“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”
– Henry Ford
Do you consider yourself an optimist, a realist, or a pessimist? Many experts have opined on this topic as it relates to leadership.
Dr. Martin Seligman, a prominent researcher in the field of optimism, claims that optimism or pessimism lies in the way you explain the events that happen to you. Our thoughts can cause us to assess events inaccurately. They can also cause us to jump to erroneous conclusions.
Strong leaders are seldom characterized as pessimistic. By definition, if someone in a leadership role sees mostly negative outcome, it will be nearly impossible to rally the masses to meet a difficult challenge.
On the other hand, it is uncommon for dynamic leaders to see themselves as pure optimists. Someone with this view could be seen as a Pollyanna – a person who doesn’t have a grip on reality and believes that everything will eventually work out, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
Rather, the consensus view is that the most effective leaders are those who lean toward optimism.
What words would describe the relationship with your manager or supervisor? Would you use words like subservient, directed, chain-of-command, or authoritative? If so, it is unlikely that you are providing the greatest value to either your boss or the organization as a whole. It could be that you don’t know how to effectively manage up.
In their recent book Influencing Up, David Bradford and Allan Cohen advocate that employees have greater capacity to influence their boss than they might believe. Their contention is that powerful people need powerful direct reports. More specifically, leaders need people who take initiative and get things done. They also contend that leaders need direct reports who are willing to speak truth-to-power in a way that is respectful. So how can direct reports manage up more effectively? It starts with understanding how to be more influential with their manager.
One of the foundational Lean tools is QCO (quick changeover), which is also sometimes referred to as SMED (single minute exchange of die). SMED includes a set of techniques that make it possible to perform equipment set-up and changeover operations in less than 10 minutes. Not every changeover can be completed in this amount of time. However, any operation would benefit from using this Lean tool if there is a requirement for:
a change in “lot” types
a process or set-up change
For this discussion, I will use the term QCO as being interchangeable with SMED. Most of the time, the opportunity for implementing QCO in a process is driven by the need for greater flexibility, quicker delivery, better quality, or higher productivity. These are indeed significant benefits that are realized – because this approach identifies and removes some of the eight sources of waste. But there is an equally significant benefit to assessing a process and implementing QCO: the resulting process changes often make setups simpler & easier – and therefore faster and safer. The following case studies demonstrate how using QCO principles can lead to work which is not only completed in less time, but is also safer.Continue Reading
“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work with a group of four supervisors at a manufacturing site. I spent a week with each supervisor, with the objective of getting to know each person better. After a month rotating among the supervisors, it was clear that there were stark differences in how each of them related to their respective crews. The contrast in styles was greatest when comparing Mitch with Harold.
Mitch considered himself to be “old-school” and was proud of it. He had spent nearly twenty years in various line positions at the plant, eventually working his way into a senior operator role before being promoted to supervisor. He was a no-nonsense guy who ruled with an iron fist and a commanding voice. His philosophy was to set the rules and hold people accountable when they were violated. Mitch believed his primary responsibilities were to “keep the line running” and to “make sure that no one does anything stupid.” During the shift, he could often be found in the supervisor’s office area, unless the line was down for some reason. His crew tended to have the least senior people, mainly because there was a lot of bidding to move to another supervisor’s crew.
Harold also spent many years as an operator in the same facility before accepting a supervisor position. He had a calm demeanor and spent most of his time on the floor, listening to his crew members. He frequently answered any questions with a question of his own, “What do you think we should do?” Harold challenged his crew to come up with solutions, not just to identify the problems. I would overhear him privately praising each person, telling them that they were among the best operators he had ever been around. When someone made a mistake, he would make it a point to ask the individual what lesson was learned and what we could do differently the next time. Harold’s crew had the most senior people. It was clear that they respected Harold and valued the opportunity to work on his crew.
“Let’s reach a consensus on what we should do next.”
All of us have heard this phrase – or something similar – from a group or team leader. And what’s not to like about this approach? After all, collaboration and cooperation are essential for a team to be effective. Unfortunately, there are times when a group can have an apparent consensus view and later regret the outcome of their collective decision. In 1974, Dr. Jerry Harvey, a professor of management science at George Washington University, introduced the term Abilene Paradox to explain this group behavior.
The Abilene Paradox involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group’s. As a result, no objections are raised. Some common phrases linked to the Abilene Paradox are to not “rock the boat” or to “go along to get along.”
This phenomenon is explained by theories of social conformity and influence, which suggest people are often very averse to acting contrary to the trend of a group. According to Harvey, the phenomenon may occur when people experience action-anxiety. People are concerned that the group could express negative attitudes towards them if they do not go along.
The name of this group behavior is derived from an incident that Harvey recounts in his article published in Organizational Dynamics. A summary of the story is given below.
Imagine that someone makes a business proposal that would significantly improve your company’s cost productivity. The sales pitch is appealing. This approach is claimed to have the following potential benefits:
It will yield over 4 times your investment in bottom-line results within 24 months, with a long-term ROI exceeding 7x.
It does not require any capital.
It will enable the development of a broad range of skills for key employees.
It will be the basis for culture change to a continuous improvement mindset.
Sounds great! Where do I sign up? But this is what you will not hear…
It only has a 20% chance of succeeding!
Given this success metric, would you make this investment? It’s not likely.
Lean Six Sigma (LSS) has the potential to produce all the positive benefits itemized above. However, the success rate of deployments is abysmal. In a Bain & Company management survey of 184 companies, 80 percent say their Lean Six Sigma deployment efforts are failing to drive the anticipated value, and 74 percent say they are not gaining the expected competitive edge because they haven’t achieved their savings targets. Other surveys reveal similar disappointment or disillusionment in LSS by executives and senior leaders.
The bad news is that 8 out of 10 LSS deployments are not meeting expectations. The good news? Some organizations are “getting it right” and reaping the benefits of a strong Lean Six Sigma deployment.