Turning our people into Lean Superheroes (and identifying them) requires asking a few questions and an investment of time / resources writes Paul Dunlop.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if we are unable or unwilling to unleash the potential of our people then no matter how we approach our processes we will struggle to optimise.
There's only so much improvement you can simply 'buy'. Meaning that even with investments in equipment, layout, skills and additional labour we will struggle without genuine engagement, ownership and investment from our people. This bought improvement activity can only reach a certain level.
The non-use or non-development of skills is a waste of the most effective, readily-available resource within every organisation. A lot of organisations talk the talk when it comes to employee engagement being a priority, however they never actually enable it.
Employee engagement at the frontlines (and in every tier / function ) is a massive opportunity for organisations. By treating our people as simply bodies for conducting labour rather than brains for driving innovation and improvement we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
We want to develop, support, and retain the 'Lean superheroes' we have in the business to enable long-term success in many areas.
Respect for People Creates Lean Superheroes
An organisation's people are - at least they should be - experts in the work they do. When well-trained, with a wealth of other business and life experience, they can contribute great innovative ideas. Many organisations fail to utilise these brains wired for problem-solving or invest developing problem-solving skills in staff.
'Respect for people' is a core tenet of Lean philosophy. A great deal of value should be placed on the employee experience. As an organisation we are responsible for providing the best quality work for a human being as well as a clear sense of purpose.
We can do this by implementing the necessary tools, training, systems and support to set our people up for success.
What You Should Ask Your People
There are a few questions I tend to ask people when first learning about the culture and performance of a business:
- Are you meaningfully engaged in your work?
- Are you being utilised anywhere near your full potential?
- What do you do here?
These questions reveal the deficits and latent potential but also the huge opportunity that resides in our organisations. What do you think the answer almost always is?.
Well, many respond by saying, “I Just do…..”
This typical response shows how people and the organisation place limits on themselves. Their capability, know-how and ultimately their potential are therefore limited. Lean superheroes aren't made by limiting their ability learn, experiment, and act.
When implementing and practicing continuous improvement - in the right way - we open up the conversation and allow everyone to contribute. All parties can collaborate and our people can take ownership for making things better.
Without Asking Questions We Won't Identify Our Lean Superheroes
When people, particularly at the frontlines, are given the time, permission, support and opportunity to have agency in their work amazing things happen. Time after time I have seen individuals (and teams) demonstrate skills, behaviours and performance never seen or thought of previously – simply because we asked a few simple questions.
These questions then allow us to implement tools, systems and processes that provide people ownership, permission, and clarity.
If we treat our people with genuine respect, and give them an environment which helps them to thrive, we will uncover create the superheroes that take our organisation to another level.
A C.I. Framework to Maximise The Potential of Our People
Providing agency and autonomy to individuals requires systems that support decision making at every level - supported by the right data and at all times, aligned to strategy. To support the individual Mastery desired requires systems that allow people to freely access the training they need to better themselves.
When we invest in this area we provide people with purpose larger than themselves - connecting their toil routinely to the big picture.
The illustration below outlines how we designed an interconnected TeamAssurance platform which achieves these goals. One that avoids the locally optimised and disconnected 'Point solutions' (digital or analog) that do not help sustain business performance or maximise the potential of our people.
TeamAssurance enables organisations to unlock employee potential at all levels through an interconnected platform. If you'd like to explore the opportunities offered by digital aids to Lean tools contact us for a demonstration.