4 reasons to consider SMED

SMED is a structured approach to reducing changeover durations. Here are 4 good reasons to consider deploying SMED.

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1. More production capacity is required

A critical resource of the production process is not able to deliver the expected quantity, due to lack of capacity. Such a resource is usually called a bottleneck, and chances are that a quick analysis will show that changeover durations are one of the major factors of capacity wastage.

Rather than reducing the number of changes and extending the series, it’s better to work on reducing the duration of changeovers from one series to the next in order to recover wasted capacity.

In many cases the gains through the application of the SMED method are sufficient to recover the lacking capacity. If it’s not the case, it is then necessary to check the distribution of the causes of capacity wastage (via a Pareto diagram, for example). Machine downtime due to breakdowns or quality issues discarding a part of the production may be additional themes to deal with.

2. More flexibility is required

When production capacity is sufficient but there is a need to better stick to the demand, this can be achieved by changing the productions more frequently.

Indeed, for a customer waiting for a given product, the waiting time is function of the length of the queue of orders to process before launching the production of the expected product, the lead time of the production process itself, and finally the shipment process.

The reduction of the batch sizes and the multiplication of launches help reducing the global lead time. For this solution to be viable, however, it is necessary that the multiplication of changeovers does not cause the production capacity to fall below the required level, otherwise we find ourselves in the previous case.

To prevent this risk, the duration of the changes can be reduced by applying the SMED method and converting the time gained into additional changeovers.

3. More machine availability is required

In this third case there is no shortage of production capacity nor lack of flexibility but what is lacking is time during which a machine is available for periodic maintenance operations, or for processing exceptional additional orders.

In this case also the reduction of the duration of changeovers may be a solution to consider. The recovered machine availability may then be used as needed.

4. Freeing time of experts

This case is rare, but may arise, especially in environments that are strongly constrained by standards or regulations and in which changeovers require the assistance of personnel with special qualification and/or authorization. In these cases it is no longer the capacity or the availability of the production means which is limited but those of these “experts”.

They may be required simultaneously for different changeovers and their limited availability may adversely affect the overall performance of production, with some machines, equipment or lines waiting.

Take care of adjustments and tests too

The term “changeover” is sometimes interpreted as the change of dies, or the change of settings only. A changeover should include the clearance of everything related to the completed series and the resuming of production with the new series, new reference or new batch, at nominal speed. This means that all required adjustments and tests have been performed and their durations have been counted as part of the changeover.

Excluding these durations in order to pretend to change over quickly may leave them out of the scope of improvements, which is a loss of improvement opportunity and only a partial application of SMED.
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Smart Factories: Converting workers into problem solvers?

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

Smart factories, industry 4.0, IIoT and everything else covered by the digital transformation umbrella raises fear about the future of human jobs, or to be more specific, the income source of employees.

To my surprise some promoters of these factories of the future have a ridiculously simple solution: convert the actual workers into process supervisors and problem solvers, without questioning the paradox of the need for supervisors and problem solvers when processes will be – allegedly – way more reliable, constant, repeatable and even self improving.

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Even so the assumption of required supervisors and problem solvers is valid, I do believe that the number of freed workers through automation, robotics, etc. will exceed the number of required supervisors and problem solvers.

If it would not be the case, it is the benefits of the promoted solutions that are questionable. Especially if many more problems solvers are required, it should raise concerns.

Besides, as I am not impressed by most of the actual, traditional manufacturing problem solvers’ capabilities and achievements, I cannot believe they will do much better with technologies requiring even keener knowledge.

Am I wrong?

Am I the only one perplexed by this “solution” for converting the redundant people?

Your thoughts are welcome.

Why you cannot use tentative language in a logic tree

I once happen to see a Current Reality Tree cluttered with “coulds” and “shoulds”. Conditional or tentative language cannot be used with logic trees and here is why.

Cause-and-effect (sufficiency logic)

The Logical Thinking Process logic trees use either sufficiency or necessity logic. Sufficiency or cause-and-effect relationship states that a cause, if it exists, is sufficient by itself for the effect to happen. Using conditionals like should or could violates the sufficiency principle as it suggests that the cause is not always producing the effect.

The Current Reality Tree (CRT), Future Reality Tree (FRT) and Transition Tree (TT) are built on sufficiency logic and therefore cannot hold any entity with shoulds or coulds.

If a should or could is found in such a tree, the scrutinizer must raise a “cause insufficiency reservation“. The statement must then be corrected, for example by adding one or more additional cause(s) combining to the first one with a logical AND connector. If this combination is valid, the sufficiency relationship is restored and should or could is removed as the effect is now guaranteed to happen.

If no additional causes can combine to the first one, the cause-and-effect relationship is probably only assumed or false. Anyway no should or could can be left in a logically sound tree.

Using present tense

The entities – the building blocks of the logic trees holding the statements – must be expressed in present tense.

Using present tense is natural in a Current Reality Tree (CRT) as it is the description of the actual situation, the cause-and-effects relationships that exist right now.

The use of present tense in Future Reality Trees (FRT) is highly recommended even so these future situations and the Desirable Effects do not yet exist. Present tense helps to project oneself and the audience into the future and visualize the situation as it were already improved (Scheinkopf, “Thinking for a change, putting the TOC Thinking Processes to use”, p119). Dettmer also recommends to use positive wording (Dettmer, The Logical Thinking Process, p244).

This applies to entities in a CRT, a FRT and in a Prerequisite Tree (PRT) which are verbalized in full sentences.

What about necessity-based logic?

Can necessity logic based tree use conditional/ tentative language?

The Goal Tree (GT), the Evaporating Cloud (EC) and Prerequisite Tree (PRT) are built on necessity logic. They describe the chains of enabling conditions that are required to achieve a goal or an objective. Without the enabling conditions, the objective cannot be attained. Conversely, with the enabling, necessary conditions fulfilled, the objective will not automatically be achieved; additional action is required.

As the Desired Effect is not guaranteed to happen even so all necessary conditions are fulfilled, the use of conditional / tentative language seems legit. Practitioners would not use it though.

First because we need to demonstrate positivity about a desirable change and help the audience to mentally visualize the future where things happen and produce the desired outcome.

Second because we need to give confidence and demonstrate our own trust in the proposed solution. No audience would be thrilled hearing that this solution “may”, “should” or “could” produce the desired result. No decision maker would give his/her go for a change program or a solution implementation which is not certain to produce the expected result.

The use of conditional / tentative language would only raise concern about the feasibility of the proposed solution and appear as a lack of confidence of its promoters.

Wrapping up

Tentative language is recommended in academic writing, not at all with logic trees.

Using tentative language is recommended in academic writing and scientific research in order to leave room for alternatives, later corrections, etc. unless there is solid evidence backing up a statement. Therefore the use of verbs like “appear, suggest, indicate,…”, modals “may, might, can, could, will, would” and adverbs like “possibly, probably, likely…” are recommended.

But when building or presenting logic trees, absolute certainty is required in order to demonstrate robustness of the analysis and the confidence in the conclusions. If a logic tree is built on the canonical logic rules (we’ll consider the use of present tense as a canonical logic rule), has been scrutinized and cleared of all reservations, it is robust and tentative language is no option.


The author, Chris HOHMANN

The author, Chris HOHMANN

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The Logical Thinking Process – An Executive Summary (Book)

Bill Dettmer, my friend and mentor often cited on this blog, wrote his 9th book “The Logical Thinking Process – An Executive Summary” that is now in the final stages of the publishing process.

This book will be much smaller in size and number of pages than the famous “The Logical Thinking Process: A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving”. The latter is a 413 pages, 17,1 x 3,2 x 24,1 cm (6.8 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches) hardcover book. Bill Dettmer’s students use to call it “The Bible”. It is a complete step-by-step guide, easy to read and understand, but not everybody can invest the time required to read it just to get a primer on the Logical Thinking Process.

That’s where the “Executive Summary” comes in handy. Bill himself stated: “Over the years, I’ve found myself having to explain what the Logical Thinking Process is in 30 seconds or so to people who have never heard of it – or know nothing about it if they have. I came to the conclusion that while the LTP is difficult, if not impossible, to encapsulate in an “elevator speech,” it might be somewhat easier to do in a pocket-sized book.

I was fortunate to be selected by Bill as a kind of sounding board and proofreader, even so Bill did so more out of kindness than necessity, and had a privileged first reading. The book will serve its purpose, I think it can be read during a short business trip on a plane or a train. The final copy should be less than 100 pages.

As soon as I’ll get a copy, I will complete this post with an extended review of the book.

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The downsides of customer satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction is the holy grail every company is looking for. In the desperate search to please their customers they multiply polls and inquiries in order to get the important insights first hand. Doing so, they overlook a possible serious “negative branch” * bothering the customers they so desperately want to please.

*a negative branch is an unexpected negative effect  or series of effects triggered by an action or decision. You may want to learn more about What is Negative Branch Reservation?

You have probably experienced this a number of times. As soon as you interacted or bought something from a company, a customer satisfaction questionnaire shows up.

I recently spent a night in a hotel affiliated to a hotel group. The very next day I got two e-mails, the first advertising the members program the second to get my opinion about my stay. I happen to speak to the hotel manager and owner directly, and share my (positive) opinion about his hotel and the nearby restaurant. My direct feedback with specific examples is probably more profitable for the owner than adding my answers to the standardized corporate statistical analytics.

These customer satisfaction inquiries, even so I perfectly know their purpose and importance, they are a bit too numerous and sometimes somewhat too aggressive.

There was this purchase on-line for which I got an invitation to assess the website friendliness right after, and the list goes on.

I happen to change the tires of my (so-called “premium brand”) car before winter and have them exchanged again beginning of spring. Before I even left the garage, I had an e-mail on my smartphone inviting me to assess the service. Of course, the very same inquiry came in a few months later when tires were changed again.

Sure, it is important to insure consistency, thus to regular check of the ongoing customer satisfaction, but do people planning these inquiries imagine how, passed a certain number of such “invitations” they s*ck?

It is nothing new as my check on my favorite internet search engine confirmed. Despite the evidence most of these surveys are just an annoyance, they keep arriving.

This post is useless, but is my way to get rid of the bad temper.

Now, if you’d be so kind and answer my survey…


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30 elements of value, entrepreneur’s food for thoughts

What is value? What is a customer willing to pay? Since Lean Thinking and Lean principles are around, many organizations strive to bring more value to the customer. But apart from reducing costs what levers do they have to bring more value to theirs customers?

The article titled “The Elements of Value” published in the HBR september 2016 issue by Eric Almquist, John Senior and Nicolas Bloch, brings no less than 30 answers to these questions.

I strongly recommend to read the article. The online issue can be read here: https://hbr.org/2016/09/the-elements-of-value

In this post I summarize the very minimum about the 30 elements of value and share some of my thoughts about them.

30 elements of value

The authors, all three working for Bain & Company’s, have identified 30 “elements of value”, which are “fundamental attributes in their most essential and discrete forms”, that meet fundamental human needs. They classified these 30 elements into 4 categories stacked on a Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” inspired pyramid to organize the elements of value according to their relative “power”:

  • functional,
  • emotional,
  • life changing,
  • social impact.

VALUEPYRAMID-1200x1651

Similarly to the popular assumption that (in Maslow’s model) people cannot attain the needs at the top until they have met the ones below, to be able to deliver on higher-order elements, a company must provide at least some of the functional elements required by a particular product category. But many combinations of elements exist in successful products and services today.

A comprehensive cheat sheet for entrepreneurs

I really liked the way the authors presented their findings and I thought this is a nice comprehensive cheat sheet for entrepreneurs, startupers, managers, and for everyone seeking to enrich their value proposition.

What can I do to relieve the pain of my customer? How to bring her some gain? How can I extend our offering? Have a look on the 30 elements and check if the answer to these questions isn’t among them.

The HBR article gives some examples among which Amazon prime. It describes how the service went from its initial shipping offering for $79 annual fee to an extended offer at $99 within 10 years, while conquering significant market share of the U.S. retail market.

I think the 30 elements may find their way into the graphic toolbox started by Strategizer with the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas, as a checklist, a cheat sheet, or seeds for creative brainstorming.

Entrepreneurship is not only for the startupers. Those wanting to reinvent or reinvigorate their business, those who want to keep competitors at a distance or those worrying about a possible business disruption may wisely invest some of their time reflecting on the 30 elements of value as well.


There is probably more value in the article than what I report here. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Management attention as a constraint – Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I introduced management attention as a constraint. This second post goes on with more reasons why management fail to pay the necessary attention to the factor limiting the whole system’s performance.

Unaware or wrong about the constraint

Management attention might be on the wrong things because manager are unaware of or are wrong about the system’s constraint.

Spotting the real constraint of a system can be tricky, see my series of posts about this topic: How to identify the constraint of a system?

Not able to identify the constraint

Many managers are unaware about the system’s constraint, in other words: what really limits the system performance. Despite the number of people pretending to have basic understanding of Theory of Constraints, few really have enough understanding to spot the real constraint and to manage it as it should. Instead, many of them are still stuck in older paradigms, seeking the maximum output at every process step and trying to minimize unit costs.

True Theory of Constraints-aware people know that this approach is bound to fail as the global optimum cannot be the sum of local optima. Local objectives will simply compete against each other at the expense of the overall performance.

Unaware of the true limiting factor, management simply cannot focus on what matters.

Identifying the wrong constraint

It is common to mismatch bottlenecks and constraints and also common to wrongly identify a resource or a process as a constraint when it is not. When management identifies the wrong constraint, its attention is focused on the wrong spot and the decisions made won’t help the overall performance.

From a Theory of Constraints perspective, management attention is therefore a constraint itself because it does not focus on the right spot, the real constraint.

Lack of focus

As we have seen in part 1 of this series, lack of focus can come from lack of clarity about the Goal, lax attitude or mismatching the constraint. It can also come from lack of self-discipline or a personal difficulty to keep focused on something for a longer period of time.

Another possible cause is the overwhelming number of things managers must take care of. Their attention is required by so many things that they will task switch (notice I didn’t write multitask), losing their focus to a new problem as soon as it pops up.

Manager’s time is a scarce resource so it must be used wisely. Therefore, managers themselves must know what to focus on and, maybe more important is to understand what’s NOT to spend time on.

Especially in an industrial environment opportunities for improvement are literally endless. It’s very easy to start project on something that looks good and promising but doesn’t benefit the system as a whole.

Therefore it’s very important for management to refrain giving attention to everything and discriminate what will benefit the system and what is just a local improvement.

From a Theory of Constraints perspective, If making more goal-units (often money) is your goal, throughput is your obsession. And if throughput is your obsession, you’ll have literally to sit on the constraint and make the most out of it. Keep focused!

Not enough feedback

Senior management and middle management may be well aware about the organization’s Goal and the system constraint, but do not pay enough attention to give feedback to the teams lower in the organisation. Without clear guidance, those teams can go astray without even noticing, burning up precious and scarce resources working on the wrong subjects. This is a variant of lack of management’s direction and lack of management focus, described in part 1 of this series.

Lack of management support

Subordinates may be willing to work on the right thing but for some reason need management support they can’t get. Management then turns out to be the blocking point, thus the constraint.

There are some legit cases for which subordinates cannot act without management support, but if subordinates are too dependent upon management, there is something wrong.

Many organizations don’t use the principle of subsidiarity, which means delegating action to the lowest possible level. Some managers love to be asked over and over for help and support, but keeping subordinates in this dependency is not a good investment for the future. The flattered managers, making themselves indispensable, are in reality trapped as they have to continuously backup their teams.

Managers should develop their teams to be more autonomous so that they can focus on manager’s tasks, like taking care of the system’s constraint and not turn themselves into one!

Lack of management commitment

Some managers do not buy-in the objectives, the strategy or the organization’s Goal. This may be the case after a merger and acquisition, when a new vision is set by the acquirer, for example. Those managers stay with the new structure to collect their paycheck but pay only lip service to the job to be done. Lack of commitment creates lack of focus and probably a lax attitude.

I’ve met such kind of middle managers in charge of a critical process or constrained resources that didn’t give a dime managing it properly, even after in-depth explanation of its importance for the whole organization. Needless to say that their future wasn’t as comfortable as their past from this point.

Distracted managers

Managers may be attracted (distracted would be more appropriate) by some project or endeavour they like but without connection to the system performance as a whole. Especially nowadays with the hype of the concepts like factory of the future, the industrial internet and the like, it’s very easy to get allured by some new technology and behave like a big child in front of brand new toys.

While dreaming about their new “toys”, the distracted managers don’t take care about the actual critical resources that limit the system throughput.


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About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Management attention as a constraint – Part 1

A system’s constraint, the limiting factor that is an obstacle to getting more Goal units* from the system, can be pretty difficult to identify (hence the success of my post on the topic: How to identify a constraint?!).

*”Goal units” can be money, profit, services to citizens, number of patients treated, free meals served, or whatever the organization delivers to achieve its Goal.

The Theory of Constraints community discusses the management attention as a constraint for a long time now and Goldratt himself called management attention the ultimate constraint (the one remaining when all others have been elevated). My own experience convinced me that management attention can indeed be a constraint for the whole system, from the beginning.

Misaligned organization

Striving to achieve the organization’s Goal is management’s sacred mission and it is management’s duty to align the efforts of their subordinates to achieve that objective. Lean Management uses the “True North” metaphor and Hoshin Kanri or Policy Deployment to achieve it. The Logical Thinking Process calls it the Goal and have the Goal Tree as a roadmap and benchmark. Both approaches and their tool sets can be combined.

Now too often management does not clearly communicate about the Goal neither ensure their staff’s energy and initiatives are well oriented towards achieving the Goal.

Surprisingly, some senior managers are not clear among themselves what the organization’s Goal is. Bill Dettmer published a paper on such an experience with a crowd of executives and almost as many Goals as people! The paper is downloadable at http://www.goalsys.com/books/documents/WhatisOurGoal-v5_000.pdf

Management’s attention is on something else, but not on the main objective.

When this happens, scarce resources are often wasted for meaningless purposes, on the wrong things. The longer this goes on, the stronger the evidence that management attention isn’t focused, for whatever reasons, on what really matters.

Chances are that middle managers lacking a clear stated and often reminded Goal define their own objectives for the need of guidance.

Self defined objectives

When subordinates define their own objectives because they have no “True North” to align their own and/or their staff’s work, they may define these objectives to fit their own purpose, their own views or to optimize their department’s performance. Doing so, the probability is high that the self defined objectives will be in conflict with another department’s objectives and at the expenses of the overall organization performance.

Myths and false assumptions

Lack of clear communication about the Goal and lax management may let myths and false assumptions flourish. Most often, myths and false assumptions are the result of lack of clarity, misunderstanding or overinterpretation of some “strategic intent” or senior management statements.

Management attention must foremost be on clarity of purpose, second on the alignment of all actions towards achieving the Goal. With constant attention and frequent repetition about the Goal and checking the progress towards it, deviations as well as false assumptions and misunderstandings can be detected and corrected.

Lax management

Many people have been promoted to management positions even so they lacked the necessary soft skills. Some because it was a reward for past dedication and good job, others because they were technically good and the assumption was they would also be good at managing others. The latter often does not happen.

Unfit for their position, uneasy especially when taking command over former colleagues, lacking the charisma and know-how, many hide themselves behind computers screens or in meetings and shun contact with their subordinates. Management attention is purposely not on what matters because of a form of cowardice, or to put it softer, because of uneasiness.

In order to keep social peace, middle management (at least in France) often tries to avoid frontal assault against deviant behaviors, absenteeism, poor performance and sub-standard achievement.

The situation is often paradoxical between the pressure from above to achieve the objectives and at the same time the strong recommendation not to mess up with work force to avoid social unrest, that middle management is torn between conflicting objectives.

This probably led to management positions popularity to sink to an abyssal low. The younger generations don’t want management jobs anymore.

Additionally, the new generations and their ways of teaming up, networking and work around obstacles. They have no interest in traditional management. They don’t want that kind of job and do not pay the same respect to rank like previous generations did. For them and growing part of the workforce, leadership is more important than status.

All this lead many middle managers to compromise and get lax in their management or give it up for good. Management positions are now harder to man as this kind of job lost much consideration.

Therefore, even if those managers know well about the Goal they should work to achieve, their ability or personal lax attitude does not transmit the necessary energy or inputs to their teams.

Next: Management attention as a constraint – Part 2

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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Goal Tree Chronicles – Coloring the Goal Tree

The 3-colors system is a well accepted assessment and visual management tool by Goal Tree builders and users. The principle is simple as it uses the traditional Red-Amber-Green color code to indicate the status of each entity in the Tree.

In a Goal Tree, Necessary Conditions are enablers to the above entity. As soon as enablers are not in place or “unstable”, the outcome they should enable cannot be considered as in place, delivering or achieved.

In this post, I detail how to color a Goal Tree.

How to color a Goal Tree?

Start at the bottom, with the very basic Necessary Conditions. Have the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) assess each Necessary Condition for its status. As soon as a basic Necessary Condition, which is a requirement or prerequisite to the above entity to exist, is Amber or Red, the above entity can only be Amber or Red. The color, symbol for the status, propagates upwards like in a line of dominos when the falling one pushes the next.

Goal Tree

Reminder: in “my” 3 color system, green stands for granted, constantly available, steady… Amber means unstable, not totally fulfilled, variable… Red means missing, non-existent, not at nominal value, etc.

Therefore, the assessment can be quite quick. The SMEs should know what’s going on on shopfloor, how process behave and deliver. Key Performance Indicators (KPI) may give additional information.

In a starting project, chances are that many identified basic requirements are not yet fulfilled, so their boxes in the Goal Tree are red. As soon as such an entity turns Amber or Red, no need to assess the above related entities, they are Amber or Red by definition.

Related: Goal Tree: How green is your tree?

The requirements that are Green need to be followed upwards nevertheless to see if their above related entities are Green as well, or if an additional Necessary Condition coming in sideways has a non-Green status. If this is the case, the above entity takes the color of the worst of the underlying Necessary Conditions’ color.

The limits of the 3-color system

It can happen that despite an entity having all its underlying Necessary Conditions set to Green can’t be assessed as Green. Facts and figures just don’t allow it. How come?

Well, remember: underlying Necessary Conditions are enablers, not triggers. Unlikely what happens with sufficiency logic where a cause is literally sufficient to produce the effect, the necessity logic used in the Goal Tree states that if a Necessary Condition is missing, the expected effect can not happen, but conversely, the underlying Necessary Condition existence is only enabling the effect to happen.

Entities in a Goal Tree are also called Intermediate Objectives and in order to achieve an objective, 3 conditions are required: having the necessary means to achieve the objective, knowing how to achieve it and being motivated to achieve it.

Related: What it takes to achieve your objective: Means, Method and Motivation

In case a should-be green Intermediate Objectives isn’t green, you should check the Means, Method and Motivation.


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About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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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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