Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Effectiveness, value then efficiency

December 10, 2013

All of us have a responsibility for achieving more with less. To be more efficient, we experiment to see what works for customers, what nearly works and what does not work.

Organizations should start by studying themselves as systems. Once their leaders understand how their system helps employees to fulfill their mission or not, they think and work differently. They start their efficiency improvement cycles by developing their management system to drive their processes through the walls of silos to focus on customers. Then they can focus on improving the system to deliver what customers value.

Given an environment that supports such thinking, together with our colleagues, we start the experiment by studying customer demand, what customers’ value and waste. We may then set ourselves a hypothesis to test the best way to satisfy value demand and reduce failure demand. We carefully work to our new or updated procedure to see if it is effective. We try again until successful. We institutionalize the successful new process so others in the system can depend on it. This also enables us to improve efficiency further with another cycle of improvement.

Improvement often starts by eliminating the local causes of problems from a process. Perhaps by mistake-proofing the riskiest processes too. But, after several improvement cycles, we find the wider system has the greatest impact, both adverse and beneficial, on our process. System-wide impacts come from other processes in the system. These impacts include the shared organizational beliefs (or culture) that leaders reinforce or weaken with their processes.

When the continual improvement cycle is effective it continues to make the system and its processes more efficient. The speed of this investment should be a result of the calculation of risk and reward on behalf of investors who share the mission for customer value. The management system should deliver the information needed for these risk-reward decisions from the data collected on what customers’ value.

Conformity is necessary for effectiveness and predictable effectiveness is necessary for delivering value and improving efficiency. Predictable outcomes are a mark of effective processes and systems. “Luck” best describes an organization happening to fulfill a requirement with an unknown process or system.

Start by understanding your organization as a system. How does it help your organization to fulfill your mission? What are the leadership processes? Be prepared to think and work differently. Start your efficiency improvement cycles by developing your management system so it is process-based leaving no silos. Then focus on improving your system and its processes to deliver what your current and future customers value.

What level of human error is acceptable?

September 17, 2013

Even competent humans make mistakes. Mistakes may not result in failures to meet requirements. Some systems evolve to become tolerant of mistakes or some organizations employ their management systems to prevent nonconformity.

The only bad nonconformity it the one we do not know about.

Understanding this fact is the key for leaders and their managers being careful not to create a culture that hides nonconformity.

Even so it is common for managers to demand no mistakes and to react badly to errors.

Leading organizations provide employees with management systems that help them to understand and fulfill the requirements. And servant leaders provide a management system to help their employees to eliminate the causes of nonconformity. They do this gradually, according to the 80:20 (or 50:4) rule, so they always start with the vital few nonconformities that cost the most.

Zero Defects (zero nonconformity actually) has to come with humble managers who take responsibility for their management system causing the nonconformity. Care and respect remain to most powerful parts of such management systems. It should not require courage for employees to talk about problems in doing the right work right.

These organizations welcome nonconformity reports to show where the management system needs further improvement to prevent failures to fulfill requirements. They know the only bad nonconformity is the one that remains hidden.

Serving the People to Lead the Organization

May 26, 2013

Live and work to serve the people. This is the vital but rarely mentioned part of any effective management system. Servant leaders live and work this way. They foster a community that shares commitment to the needs of others. Indeed, servant leaders are selfless. They put themselves last. They put first the interests of the community, so their organization can make a positive difference. Next, they put the well-being and interests of the people who rely on them. Last, and last all the time, they consider their own interests.

What are the other attributes of the leaders who serve to lead?

Servant leaders understand the power of their organization as a system. They take responsibility for their system. They ensure their organizational management system is responsive to the needs of stakeholders. They consider the needs of employees, customers, suppliers, owners and others affected by the organization. A servant leader does not blame others for the poor performance of their system. They make followers less fearful of speaking up; however unpopular the truth may be.

Servant leaders ensure departments collaborate effectively. Their management system is cross-functional or process-based. Such systems enable organizational learning of future opportunities. Such systems also reduce the associated adverse risks. Servant leaders persuade, monitor and coach users to show respect for the requirements. They also show their respect for the organizational management system. They ensure it is improved and changed as necessary to enable the organization to improve its performance for stakeholders.

Servant leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. They understand that their team members have innate strengths and weaknesses too. They ensure process teams blend the different strengths of individuals for shared success. They nurture the personal, professional and spiritual growth of individual team members so individuals can make the best use of their talents.

Servant leaders are able communicators. Their systems gather data. After data analysis, information helps with effective decisions. Servant leaders actively listen and encourage active listening by decision-makers. Servant leaders also observe and seek to understand the needs of any silent stakeholders.

Servant leaders see beyond the limits of their organization with respect for customer needs and the needs of other stakeholders. Servant leaders focus on long-term organizational change. They develop future leaders so their organization continues to enable success for the stakeholders.

Servant leaders exemplify, align and share the behaviors, ethics and values of their organization. Their inspirational organizational culture creates and sustains a healthy work environment. It is integral to the holistic management system that is conducive to quality in everything the organization does.

Justifiably Confident Leaders

July 27, 2012

Quality, it can be said, is about making and keeping competitive promises that result in more successful stakeholders. Indeed, this is the basis for quality coming from individuals, processes and organizations that meet requirements.

Never question the commitment of senior managers; only their ability to show their commitment to requirements by what they say and do. Recognize that they can feel uncertain, embarrassed or powerless talking about quality leading to actions that may send the opposite message to that intended.

Leaders tend to avoid talking about quality, or showing their commitment to requirements, unless:

A. They agree on what exactly quality means to them and those who rely on them;
B. They have the means to manage quality proactively with their process-based organizational management system; and
C. They know how their organization works as a system to deliver quality.

Once you have A, B and C in place then run an awareness leaders workshop for them. Do not proceed with the workshop unless all three aspects are in place. For example, take action to deliver B if the management system attempts to deliver quality by overreliance on product inspection.

This workshop enables the leaders to develop their message and prepare to explain how their management system brings obligations and benefits as it helps employees and suppliers to determine and meet requirements.

Once suitably equipped and prepared as recommended above, the leaders should feel confident enough to visibly demonstrate their commitment to quality and remove causes of doubt and fear every day of the week.

Before this the leaders will remain unsure about quality and their organization’s ability to keep its promises.

A Quality Manager asks for managers who will listen

February 1, 2011

Replacing the leaders, managers and quality manager with people who have the preferred attributes or personality traits suggests they are all incompetent!

We are unlikely to solve the problem of managers not wanting to help the quality manager by replacing everyone.

Perhaps the message is wrong.

Too many leaders of the “we know best department” alienate other fellow managers instead of being seen as person providing the really useful management system.

I am talking about the system that actually runs the organization not the quality system documented to obtain certification.

Too many quality managers by their words and deeds take the responsibility for quality away from their colleagues. Everyone then thinks the quality manager is responsible for quality!

Change the message so everyone appreciates the role of the quality manager is to advise on how best to optimize the organization as a system delivering quality.

The management system is designed and run to help everyone to determine and fulfill requirements. The management system then enables its users to add value faster and prevent loss sooner while providing confidence to leaders, managers and customers that requirements will be fulfilled.

Failures to prevent nonconformity are blamed not on the employees but on the system so it is optimized by repeated cycles of corrective action.

The quality or system manager can achieve more success initially if she or he stops talking about quality and talks about requirements instead.

Perhaps the unifying message for the leader is:

“We work together to create more successful customers by converting their needs into cash in the bank without delay. We invest some of the cash and our time to better understand and optimize our organization as a system. If our system is not helping you and your colleagues to achieve this then please bring the problem to our System Manager”.

Please note the universal nature of quality when it is translated into the language of system and requirements.

What manager can argue with the need to use and optimize their system to understand customer needs, design services to fulfill those needs, maintain standards, eliminate waste and use money efficiently to fulfill those needs?

Everyone sharing the same understanding and enthusiam for quality (as our favorite company) may follow as the organization matures.

Getting the system right

June 3, 2010


One team requires people working together as a lean, global enterprise for automotive leadership as measured by: Customer, Employee, Dealer, Investor, Supplier, Union/Council and Community Satisfaction.

One plan requires:

Aggressively restructuring to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix

Accelerating development of new products our customers want and value

Working together effectively as one team (matrix organization of functions serving business units).

The goal is an exciting and viable Ford delivering profitable growth for all.


Foster Functional and Technical Excellence:
o Know and have a passion for our business and our customers.
o Demonstrate and build functional and technical excellence.
o Ensure process discipline.
o Have a continuous improvement philosophy and practice.

Own Working Together:
o Believe in skilled and motivated people working together.
o Include everyone; respect, listen to, help and appreciate others.
o Build strong relationships; be a team player; develop ourselves and others.
o Communicate clearly, concisely and candidly.

Role Model Ford Values:
o Show initiative, courage, integrity and good corporate citizenship.
o Improve quality, safety and sustainability.
o Have a can do, find a way attitude and emotional resilience.
o Enjoy the journey and each other; have fun – never at others’ expense.

Deliver Results:
o Deal positively with our business realities; develop compelling and comprehensive plans, while keeping an enterprise view.
o Set high expectations and inspire others.
o Make sound decisions using facts and data.
o Hold ourselves and others responsible and accountable for delivering results and satisfying our customers.

Mike Mulally carries copies of this, his shared plan and policy for changing and leading Ford. A company not owned by taxpayers.

Some systems are overly dependent on auditors

March 12, 2010

The management system should be helping its users to do good work. System auditors evaluate evidence and report how well the system is fulfilling its objectives (effectiveness) and other audit criteria.

Auditor questions and the ensuing discussions quite often enable the auditees to determine where the system needs to be improved before the auditor has to declare the ineffectiveness or other nonconformity.

Improvements should first flow from planning and monitoring by operators, their supervisors and managers. Auditors, therefore are at least the fourth entity to look at process effectiveness and perhaps among the first (behind the project manager?) to bring a system view to the project and its processes.

In a mature system no more that 20% of the improvement actions should come from audit.

Systems that depend on their auditors for improvement are dysfunctional. Trouble is too many auditors just issue the oft too common OFI (opportunity for improvement) and do not investigate the reasons for the users not being informed by their system of the need to improve their system. Instead, the system weakness (failure to inform its users of needed improvements) remains in the system.

How do auditors avoid propping up a weak system that depends on them?

Leaders earning trust

December 22, 2009

Increasing the capacity of a system without using the additional capacity is a waste.

Everyday, leaders must show their commitment to keep the system in balance from end-to-end and with customer demand.

For example, making manufacturing more efficient without making product design, marketing and selling more efficient will not increase throughput and could reduce livelihoods in manufacturing.

Imagine developing a workforce with the competence and determination to manage change of their system for their customers and themselves.

Those who add value to data, information, people and/or materials (by something called work) must first believe and trust their leaders.

Trouble is most leaders do not even think system, let alone talk and act system.