let me know what you learn.

 

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As we move towards the ‘new normal’, our need to adapt the way we execute our work will demand an increase in our continuous improvement and innovation (CI&I) activity.

 

As you do this, I would encourage you to follow the logic I use for future state design – THINK TO S.E.E – Simple, Elegant and Effective. 

 

When you approach CI&I, the focus should always be on simplifying how we do our work – it is much easier to make things more complicated than it is to simply them.   Solutions should be elegant or well-designed following design thinking methodology.  And finally, it is critical that processes are effective in delivering internal and external customer value.   

 

Developing and executing future state design using the THINK TO S.E.E approach does take more thought and effort, but the effort will have a much higher rate of return.   Quoting Mark Twain – “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”. 

 

If you would be interested in attending a virtual skill development session on the THINK TO S.E.E methodology, please let me know. 

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

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One of my favourite management thinkers is Peter Drucker.

 

One of his many philosophies is “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.     

 

In simple terms, it is up to you on how your future will unfold.  By coming up with ideas about what you want to achieve, you begin to plan. As you plan, you begin to take action. As you take action, you begin to create your future. 

 

As we approach the new normal, it is more important than ever for both individuals and organizations to embrace this thinking.  

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

 

 

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“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. Originally a proverb, this phrase was made famous by Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘The Shining’.  The real meaning of the proverb is that if you focus only on repetitive work, work that has limited challenge or if you do the same work every day, you will get bored and demotivated.  In organizations, focusing solely on executing daily work can lead to reduced productivity and lower engagement.  

 

Everyone needs meaning and challenge beyond their daily work.   Getting teams involved in continuous improvement projects or problem solving will allow them to focus on activities that will contribute to the long-term success of the organization.   If teams can get involved in improving their own work and work areas, it allows for increased levels of ownership, productivity improvement and reduced levels of frustration.  All very necessary activities to prepare to move into the new normal.     

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Keep improving

Scott

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We have moved from uncertainty to the ‘temporary’ normal.  We appear to be moving through 3 distinct phases – uncertainly and adjustment, the temporary normal and the new normal.     Most of us are now in the temporary normal phase (I know I am). 

 

What is different about this phase?    We are experiencing what it is like to work in a social distance work world, whether at home or at the workplace.   We have figured out methods to execute our work and are falling into some form of operating rhythm.   Most of us have moved to an acceptance phase and are trying to make the best of the current state.  Some of us are learning valuable lessons that we can apply for this phase and for the new normal.  

 

What is required to win in this phase?   We are still dealing with a situation that is not well understood and has limited predictability.  Our natural instinct is to try to predict or control the situation.   In a complex situation, both are very difficult.   Instead,  we need to focus on adaptability and resilience.    Adaptability is preparing ourselves to rapidly reconfigure how we do our work and how we engage with our team members.   Resilience is developing the skills to step back, understand, regroup and then set a course to continue to move towards our long-term goals.   In order to be resilient your team needs to have a positive but realistic attitude, to be able to use failure and set- backs as an opportunity to learn and grow and to execute a plan to adapt and move forward.  

 

As leaders it is up to us to set the example for both adaptability and resilience.

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Keep improving

Scott

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During normal times, it can be difficult to find things we are grateful for at work.    As humans we tend to focus on the negative as a way to protect ourselves.  The negative focus can lead to additional stress. The focus on the negative is magnified during times of uncertainty. 

 

To help yourself, I am encouraging you to take on the gratefulness challenge.

 

As a first step in the challenge, identify what and who you are grateful for with your work.  This will immediately help you focus on what is good, which should help reduce stress.

 

Second, there are many opportunities during this time to learn and develop your growth as a leader.  During the temporary normal, identify what you are leaning and how you can use this to help you grow as a leader, so you are stronger and have additional skills when we get into our new normal.

 

Finally, as a reminder, place a post-it-note where you can see it as a reminder – “What am I grateful for?”. 

For the challenge, please share what you are grateful for and what you are learning that will help you grow as a leader.

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For most of us, we are now in week 4 of the ‘new normal’.   It also appears that we may be in our current situation for the unforeseeable future.  One of the last things we typically think about in an uncertain situation is continuous improvement. 

 

As we get used to our new working environments, we develop habits, tools and methods that help make our work easier.  We also identify those things that make our work more difficult. In a continuous improvement culture, we encourage our team members to share and adopt these best practices.   As well, we also encourage our teams to identify the blockers in how they perform their work and possible solutions

 

As a leader, now is a good time to engage our teams in identifying improvements and best practice sharing in the ‘new normal’.  Ask a few simple questions – what have we learned? What are we doing that works well? What is blocking our ability to be more effective?  Remember to engage your team in solutions, get them involved with the implementation and don’t take all the work on yourself.

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Keep connected.

Scott

 

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It goes without saying that this is an extremely trying time for all of us.  We are all experiencing a high degree of emotion as we try to understand and navigate what this change means for us.   Now more than ever it is critical to Lead with Empathy – to walk a mile in an other’s shoes to get an understanding of what they are experiencing.  

 

How we react as leaders and organizations will be remembered by our people long after the world resumes to whatever the new normal will be.   It is important that we don’t leave our team members, our customers and our communities with the impression that we have an ‘empathy gap’ or that we do not care. 

Here are a few things you can do to help avoid the empathy gap.  

 

1. Communicate with simple, clear and sensitive messaging. The fewer words the better as it leaves little room for interpretation.  Approach the message from the position of those that will receive it and try to anticipate their reaction.

 

2. Keep the goal clear and your communication focused.   Always keep in mind our team members safety and what we are actively doing to help our organizations come out of the crisis as best as we can.

 

3. Connect at all levels of the organization to understand the climate or mood of all our team members. Don’t just depend on your immediate team for their interpretations, go and see (virtually) different areas of the organization.

 

4. Be seen and heard.  Make sure that people can see you when you speak whether in person or by video and speak without notes were possible.  

 

Please let me know your thoughts.

 

Take care and keep connected.

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The Old Sugar Shack

 

There are plenty of tools out there to help us with continuous improvement projects or for problem solving, but it's not about the tools!  It's about the mindset.  The mindset to simplify, make things better, reduce errors or defects, and reduce waste.

 

It's that time of year, at least where I live, that we anticipate warmer weather soon.  We hope!  That means the sap will start running for the annual maple syrup season.  A friend, that owns a farming business, asked me to help him tap some trees and hook up the sap lines in preparation for the sap to start running.  Sure beats the old days when I helped empty the buckets!  Man that was hard work!

 

Snyder Heritage Farms has various products, one of which is maple syrup.  Although not considered a large farm, they tap 2,500 trees with 3,800 taps pulling approximately 250,000 litres of sap through 24,000 feet of small lines. The small lines converge with 10,000 feet of larger main lines leading to the evaporator which boils the sap down to produce about 5,500 litres of pure Canadian maple syrup in an average season.

 

 

Even though I had helped in previous years, I was given a brief training course by the owner, Kevin Snyder, on the standard work to install the taps and connect the sap lines.  Kevin gave me some key quality points to ensure the hole was drilled properly, the tap installed correctly, and the line secured tightly.   What impressed me most though was his continuous improvement mindset.  He had determined the most efficient paths to walk through the bush to minimize walking, placement of the tractor in proximity to where we would need to reload with taps while minimizing the walking distance to/from the tractor to do so.  He established working zones for each helper to maximize coverage while eliminating any duplication or cross over.  He had nail pouches to hold the taps, harnesses for the drills so they were easy to carry and to set aside when not drilling, while eliminating the risk of setting them down in the snow and then leaving them behind.  All these things make sense, but what struck me most was his mindset.  He was very focused on making the process as efficient as he could to both reduce the burden on the tappers and make them more efficient, while also improving the process to reduce defective tap holes, taps, and hose line connections that could impact vacuum pressure and reduce sap yield.  At one point I complimented him on all the improvements he had made and for his mindset.  Kevin's response as he trekked off into the snow covered bush to put in more taps was,

 

"When you're the little guy, you have to be efficient!"

 

It is true smaller companies need to be efficient, but so do larger companies!  Unfortunately, sometimes larger companies lose focus and forget the importance of the team's mindset by hammering out new tools while insisting the team find a "problem" to apply them.  Tools are important, but it's the mindset that is most important because mindset is what creates the drive for continuous improvement.  After all, not everything needs a tool to improve.  Sometimes, just pure observation, common sense, and know how is all that is needed.  Mindset coupled with tools can be powerful, but when you have a bunch of tools without mindset, everything looks like a nail waiting to be hammered!

 

Maple Weekend - 4th & 5th April 2020

 

If you are near the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Snyder Heritage Farms hosts "Maple Weekend" on 4th & 5th April from 10:00am - 4:00pm where you can bring your family out to their farm for an instructional tour of the sugar shack and how maple syrup is made, take a tractor ride to visit the maple bush, and enjoy freshly made pancakes and sausages.  It's a fun couple of hours for the family on a nice spring day, and of course, there's lots of fresh maple syrup!

 

Snyder Heritage Farm
1213 Maple Bend Rd.
Bloomingdale, Ontario

 

 

 

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Visual control boards may not look overly complex, but establishing an effective board and establishing a robust review cadence can be more challenging than initially anticipated.  The benefits, however, can be phenomenal!  We learned first hand what some of these benefits are during a recent visual control benchmarking gemba.

 

On 12 and 13 February, High Performance Leaders Inc. (HPL) facilitated a visual control board workshop for the Technology Team lead by Travis Vokey, VP and Head of Technology at Dream Unlimited.  The first day was a workshop focused on the key attributes of visual control boards, and a working session to begin defining the team's value proposition and key performance metrics.  On the second day, there was a benchmarking gemba to Crystal Fountains, Baylis Medical, and Bell Mobility to see and learn first hand from their experiences and existing visual control boards.

 

Our focus during the benchmarking gemba was to see non-manufacturing areas.  Since there can be a stigma that visual control boards are only for manufacturing, we wanted to see how different businesses, industries, and non-manufacturing teams set-up their boards and use them.  We saw boards used by Sales & Marketing, Product Design, Process Engineering, Equipment Engineering, Project Management, and yes one from Manufacturing.  We reviewed boards at the tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels, with tier 1 being at the working staff level and level 4 the organizational level.  Each host company had a representative appropriate for each level of board explain how their boards work and how they are used.

 

The Dream team was able to participate in a regular daily huddle in action while at Crystal Fountains.  It was fantastic to see and hear the enthusiasm and see the high level of engagement from each of the host company staff members.  They were all believers in visual boards.  However, that was not always the case.  When we asked an engineering team who was the biggest skeptic when they first introduced the boards, an engineer stepped forward and boldly said "Oh, that would have been me!"  He went on to explain that he first thought it would just be more work and a waste of time.  However, now he admits, the board and the daily huddle has improved communication and work distribution.  He's now a believer!

 

It was motivational to listen to each of the host company staff members talk about what they like about the boards and how they have made their jobs easier, improved team work, and driven solid improvements.  Here's some of benefits and results they shared with the Dream team:

 

  • The boards and huddle have improved our cross-functional communications
  • We have much better visibility to unplanned work
  • Saves so much time and there's less stress
  • Made us care about each others work, and we want to help each other
  • I know what's going on now
  • It's not about not being successful (when a target is missed), but rather what do you need to be successful
  • People feel empowered to get things done

 

When properly established, visual control boards add value to both the teams and the leaders.  Laura Conquergood, VP of Operations at Baylis Medical said, "when I want an update on a project, we just go to the board.  We don't schedule a meeting."  Jongmu Lee, Director Creative Operations at Crystal Fountains said, "whether I'm in the building or not, I know the team is coming together and discussing important topics."  Many of the team members and leaders at all 3 host companies similarly stated, that communications had improved and wasteful meetings had been dramatically reduced.

 

At Bell Mobility, the Regional Operations team is involved in over 2,000 projects across the country.  Approximately 8 years ago they started tracking key aspects of their projects using typical white board style visual control boards.  Then about 3 years ago they implemented digital boards (D-boards) to track and coordinate these massive projects between all stakeholders across the company.

 

According to Nitin Gautam, Network Access Manager and Robert Dillenbeck, Senior Manager, Territory Operations at Bell Mobility, the D-boards provided certain advantages over the traditional visual control boards including:

 

  • Reduced cycle times to update the boards and get information
  • Staff working remotely can keep informed through the D-boards and have better engagement and participation in meetings
  • Quicker access to graphs and all data
  • Easier to roll up information and data from tier 1 to tier 4 levels
  • Executives can retrieve updates and information without requiring meetings to obtain project status

 

In my opinion, D-boards should be implemented with extreme caution.  As discussed in a previous article Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?, D-boards can be problematic with potentially lowering visibility if they are not frequently and routinely interacted with becoming nothing more than a information board that over time can become virtually invisible.  The most concerning problem though, is that changes to what is tracked and displayed can be slow and costly to revise and continuously improve.  So, if D-boards are going to be implemented, be sure to anticipate these problems had have a solid plan to address and overcome them.  No doubt they can be powerful and do offer some great benefits, but do watch out for the pitfalls.

 

The Dream team learned a lot and received some good advice from the 3 host companies.  A few of the key points they were advised on included:

 

  • Just start, don't wait for perfection
  • Encourage rapid cycles of improvement to the boards as you go
  • Make the boards easy to change quickly and easily
  • Use habit changing challenges to motivate and create new disciplines around the board cadence and routines
  • The staff or team members own the tier 1 boards meaning they update them and report out on status, not the managers

 

The two day workshop concluded with a Dream debrief where each of the Dream leaders identified the biggest thing that they had learned, and each making a commitment as to what they were going to do when they returned to their office.  With the mystery of visual control boards revealed, they are excited to embark on this exciting journey.

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