The year 2020 has started in a weird way. And the current virus situation many companies start to struggle. In this context, I see many leaders react in the same way: push for targets!
Here an example. The productivity team has a target to achieve 4 million savings in production costs. Initially a tough objective. Now, imagine production slumps down 20%. We have reached our target. Do we celebrate? Did we really get more excellent? How will our productivity results look like if production is increased by 20%?
Instead of focusing on lagging indicators and financial targets, I advocate to look at how do we operate. How do our structures support collaboration in cross-functional teams? How well are we aligned and promote transparency? Can I talk about my mistakes? Who is listening to my ideas?
Companies that want to achieve sustainable success, need to look more at how we are doing business, focus more on values and principles. Look at the financial indicators once in a while to see if we are on the right track. And, set targets to operate in an effective way - especially for yourself as a leader.
In the recent months, I am very happy to support various teams in getting more agile. Last week, I had a call from one of the sites: "Tim, we have a huge problem! Some of our experiments have failed and some teams can't finish their projects" - "Hey, that's great! What we are focusing on is that we experiment and learn - getting faster along the way."
In a conversation earlier this week we reflected on this. Cultivating an agile mindset not only means applying the processes and methods for developing new solutions. In the example above, the teams struggle with significantly shorter project times and delivering experiments instead of fix deliverables - as usual, this is a journey.
Therefore, we need to experiment and use agility in applying the methods, concepts and processes of becoming agile. Experiment to experiment, be agile in becoming agile - if that makes any sense.
Implementing visionary solutions is like climbing a mountain. And so is to change a mindset of people. Why not using the same approach to take small steps to conquer the summit?
For the last about 150 years, we have become very good at becoming efficient. We have automated farming, manufacturing, and are full steam ahead in automating services.
In this process, we focused on making individuals and small units hyper-efficient. We looked at organisations as a system and producing in large scale based on rigid processes; using people as robots in these systems.
Today, the world is changing rapidly, predictions become less accurate and the systems don't operate in a stable environment anymore. In this context, how do we know that we are optimising the right processes and systems? Are we wasting efforts on the wrong things?
In order to be fast and successful in this uncertain environment, I suggest to focus back on the effectiveness of the overall organisation. Cultivating our relationships with peers, suppliers, customers. And, creating structures and routines which allow us to learn fast, reflect and focus on the right things.
Where do you want to reduce waste today?
Today, in our production facilities in Thailand we started to discuss how we can execute ideas to improve productivity in a different way: achieve results in a faster way while keeping the big picture in mind.
The excellent outcome of today's workshop was the definition of Focus Topics. We took the solution ideas we created during a Design Thinking workshop in August and modularised them into smaller chunks that can be implemented as minimal viable products. The teams have now selected the first Focus Topic which will be implemented in the next three months. The graphic below vitally supported the understanding of this concept - visualisation is such an important aspect in discovery.
The objective of this approach is not only to create tangible results fast; we also aiming to cultivate agility and a new mindset. Looking forward to see the results soon.
First we created a good understanding of the needs and insights, which helped to explore a wide range of ideas. Then the teams crafted prototypes and presented their pitches.
All these activities will greatly impact manufacturing excellence; and we can already see the positive impact we made on the people; triggering mindset shifts and better work relationships:
"We were able to bring issues on the table with a smile and positive energy; this was never possible before."
It is always exciting to start something new. This week in Thailand, we launched an Innovation Program to drive Operational Excellence for the production site here.
Inception of a new way of thinking: accelerating results with focus and structure. We defined six opportunity areas which we will work on over the next 12 months.
What I have learned? Build on existing activities and explain based on examples - keep this in mind.
Today's 'Quick Share' is about Objectives & Key Results (OKRs). Many heard about them, many use them - totally independent of region or industry. So, I am not going to explain how this works...
Here are three reasons, why I advocate them:
1 - pushing people to think about what they want to achieve in three months makes these results pretty concrete; plus, it creates more dynamic (or agility?)
2 - leaders get the opportunity to provide autonomy to a team and let them define their own goals together; under the leaders guidance
3 - in the end, the success is not done with defining the OKRs; they success comes in the weeks and months achieving results; this happens via frequent conversations; conversations about prioritisation, actions, collaboration
What do you learn from implementing OKRs?
Day 1 - Great networking and discussions today with peers in operational excellence. My first impressions:
- Focus automation on areas with minimal viable products; and don't forget to clean-up your waste first
- Operational excellence is bottom-up and top-down at the same time
- Start your transformation journey with the 'why'; and then experiment in high speed to create tangible results
- Yes, you can have a global IT organisation with only three hierarchical levels - implementing self-organising teams
- Who owns the customer journey in the company? Ideally the Operational Excellence unit; it is a cross-functional topic
Day 2 - Excited about the feedback I have received for my presentation about People Excellence; people are not machines and we thrive with freedom and passion.
Though the day continued to be exciting with many insights; here is what I got out of it:
- Operational Excellence is not a nice to have - it is about surviving in the market
- Rule-based activities can be automated with a bot; a great opportunity to up-skill people and engage them in more meaningful activities
- Employee Experience is a broad journey with social, physical and technical aspects; and requires a wide set of methods
- Drive agility by moving the focus (30%) from big ticket improvements to small Kaisen improvements
- Create an environment that allows and pushes experimentation; this is one of the foundation for transformation initiatives
- Ownership and curiosity easily compensates for the lack of expertise
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.