About Clarity, Focus, Discipline, and Engagement

This post is inspired by Karen Martin’s (author of Shingo Research Award-winning book, The Outstanding Organization)  interview by Ron Pereira (Gemba Academy). In this interview (https://www.ksmartin.com/videos/the-outstanding-organization-interview/) Karen explains the importance of Clarity, Focus, Discipline, and Engagement. These are the four fundamental behaviors or common patterns in successful organizations, that are strong foundations upon which to build improvement programs up to outstanding organizations.

This interview resonated with me especially because the company I was trying to help at the very moment I heard the interview lacked every one of these four “pillars” and I truly believe this was the cause of all its trouble.

Here is my take on Clarity, Focus, Discipline, and Engagement, piggybacking on the interview. These opinions are mine, they may not reflect Mrs Martin’s opinions.

Clarity

Clarity is first of all about the clarity of purpose, about making it very clear for everybody within the organisation what the organization is supposed to achieve. Why the organization was put in place in the first place and/or what Goal the founders are/were pursuing?

This Goal can be referred to as “True North” in Lean parlance and is called the “Goal” in the Logical Thinking Process. Both are a long-term objective that will turn a Vision into reality.

Once this purpose is clearly communicated, everyone can align his/her actions onto the organization’s Goal. Management is supposed to derive contributing intermediate objectives that make sense to their subordinates, in their daily jobs, while ensuring alignment onto the Goal.

Yet when circumstances require swift decisions, even without management around to give instructions, the clarity of purpose helps subordinates to take consistent decisions with the organization’s Goal.

Clarity is also, according to Karen Martin, about the lingo in the organization. Indeed, many employees use acronyms they are often unable to explain or worse, don’t understand! This makes it tough for any newcomer or temporary help to be at ease with the job, procedures, etc.

It can lead to misunderstandings, errors, interpretation, ambiguity, and slowing a process that could run smoothly if everything was clear.

For knowledge workers or for those that can work from home, without as much guidance and reminders than in a corporate building, clarity about the Goal is also important in order to keep focused.

Focus

With clarity of purpose it is easy* to focus on what really matters. Resources and time can be well used on what is important. Conversely, lacking clarity opens many options to go astray and waste precious and scarce resources on the wrong things. Alas, the latter is more common than the former.

When some people lose their focus, it is easier for themselves, for management or even colleagues to remind the Goal and what to focus on and why, when the Goal has been stated with clarity, communicated, and repeated.

Focus requires also to track progress with KPIs and review the progress regularly in order to correct the deviations.

*Staying focused needs discipline.

Discipline

Discipline is about the ability to stay focused on the objective or to accept being reset onto the right objective. Discipline is also about sticking to the rules, using the defined standards, the official good practices, methods, systems and tools. Without sufficient discipline, chaos finds its way in. Little variations, little bits of ill-used freedom may lead to major problems.

It doesn’t look very harmful to download data from an ERP into a spreadsheet and drive processes from this copy, but at some point data may be so divergent that the situation becomes a mess. A little deviation messed up in unexpected proportions.

How many times manual data inputs do not follow the rules and the dataset is littered with entries that should be in the same format but do not accumulate properly because of scripting variations?

Now some degree of freedom is necessary to adjust to the circumstances as no procedure or work guide can describe every possible case and provide all necessary answers. So discipline is also acting in the interest of the organization while remaining the closest to the rules and standards. The latter should be adjusted with the lessons learned.

I was shocked to hear that some people in an organization, without the position giving them the freedom to act like this, chose themselves to stop reporting or stop attending meetings. I was even more shocked to hear that management did not react to these deviant behaviors. Here the lack of discipline goes both ways, bottom-up and top-down.

Engagement

Engagement is the commitment to work on achieving the organization’s Goal. It is, in my opinion the result of Clarity, Focus and Discipline that provide the necessary framework, with sufficient empowerment to adjust to circumstances plus the feedback and management support to keep motivated.

Many surveys show that disengagement is way more common than engagement. So if we start from disengagement all the way back up, we can assume that disengaged staff doesn’t take it so seriously with discipline, as they don’t care.

If there is no motivation and probably poor discipline, focus is not likely to be kept on what matters. And if focus isn’t kept nor reinforced, it doesn’t matter if the purpose and the Goal have been communicated with clarity.

Employee engagement is key and engagement is something the organization can only facilitate but not order nor buy.

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you

If you check the Internet for this quote, chances are that it will be attributed to Confucius. It’s variations can found in many religions and cultures (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule) and can be easily understood as a basic code of conduct in a relationship based on reciprocal respect.

Now here is an incoming (unsolicited) e-mail from an unknown lady. She’s offering me to give a course in some public sector in-house university. For me the interest is limited, but the mail is very polite.

The proposal does not fit my agenda nor the usage I’d like to do with my very scarce private time, but in order to be polite and acknowledge the opportunity, I will of course answer.

The irony is that immediately after my answer was sent, an automatic mail message came back, explaining that my correspondent wants to shield herself off any unwanted e-mail (spam of course) and therefore, if I wish to overcome the digital blockade, I have to go through a procedure to identify myself.

If I don’t, the time invested in my polite reply will be lost as well as my nice guy reputation.

Hmm, isn’t it ironic that this lady, protecting herself from unsolicited e-mails:

  • doesn’t apply the same rule to herself
  • amplifies (involuntarily I believe) the inconvenience for the people she’s more or less asking a favor from.

So I went through the procedure and invested more time. I then felt this could be shared as a post on my blog and invested much more time.

Thank you lady. If you happen to read this post, please meditate on this maxim: Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you. And check your anti spam policy.

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Katacon Europe 2018

Many months ago I was approached by the European Katacon organizers to help setting up the 2018 conference. Katacon is about kata, the Toyota Kata revealed to the mass by Mike Rother in the book… Toyota Kata. It’s about patterns of thinking and behaviour to improve and solve problems.

I modestly offered my website, blogs and networks as sounding boards to the event, not able to do much more. Now time has come to advertise the coming event!

Katacon Europe 2018, where and when?

Amsterdam will be the location, more specifically B. Amsterdam, a creative work space bridging startups, creatives, and corporates. (http://b-buildingbusiness.com/amsterdam/)  located Johan Huizingalaan 763a, 1066 VH Amsterdam.

The date is April 18 & 19, 2018 with a preconference afternoon and a Kata geek meeting for early comers to network.

The program is detailed here: http://www.katacon2018.eu/day1.php

What’s offered to participants?

If you go through the program, you’ll see that DAY ONE, besides welcoming and opening speech has 4 mini keynotes on Improvement Kata, before participants spread into study visits or workshops of their choice. Everybody meets again for the networking diner at 19:00 (7 pm).

DAY TWO starts with plenary sessions: reflection from day one, Finding new ways to learn and a testimony about Toyota senseis’ mentoring and comparing Kata with a professional sports coach. By 11:00 it will be time to breakout into various sessions to select (chose twice 1 in 5)  and plenary sessions will resume from 15:30-17:00.

Registration: http://www.katacon2018.eu/registration.php

I hope you’ll find a lot of value and have fun!

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Quick look back to 2017

The first days of every new are usually the time to reflect about the past twelve months and make plans for the next twelve to come. As I write this post, 2018 is already 13 days old but probably not too late to look back to 2017 blog-wise.

This blog went online in January 2014. Tada! 4th anniversary!

In these 4 years, the blog accumulated 401 post, was visited by 110,132 visitors / 197,589 views. 142 visitors found worth enough to click the follow button. Thanks to them all.

This is all organic.

Twitter and LinkedIn are my best sounding boards, with reblogging from or embedding in other blogs.

In 2017, I found time to write and publish 53 posts. Roughly one per week.

Besides this blog I try to feed my French website, my latest French Blog and my YouTube channel. All this mostly during the weekends when the family members still sleep or don’t care about me… Some of my posts were written during traveling, or while walking and dictating to my smart phone.

What blogging plans for 2018? Try to post regularly, try to share value, have fun.

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Are the 5S the first steps to SMED?

This is a classical debate among Lean newbees and even among specialists: are the 5S the first steps to SMED or not? As so often there is more than just a binary choice.

Yes, 5S are the first steps to SMED

Let’s start with the pros. The 5S are a good way to restore basic conditions enabling efficient and safe work in a “legible” environment, where the clutter is taken away and everything is made simpler and visual.

5S do not only get rid of the clutter but require to fix broken equipment, replace worn out tools, overhaul machinery… 5S define rules for sharing common hand tools, locate items, make the current condition immediately visible and from far away.

The very example of this is the shadow board outlining the tool’s shapes. When a tool is missing or hung on the bad location, it can be spotted from a distance, saving the walking to the board to discover the needed tool is not available or out-of-order.

This works with document files, with the famous slant line across the file’s back. Any missing or ill-positioned file breaks the line.

5S will save a lot of time searching for tools, fixtures, documents and avoid mismatching the different versions. 5S rules are defined by the area workers themselves. They are regarded as Subject Matter Experts and the decision of how work environment should look like is delegated to them. With some limits though; 5S rules can never trump safety and health regulation rules, for example.

5S are especially recommended when trying to reduce the changeover duration with SMED.

When trying to reduce all wasted time when changing from one production batch to the next or from one production series to the next, searching for tools, jigs, fixtures, documents, parts, material, etc. is no option.

Prior good 5S help a lot smoothing the changeover operations and significantly reduce the waste of time.

5S are easy in appearance, but hard to sustain. Therefore I respectfully consider them as a school of rigor and discipline. If an organization is not capable to bring its operations and supporting departments to a high level of 5S maturity and sustain it, chances are that introducing more demanding and more complex tools and methods will fail.

That’s why I agree, 5S are the first steps to SMED.

No, 5S are NOT ALWAYS the first steps to SMED

When an organization is in the “burning platform” state, meaning quick action is required to fix a major problem, restore customer service, or bring back a decent performance level, starting with a 5S program deployment is probably not the best option. This would look like arranging the chairs on the sinking Titanic, or in plain language: diverting precious time and resources focusing on the wrong objectives.

It might surprise newcomers to SMED, but two specialists having opposite opinions about starting a SMED program with or without 5S might be both right. The good choice is simply condition-related.

If more productive capacity is direly and urgently needed, 5S is not the best option to start with. “You don’t ask people to tidy up their workspace!” as one once angrily argued. And he’s right, but he didn’t consider other conditions than the ones he was familiar to.

If the main objective is to let operators learn about the Lean basics and hone their waste-spotting capabilities, 5S would be a good pick for a starter. It brings people to gradually understand the importance of rigor and discipline as well as to continuously improve the work environment and work execution itself.


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