Sunday, February 24, 2013

Leadership and their Role in Value Delivery

The proliferation of process methodologies has not only made the traditional form of managing more uncertain, but has greatly increased the consequences of uncertainty for managers. Value based (Lean) methodologies emerged as a way to manage and even turn these uncertainties into organizational advantages.  There are countless ways these methodologies define value, but all methodologies have one commonality which they share to ensure long term success.  Leadership and leadership support for value based change initiatives are the number one variable for success or failure of any such initiative.   This post will explore how unconventional leadership supports change in your organization and how with thoughtful planning and support you can avoid the most common points of failure.
Traditional command and control structured organizations are often not effectively designed for allowing leaders to adequately promote value delivery.  Traditional organizational structures are also not fruitful at turning managers in to effective leaders.  Neither are they designed at empowering their workforce, rather they tend to focus on hierarchical decision making which promotes a command and control mentality.  

Value or value creation can be viewed in multiple ways.  The customer must value your product or service and be willing to pay for it, it must change the product or service, and must be done right the first time.   Many frameworks do a great job focusing on these three areas.  Although frameworks are great tools at enabling value delivery they can only be utilized if the culture and environment fosters and promote value delivery at every level in the firm, including the individual.  Using Pareto’s law we can deduct that tools/frameworks only represent 20% of the ability to deliver optimal customer value while leadership empowerment and support comprises the additional 80%.  In successful value focused firms 80% of the effort is expended on changing leaders' practices and behaviors  and ultimately their mind set.  Senior management has an essential role in establishing conditions that enable the effort to succeed. Their involvement includes establishing governance arrangements that cross divisional boundaries, supporting a thorough, long-term vision of the organization's value-producing processes, and holding everyone accountable for meeting value driven commitments. This is accomplished through regular, direct involvement and understanding their role in empowering their employees (who should be considered your intellectual capital).   Without this vision any value driven initiative (Lean, Six sigma, Theory of Constraints, agile) will only be seen as the flavor of the month.

Asking yourself “is your customer willing to pay for the activity you are engaged in” can provide tremendous insight when leading.  Defining value in any other terms can undermine the potential of value delivery for the firm.  Leadership often takes too much credit in the value of the organization when they often have created little direct value.  The majority of the value delivered is through the product, services or placement of your firm’s competitive advantage.  This means your greatest potential for value creation often resides in the employees who produce your competitive advantage.  Historically to gain the ranks of manager one had to experience, learn and work in multiple domains of the organization.  Rising the ladder through the learning curve of the organizational layers.  This allowed managers to gain knowledge and experience which could be used to effectively lead and make intelligent decisions.   Today management still rises through the ranks but often they lack the domain knowledge they would have previously gained.  Rapid Technology changes make it difficult for management to have the same depth of knowledge as those they manage.  The pace of change today has created a model where leadership is in stark departure from leadership over the last century.  Traditionally organizational structure evolved as a product starting with the industrial revolution with influence from military modelling.  A command and control model focuses on management making strategic and tactical decisions for their employees to follow without question.  This method worked fairly well in highly controlled production environments which had little variability in their process.   

Peter Drucker ( the father of Management predicted then observed a shift in the early 60's which indicated successful firms were putting more decision in the domain of their employees who work with the product.  Product complexity and efficiency were creating an environment where production lines where much more complicated and variable and couldn’t be supported by command and control.  With the emergence of service based industries it quickly became apparent that traditional management methods were out dated (although this had become equally apparent in manufacturing earlier).  Successful organizations today understand the majority of tacit knowledge with tremendous potential resides in the knowledge worker.  This is the same worker who under earlier models lacked decision making authority and operated as order takers.

 What is the primary role of a leader today then? This question is asked far too infrequently, and when it is asked, the answers are predictable and often wrong. But it is a vital question, as without leadership, empowered employees will never get off the ground. Common replies include setting the vision, establishing priorities, and providing motivation. These are important responsibilities which are out dated.  The essential purpose of a leader is to do one thing: create and empower change. Without a good leader, nothing changes. If a lean program, or any other program for that matter, is failing, it is probably not the fault of the tools. It is failing because of lousy leadership. As you embark on your journey, learn all you can about the concepts, practices, principles, and tools of your choosing. But remember, above all, the goal of these tools is value – and value hinges on leadership who promote and empower that change. 

The knowledge workers need to be in control of achieving and promoting change. Therefore, the leader must convey to the worker that they are the ones who own the processes. Leaders need to empower people to have everything in place in order to perform.  Only when they know and are empowered what to do will they feel accountable and take ownership of the processes. In organizations with traditional leadership behavior, there are frequently policy deployment directions from senior management. The mindset of these leaders is not to involve the people at all. Therefore, people can’t relate to the KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) that cascade down because they can’t understand their contribution or the relevance of the KPIs. People in these companies can’t engage themselves in supporting their senior management in delivering results. Consequently any initiative which does not empower or utilize the input of the employee is more likely to fail. 

Leaders must focus on commitment to endlessly invest in people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  There is no destination for value delivery models, there's only the journey.  As a leader you should never consider your “Lean” or “Agile” program as complete.  Once you make this mistake you start down the path of contentment and will lose focus on empowering continuous change.  If leaders provide a full and continuous investment in their employees then they will in turn see dedication.  All too often when talking to senior management about learning and multi-skilling of employees, they tell us they worry about efficiency.  Learning take times which reduces what can be delivered to the customer.  Therefore, the view is that it is more efficient to have the specialist work on the specialist things (there are times and places for specialists but that’s for another paper). This might make sense from a traditionalist, but from a product-development-as-knowledge-creation perspective, this kind of thinking is plain wrong and even dangerous. Learning is the major value added activity in product development and knowledge transfer. In the long run, reducing learning will only result in loss in market share and a less valuable staff.  Often management use the excuse that they have to assign resources to satisfy the customer first, which leaves them little or no time to make real change. Their bosses find it hard to argue the point (or use it as a convenient excuse themselves). Value based culture requires you to make the time to make the change—long-term planning and results versus short-term results with little planning.

All leaders have the ability to adapt to the new value driven leadership mind-set.  However, not everyone will be capable of doing it without intensive coaching and support from their own leader or experienced external coaches. Even though initially some of these leaders will not feel comfortable in being a leader in this new system, not many of them leave or are forced to leave because, over time, most will understand the value and adapt to the new leadership system.

Not every leader nor every company culture is ready for this change in leadership mindset. Despite this, many companies have implemented value based tools and techniques for years with tremendous success (Toyota, Boeing, GE) . For example using a lean framework, Center for Ledelse interviewed 400+ companies concluding that only 7% had realized more than 80% of their expectation in their Lean program. This only confirms that these companies need to take action now in adapting Lean leadership behaviour and mindset in to their company cultureEvery leader deserves a chance, but remember you will have to fight a lot of scepticism down that road (insert reference). You will likely need to convince the team members by showing them what is in it for them personally. People will change when they realize that their leaders really want to empower them. Leaders need to be consistent in what they ask for. They should not reduce their requirements. They should not change their communication. Consistency it required and we must accept the fact that it takes time sometimes many years for this change to fully reflect in the culture.

Dedication is required of each team member to strive for self-improvement. Commitment is needed for each team member to ensure the values and principles will be followed and the team will hold itself accountable. Courage, because the emotions that empowerment invites,  will be unlike anything the employee has ever professionally experienced.  Avoid non-dedicated team members or “partial allocation.” A team member who is in multiple teams does not have the same commitment and shared responsibility as the other members. Part-time people equate to part-time commitment. Part-time commitment leads to team failure. To the maximum amount possible, all members are 100 percent allocated—fully dedicated to their team. The amount of management waste that disappears is amazing.

What you do from this point forward is exciting.  The possibilities for your firm are endless.  There are many sceptics who think value based programs cannot work for them.  They are right, if they keep that mind-set then it can’t.  There is no doubt the concepts presented in this paper can work for you.  From the world’s largest auto maker to the smallest organization you can make this work.  It can work for you, your vendors and even your customers.  Take the time to explore your leadership potential and realize that anything is possible. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Executing Change in Your Organization. Part 4 on Organizational Change

Part four of this blog series on initiating change in the organization through Future State Mind Mapping and the execution of the change.  This part consists of the actual change, which most people are patiently waiting for.  The secret lies in how you and the project team use the Future State Map to develop this action plan. Remembering that the Future State Map is the blueprint for change is the single focal point for developing a good plan for improvement. Trying to create the perfect plan must not bog down the team. As General George S. Patton so bluntly stated, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan next week.” The logic behind this statement was simple: It really doesn't matter what you plan, or how perfect you may think the plan is; when the plan is put into action, things will change. Therefore, get a good plan in place and move forward to implementation.

We often don’t see or understand the entire process, which includes the complexity hidden behind the scenes, and the interdependencies with other processes and systems. Cross-functional teams using tools such as value stream mapping thus uncover comprehensive problems, where everyone understands the process.  For those reasons we spent a great deal of time preparing to understand the organizational issues and evaluating the value stream. We are now ready to improve value delivery by creating a Future State Value Stream Map (FSVM).

Let me add a caveat to all this work I have defined for you.  This is only scratching the surface of continual improvement.  That's the point of writing these series.  You don't have to know it all to get started.  Having a basic should be enough to get going.  You likely have enough constraints facing your company that these high level suggestions will get you started.  There is much much more to learn though and that's why we call it continuous improvement. The time for strategy is over. Now the process of change can begin. But this does not mean that Value Stream Mapping is complete. Just like all other aspects of continuous improvement, Value Stream Mapping is never finished. As the project work progresses, the team may find that it is necessary to return to the map set and to update and modify both the Future State Map and the action plan.

The future state value stream map is a visual representation of the application of the various Lean tools in the Future State map.

It is created by:
• Arriving at a consensus
• Brainstorming
• Problem solving
• Testing tools for practicality and use
• Resource availability 

The future state value stream map will never be implemented all at once. It is meant to be adopted over a time period (i.e., six to eighteen months). The following icons can be used to create the future state value stream map.

Steve Bell in his book Lean IT comments. "Perhaps the highest accomplishment in Lean is to achieve value stream flow. So here are our simple (but not necessarily easy) guidelines for creating Lean IT flow: Position and evolve each value stream toward your competitive sweet spot; maintain a fluid balance between flexibility and efficiency in every process and practice. Stay light on your feet; keep your focus moving in the direction of competitive advantage as the market and your competitors evolve. Strive for simplicity and stability in every process before investing in electronic information systems: apply people, process, and technology—in that order. Listen to your customers often, and proactively manage demand to support just-in-time operations Flow every process where you can. Keep a simple line of sight (physical or virtual) along the entire length of every value stream and supporting process, so they become self-regulating, leveraging the creativity and problem-solving capability of every participant." Bell, Steven C. (2012-01-04). Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation

We are finally there.  We have mapped our value stream.  What components on our value stream we want fixed.  If this is your first time it's likely that you have a large amount of Non-Value Added activities.  Likely it's below 5% of your total value stream.   Don't worry this is normal.  Most companies run with this VA/NVA ratio.  If you are above 5% then likely you have left parts out or you've been working on this for a while and these blog posts are already achievements you have completed.  In looking at your value stream look for long wait times.   Those long wait times may not be a bottleneck in terms of how much work you can process but can contain a large part of your value stream non-value added activity.  Additionally wait times are the easiest to fix because they involve little process redesign or investments needed.  For example, if you have weekly meetings to plan work or approve components of your value stream then you're likely adding a minimum of 7 days to your total cycle time.  Find a way to reduce meetings to daily standups or eliminate them all together and you've shortened your cycle time by 7 days (Just think if one day's inventory is worth $10,000 then you have eliminated $70,000 of inventory just by eliminating a meeting).  

Along with the list of items you will be working it's a good idea to prioritize the items to prohibit boiling the ocean.  "Mapping the Total Value Stream: A Comprehensive Guide for Production and Transactional Processes" by Mark Nash has a great list which I would recommend for prioritization. 
  • Are fast and easy to complete        
  • Are most visible to the workforce (to demonstrate the power of continuous improvement)        
  • Address the biggest problem to the customer        
  • Address the biggest problem to the supplier        
  • Address the biggest problem to employees within the value stream        
  • Address customer satisfaction issues        
  • Effect biggest ROI        
  • Effect fastest ROI        
  • Facilitate employees' acceptance of change (fastest buy-in)        
  • Pertain to the toughest employees to convince

Regardless of the continuous improvement methodology employed by the organization, Value Stream Mapping lends itself well to the concept of kaizen. Although kaizen is literally translated from Japanese as “good change,” it is more appropriately defined as “rapid, good, continual change.” This concept, which is used in a cultural fashion with many Japanese companies, empowers the work force to immediately stop a functioning value stream at any time when a problem is encountered. All persons required to identify the root cause and a solution are gathered, and the issue is resolved as quickly as possible. Use your whole team to determine what activities or wait times on the value stream you will work on.  Involve as many people as you can in the process.  I'm not suggesting the solution needs to be by consensus but it does go a long way to get as much input from your intellectual capital (employees) as possible.  After all they know the problems all too well because they live in them daily. 

Once the fundamentals of the current value stream map and the future map have been addressed, there is a strong need to ensure that the implementation of improvements is carried out in a structured and methodical fashion. Without someone driving forward the improvements, they are unlikely to happen and the improvements to performance will be negligible. Similar to how you created your mind maps and value stream maps have someone who's watching the value stream and looking for opportunities.  This doesn't mean they are in charge of the value stream.  That role is for everyone within the value stream.  Everyone in charge of improving the value stream is also responsible for it.  

In order to keep track of your progress a lean improvement chart is one method I prefer.  A Lean improvement chart lists each Lean concept that the project team wants to introduce and sustain within the value stream. Each concept is shown with a section devoted to training, implementation, and sustainability. The overall success, as well as that of each component, is measured as “percent complete” on the chart, allowing for the team and the employees in the area to see their progress.

Finally, as progress is observed, the results should be conveyed to management in a format that allows for financial impact to be understood. Because any change that is implemented should ultimately result in improvement to the bottom line, it is critical that metrics provide data to support and substantiate the change. However, when dealing with the financial impact, it may be necessary for accountants and financial analysts to rethink the traditional ways of financial reporting. Implementing change at a fast pace may create a situation where traditional financial reports are misleading. The executive council must understand these potential situations and be prepared to have the financial staff of the organization retrained to think differently and also to strongly support the mapping and project team.

Your success will come from accepting change. Winning comes from a culture that embraces change and pursues perfection.  Setting lofty goals, empowering employees to do the things necessary to accomplish those goals, and accepting the rough spots along the road are the things that set great organizations apart. Success comes from understanding that the road to perfection is a journey of continuous improvement. Making change in small pieces, at a pace in the beginning that is acceptable to both employees and management, is how change starts. As the culture comes to accept change, the speed and amount of change will grow as well. By starting with those things that are easy to change, and by working with the employees accepting or wanting change, success will come.

But you must remember: this is only the beginning. Value Stream Mapping is not a “one and done” tool used at the beginning of the journey, never to be repeated. Value Stream Mapping, just like so many other continuous improvement tools, is to be used from now on. If you quit, it's not continuous improvement. Do not believe those who say: “We've achieved the future state. We're done.” You are never done. When the team, management, or employees within the value stream begin to realize they are close to the Future State Map, it is time to remap. This is the time to remap the Current State Map and create a new vision of the future.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Creating a More Cohesive Lean IT Community

In 2013 I really want the Lean IT community to become more visible.  Along with this visibility there needs to be a better method for sharing best practices and personal stories.  Please join the following pages with me and share as much as you can.

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