Posted by: knightbird | January 28, 2015

Lean Strategy Mapping

Strategy. An effective lean strategy deployment is complicated, not by a lack of familiarity with the tools used to support Kaizen, but with the requirement for accompanying change in culture. Only through a change of culture does Lean achieve its full potential.

Employees are, for the most part, extremely resistant. Most employees don’t really know how they are managed. They just are. The systems they work in are randomized and extremely dependent on the type of employees they hire. They work in Silos. Oversight is also random and usually in response to complaints made about their work. Managers are generally disengaged until a complaint is made. Then they step in to fix the problem employee. The result is a chaotic management system.

Some employees resist because they have been well rewarded by the chaotic system. They are “problem solvers.” Others keep their heads down. Employee satisfaction with the work place is generally low, and the Dilbert cartoon is ubiquitous in some workplaces. How do we change that?

Mapping: I have been talking with a friend about how to implement a Lean Government strategy. Lean is Lean, and in my experience, it can be effective in any workplace. The tools are being used at the federal, state and local government levels. I have found hundreds of examples of successful events. Most implementations seem to be moving quite slowly. Leadership starts tentatively. Lets run a few trials and see what the results are. Let’s dip our toe in the water and see what happens. They are not convinced, so the response is tepid at best. Employees see this and form a similar tepid response.

Engagement: To address this lack of focus on change, I have been reviewing strategy maps and the behaviors of successful change agents. Boeing caught Lean fever at a time when it’s competitive advantage over Airbus dissipated and disappeared. Virginia Mason caught the fever from a retired Boeing executive at a time when it was losing money. The U.S. Military caught the fever in response to administering complex systems with declining resources. Direction: Many successful implementations have a strategy map that helps communicate what they are trying to achieve. It takes the mission of the organization, develops the values they are seeking and outlines how they are going to do it. To be a continuously improving organization requires a direction and location. We want to be an outstanding local government delivering great value to our citizen customers. What does this really mean?

Customer Voice: To answer that question, we have to understand who our citizen customers are. Who uses the services provided? We actually have to listen to them, usually in the form of complaints. We usually avoid citizen complaints because there is little we can do about the individual mistake. However, we can still listen and formulate an understanding of the problem, from a systems point of view.

Employee Empowerment: Employees have to be supported in their improvement work by the elimination of blame and shame. Dysfunctional systems are the problem, not individual employees. Then we need to be empowered to work on solving the problem. This is where the tools come in. In addition to a destination, we have to have the pathway identified. That pathway has to be traveled by employees as part of a team working on improving the whole organization. They must have the power to improve delegated to them, and they need to learn how to accept that responsibility.

Training: For Lean implementations, employees have to be encouraged to listen to problems and solve those problems. And then they do again, and again. They need help from experienced practitioners, coaches and mentors. They have to use the tools of Lean, and be taught how they are used in a continuous improvement context. They need to be taught how to work in teams and be respectful of other participants. They must be truly engaged with the vision of providing greater value to their citizen customer.

Accountability: And finally, the results need to be measured and reported on an ongoing basis. The establishment of a visual management system allows for monitoring progress on an ongoing basis. But even more so, it helps prevent backsliding, which is important for a cultural implementation of Lean. If a culture of continuous improvement addresses every defect and problem encountered, then the possibility of backsliding is minimized.

A Strategy map requires thinking about all of the elements I wrote about in this post, and others I am sure I missed. But through putting together a strategy map, we gain greater understanding of what a Lean transformation requires. I highly recommend having that conversation with your staff. It will pay tremendous benefits.

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