Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
Monday, March 21st, 2011
By Cordell Hensley – KCTS Consultant
As part of my MBA programme I have several group or team tasks and assignments. As part of the KCTS training courses, we also split the delegates into teams for their projects. Working in teams has become a standard part of business and team dynamics have been studied by many. However, how often do we really think about these dynamics when setting up the team?
We are all different and diversity is something that should be valued and sought especially when constructing a team. We often think about the necessary skills for a project team in terms of; a craftsmen, someone who knows the methodology, an operator or two, maybe a specialist depending on the project, we might even want a project manager if the project is deemed to be that intense or risky that it needs someone with extensive skills in managing complex projects. All of these things are probably a normal consideration for most when constructing the team.
But what about the roles people play within the team? Not their specific knowledge or skills in terms of plant, methodology, or process but in terms of how they interact with others; the way they contribute to the team dynamic. Do we have a leader on the team? Or is it a group of leaders which may cause conflict because they all want to be in charge? Who is going to make sure that we finish the tasks and ensure they are done properly? Is somebody going to make sure that we have the necessary resources such as stationery, meeting rooms, food, sampling materials or whatever other items we may need? Who maintains the momentum when people feel tired and who will help to calm nerves and resolve conflict between the strong characters?
Sure all of these issues can be dealt with after the team is formed, and inevitably (or sometimes not) the issue will work out. But we should think about who will be in the team from the team dynamics point of view. What roles do people play within the team and how will that contribute or detract from the ability of the team to complete the objective. If we consider these issues as part of our team construction process then we will increase the likelihood of the team being successful.
If you would like to know more about team roles and how to effectively construct a team please contact us here.
Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Recently I participated in running a half marathon. Before the half marathon I had been preparing, training regularly, eating the right food, drinking lots of water and generally trying to give myself the best opportunity to surpass my personal best target of 94 minutes, or 7 minutes and 10 seconds per mile. To begin with I keep a training log, recording all my times, distance, feelings, diet, weight for training, then analysing the minutes per mile and the days between runs. Previous to this half marathon, I had been running at a training rate of approximately 8 minutes per mile. My personal best was achieved by running at a training rate of 7.5 minutes per mile.
To better my personal best, the evening before the race I established a ‘mental plan’. I was busy learning my seven times table, as I set myself the target of running 7 minute miles’. To achieve this I equipped myself with a digital watch and I was relying on mile markers around the course. I started the race at what I believed to be a comfortable pace, unfortunately there were no mile markers until 4 miles so it was difficult to assess my initial ‘comfortable pace’. I was surprised to discover though that at 4 miles my time was 28 minutes. At this point I thought ‘great’, on time and I feel relatively comfortable. I started to realise there were runners around me now who were at the same pace so I started to set myself some ‘short term’ targets of maintaining the pace by staying with them, at the same time my thoughts were also about ‘long term’ targets, and in my sights were some runners approximately 50 metres in front, who were maintaining the same pace as myself during this period of the race. Setting these targets was important for me as they maintained my motivation and determination. As I passed other runners this had a positive effect on my mental state. I was almost counting the inverse – the number of people not passing me! As I achieved my targets this reinforced my positivity. My intention was, that for the latter stages of the race, I would accelerate towards my ‘long term’ target.
My race upto 9 miles was comfortable to a degree, a little short of water, and I had some uncomfortable sores and blisters on both feet, but I was on target with 63 minutes achieved, and my mental state was one of remaining positive and determined. Unfortunately after 9 miles my physical condition changed almost suddenly. At the beginning of the race, I had altered my ‘mental plan’ at the last moment based on the weather conditions at the time. I decided to wear an additional layer of clothing. This did not help with the lack of hydration as I was feeling extremely hot even on a cold, windy day at the end of February. Anyway as I have mentioned my performance upto 9 miles was excellent, after 9 miles something happened to my legs – I lacked strength. I felt I did not have the power to maintain the 7 minutes per mile rate, and rather than accelerate and power towards my long term targets, I had to settle for a pace for the last 4.1 miles at about 8.5 minutes per mile. Mentally it was tough and demoralising seeing runners pass me, especially ones, in which a few miles earlier I had passed them – I tried to remain positive and determined as I did not want to stop. I finished the race in a time of 98 minutes and 7 seconds, at a rate of 7.5 minutes per mile overall.
The one thing I enjoy about running is it allows me to think, without interruption. Post the race I have reflected on my performance and when I began to think about my performance, and preparation, I began to make some comparison with how we perform and prepare for tasks at work, and how we feel. What do we do when the going gets tough? Do we change our plan and take the easy option? Or are we persistent in following the plan? Do we try and maintain the same pace and injure ourselves, or do we adjust our objectives?
What did I personally learn?
1) I have the history and the data. Was I realistic in setting my initial objectives? I have to be more realistic !
2) I will not change my plan. I wore an additional shirt. This caused me to overheat. Create and follow my race plan – pre, during and post.
3) Even when things become difficult try and remain positive and enjoy the small successes.
4) Don’t become arrogant – Past Success does not guarantee Future Success!
5) Continue to monitor, learn and review my performance – improve!
The next time I test my learning is on the 28th March for the Liverpool Half Marathon – lets see!
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Written By: Paul Steven – KCTS Consultant
Recently I have returned to classic Time Management as a way to improve my Value Added to Non-Value Added ratio. I found that I am lacking the self discipline to ignore the interesting but ultimately Non-Value Added activities that were part of my routine, I needed a system to help me. Of course, systems are consistent to my vocation as a Lean Consultant, so Time Management, and specifically my 100 Day Planning Handbook, became part of my daily life.
The first habit was to keep it with me, thanks to colleagues and customers I have not lost the physical handbook yet. Despite my efforts to leave it on my desk, in meeting or on public transport, I still have it with me all the time. Secondly, I had to get into the routine of ensure planning my days, reviewing my action completion, and even rating my days via the “Moodometer”.
This is now a consistent habit as I work on Week 4. My challenge this week is to use my Daily Schedule. This presented a dilemma, as working as a Lean Consultant, each day is different. Some days I may be delivering problem solving with a leadership team, but equally I might be teaching theory & practise to a mixed group, or participating in TPM activities with operators and technicians, or presenting to executives, or coaching leadership techniques one-to-one or even delivering e-learning to hundreds of participants. How can I write a Daily Schedule? Words of wisdom came from our MD, I should concentrate on the generic activities rather than the specifics to build my version 1.
I have blocked routine times for my regular NVAR activities and I am now realistic about my current Value Adding activities each day. I have my previous 4 weeks of data to judge my estimating skills. They started extremely over-optimistic but quickly became too conservative and now include minimum & stretch targets daily. So my version 1 Standard Diary is as follows:
- Take kids to day-care (when not travelling)
- Emails & planning adjustment
- Electronic Daily Stand-Up Meeting (E-DSUM)
- 1st Delivery of VA
- Coffee, calls & mental break
- 2nd Delivery of VA
- Lunch with time outside of the factory/office
- Emails & re-planning, plus administration (expenses, printing, postal)
- 3rd Delivery of VA
- Coffee, Twitter & mental break
- 4th Delivery of VA
- Coffee & mental break
- Emails, Twitter, calls
- Review of Delivery & Plan for Tomorrow
This is still version 1, but by using a Standard Diary I know I can experiment and improve or return to current-best-standard as needed. The question is whether I can keep the rigour of looking at emails only 3 times per day. If you’re using a Standard Diary, please let me know how you’re getting on.
Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Frontline managers should focus on coaching their employees to constantly improve performance.
Line managers direct as much as two-thirds of the workforce and are responsible for the part of the company that typically interacts with and defines the customer experience. In a majority of the companies I’ve encountered, the frontline managers’ role is in a capacity of relaying information from the top to workers; these managers keep an eye on things, enforce plans and policies, report operational results, and quickly escalate issues or problems. In other words, a frontline manager is meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance with policies, not to use judgment or discretion. Their role is certainly not to develop policies or to oversee the implementation of improvements.
This system makes companies less productive, less agile, and less profitable. Change is possible; the key is a shift to frontline managers who have the time—and the ability—to address the unique circumstances of their specific areas; to foresee trouble and stem it before it begins; and to encourage team members to seek out opportunities for improvement.
Change at the front line
To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities:
1. Helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members.
2. Coaching for performance.
Little of either occurs on the front line in many businesses. Frontline managers spend the majority of their time on administrative work and meetings. They spend far too little time actually managing frontline employees by, coaching them directly.
Even then, managers often aren’t truly coaching the front line. Much of the time they spend with frontline employees is involved auditing for compliance with standards or solving immediate problems (fire-fighting).
These systems are rooted in the early days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturing work was broken down into highly specialized, repetitive, and easily observed tasks. No one worker created a whole product; each did his task in the same place and the same way every time, maximizing effectiveness and efficiency. Employees didn’t necessarily understand the overall job in which they participated. Supervisors were usually people good at the work itself, employed to enforce detailed standards and policies, serving as conduit between workers and policy makers. Many manufacturing companies still use this approach, because it can deliver high-quality results on the front line, at least in the short term.
Attention to execution is important, but an exclusive focus on it can have insidious long-term effects. Such a preoccupation leaves no time for efforts to deal with new demands such as, higher production or quality, let alone for looking at the big picture. The result is a working environment with little flexibility, little encouragement to make improvements, and an increased risk of low morale among both workers and their managers.
Companies must fundamentally redefine what they expect from frontline managers and redesign the work that those managers and their subordinates do.
Changing the mind-sets and capabilities of individual frontline managers can be the hardest part. In my experience, many of them see limits to how much they can accomplish; some also recognize the need to restructure their roles but nonetheless fear change. The first step is to help frontline managers understand the need for change and how it could make things better.
The key is to help frontline managers become true leaders, with the time, the skills, and the desire to help workers understand the company’s direction and its implications for themselves, as well as to coach them individually. Such mangers should have enough time to think ahead, to uncover and solve long-term problems, and to plan for potential new demands.
A supervisor I met at a business that had empowered its team members gave perhaps the clearest description of the way frontline leaders ought to think: “I am a valued member of this company, I have responsibility to make sure my team has the right coaching to improve performance while contributing to the overall functioning and success of our operation.”
Leadership coaching is a learned skill; not something you are born with!
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Written by Cordell Hensley – KCTS Consultant
Last year I was fortunate enough to work within many companies, and within all of them I could always find leaders who would not delegate. There were many reasons but often it was a lack of trust.
Why don’t people trust those who work for them? If we don’t trust them, why do we employ them? How can we be successful without a good team? There are plenty of articles and research that suggest that without a good team; even the most talented managers & leaders will fail. So if we don’t trust our team to deliver, then we should look at why. I believe it is rarely the team itself, but the leader, the person who is struggling to delegate who has the issue. While there are plenty of people out there who cannot be trusted, most of us will only ever have to deal with a handful in our careers. The majority of people are capable and willing; we just don’t trust them enough or spend enough time and energy on developing them to become that dream team that we want working with us.
Frequently I find it is purely because leader hasn’t sat down and had any expectation discussions with these people, or even defined what they should be doing. If they fail to fulfil our expectations then we begin to mistrust them and do all the work ourselves. Sometimes we give them a bit of work to do, but our instructions are poor or unclear and then when they come back with sub-standard work, we feel we can’t trust them. I would suggest that in the majority of cases it is the leader who is truly the reason behind the lack of delegation.
If we trust our people, but don’t know how to delegate, then we have passed the major hurdle. Delegating is easy once we have trust. All we have to do is give clear instructions, sufficient resource (usually time) and ensure that the relationship is open enough that the person feels comfortable to come back and ask for further guidance or support if they get stuck. Likewise, if they complete the task and we are unhappy with the output, maybe we haven’t clearly defined our expectations.
Whenever we feel that we are unable to delegate it is easy to blame the people to whom we cannot delegate. Dario Manquez Jr. (CEO of MVM) said it all when he said “A leader must get things done through others, therefore the leader must have the ability to inspire and motive, guide and direct, and listen. That is all delegation is, getting others to do things that need doing. Good leaders do it and get elevated because of it. Poor leaders don’t do it and are stuck in the rut they have created for themselves. Which camp are you in?