Articles About continuousimprovement

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Lean methodology stands out as a beacon of efficiency and productivity. Originating from Toyota's renowned production system, Lean principles have permeated industries worldwide, guiding entities towards streamlined operations, waste reduction, and enhanced value delivery. Yet, amidst the initial triumphs of implementing Lean lies a critical juncture: sustaining its gains and perpetuating improvement. This phase marks the true test of an organization's commitment to excellence, where the focus shifts from mere adoption to relentless advancement and sustainability.


At its core, Lean embodies a philosophy of continuous improvement where every process, however efficient, is subject to scrutiny for enhancement. This spirit mirrors the essence of sustainability - the ability to endure and thrive over time, adapting to changing circumstances and evolving demands. Thus, the convergence of Lean and sustainability is not merely incidental but intrinsic. Both concepts hinge on the relentless pursuit of optimization and resilience in facing challenges.


The journey toward sustainability within a Lean framework begins with a firm foundation built upon change, standardization, visualization, and unification toward a common purpose. These initial steps lay the groundwork for future progress, fostering a cohesive environment for ongoing improvement. However, sustaining Lean is not a static endeavour but a dynamic commitment to perpetual advancement.


Lean and Employees

One of the fundamental pillars of Lean is respect for people. Lean recognizes that individuals are not merely cogs in a machine but valuable contributors to organizational success.


A great example I saw to help combat this was at Baylist Medical, where they make assistive surgical technology. They measure products produced in terms of "patients" rather than units. This powerful message reminds the team daily what and who they are working for.


By actively soliciting and listening to employee feedback, organizations demonstrate their commitment to this principle. Employees feel valued and respected when their opinions are sought and acted upon, fostering a culture of engagement and empowerment.


Employee feedback serves as a reality check for Lean initiatives. While Lean methodologies provide a structured framework for improvement, their effectiveness ultimately depends on real-world applicability. Employees on the front lines can give invaluable feedback on the feasibility and practicality of proposed changes, ensuring that Lean strategies align with operational realities.


Case Study

A great example of this occurred while working at Amazon Canada. I was visiting a facility, and the senior team hosting me explained how happy they were with a new kaizen that had recently been implemented. Some employees struggled to see if all the top bins had been emptied in the packing process. This resulted in packages missing items and causing rework down the line. The team gave each packer a paint roller to hook onto the top bin to pull the product forward and check if the bin was empty. However, not a single packer was using this paint roller kaizen!


After watching for a short time, I walked over to the nearest packer and asked them, "Hey, do you have a minute? I have a question for you... Why are you not using the paint roller to check the top bins?" The packer smiled and said, "Try it for yourself," gesturing to the paint roller magnetically hanging on the metal side of their packaging station. I went to pull the roller off the bin and found it was virtually impossible to remove! It took two hands before I could get that thing off the bin! The magnets were so strong!


This case study demonstrates two critical points:


1) Go and see!

When you implement changes, you must go and see how they are being carried out! Amazon taught me repeatedly to Trust but Verify. Trust that your directions/actions have been implemented, but make sure you verify that things are as you expect!


2) Get Info From the Front Lines

Your front lines and employees carrying out work on the floor have the most practical knowledge about how to do their jobs more efficiently. Instead of spending multiple hours in a conference room solving a problem you think is happening, go down to the floor and watch what is actually happening. Look for points of stress, abnormalities, and bottlenecks. Remember, you are working with and for people, so you need to talk to people!


Gemba Walks

Gemba walks are a powerful tool in Lean management, involving leaders going to the "gemba," or the actual place where work is done, to observe processes, engage with employees, and identify opportunities for improvement firsthand. The power of Gemba was demonstrated in the above case study. I strongly believe in the power of effective Gembas, one of my favourite things to do with my clients. There is so much valuable insight that can be achieved through this practice. Honestly, the most challenging part of Gemba is a routine of consistently doing so and learning to "see." However, once you learn to "see," you can never un-see it!


Again, while at Amazon as the head of Canadian Operations, I continuously travelled to different fulfillment facilities across Canada. I made it a personal priority to make time for Gemba everywhere I went. To do this, I commonly scheduled a meeting with the building management team at 9 a.m. I would then make sure to be in the building by no later than 8 a.m. Mean? Perhaps!


As anyone who works on any team knows, the hour before a big meeting like this is typically chaos! The production floor is getting cleaned and tidied up, management is running around getting organized, and often, employees are pulled away from normal tasks to assist in getting ready. It should not be like this, though!


I would arrive early, not tell anyone I was there, and walk the plant floor alone. My favourite spot to watch the plant process was from a catwalk or other high vantage point. That way, I had a bird's-eye view of the processes while staying out of the way.


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Three key points to remember when conducting Gemba walks are:


1) Seek to Understand - focus on understanding the process and gathering insights rather than immediately proposing solutions.


2) Engage - actively listen to employees and value their expertise and perspectives on how to improve workflows.


3) Sustain - foster a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging open communication and collaboration between leaders and frontline workers.


Sustainable Habits

Implementing Lean thinking requires more than just adopting new practices; it necessitates cultivating habits promoting continuous improvement and waste reduction. One practical approach to fostering habits in Lean implementation is the 28-day habit tool, coupled with a strong emphasis on consistency to establish organizational stability and standards.


The 28-day habit tool is rooted in the idea that consistent repetition of action over 28 consecutive days can lead to forming a habit. This principle underscores the importance of sustained effort and repetition in ingraining new behaviours and practices. When applied to Lean thinking, the 28-day habit tool is a framework for systematically integrating Lean principles into daily operations and routines.

Consistency plays a pivotal role in creating stability and standards within an organization. By consistently applying Lean principles and methodologies, organizations establish a baseline of expectations and behaviours that become ingrained in the culture. Consistency fosters predictability, reliability, and repeatability, which are essential for achieving operational excellence and continuous improvement.

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To leverage the 28-day habit tool and promote consistency in Lean implementation, organizations can adopt the following strategies:


Structured Training and Education: Provide comprehensive training and education programs to ensure employees understand the core principles of Lean thinking and their relevance to their roles and responsibilities. Reinforce learning through regular workshops, seminars, and hands-on exercises.

Daily Rituals and Routines: Integrate Lean practices into daily rituals and routines to reinforce their importance and facilitate habit formation. Encourage team members to engage in daily stand-up meetings, Gemba walks, and visual management reviews to promote accountability and alignment with Lean objectives.

Layered Process Audits (LPAs): Systematic, recurring assessments conducted at various levels of an organization's process to ensure consistency and quality. These audits typically involve cross-functional teams inspecting critical process points to identify deviations, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.


Identifies seven non-value-adding activities commonly found in manufacturing and service processes. TIM WOODS stands for Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-processing, and Defects. By recognizing and eliminating these sources of waste, organizations can streamline operations, optimize resource utilization, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Continuous Monitoring and Feedback: Establish mechanisms for monitoring progress and providing feedback on Lean implementation efforts. Regularly review key performance indicators, conduct Gemba walks, and solicit employee feedback to identify areas for improvement and ensure alignment with organizational goals.

Leadership Support and Role Modeling: Demonstrate leadership commitment to Lean thinking by actively participating in Lean initiatives and serving as role models for desired behaviours. Leaders should consistently reinforce the importance of Lean principles, provide resources and support for implementation efforts, and recognize and reward individuals and teams that exemplify Lean practices.

Celebrate Milestones and Successes: Celebrate milestones and successes along the Lean journey to acknowledge progress and maintain momentum. Recognize individuals and teams for their contributions to Lean implementation, share success stories and best practices, and highlight the tangible benefits of Lean thinking in driving organizational performance and competitiveness. This can be as simple as taking the team out for lunch, with the successful completion of a 28-day challenge as both a celebration and motivation booster. This activity also helps with team morale and brings everyone closer.


By embracing the 28-day habit tool and prioritizing consistency in Lean implementation, organizations can foster habits that support the sustained application of Lean principles and drive continuous improvement across all levels of the organization. Through structured training, daily rituals, continuous monitoring, leadership support, and celebrating successes, organizations can create a culture where Lean thinking becomes ingrained in the organization's fabric, driving lasting results and competitive advantage.


Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement in Lean also entails harnessing the power of data and technology. Leveraging advanced analytics, machine learning, and automation, organizations can uncover insights, identify inefficiencies, and optimize processes with unprecedented precision. By embracing innovation, companies can stay ahead of the curve and drive sustainable growth in an ever-evolving landscape.

However, sustaining Lean is not without its challenges. Complacency, resistance to change, and short-term thinking can impede progress and erode gains. Thus, leadership is pivotal in maintaining momentum and fostering a culture of excellence. Leaders must champion the cause of Lean and provide the necessary support, resources, and incentives to empower employees to drive continuous improvement.


Quick Read

Lean methodology, stemming from Toyota's renowned production system, has become synonymous with efficiency and productivity across industries worldwide. While initial implementation yields success, the true challenge lies in sustaining gains and perpetuating improvement. At its core, Lean embodies a philosophy of perpetual betterment, advocating for a culture of continuous improvement and sustainability. This convergence of Lean and sustainability hinges on a firm foundation built upon change, standardization, visualization, and unification.

Central to Lean's success is its recognition of the importance of employees.


Organizations foster a culture of engagement and empowerment by valuing their input and actively soliciting feedback. Employee feedback is a vital reality check for Lean initiatives, ensuring alignment with operational realities and driving tangible improvements. A case study from Amazon highlights the importance of "going and seeing" and obtaining insights from frontline workers, emphasizing the need for practical knowledge in problem-solving.


Gemba walks, where leaders observe processes firsthand, engage with employees, and identify improvement opportunities, are instrumental in Lean management. These walks facilitate valuable insights and promote a culture of continuous improvement. Three key points for effective Gemba walks include understanding processes, actively listening to employees, and fostering open communication and collaboration.


In sustaining Lean thinking, the 28-day habit tool and consistency play crucial roles. The 28-day habit tool emphasizes the formation of habits through consistent repetition, while consistency establishes stability and standards within the organization. Strategies such as structured training, daily rituals, and leadership support are essential for leveraging the 28-day habit tool and promoting consistency in Lean implementation.


Ultimately, sustaining Lean requires embracing innovation and overcoming challenges like complacency and resistance to change. Leadership is pivotal in maintaining momentum and fostering a culture of excellence. Organizations can achieve lasting results and competitive advantage in today's dynamic business environment by championing Lean principles and empowering employees to drive continuous improvement.

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The concept of visualization stands out as a powerful tool for driving efficiency, accountability, and continuous improvement in lean thinking. By creating visual controls within processes, organizations make standards and abnormalities visible and foster a culture of transparency and adherence to standardized work.

There are so many different ways to implement visual controls that there is really no one "right" way. It all depends on the process you are working with, your facility, and your goal prioritization.


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Similar to what we have discussed in "Lean Beyond Limits: Unleashing Lean Thinking Across Industries," visualization is not just for manufacturing. Implementing visual controls across various processes requires careful consideration of each environment's specific needs and dynamics.



Colour Coding: Assigning specific colours to different items, areas, or tasks can help visually distinguish between them and convey important information at a glance.

Floor Markings and Signage: Floor markings, arrows, and signage can help guide people through a space or communicate important safety information. In a warehouse, floor markings can indicate designated walkways, storage areas, or hazardous zones, while in an office setting, directional arrows and signage can help employees navigate shared spaces or locate essential facilities like meeting rooms or restrooms.

Checklists and Visual Work Instructions: Creating visual checklists and work instructions can help ensure consistency and accuracy in performing tasks or processes. In a healthcare setting, for instance, a visual checklist displayed in an operating room can guide surgical teams through pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operative procedures, while in a restaurant kitchen, visual work instructions posted near cooking stations can outline recipe steps and food safety protocols. Another example is a pre-flight checklist all airlines must complete before taking off. I'm sure we are all glad about this safety check!

A Kanban system:  A visual management method used to optimize workflows. This system works in conjunction with standardization and standardized work by making these additional processes visible. An example of a Kanban system would be that each assembly workstation in a process is required to have two boxes of parts at all times. When one box is empty, it is placed in a new, highly visible spot, indicating it needs replacing. This is the Kanban or the visual cue. This creates a visual indicator that replenishment is needed before downtime occurs due to a lack of parts within a process.

Visual Metrics Dashboards: Displaying key performance metrics and progress indicators on visual dashboards can help teams track their performance and identify areas for improvement. In a sales department, for example, a visual dashboard can show real-time sales figures, targets, and pipeline metrics, while in a software development team, a dashboard can visualize code quality metrics, sprint progress, and bug-tracking data. These visual displays promote transparency and accountability and enable data-driven organizational decision-making.



Short side tangent on visual boards!

I am often asked if it's possible to use virtual visual boards. While it is possible, and many different software out there allow you to do this, I always try to caution people against the bells and whistles of these digital alternatives. Technology is amazing in many different ways, but in my experience, the good old-fashioned whiteboard is hard to beat! A key reason these boards work is that they are always in your face. They are hard to ignore, as they take up room on the floor, in hallways, offices, and breakrooms. When you digitalize display boards, while getting reminders on your phone or through email is possible, we quickly become overwhelmed and stop looking at all those notifications. In that regard, a whiteboard is more passive than the constant, endless stream of digital notifications you are likely already inundated with. Yet the whiteboard is tangible and large enough that it is a constant visual reminder of your team's progress and goals. Another critical reason I advocate against digital systems is they are often expensive and slow to change. In today's dynamic team environment, visual boards must be easy and quick to change on the fly. If something isn't working the way you need, or you need to track something else or track it differently, all you have to do is erase it or get a new sticky note.


Benefits of Visual Controls


Now that we understand how to implement visual controls, it's time to discuss the benefits of doing so. When it comes to things like 5S and creating visual control, some teams, and particularly type A leaders like myself, may take visual controls a little too far! Once you get on that train, it can be difficult to get off.

You don't need to go as far as taping out your desk! By this point, in my opinion, visual controls have gone from being useful tools to a time-consuming hindrance. On the other hand, many are intimidated by implementing visual controls, probably because their only experience with visualization is in the photo above. YIKES!

How can visualization assist us in keeping our standards in check and our processes on track?


Visual Controls: Bringing Standards and Abnormalities to Light

At the heart of lean thinking lies the pursuit of eliminating waste and optimizing processes. Visual controls serve as a cornerstone in achieving these objectives by making key information readily accessible to all stakeholders. Whether through colour-coded labels, Kanban boards, or Andon systems, visual cues provide immediate feedback on the status of operations, enabling quick decision-making and problem-solving.


Enhanced Accountability

Visualization promotes accountability by making standards and deviations from them clearly visible to everyone involved in the process. When standards are visually represented, employees have a tangible reference point for their work, reducing ambiguity and ensuring consistency. Likewise, abnormalities are promptly identified through visual cues, prompting swift corrective actions and preventing issues from escalating.


Maintaining Standards and Standardized Work

One of the fundamental principles of lean thinking is the establishment of standardized work procedures. Visualization plays a pivotal role in maintaining these standards by providing visual cues that guide employees in performing their tasks consistently and efficiently. By making standardized work visually explicit, organizations mitigate the risk of variation and deviation, ultimately enhancing quality and productivity.


Driving Continuous Improvement

Visual controls not only facilitate adherence to existing standards but also serve as a catalyst for continuous improvement. By making abnormalities visible, organizations are prompted to investigate root causes and implement countermeasures to prevent recurrence. Moreover, visualizing key performance metrics and progress toward goals empowers teams to track their performance in real time and identify opportunities for further optimization.


Cultivating a Culture of Excellence


Incorporating visualization into lean practices goes beyond improving operational efficiency—it fosters a culture of excellence and empowerment. When employees can visually see the impact of their actions on performance metrics and outcomes, they feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work. Moreover, the transparency afforded by visual controls promotes collaboration and collective problem-solving, driving organizational success.


The following are case studies showcasing different approaches to implementing visual controls in manufacturing, an office setting, and a web company:


1 Medical: Colour-Coding


Case Study: Family Doctors Office


Implementing visual controls can significantly enhance productivity and quality in a doctor's office. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I went in for my yearly checkup and found that the office had been colour-coded. This particular doctor's office has several different family Doctors, as well as specialized tests and immunizations. Each patient was checked in at the front desk and then assigned a seat colour: blue for sample collection, green for family doctor, and red for bloodwork.


At one glance, it was easy to see how many people were waiting for each procedure, allowing the office to take any additional measures to reduce wait times.


2. Office Setting: Visual Management Boards


Case Study: Marketing Firm


Maintaining visibility and alignment across teams is essential in a marketing firm where multiple projects are ongoing simultaneously. Visual management boards offer a solution by providing a centralized space to display key project metrics, milestones, and task assignments in a visually intuitive format.

The marketing firm implements visual management boards prominently displayed in communal team areas. Each board represents a specific project and includes sections for tasks, timelines, and progress updates. Team members use colour-coded sticky notes or magnets to indicate task status, with green representing completed tasks, yellow for in-progress tasks, and red for tasks at risk or delayed.

By visualizing project status and performance metrics, teams can quickly identify areas needing attention and take proactive measures to address challenges. Moreover, the transparency afforded by visual management boards fosters communication, collaboration, and accountability among team members, driving project success.


3. Web Company: Kanban System for Software Development


Case Study: Tech Startup

Agility and efficiency are critical for staying competitive in a fast-paced web company specializing in software development. Implementing a Kanban system offers an effective way to visualize workflows, manage tasks, and optimize the development process.


The tech startup adopts a Kanban board to track the progress of software development tasks. The board consists of columns representing different stages of the development lifecycle, such as backlog, development, testing, and deployment. Each task is represented by a card colour with relevant details such as task description, assignee, and due date.


Team members move task cards across the board as they progress through the workflow, providing a visual representation of work in progress and bottlenecks. Additionally, colour-coded labels or tags may indicate task priority or type, allowing teams to prioritize and allocate resources effectively.


Quick Read

The concept of visualization is a powerful tool in lean thinking, driving efficiency, accountability, and continuous improvement. By implementing visual controls within processes, organizations make standards and abnormalities visible, fostering transparency and adherence to standardized work. There are numerous ways to implement visual controls, each tailored to the specific needs and dynamics of the environment. For instance, colour coding can help distinguish between items or tasks, while floor markings and signage guide people through spaces and communicate safety information. Checklists and visual work instructions ensure consistency and accuracy, and Kanban systems optimize workflows in various industries. Visual metrics dashboards provide real-time performance tracking and improvement insights. While virtual alternatives exist, traditional whiteboards remain effective due to their constant visibility and tangible presence. Visual controls promote accountability, maintain standards, drive continuous improvement, and cultivate a culture of excellence within organizations. Case studies across manufacturing, office settings, and web companies demonstrate the diverse applications and benefits of visual controls.

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The misconception that Lean principles are exclusive to manufacturing or production environments is a significant oversight. I first learned about Lean thinking while working at Toyota in 2001. From then on, Lean has been a part of my life professionally and personally. Lean thinking went with me and contributed to my success at BlackBerry. It greatly challenged my thinking when I continued as the leader of the Canadian operations at Amazon. As someone deeply immersed in Lean methodologies within my business today and throughout my career, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of Lean thinking on and beyond the factory floor.


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Initially conceived by Toyota to optimize production processes, Lean management principles have transcended their origins and found success across a spectrum of industries. This adaptability is a testament to the fundamental effectiveness of Lean methodologies in driving operational excellence and fostering continuous improvement.


It's crucial to recognize that Lean isn't bound by industry constraints; rather, its core tenets of efficiency, waste reduction, and customer-centricity can be applied to any organizational context. By embracing Lean practices, businesses in service-oriented sectors such as healthcare, finance, and hospitality can unlock untapped potential for enhancing efficiency and elevating customer satisfaction.


In essence, the application of Lean thinking in service industries isn't just a possibility; it's a strategic imperative. By delving into how Lean methodologies can streamline processes, minimize waste, and optimize resource utilization, we can unearth opportunities for significant improvements across diverse sectors. So, let's take a deeper look into how Lean principles can revolutionize service-oriented industries and pave the way for unparalleled success and growth.


Understanding Lean Thinking in Services


Lean thinking is rooted in the concept of continuous improvement and the elimination of waste. While manufacturing environments traditionally embraced these principles, service industries are increasingly recognizing the value of Lean thinking in streamlining their operations. In service-oriented sectors such as healthcare, finance, and hospitality, Lean principles can be tailored to address the unique challenges and opportunities present.


To begin with, we must first think of processes. Every job has a process, and that is where we can start implementing lean. When jobs have repeating tasks in a specific order, we can view them as a one-directional flow of productivity.


For example, when you consider a hairdresser, you might think there is no way that lean thinking can improve the process of something so creative and variable. But when you break down the tasks a hairstylist goes through, you begin to see the same process unfold: The client walks in, sits in the chair, and describes what they want to be done. The stylist washes, trims/colours the hair, and styles it, and the customer pays and leaves.


When you view each part of the process through a lean lens, the elements will become clear, and you will know which steps improve overall customer satisfaction. Perhaps tools are much farther away than they need to be, maybe the colour station (where hair dies are mixed) is in the back of the building, and the stylist has to walk back and forth multiple times during the appointment to mix colours. Is there a way to standardize popular colour combinations? Is there a standard order of tasks based on specific needs, such as a haircut vs. highlights?


Lean can be applied anywhere; it just changes how it is achieved. Next, I'd like to offer some case studies that highlight how specific elements of Lean can be applied to other service industry needs.


Value Stream Mapping in Service Delivery


We have all been there! You go to the doctor's office for your regular check-up. You arrive on time. There is no one else in the waiting room, and then you sit... for an hour.. waiting to go to the examination room. Then once you finally reach the examination room, you sit and wait for twenty minutes for the nurse to come in and ask you all the required questions so that you can sit and wait for ANOTHER fifteen minutes for the doctor to finally come in and tell you everything looks good and see you in a year. What if Doctors' offices and hospitals utilized value stream mapping to improve service delivery?


One key aspect of Lean thinking is the application of value stream mapping to visualize and analyze the flow of processes. In service industries, understanding the entire value stream is crucial for identifying areas of improvement. For instance, a healthcare provider may use value stream mapping to optimize the patient journey from appointment scheduling to post-treatment follow-up. By eliminating unnecessary steps and bottlenecks, organizations can enhance the overall efficiency of service delivery.


Kaizen in Customer Service: A Continuous Improvement Approach


Kaizen is an incredible tool for any process. All jobs involve some element of the process. There will always be specific tasks that you have to do daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. While some tasks may be more repetitive than others in certain industries, there are always processes to work with to implement lean thinking.


Think about a restaurant: Every new guest starts the same process: Greet guest(s) at the door and take them to their table. Provide a menu and drink/food recommendations. Take their order, deliver it, and then provide any additional top-ups or requests. Clear dishes as necessary until the bill is provided. Clean the table... Repeat.


What if Kaizen was introduced to this restaurant process? By consistently employing Kaizen methodologies, the restaurant examines and refines elements such as menu efficiency, order processing times, and guest satisfaction procedures. Something as simple as keeping condiments on the table instead of requiring servers to supply condiments on request can save a lot of wasted time and motion of the serving staff and increase customer satisfaction and impression of the meal. Through the implementation of incremental adjustments, the establishment can realize substantial progress in both customer contentment and operational effectiveness.

Let's examine a few compelling case studies to illustrate the tangible benefits of Lean thinking in service industries.


Case Study 1: Improving Patient Flow in Healthcare


A large hospital system faced challenges with patient flow, resulting in long wait times, increased frustration, and a suboptimal patient experience.


Lean Implementation:
The hospital adopted Lean principles to streamline the patient journey. Through value stream mapping, the team identified areas for improvement, such as optimizing appointment scheduling, reducing redundant paperwork, and enhancing communication between departments.


After implementing Lean strategies, the hospital achieved a 20% reduction in patient wait times, improved staff morale, and increased patient satisfaction scores. The streamlined processes enhanced the overall quality of care and contributed to cost savings through resource optimization.


Case Study 2: Lean Thinking in Financial Services


A leading financial institution faced challenges with lengthy loan approval processes, leading to customer dissatisfaction and lost opportunities.


Lean Implementation:
Applying Lean principles, the organization reviewed its loan approval process comprehensively. Through Kaizen events and value stream mapping, they identified and eliminated redundant steps, implemented standardized procedures, and introduced cross-functional teams to expedite decision-making.


The financial institution experienced a 30% reduction in the time taken for loan approvals. This enhanced customer satisfaction and allowed the organization to capitalize on market opportunities more swiftly. The implementation of Lean principles contributed to a more agile and responsive financial service operation.


Case Study 3: Lean in Hospitality: Optimizing Guest Experiences


A luxury hotel chain aimed to enhance guest experiences by reducing check-in times, improving room turnover, and personalizing customer interactions.


Lean Implementation:
The hotel chain embraced Lean principles by applying value stream mapping to the guest journey. They streamlined check-in processes, reduced housekeeping turnaround times, and implemented a customer relationship management system for personalized service.


The Lean initiatives led to a 25% reduction in check-in times, a 15% increase in room occupancy rates, and overwhelmingly positive guest feedback. By incorporating Lean thinking, the hotel not only elevated customer satisfaction but also achieved operational excellence in a highly competitive industry.


Quick Read

Initially devised for manufacturing, lean thinking has shown remarkable versatility across various sectors. Lean principles are tailored to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction in service industries like healthcare, finance, and hospitality. Organizations can streamline processes and drive continuous improvement by applying Lean concepts such as value stream mapping and Kaizen.


In healthcare, Lean methodologies have led to a 20% reduction in patient wait times and increased satisfaction. Financial institutions adopting Lean strategies reduced loan approval times by 30%, while a luxury hotel chain saw a 25% decrease in check-in times and a 15% rise in room occupancy rates.


These case studies illustrate how Lean principles can transform service delivery, improving operational efficiency and customer experiences. Regardless of the industry, Lean thinking fosters a culture of innovation and waste reduction, enabling organizations to thrive in today's competitive landscape.


The application of Lean thinking in service industries is possible and has proven to be a catalyst for transformative change. As illustrated by the case studies, organizations that embrace Lean principles in service delivery can achieve operational excellence, enhance customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge. Whether in healthcare, finance, or hospitality, Lean thinking offers a systematic and adaptable approach to continuous improvement. By fostering a culture of efficiency, waste reduction, and innovation, service-oriented sectors can navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape with confidence and success.


Related Articles:


Continuous improvement: The Heart of Lean Philosophy

10 Important Steps to Effective Gemba Walks of "Go See"

Prioritized Leader Actions are for, Well, EVERYONE!

Looking for Evidence Through Gemba

Leadership Development includes Learning to 'See'

Conflicts Of Planning Line Trials

High Performance Leadership Essentials For High Performance Teams




Writers Note:

Please note that these case studies are not based on any clients of HPL. These case studies and statistics are based on the average of multiple studies done on lean within each of these industries. 

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Continuous Improvement lies at the core of LEAN philosophy, serving as the driving force behind its principles and practices. I worked at TMMC (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada) for 10 years, and no one takes Lean as seriously as they do at Toyota! Although we never referred to or called it lean. It was TPS or Toyota Production System. While there, I had the unbelievable privilege of attending Lean (TPS) management training in Japan to prepare to open the first Lexus manufacturing facility outside of Japan.


This experience was unlike anything else I have ever had. I was taught by Lean Sensis, with a specific focus on 1/10th of a second kaizens. Yes, you read that correctly: 1/10th of a second improvements and kaizens to production lines!

All of us in the program would spend all day looking for ways to improve specific parts of the process only to have these Sensis' tare up everything we proposed over and over again until we finally got it just right. While this may not be the most encouraging form of teaching, we did learn a lot!

Today, Lean is so much a part of my leadership toolbox that I often find it disconcerting to see other leaders not taking advantage of these practices. While Lean may have originated as a manufacturing concept, it can be applied in any function or industry.


Understanding Continuous Improvement in LEAN

Continuous Improvement, often referred to as Kaizen in the context of LEAN, is a concept rooted in the idea that small, incremental changes can lead to significant enhancements over time. It's not just a methodology; it's a mindset that permeates every aspect of an organization. At its essence, continuous improvement involves:


1) Incremental Progress:

One key tenet of continuous improvement is the emphasis on incremental progress. Instead of waiting for major overhauls, LEAN encourages organizations to focus on making small, consistent improvements in processes, systems, and workflows. This approach minimizes the disruption that can come with large-scale changes and allows for a more agile and adaptive organization.

Incremental progress is akin to the proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Small changes are more manageable, less risky, and easier to implement, fostering a sense of achievement and momentum within the organization. It's about cultivating a mindset where everyone is encouraged to identify areas for improvement and take actionable steps toward positive change.


2) Employee Involvement:

At the heart of continuous improvement is the active involvement of every team member, regardless of their role within the organization. LEAN philosophy recognizes that those closest to the work often have the most valuable insights into its improvement. Therefore, it is crucial to foster a culture where employees feel empowered to contribute their ideas and perspectives.


Organizations need to create an environment that encourages open communication and collaboration to achieve this. This involves recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions to continuous improvement through formal initiatives, team huddles, or regular team meetings dedicated to discussing improvement opportunities. When employees are engaged in the improvement process, it leads to better solutions and cultivates a sense of ownership and commitment to the organization's success.


3) Data-Driven Decision Making:

Another cornerstone of continuous improvement in LEAN is using data and feedback to inform improvement initiatives. This ensures that changes are based on evidence rather than assumptions. Data-driven decision-making involves collecting and analyzing relevant data to identify trends, problems, inefficiencies, and areas for enhancement.


Implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics allows organizations to objectively measure the impact of changes objectively. This data-centric approach enables teams to identify what works well and what needs improvement, leading to more informed and effective decision-making. It also provides a basis for setting realistic goals and measuring progress over time, contributing to the sustainability of continuous improvement efforts.

Ways To Implement LEAN

1) Waste Reduction:

In the LEAN philosophy, waste reduction is a cornerstone, targeting the elimination of waste in all its forms – be it time, resources, or effort. Continuous improvement plays a pivotal role in achieving this objective by systematically identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities. The process involves a meticulous analysis of workflows to identify activities that do not contribute to the end product or customer satisfaction. TIM WOODS is a great way to eliminate the seven areas of waste. For more info on how this works, please visit our TIM WOODS article.


Continuous improvement encourages teams to question the status quo, seeking ways to optimize processes and minimize unnecessary steps. This not only leads to more efficient resource utilization but also contributes to operational efficiency. Identifying and eliminating waste can take various forms, such as reducing excess inventory, minimizing waiting time, or optimizing transportation routes.


A key aspect of waste reduction through continuous improvement is the engagement of all team members. Employees are encouraged to be vigilant observers of their workflows, actively participating in identifying and eliminating waste. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, creating a culture where continuous improvement becomes ingrained in the organizational DNA.


By systematically addressing waste, organizations enhance their operational efficiency and create a leaner, more agile structure that is better positioned to respond to changing market conditions.


2) Enhanced Productivity:

Continuous improvement, as facilitated by the LEAN philosophy, is a catalyst for enhanced productivity within organizations. This is achieved by consistently refining processes, streamlining workflows, and identifying and mitigating bottlenecks that impede efficient operations.


As teams embrace the mindset of continuous improvement, they engage in a perpetual cycle of evaluation and enhancement. The best practice to adopt is PDCA, Plan, Do, Check, Adjust. This ongoing process allows for the identification of inefficiencies and the implementation of changes to improve productivity. It's about not settling for the status quo but seeking opportunities to optimize resources and time.


Refining processes through continuous improvement eliminates redundant steps, adopts more efficient tools and technologies, and establishes standardized procedures. Collectively, these improvements contribute to a more streamlined workflow, reducing the time and effort required to complete tasks.


Quicker delivery of products or services to customers is a direct outcome of enhanced productivity. The overall production cycle shortens as teams become more adept at their tasks and processes become more efficient. This meets customer expectations and positions the organization as more competitive in the market.


Moreover, enhanced productivity has cascading effects on employee morale. When teams witness the positive impact of their continuous improvement efforts on overall efficiency, it fosters a sense of accomplishment and pride. This positive feedback loop further motivates teams to actively pursue continuous improvement, creating a culture that values and prioritizes productivity.


3) Customer Satisfaction:

Customer expectations are dynamic and influenced by factors such as market trends, technological advancements, and competitors' offerings. A commitment to continuous improvement requires organizations to stay attuned to these shifts, continually reassessing and recalibrating their processes to align with evolving customer expectations.


By actively seeking and incorporating customer feedback, organizations can gain valuable insights into areas that require enhancement. Continuous improvement methodologies, such as Kaizen in LEAN, emphasize the importance of involving customers in the improvement process. This engagement helps identify pain points and allows organizations to tailor their offerings to meet customer needs better.


Proactive Problem Solving:

Continuous improvement encourages a proactive approach to problem-solving. Rather than reacting to customer complaints or issues after they arise, organizations adopting LEAN principles focus on anticipating potential problems and addressing them pre-emptively. This proactive stance mitigates negative experiences and demonstrates a commitment to delivering consistent quality.


Teams engaged in continuous improvement regularly analyze customer feedback, identify recurring issues, and implement corrective actions. This proactive problem-solving approach contributes to a smoother customer experience, reducing the likelihood of disruptions or dissatisfaction.


Building Customer Loyalty:

Satisfied customers are more likely to become loyal brand advocates. Continuous improvement contributes significantly to building customer loyalty by consistently delivering enhanced value. When customers perceive that an organization is actively working to improve its offerings based on their feedback, it fosters a sense of partnership and mutual growth.


Practical Tips for Fostering a Culture of Continuous Improvement


Leadership Support and Commitment:

  • Begin with strong leadership support, emphasizing the importance of continuous improvement.
  • Leaders should actively participate in improvement initiatives and communicate their value throughout the organization.
  • Organize kaizen events and attend kick-offs, daily updates, and final-day report-outs to encourage, remove barriers, provide resources, and celebrate success

​1. Establish Clear Goals:

  • Define clear and achievable improvement goals aligned with organizational objectives.
  • Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks to facilitate incremental progress.

2. Encourage Open Communication:

  • Create a culture where employees feel psychologically safe and comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns and learning from mistakes.
  • Implement regular feedback mechanisms and channels for obtaining employee suggestions and improvement ideas, ensuring everyone's voice is heard.

3. Provide Training and Resources:

  • Equip employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to identify improvement opportunities.
  • Invest in training programs that foster a mindset of continuous learning and development.

4. Celebrate Successes:

  • Recognize and celebrate both small and large successes resulting from continuous improvement efforts.
  • This not only boosts morale but also reinforces the importance of the ongoing continuous improvement process.

5. Utilize Lean Tools and Techniques:

  • Implement LEAN tools such as Value Stream Mapping, 5 Whys, and Gemba Walks to identify areas for improvement.
  • Regularly assess processes using these tools to pinpoint inefficiencies and opportunities for enhancement.

6. Foster a Learning Environment:

  • Encourage a learning culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn and improve.
  • Share stories of successful improvements to inspire others and reinforce the positive impact of continuous improvement.

Continuous Improvement is not just a buzzword in LEAN philosophy; it is the heartbeat that keeps organizations alive and thriving. By embracing the concept of ongoing refinement, businesses can stay agile, reduce waste, and ultimately deliver greater value to their employees and customers. Cultivating a culture of continuous improvement requires commitment, leadership, and a genuine belief in the transformative power of small, incremental changes. As organizations navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape, they must recognize that the path to excellence is a journey marked by continuous improvement.


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In the fast-paced world we live in, achieving personal and professional success requires careful planning and strategic thinking. A well-organized planner is an indispensable tool for individuals seeking to navigate the complexities of their lives and reach their goals. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to effectively use the free HPL 2024 Goal Planner that incorporates key elements such as SWOT analysis, SMART goals, brainstorming functions, short-term goals (1-2 years), and long-term goals (3-5 years), along with a goal breakdown to ensure a systematic approach to success!


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Why Goals, Instead of New Year's Resolutions?

There are many statistics out there with some studies indicating that up to 80% of New Year's resolutions fail.  Why?  Our view is they are usually just statements made without any real plan to achieve, lack support mechanisms, or don't have new habit-formation actions.  It's easy when you are sitting on the couch stuffed with good food and amply plied with booze to say "I'm going to be healthier next year!", but what steps do you take to make that happen? How do you know when you have achieved that goal? what motivates you to work towards that goal? For these reasons, We believe that Goals and Objectives eat New Year's resolutions for breakfast, every time!


Click to Download FREE Planner


Understanding Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT Analysis)


The first step in crafting a successful plan is to conduct a thorough SWOT analysis. This strategic planning tool involves assessing your internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. SWOT analysis is generally a tool used by organizations to set goals and bring teams together on issues. While it is a great tool to use in a professional environment, many may not consider it for personal goals as well. By understanding these factors, you can create a foundation for setting realistic and achievable goals.


Strengths: Identify your unique skills, attributes, and resources that give you a competitive advantage. What are you good at? Where do you succeed easily?


Weaknesses: Acknowledge areas where you may need improvement or additional support. Areas of strain or stress. This is not to beat yourself up about; this is a logical reflection of where you need to see improvements or change. Example: "I am always busy being busy", "My Supervisor has mentioned I need to improve my communication on the status of my projects".

Opportunities: Explore external factors and trends that you can leverage to your advantage. Training and development opportunities, as well as continuing education, networking, taking on special projects at work, or as simple as attending some webinars.

Threats: Recognize potential obstacles or challenges that may hinder your progress. These threats aren't necessarily bad things, but to remove these threats, you need to know what you're dealing with and make informed decisions. Example: "I would like to work in a specific country, but there are current political instability concerns," or "I would like to get certified in this area, but I'm not sure how AI will impact this area of expertise."


Utilizing Brainstorming

Next, you need to start brainstorming. What is your dream life? Where do you want to be, and what do you want to be doing in the next few years?

 Dreams don't need to be earth-shattering, but these dreams also don't need to be limited. This section is not for judgment or for you to ask "how"; this is a safe place to dream up the life you want!



  • Explore new possibilities: Allow your mind to wander freely and jot down any ideas that come to you.
  • Are there new habits or personal changes you want to see?
  • Plan for the future: Generate ideas for future projects, collaborations, or personal development opportunities. Where do you see yourself in a year, 3 years, 5 years?!


Setting SMART Goals

Now, place your SWOT analysis next to your brainstorming sheet. Compare the two pages and decide if they work together, against, or are completely different. Do you have new goals you want to add to your dream board based on your SWOT analysis? Do your dreams seem unachievable next to your SWOT? If so, don't panic! Begin to look for ways to break down these dreams into SMART Goals.


SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. They provide a structured framework to guide your efforts and ensure your objectives are well-defined and attainable. This makes goals like "I want to be healthier" impossible. Goals like this are very common, but they are unachievable because they are much too vague. Try framing your goals as smart goals.


  • Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve, avoiding vague or ambiguous language. Example: I will lose 5 lbs off my current weight through daily activity and exercise.


  • Measurable: Establish criteria to track your progress and determine when the goal has been accomplished. Example: To lose 5lbs I will go for a walk daily and a spin class twice a week. I will also switch my daily MacDonald's lunch to a salad. All of these things are measurable and can easily be tracked.


  • Achievable: Set realistic goals that stretch your abilities but are within the realm of possibility. Example: Can I afford to take Spin classes? Where will I get my new daily salad that is closer or the same distance as MacDonald's? Where will I go for my daily walk?


  • Relevant: Ensure that your goals align with your values, vision, and long-term objectives. Example: Is this goal important to me? Do I really need to lose 5 lbs, or is that what everyone around me is doing?


  • Time-bound: Set a deadline for each goal to create a sense of urgency and maintain focus. Example: When will I have lost 5lbs? What time of day is my daily walk? What days are my spin classes?


Crafting Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Now that you have your SMART goals laid out, you can see how large a goal they are and if they may require further breakdown. For example, a long-term goal might be getting a master's degree, while a short-term goal will be achieving an 85% in your current classes. The short-term goals add up to or contribute towards the long-term goal over time.


Differentiating between short-term and long-term goals is crucial for effective planning. Short-term goals provide stepping stones toward your larger, long-term objectives. Consider the following when crafting these goals:


Short-Term Goals: Focus on achieving objectives within the next 1-2 years, breaking down larger aspirations into manageable tasks. You can break these goals down even further into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily.

Long-Term Goals: Envision where you want to be in 3-5 years, providing a roadmap for sustained success and personal growth. Break these down into yearly (long term), quarterly (short term), monthly, weekly, and daily.


Goal Breakdown


A goal breakdown is a detailed analysis of each goal, helping you understand the "why," "how," "when," and the actionable steps required to achieve success. While many of these steps have already been discussed in the SMART goals section, these pages are very helpful in making your plan actionable and organized all in one place.


























Click to Download FREE Planner


  • Why: Clearly define the purpose and significance of each goal, aligning them with your values and long-term vision. Why is this goal important to you? What is the motivation behind it?
  • How: Outline the strategies and approaches you will employ to accomplish your goals. Create bite-size daily or weekly actions that take you a step closer to your goal consistently. This is a great time to review your Prioritized Leader Actions and incorporate your goals into your daily and weekly routines.
  • When: Set specific deadlines and milestones for each goal, creating a sense of urgency and accountability. How do you plan on staying accountable? Is it a person, a checkbox, or an app notification? Block time in your calendar or schedule events/meetings with yourself to work on these goals.

Don't forget to add in rewards for yourself at milestones or look for ways to stay motivated and encouraging! Celebrate consistency and small wins. Looking back at your original SWOT analysis, are there any threats to your goals? How can you overcome them? Look for more ways to break it down and problem-solve. Just remember that you can plan and break things down as much as you want, but to achieve your goals requires action. Don't analyze your goals to death, and fail to start out on the first step. New beginnings take place every day, not just on January 1st.



By incorporating SWOT analysis, SMART goals, brainstorming, short-term and long-term goal planning, and a detailed goal breakdown into your planner, you empower yourself with a comprehensive roadmap for success. Regularly revisit and update your plan to adapt to changing circumstances and ensure continued progress toward your aspirations. Remember, the ultimate planner is not just a tool; it's your personal guide to mastering success in every aspect of your life!


Click to Download FREE Planner


Another way to help keep you on track with your goals is to put them somewhere visible, like at your desk or in your kitchen. Somewhere, you can see them and be reminded daily of what you are working towards. This is not meant to be a bat for when your plans/goals go off the rails; it is a motivator and a reminder to continue pushing forward.


It's also important to track your progress. If you have daily action items, make sure you have a way to measure your progress. Check out our other post on Prioritized Leader Actions on how this works!


Let us know if you have any questions or if you have a way to plan your goals more effectively. If all of this seems overwhelming, please feel free to book a coaching session, and we will help you every step of the way to achieve your 2024 goals!



Other Relevant Articles:

Prioritized Leader Actions are for, well, EVERYONE!

A New Year means a new start! Tips to be quick off the start!

Goals and Objectives Eat New Year's Resolutions For Breakfast, Every Time!

Leader Standard Work & Hitting Targets

Want To Get Organized in 2020? Free Personal Planner & Leader Standardized Work Templates


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The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and family gatherings. However, for leaders in leadership roles at Amazon, the busiest time of the work year can make balancing professional responsibilities with personal commitments a daunting task. I was the director of Amazon Canada operations for six years, meaning the holidays brought many complications.


While Santa works steadily to meet his commitments all year round, at Amazon, we experienced a massive influx in orders between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. All of these gifts had to get to their homes before the big day! Who would get them there? I can tell you it was through blood, sweat and tears that the entire Amazon team did! There are many incredible stories of the dedication and length to which Amazon associates would go to deliver packages on time. Stories like these highlight the amount of dedication and team mindset that was encouraged by Amazon associates. It’s a fantastic example of a company's mission being fully understood and carried out by its employees.  


While these stories are inspirational, they are by no means the norm. Something very important in the Amazon culture is that you must meet your delivery commitments at all costs. At the end of the day, the customer must always come first (second only to associate safety!). In my leadership position, It was my job to be as proactive as possible to get through Peak as smoothly as possible. This was a huge feat, but there were many other obligations and commitments to be met! You name it: Christmas parties, family gatherings, dance recitals, choir concerts, hockey games! It seems someone looked at December and tried to fill every single second full of holiday commitments that, if missed, make you look like a bad parent/spouse and a Scrooge!  


All this being said, I am still in my holiday recovery period, even though I have been away from Amazon for 4 holiday seasons. While this time was unbelievably stressful, it taught me many valuable lessons in leadership and balancing work and personal life. Today, I hear many people complaining about the season and how stressed out, burnt out, and overworked they are. I hope to pass on some of my learning to you, and these tips will help make your holiday season easier and brighter! 


Plan and Prioritize:

Effective planning and prioritization serve as the cornerstone for navigating the chaos of the holiday season. Beyond merely acknowledging the busyness of the period, it involves creating a meticulously detailed schedule that encompasses work commitments and personal events. This proactive approach allows leaders to gain a comprehensive overview of their responsibilities, making allocating time and resources more easily.


In the realm of prioritization, leaders must discern between tasks based on urgency and importance. Critical work responsibilities should take precedence, ensuring that essential obligations are met without compromising quality. Simultaneously, recognizing the significance of personal engagements, leaders can strike a balance that accommodates both professional and personal spheres. This delicate equilibrium requires a keen understanding of the broader context, allowing for a nuanced approach to task management.


By adopting a strategic mindset in planning and prioritization, leaders set the stage for a more organized and efficient holiday season, minimizing stress and maximizing productivity.


Delegate Effectively:

Leadership during the holiday rush entails recognizing the power of effective delegation. It goes beyond distributing tasks to alleviate personal burdens; it involves entrusting team members with specific responsibilities that contribute to their professional growth. Delegation becomes an opportunity for team members to take ownership and make decisions, fostering a sense of empowerment and accountability.


Leaders must have confidence in their team's capabilities to delegate effectively and provide clear guidelines. Doing so creates an environment where individuals feel valued and trusted, motivating them to perform at their best. Delegation, when approached as a developmental tool, not only lightens the leader's load but also cultivates a team adept at handling challenges collaboratively.


In essence, effective delegation elevates the entire team, transforming tasks into opportunities for skill development and collective success.


Communicate Clearly:

Clear and transparent communication forms the bedrock of successful leadership, especially amid the hectic holiday season. Leaders must articulate their team's expectations, deadlines, and priorities, ensuring a shared understanding of collective goals. This open communication fosters a sense of unity and clarity, preventing misunderstandings that can arise during busy times.  Moreover, proactive communication extends beyond the professional realm. Leaders should transparently inform their partners and families about work commitments and manage expectations to avoid disappointments and surprises. This approach allows leaders to balance professional responsibilities and personal relationships, fostering understanding and support from those closest to them.


By prioritizing clear communication, leaders create a cohesive and informed team, enhancing efficiency and reducing unnecessary stress.


Embrace Flexibility:

The holiday season, notorious for its unpredictability, demands leaders to embrace flexibility and adaptability. Unforeseen challenges may arise, requiring leaders to adjust schedules, reassign tasks, and accommodate unexpected circumstances. A flexible approach demonstrates resilience, showcasing a leader's ability to navigate turbulent times while maintaining a positive work culture.

Flexibility doesn't imply a lack of structure but rather an openness to reassess and recalibrate plans. Leaders who can pivot gracefully in response to challenges inspire confidence and foster a culture of adaptability within their teams. This approach ensures that, despite the uncertainties of the season, the team remains agile and responsive to evolving demands.


Encourage Well-being:

A healthy and motivated team is a linchpin for success during the holiday season. Leaders play a pivotal role in encouraging their teams to prioritize well-being. This involves promoting breaks, sufficient rest, and self-care practices contribute to overall mental and physical health.


Leading by example, leaders showcase the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. By fostering an environment that values well-being, leaders contribute to a positive workplace culture where team members feel supported and appreciated. A team that prioritizes well-being is more resilient in the face of challenges and is likely to perform at its best, even under high-pressure situations.


Foster a Positive Work Environment:

Despite the stress of the holiday season, fostering a positive work environment becomes a strategic imperative for leaders. Acknowledging hard work, expressing gratitude, and celebrating big and small achievements contribute to a positive workplace culture. Initiatives like the "Associate Shout-out" at Amazon create a platform for team members to recognize and appreciate each other, fostering a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect.


In addition to recognition, organizing team-building activities or small festive events can significantly boost morale. These initiatives provide moments of respite and contribute to a sense of shared purpose and enjoyment during a demanding season.


By actively fostering positivity, leaders contribute to a workplace where team members feel valued and motivated, enhancing overall team performance.


Set Realistic Expectations:

Setting realistic expectations is an essential leadership skill, particularly during the holiday season. Leaders must understand the limitations of time and resources and communicate what can be realistically achieved. Managing expectations within the team and with external stakeholders helps alleviate unnecessary stress and creates a more focused and productive work environment.


Realistic expectations also involve acknowledging the potential challenges and limitations of the season. By doing so, leaders can strategize effectively, making informed decisions about task prioritization and resource allocation. Transparent communication about these expectations ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings and fostering a culture of accountability.


Utilize Technology Wisely:

In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, leveraging technology is not just advantageous; it's imperative. Leaders should utilize technology to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and facilitate communication. Embracing innovative solutions that automate repetitive tasks frees up time for leaders and their teams to focus on strategic priorities and enjoy the holiday season.


Technological tools can range from project management software that enhances collaboration to automation tools that streamline routine tasks. By staying abreast of technological advancements, leaders ensure that their teams are equipped with the tools necessary to navigate the complexities of the holiday season effectively.


Establish Boundaries:

As leaders navigate the demands of the holiday season, it's crucial to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Setting specific times for work-related tasks and consciously disconnecting during personal moments contribute to a healthier work-life balance.


Establishing boundaries is beneficial for personal well-being and essential for sustained leadership success. It prevents burnout, maintains a leader's focus, and allows for dedicated time with family and friends. Leaders who can delineate between work and personal life effectively set an example for their teams, fostering a culture that values professional excellence and personal fulfillment.


Reflect and Learn:

Post-holiday season, leaders should take the opportunity to reflect on the experience. Evaluating what worked well and identifying areas for improvement contribute to continuous growth and refinement in leadership approaches. Gathering feedback from the team provides valuable insights into their experiences and perceptions, enabling leaders to make informed adjustments for future busy periods.


Reflection involves a thoughtful analysis of challenges faced, successes achieved, and lessons learned. This process of introspection contributes to a leader's ongoing development, enhancing their ability to navigate complexities and lead their teams effectively. Learning from both positive and challenging experiences ensures that leaders are better equipped to face similar situations in the future.


Leading a team during the holiday season presents unique challenges, but with effective planning, clear communication, and a focus on well-being, it is possible to navigate this busy time successfully. By embracing a leadership style that combines strategic thinking with empathy, leaders can create a positive work environment that fosters professional success and personal fulfillment during the festive season. As we move forward, let these leadership tips guide you in ensuring a harmonious and joyful holiday season for yourself and your team. 


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Leaders and their teams face a multifaceted crisis in the ever-evolving landscape of business and organizational dynamics. This leadership crisis comprises various components that together contribute to an environment fraught with uncertainty, stress, and inefficiency. Among these, a conspicuous issue is the alarming lack of accountability. This problem has far-reaching consequences that hinder growth, create burnout, and ultimately undermine the potential of leaders and organizations. 


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The Leadership Crisis Unveiled 


The contemporary leadership landscape is a dynamic and multifaceted arena characterized by a series of complex challenges 

that leaders and

organizations must navigate. In recent years, these challenges have converged into what can aptly be described as a leadership crisis. This crisis comprises several interrelated components that, when combined, create an environment fraught with uncertainty, stress, and inefficiency. Among these components, the distinct lack of accountability stands out as particularly alarming. 


Promotion and Retirement: 


Leadership in the 21st century faces numerous hurdles. Leaders today are often propelled into their roles at a pace never before witnessed. With the rapidly changing business landscape and the incessant demand for innovation, leaders find themselves ascending the ranks at astonishing speeds. This acceleration often comes at the expense of comprehensive training and mentorship. Leaders, especially those rising through the ranks, have less time to acquire the skills and knowledge required to navigate the intricate world of modern leadership. Consequently, they are left to grapple with their responsibilities without a solid foundation. 


Adding to this challenge is the Baby Boomer generation's retirement, a significant demographic shift that has left a leadership void within organizations. The accumulated wisdom and experience of these seasoned leaders, acquired over decades of dedicated service, are being lost. This exodus creates a knowledge gap that often proves challenging to fill, further compounding the leadership crisis. As the newer generation takes the reins, they bring different work philosophies and expectations regarding work-life balance. While these new expectations are not misplaced or unreasonable, they require a drastic shift in the current North American work culture, which is not taking place fast enough to keep these new recruits happy and fulfilled in their positions.  


This mass movement of Boomer retirement, which leads to accelerated promotion of young leaders, is a double-edged sword. The boomer population is a large mass of the current population, meaning there are not enough young leaders to take their place. While AI and automation help bridge these gaps, organizations must start looking ahead to restructure to use their talent better while not causing burnout to these young leaders, which we are unfortunately witnessing today. Rather than relocating resources and talent and investing in development and mentorship, many organizations are choosing to stack additional responsibilities onto their already overwhelmed leaders, creating mountains of additional work, much of which is unnecessary to the organization. 


Leadership Generational Differences:  

The generational differences in work philosophies have become increasingly apparent in today's diverse workforce. New leaders, often representing the millennial and Generation Z demographics, have introduced a notable shift in how they approach work. Many of them embrace a strict 9-5 mentality, which delineates work hours from personal time, and they are often more hesitant to engage in tasks beyond their regular work hours. This approach is rooted in a belief that personal life and work should remain separate, and their work should be confined within the boundaries of the traditional workday. Unlike previous generations, these leaders may not prioritize organizational loyalty as much and may not consider themselves "team players" in the traditional sense, as they often find it challenging to see direct personal impact from company wins and losses. 


While these new leadership styles are not inherently detrimental, they starkly contrast past generations' expectations and practices. These differences necessitate a significant reevaluation of work environments and company cultures.


Organizations must reconsider their company goals and the pathways to achieving these goals if they wish to achieve them, as older methods will not be as successful.  

To bridge this generational gap and adapt to the evolving leadership landscape, companies should focus on flexible work arrangements that accommodate different work philosophies, where it makes sense and doesn't negatively impact organizational culture and customer values.  Embracing technology to facilitate remote work and flexible hours can help accommodate leaders who prefer a more balanced approach to work-life integration. At the same time, organizations must find new ways to instill a sense of purpose and personal impact within young leaders, aligning their contributions with broader company objectives. Often, this team mentality comes from working together in the office. When working from home constantly, it can be easy to become disengaged and disconnected from the company and team goals. In both office and online environments, encouraging open dialogue and collaboration can help create a sense of teamwork, even in a diverse generational workforce, fostering a space where accountability remains a core value. This shift towards adaptability and a more inclusive approach to leadership can lead to a harmonious coexistence of various leadership styles and ultimately contribute to organizational success. 


The Accountability Abyss:  

This is just the tip of the iceberg that could potentially sink our leadership if the course is not changed. The leadership crisis is an intricate and interwoven tangle of related issues. One thread that has recently been brought to our attention is the struggle with accountability from both leaders and teams. This issue manifests itself in multiple ways, contributing to an environment where trust is eroded, motivation wanes, and progress stagnates. 


Leaders, for their part, often find it challenging to rely on their teams to meet their commitments. When team members fail to deliver as promised, it leads to incomplete projects and undermines the confidence leaders have in their teams. This lack of trust can lead to micromanagement, which, in turn, further hampers team performance and exacerbates the crisis. 


On the flip side, teams often grapple with a sense of uncertainty regarding the promises made by their leaders. When leaders fail to follow through on their commitments or provide vague directives, team members are left confused and frustrated. This breakdown in communication and accountability creates a culture of uncertainty that impacts morale and productivity. The result is a vicious cycle of mistrust, frustration, and inefficiency that permeates the entire organization. 

The absence of accountability has profound and far-reaching consequences. One of the most pronounced is the prevalence of overwork and burnout. When commitments are not met, and expectations are unclear, leaders and their teams often stretch themselves thin. The absence of clear priorities compounds this issue. In such an environment, everyone is left firefighting, dealing with immediate issues, and managing crises that seem to materialize out of thin air. Long-term goals and strategies become elusive as leaders and teams struggle to find the time and resources to address them. 


Additionally, a lack of accountability leads to inefficient resource allocation. When commitments are not met, human and financial resources are often allocated haphazardly. Projects that were promised but remain incomplete tie up valuable resources which could have been better invested elsewhere. The result is a waste of time, money, and energy on initiatives that again feed back into the loop of frustration and further demotivation. 


In essence, a lack of accountability pushes organizations into a perpetual state of crisis management rather than strategy development and execution. Without clear priorities and a commitment to forward planning, leaders and their teams continually react to crises rather than proactively addressing challenges and opportunities. This reactive stance impedes innovation, stunts growth, and leaves organizations vulnerable to unexpected disruptions. 


Accountability is the cornerstone of effective leadership and teamwork. Without it, leaders cannot confidently delegate responsibilities, and teams cannot trust their contributions will lead to success. The consequences of a lack of accountability are far-reaching, as we have already seen manifesting in: 


Overwork and Burnout: Without clear accountability, leaders and their teams are stretched thin, leading to overwork and burnout. The absence of clear priorities compounds this issue, as everyone ends up firefighting, making it challenging to address long-term goals and strategy. 


Inefficient Resource Allocation: When commitments are not met, resources are often allocated haphazardly. This results in wasted time, money, and energy on initiatives that may not contribute to the organization's success. 


Chronic Fire Fighting: A lack of forward planning and prioritization keeps leaders and teams constantly reacting to crises rather than proactively addressing issues. This reactive stance impedes innovation and growth. 

Fostering a Culture of Accountability: While the leadership crisis may appear daunting, there are ways to mitigate the problem and restore a culture of accountability and efficiency within organizations. Here are some essential steps: 



Holding Yourself to the Same Standards 


Leaders must set an example by demonstrating their commitment to accountability. When they hold themselves to high standards, it encourages their teams to do the same. 


In any organization, leadership accountability isn't just a desirable trait; it's the cornerstone upon which a productive, efficient, and cohesive team stands. Leaders' actions and behaviour, especially in positions of authority and influence, set the precedence for the entire team. When leaders lack accountability, it sends ripples throughout the organization, affecting their own performance and having significant consequences for the entire team. 


Leaders who lack personal accountability often fail to meet their commitments, make excuses for their actions or inactions and are quick to deflect blame onto others. This behaviour undermines trust, creates a culture of finger-pointing, and fosters a sense of unfairness among team members. These negative consequences ripple through the organization, creating an atmosphere of chaos and mistrust. 

As a leader, the implications can be profound when you're confronted with team members who lack personal accountability. Firstly, it places additional pressure and expectations on you to pick up the slack. You may find yourself constantly monitoring their work, following up on unmet commitments, and expending extra effort to ensure that projects are completed on time. This extra workload not only increases your stress and workload but also diverts your focus from strategic leadership tasks and long-term planning. 


Furthermore, your team members' lack of personal accountability erodes your ability to delegate effectively. Delegation is fundamental to leadership, allowing you to distribute responsibilities and empower your team. When accountability is absent, you may feel compelled to take on more tasks yourself, leading to burnout and a lack of balance in your work-life equation. 


The consequences of a leader's lack of accountability extend beyond the immediate impact on the individual. It influences the entire team, as team members may perceive a lack of fairness and equity. When they observe a leader avoiding responsibility or not being held accountable for their actions, it sends a disheartening message about the organization's values and commitment to fairness and integrity. 


No one likes to work with or for a hypocrite. It's important to work on your own accountability before you start working on resolving your team's lack of accountability.  



Open Communication 


One way to improve your and your team's accountability is to have open lines of communication. Leaders and teams should feel comfortable discussing challenges, setting expectations, and sharing feedback. This creates a collaborative atmosphere that promotes accountability


Demonstrate to your team when you are being held accountable and the impact that has on both you and the team. Now, this is not a finger-pointing party but rather an honest and open dialogue about sharing your successes and failures as both a leader and a team. Your team may struggle with accountability as they don't perceive any urgency in the tasks given to them. 


Open communication is not merely a valuable organizational asset but a fundamental building block for cultivating a culture of accountability. In any leadership role, fostering an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and ideas is essential. When lines of communication remain clear and unobstructed, it becomes significantly easier to uphold accountability and address tasks in a timely manner. The impact of this open dialogue within an organization cannot be overstated, as it has far-reaching implications for the team's efficiency and the potential consequences of failing to meet expectations. 


Open communication is a conduit for clarifying expectations and aligning team members with their responsibilities. When leaders engage in transparent conversations with their teams, they can set clear goals, assign tasks, and provide essential context for understanding the importance of those tasks. Team members, in turn, can ask questions, seek clarification, and provide feedback on potential challenges they may face in completing their assignments. This exchange ensures that everyone is on the same page and fully comprehends the significance of their contributions. 


Certain tasks and deadlines within an organization are important not only for achieving short-term goals but also for maintaining the overall momentum of the team. Timely completion of tasks is critical for workflow continuity, project success, and client satisfaction. These tasks can have significant ramifications when they are not accomplished on schedule. 


For instance, a missed deadline for a crucial project can lead to delays in product launches, reduced revenue, and potential damage to the organization's reputation. Clients or stakeholders who were counting on timely deliverables may become dissatisfied, potentially leading to financial losses and a strained professional relationship. In essence, the repercussions of failing to meet deadlines or complete vital tasks within the specified timeframe can be detrimental to an organization's success. 


In a culture of accountability and open communication, consequences for failing to meet expectations are not just idle threats but a necessary and constructive part of the process. Leaders must hold themselves accountable to the same standards they set for their team. When they are unable to meet their commitments, it's crucial that they acknowledge their shortcomings and work to address them. 




Mastering Time Blocking: A Strategy for Effective Crisis Management 

While the above strategies for working on accountability are more immediate, this next session offers a vital proactive approach to accountability that will have a lasting impact on both leaders and teams. This tip is from our 4-Steps to TIME Shifting program, which specializes in helping leaders maximize their productivity so that they can get back to the things in their lives that really matter.

Working with various leaders and organizations, we at HPL constantly hear complaints that leaders are always firefighting to the point they can never get anything else done. One innovative approach to ensuring that you're not just reacting to crises all day is the concept of time blocking, which can be a game-changer for achieving productivity and crisis management. Let's explore how time blocking and strategic scheduling can help leaders deal with recurring issues and create pockets of productivity in their busy schedules. 

Setting the Stage with Time Blocking: 

Time blocking involves allocating specific time slots for various tasks and activities in your calendar. It's a proactive strategy that helps you prioritize essential work and prevents reactive, last-minute firefighting. By structuring your day, you can create dedicated spaces in your schedule to systematically address recurring issues and crises. 


Creating Dedicated Crisis Management Time: 

One key element of time blocking is designing specific time slots for dealing with crises. This practice acknowledges that crises can and will happen, but rather than letting them derail your entire day, you address them in a structured manner. By blocking out both morning and afternoon 20-minute meetings in your calendar labelled as "Crisis Management," you create a routine for managing unexpected challenges. At HPL, we recommend a standard 9:30am and 3:30pm Crisis Management Meeting. These meetings should include just about everyone on your team. When the crisis is identified, only meet with the team members who are directly impacted and cancel the meeting for anyone who isn't or doesn't need to be involved.


This effectively ensures a few things:  


  1. Your whole team has these meetings regularly blocked in their day, meaning it won't derail anyone's schedule.  
  2. Only directly affected/responsible parties are at the meeting to ensure the meeting is efficient. 
  3. Those not needed at the meeting just gained an extra 20 minutes to get other items done. 
  4. Your day stays on track. 
  5. The best part is, if there is no crisis, both meetings are cancelled, and now you and your team have a bonus of 40 minutes in their day to catch up on other work items. 


Morning Crisis Management Meeting: 

In the morning, schedule a crisis management meeting to take place at the same time each day, say, 9:30 AM. This meeting is critical for several reasons. First, it allows you to assess the nature and severity of the crisis, which can vary greatly. It's also an opportunity to determine if the crisis is something that needs immediate attention or if it can wait until the crisis management meeting time.  


Importantly, this meeting should involve your entire team, and it should be on their calendars as well. This approach ensures that no one is caught off guard by an urgent meeting and allows for effective team collaboration. As you gather more information about the crisis, you can choose to cancel the meeting for those team members who won't contribute meaningfully to the discussion (not within their job description or outside their scope), allowing them to focus on their own tasks. 


Keep these meetings concise, lasting no longer than 20 minutes. The purpose is to allocate tasks and responsibilities to address the crisis and ensure everyone is on the same page. 


Afternoon Crisis Management Meeting: 

The afternoon meeting, held close to the end of the day, serves as a follow-up session for the crisis management tasks assigned in the morning. This meeting provides an opportunity to review progress, determine what's left to be done to overcome the crisis and ensure that the issue is effectively resolved. 


These crises can vary in duration, spanning from a single day to several weeks, depending on their nature. The crucial aspect is that, by dedicating time to dealing with these crises, you free up your schedule to be productive in other areas rather than being consumed by firefighting all day.  In essence, time blocking for crisis management is a strategic approach that allows leaders to allocate time to deal with unexpected issues, maintain productivity in other areas, and foster efficient team collaboration. By implementing this structured system, leaders can be better prepared to tackle crises, making them a manageable aspect of their daily routines rather than a disruptive force that throws the entire day into chaos every day! Time blocking is a powerful tool for any leader looking to balance proactive leadership and effective crisis management. 




Quick Read 


In a nutshell, the article delves into the current leadership crisis, where accountability is sorely lacking. This crisis stems from factors like rapid promotions, the retirement of experienced Baby Boomers, and generational differences in work attitudes. The consequences are burnout, inefficient resource use, and a perpetual cycle of firefighting. 


To address this crisis, the article suggests several key steps: 


Leadership Accountability: Leaders should set an example by demonstrating personal accountability, as their behaviour significantly impacts the entire team and organization. When leaders lack accountability, it creates a culture of finger-pointing and mistrust. 


Open Communication: Encouraging open dialogue and transparent communication between leaders and teams can help clarify expectations and responsibilities, fostering a culture of accountability


Time Blocking for Crisis Management: Implementing time blocking by scheduling specific time slots for addressing crises allows leaders to manage unexpected challenges proactively. This structured approach helps prevent reactive firefighting and ensures productive team collaboration. 


The article emphasizes that accountability is essential for effective leadership and teamwork and should be a cornerstone of organizational culture to achieve long-term success. 

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Working with various clients and in a number of coaching calls, we've found that many High Performing Leaders struggle holding their team accountable.  


While accountability is an uncomfortable topic for many leaders, it is essential in any organization. It is the foundation of trust and integrity, which are crucial in building a successful team and high performance cultures.  


When it comes to leadership accountability, it is even more important as leaders set the tone for the organization's culture and its performance. Leaders who hold their team members accountable not only drive their organizations towards success but also create a culture of excellence and mutual trust.  


Here we will discuss the importance of leadership accountability, the consequences of poor accountability, the reasons for leaders' fear of accountability, why team members are afraid of accountability, and how leaders can hold their team members accountable



The Importance of Team Member Accountability 


Leaders who hold their team members accountable set the standard for the organization. They demonstrate the importance of deadlines, quality, and expectations. When team members are held accountable, they are more likely to take their work seriously, leading to better performance and productivity. In addition, accountability creates a culture of responsibility and ownership. Team members are more likely to take ownership of their work and the success of the organization. 


Holding team members accountable helps leaders identify areas where improvements are needed. Leaders can identify gaps in skills, training, and communication, which can then be addressed. This leads to a continuous improvement cycle, which can result in higher quality work and better outcomes. 


Leaders Accountability to Their Team Members 

Group of leaders with there hands together to say


Leaders must lead by example. This means that they must be accountable to their team members, just as they expect their team members to be accountable to them. When leaders are accountable to their team members, they demonstrate the importance of honesty, integrity, and transparency. This creates a culture of mutual trust, where team members feel safe to share their opinions and ideas.  


 When leaders hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions, they demonstrate to their team members the importance of taking ownership and responsibility for their work. This, in turn, leads to team members feeling empowered and motivated to perform their best. 


Empowered leaders who lead by example create a sense of integrity and credibility within the organization. When team members see their leaders walking the talk and taking responsibility for their actions, they are more likely to trust them and follow their lead. This trust and respect create a positive work environment where team members feel valued and respected. This further encourages team members to  hold themselves to higher levels of accountability. They can see the benefits through their leader's example.  


When no individual is exempted from this loop of accountability, no one will feel as if they are personally being "picked on" or singled out among their peers negatively. When everyone is accountable, the only ones who stand out are those who are not meeting their commitments. 


Consequences of Poor Accountability 


Poor accountability can have significant consequences for an organization. When team members are not held accountable, they may not take their work seriously, leading to low-quality work and missing or even dismissing deadlines. This can damage the reputation of the organization and lead to lost business opportunities. In addition, poor accountability can result in a toxic work environment, where team members blame each other for mistakes and avoid taking ownership of their work. This can lead to low morale, high turnover, and a negative culture. 


Woman sitting on the couch staring at her phone in shock. Furthermore, poor accountability can have legal and financial consequences. For example, if an organization fails to comply with regulations or laws, it can face legal action and financial penalties. Similarly, if an organization fails to meet its contractual obligations, it can lose business and face financial penalties. 


As you can see, poor accountability can very quickly spill over and spread like a horrible fungus through the work environment, making work toxic and dangerous for everyone, including customers! 


Consequences, by definition, are the results or effects that follow from a particular action or decision. They can be positive or negative, and they are essential to creating a sense of accountability in the workplace. When consequences are clear and consistent, they help team members understand the importance of their actions and their impact on the business's success. 


One of the most critical aspects of consequences is that they must be communicated clearly and in advance. When team members understand the potential outcomes of their actions, they are more likely to take their responsibilities seriously and work to meet their commitments. Additionally, clear communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations. 


Positive consequences can be used to reinforce good behaviour and motivate team members to continue performing at a high level. For example, an employee who consistently exceeds expectations could be given a promotion or a bonus as a reward for their hard work. Positive consequences recognize good performance and create a positive and productive workplace high performance culture that encourages team members to strive for excellence. 


On the other hand, negative consequences must be used sparingly and only as a last resort. When team members fail to meet their commitments or exhibit problematic behaviour, negative consequences are necessary to ensure accountability. However, it's important to note that negative consequences should be fair, consistent, and proportional to the offence. 


For example, a team member who consistently misses deadlines despite repeated warnings may need to face consequences such as a no, or low pay increase, demotion, or even termination. However, these consequences should be used as a last resort and only after other measures have been exhausted. Negative consequences should also be communicated clearly in advance so that team members understand the seriousness of their actions and the potential outcomes.  It's important to note that consequences should be applied equally and fairly to all team members. Inconsistent or unfair consequences can quickly erode trust and undermine accountability. Leaders must be consistent in their application of consequences and ensure that they are aligned with the values and goals of the business. 


Ultimately, consequences are essential in maintaining accountability in business. They provide a clear incentive for team members to meet their commitments and perform at a high level. By communicating consequences clearly and fairly, leaders can create a culture of accountability that fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among team members. 



Leaders' Fear & Hesitation to Holding Team Members Accountable 


Despite the importance of holding team members accountable, many leaders hesitate or fear doing so. This can be due to several reasons, including: A man in a business suit looks up at the sky asking


Fear of Conflict: Many leaders avoid holding team members accountable because they want to avoid conflict. They may worry that holding team members accountable will damage relationships or cause further interpersonal damage.  


Lack of Communication Skills: Some leaders lack the communication skills to hold team members accountable. They may struggle to provide feedback or address issues in a constructive and respectful manner. 


Fear of Losing Talent: Some leaders may hesitate to hold team members accountable because they fear losing talent. They may worry that holding team members accountable will lead to high turnover or that team members will become resentful and disengaged. 


Fear of Offending: Most commonly, leaders fear they will offend or hurt team members' feelings when trying to create accountability. This fear is a combination of all the above.  



How to Move Past These Fears 


Fear of Conflict: 

1) Develop Conflict Resolution Skills: Leaders can learn conflict resolution skills, such as active listening, empathy, and problem-solving, to handle conflict effectively. 


2) Establish Clear Expectations: Leaders can establish clear expectations with team members, including performance standards, goals, and deadlines. This helps avoid misunderstandings and conflict in the future. 


3) Provide Constructive Feedback: Leaders can provide constructive feedback, focusing on specific behaviours and actions rather than personality or character.  (Future post?) 



Lack of Communication Skills: 

 1) Invest in Communication Training: Leaders can invest in communication training to improve their communication skills, including active listening, effective feedback, and non-verbal communication. Try looking at LinkedIn and Teachable for these types of programs if they are not offered internally at your company. 


2) Practice Open Communication: Leaders can practice open communication, including regular check-ins, team meetings, and one-on-one discussions. This helps create a culture of open communication and feedback. 


3) Seek Feedback: Leaders can seek feedback from team members on their communication style, including areas for improvement and strengths. Learn how your team best responds to feedback and try to work accordingly when giving difficult feedback.  


Fear of Losing Talent: 

 1) Focus on Development: Leaders can focus on developing team members, including coaching, mentoring, and training. This helps improve performance and increase retention.  In fact, providing higher levels of accountability can be an integral part of a retention strategy. 


2) Provide Opportunities for Growth: Leaders can provide opportunities for growth, including challenging assignments, cross-functional projects, and skill-building activities. This helps keep team members engaged and motivated. Be sure to only offer such opportunities to deserving team members. If one team member is particularly struggling to meet commitments, adding to their workload with high profile tasks/opportunities will cause more harm than good.  


3) Set Clear Expectations: Leaders can set clear expectations with team members, including performance standards, goals, and career paths. This helps team members understand what is expected of them and how they can progress in their careers. In some cases, locating or creating job descriptions outlining such expectations and requirements for the position in question might be helpful.  


Fear of Offending: 

1) Focus on Behaviours, Not People: Leaders can focus on specific behaviours and actions rather than personality or character. This helps keep the conversation constructive and avoids personal attacks. 


2) Emphasize the Positive: Leaders can emphasize the positive, including team members' strengths and contributions. This helps balance constructive feedback with positive reinforcement. Try the two positives and one opportunity approach: Start the meeting with two positives and pointing out where the team member has recently been successful and what specifically did they do that contributed to the successes. Next identify one opportunity for improvement, giving detailed specific examples and being careful to remove any personality or character accusations. Stick to the facts. "Project x was delayed by 3 days with no communication or explanation. Is there something that I don’t know about that caused this to take place?" End the conversation by coming up with a plan of action that meets both parties' expectations and prevents the incident from reoccurring.  


3) Create a Safe Space: Leaders can create a safe space for feedback and communication where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. This helps build trust and fosters a culture of open communication.  You can do this by providing support, and asking the team member what kind of assistance or help they may need to meet their commitments.  



Ways to Enforce Accountability  


Understanding the importance of accountability and the different strategies for overcoming anxieties of approaching accountability with your teamit's time to

Young woman with arms crossed about concrete ways to enforce it. After all, accountability cannot happen if there is no consequence for unaccountability or inactive behaviour.  While not all transgressions warrant such drastic results as termination or formal warnings, several proactive approaches remain to "turning up the heat" and holding team members accountable.  


1) More Frequent Status Reviews and Check-Ins: Regular status reviews and check-ins provide valuable opportunities for team members to share progress updates and discuss any challenges they are facing. By increasing the frequency of these interactions, leaders can foster accountability and keep a close eye on project advancement. Frequent check-ins also enable timely feedback and corrective actions, allowing the team to address issues before they escalate. 


2) Breaking Down Larger Deliverables: Sometimes, complex or lengthy deliverables can lack transparency and accountability. Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks allows for better tracking of progress and provides more frequent opportunities to assess performance. Regularly reviewing these smaller milestones helps identify potential bottlenecks or areas where additional support may be required. This is a great way to provide support while maintaining accountability



3) Scheduling Reviews at Less "Popular" Times: Leaders can ensure that team members remain attentive and engaged by scheduling status reviews and meetings at less convenient times, such as early mornings or late afternoons. This approach prompts individuals to take accountability for their time management, encouraging punctuality and focused participation. It also demonstrates the team leader's commitment to fostering accountability throughout the organization. 



4) Temporarily Reassigning "Liked" Responsibilities: To address accountability issues, team leaders may consider temporarily reassigning tasks or responsibilities that struggling team members particularly enjoy. This approach can be a powerful motivator for improved performance as individuals realize the consequences of their actions and strive to regain the projects they had previously enjoyed. It also encourages a more balanced distribution of workload and prevents complacency. 




5) Removing Perceived Perks until Performance Improves: If team members are consistently underperforming, leaders might temporarily withdraw certain perceived perks, such as the option to work remotely or flexible scheduling. Leaders encourage accountability and a strong work ethic by aligning these privileges with consistent, high-quality performance. However, it is important to communicate clearly the conditions for reinstating these benefits, ensuring that team members understand the expectations and goals they need to meet. 



Holding team members accountable is crucial for achieving project success and maintaining a high-performance culture. By implementing strategies such as more frequent status reviews, breaking down deliverables, scheduling reviews at less convenient times, temporarily reassigning responsibilities, and adjusting perceived perks, leaders can effectively turn up the heat and foster a culture of accountability within their teams. These approaches promote individual responsibility and contribute to overall team productivity and success. 



Summary/Quick Read  


Accountability is crucial for effective leadership and business success, but many leaders face various reservations and challenges that hinder them from maintaining it. These include conflict avoidance, communication skills, fear of losing talent, and anxiety about offending team members. Overcoming these concerns requires leaders to approach accountability with empathy, active listening, and a focus on problem-solving rather than blame. Leaders can also invest in communication training and coaching to improve their communication skills, provide regular feedback and coaching to their team members, and create a culture of accountability that promotes individual and organizational growth. Ultimately, having consequences in business is essential to maintain accountability and promote a high performance culture of responsibility and ownership. Leaders must take action when team members fail to meet expectations or violate policies to maintain accountability and ensure the success of the business. 

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What is high performance leadership?


High performance leadership is a leadership style that is characterized by a focus on achieving exceptional results through effective team building, strategic planning, and strong communication skills. It is a type of leadership that inspires and motivates individuals and teams to work towards common goals and achieve excellence.


High performance leadership is not just about managing a team or getting tasks done. It’s about inspiring people to work together towards a common shared purpose. To create and achieve a high performance team, it’s important to create a common shared purpose for the team that is aligned with the overall organization’s vision and strategy. This common shared purpose should be specific enough that each team member knows how their team contributes to the organization’s vision and their explicit role within the team. When teams understand their purpose and see how their contributions are important, they are more motivated and engaged, resulting in better outcomes and overall success for the organization. 


The three high performance leadership essentials for high performance teams


  1. Common Shared Purpose
  2. Proven Competency
  3. Accountability


Why is a common shared purpose important?


A common shared purpose is crucial for any high performance team, as it helps align everyone toward the same goal. A team without a common shared purpose is like a ship without a destination. It may have a crew, but without a clear direction, it will drift aimlessly. When everyone understands the purpose and direction of the team, they can work together more efficiently and effectively. A common shared purpose brings the team together, and each member feels part of something bigger than themselves.


Feels part of something bigger than themselves”


A common shared purpose creates a sense of belonging and commitment to the team. When people feel like they are part of a team working towards a common shared purpose and goal, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. It also helps team members see how their contributions are valuable, and this leads to a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in their work. When individuals see how their work contributes to the greater good, they are more motivated to do their best.


Creating a common shared purpose aligned with the organization’s vision


A common shared purpose must be aligned with the organization’s vision and strategy. The vision is the long-term goal or destination that the organization aims to achieve, while the strategy outlines the approach and actions required to reach that goal. The common shared purpose of the team must fit into this broader vision and strategy, and each team member should understand how their team’s work contributes to achieving this vision.


A common shared purpose should also be specific and measurable. Vague goals such as “improve customer satisfaction” or “increase revenue” are not enough. Instead, the team’s common shared purpose should be more specific, such as “reduce customer complaints by 50%” or “increase revenue by 10% in the next quarter”. Specific goals give the team a clear target to aim for, and it’s easier to measure progress and success.


When creating a common shared purpose, involving the team in the process is important. By involving team members, you can gain their input and feedback, and this creates a greater sense of ownership and commitment to the purpose. When people feel like they have contributed to creating a common shared purpose, they are more likely to be invested in it and work towards achieving it.


How a common shared purpose leads to success and accountability


A common shared purpose provides focus and direction for a high performance team. When everyone knows what they are working towards, it’s easier to prioritize tasks and make decisions that align with the purpose. This helps the team avoid distractions and focus on the important work contributing to the organization’s vision and strategy.


In high performance teams, a common shared purpose creates a sense of accountability. When everyone understands the purpose and their role in achieving it, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and be accountable for their actions. This creates a culture of responsibility and accountability, where everyone is committed to doing their best to achieve the common shared purpose.


A common shared purpose also promotes collaboration and teamwork. When everyone understands their role and how it contributes to the greater goal, there will be more collaboration to achieve success. This creates a culture of teamwork and cooperation, where everyone is working towards the same goal rather than focusing solely on their individual tasks.


How a common shared purpose creates proven competency


A common shared purpose is a powerful driver of proven competency among team members. When everyone on the team is aligned around a common shared purpose, they understand what competencies are necessary to accomplish that goal. This shared understanding and proven competency with each other create a sense of accountability and responsibility among team members, motivating them to develop and improve the skills required to achieve their objectives.


Collaboration is essential in ensuring the team has the proven competencies to become a high performance team. Cross-training is an effective way to develop and improve the proven competencies of team members. When team members work together to share knowledge and skills, they learn from each other's experiences and become more capable of working towards a common shared purpose. Additionally, cross-training helps to build trust among team members, which is essential for effective collaboration. By sharing expertise and supporting each other, team members can work together more efficiently and effectively, creating a positive feedback loop that leads to higher performance and greater success. Ultimately, a common shared purpose and a collaborative approach to building proven competencies are critical components of a high performance team.


A common shared purpose helps create a positive work culture when people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.


Formula One example of common shared purpose, proven competency, and accountability



An example of high performance leadership and the resulting high performance team that we often reference in our leadership development programs is that of a Formula One racing team.  In Formula One racing, every member of the team plays a vital role in achieving the ultimate goal of winning the race or achieving a points goal for the season. One of the most critical teams is the pit crew, who provide the necessary services to the car during pit stops in the fastest time possible.


The pit crew's common shared purpose is to work together seamlessly and efficiently to service the car and get it back on the track as quickly as possible. The pit crew comprises several highly skilled individuals, each with a specific role to play. Some team members are responsible for changing the tires, while others refuel the car, and some adjust the aerodynamics of the car.


In a race where every second counts, the pit crew's ability to provide fast and efficient services is crucial. The time spent in the pits can make the difference between winning and losing the race. As a result, the pit crew must have the proven competency to work with precision and focus on ensuring that the car is serviced correctly and efficiently.


The pit crew's contribution to the team's vision of winning the race cannot be overstated. By providing the necessary services in the shortest time possible, they help minimize the time the car spends in the pits, allowing the driver to get back on the track quickly and maintain a competitive position.


The pit crew's efforts and accountability to each other and the greater team also help improve the driver's confidence and motivation, knowing they have a reliable and efficient team behind them. This can be critical in a race where the slightest mistake can result in a significant setback. 


The pit crew plays a vital role in Formula One racing, and their common shared purpose is to provide the necessary services to the car in the fastest time possible. Achieving the overall team’s goal of winning the race or finishing the season with a targeted number of points isn’t entirely within their control or responsibility. However, by clearly understanding their common shared purpose, demonstrating proven competency, and having high accountability to each other and the entire racing team, they are able to expertly do their part in performing the most effective and efficient pit stops that will certainly make a difference in achieving the overall team’s goals.


High performance leadership steps for High performance teams


1. Define a clear mission: In high performance leadership requires leaders to establish a clear and concise mission statement that outlines the team's common shared purpose and objectives. This statement should be communicated effectively to every member of the team and serve as a guiding principle for all decisions and actions.


2. Foster a sense of accountability: In high performance leadership, leaders should encourage team members to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities and to be accountable to each other. They should empower them to make decisions and take actions that align with the team’s mission and common shared purpose.


3. Build a culture of collaboration: In high performance leadership, leaders should foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork. They should encourage open communication, trust, and respect among team members and create a safe no blame environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions and learning from mistakes.


4. Provide opportunities for growth: In high performance leadership, leaders should provide opportunities for team members to learn and grow. This can be achieved through training programs, mentoring, or coaching. By investing in their development, leaders show that they value their team members and are committed to their success.


5. Celebrate success: In high performance leadership, leaders should recognize and celebrate team successes. This can be done through public or private recognition, rewards, or incentives. Celebrating success reinforces the importance of the common shared purpose and motivates team members to continue working towards the organization's objectives.


6. Lead by example: High performance leaders must lead by example. They need to consistently demonstrate the behaviours and actions that they expect from their team members. By modelling the values and principles of the organization, leaders can create a culture that reinforces the shared common purpose and inspires everyone to work towards achieving it.

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The start of the new year is a temporal landmark. Temporal landmarks allow us to reset and have a fresh start.  This is an excellent time to establish goals for yourself.


A big part of the success of achieving goals is our level of personal motivation.    There are two types of goals: ‘want to’ – goals that we deem are important to us and ‘have to’ – a goal someone else requires or expects.   The level of motivation is much higher for ‘want to’ goals as it fits into our values and identity and is essential to us.   With a ‘want to’ goal, you will be more conscious of the obstacles to achieving the goal and stay away from them.    


Many consider training a ‘have to’ goal as they feel the company mandates it.  For example, you may have received training on Leader Standardized Work (LSW).  A tactic for providing a better focus on ‘have to’ goals is trying to reframe the training, so it better fits your values and identity. For example, maybe one of your values is being a conscientious leader.  Executing the elements on your LSW may help you support this value.  Another strategy is to pair it with something more enjoyable, such as setting out an LSW task to engage more with your team members.  Finally, replace the goal of implementing LSW with something more meaningful for yourself that may accomplish the same. For example, you still follow the LSW format but use one of your LSW tasks to support a personal goal.   


Please let me know what you think.


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July 11, 2024
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Glenn Sommerville
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