Stop being a boss (and have a closed loop system) - Part 2

Oct. 27, 2020
There are a few keys to knowing that you have the right system, one that reveals your biggest problems, and helps you to focus action around solving them. I call it a closed loop system.

In Part 1 of this post, we talked about four ways to stop being a boss and start being a coach:

  1. Don't micromanage
  2. Exercise trust
  3. Be ok with failure
  4. Take the blame for failures and give the team credit for success

In order for this to work, it's important to create a culture where you learn from failures. And in order to achieve that, you need a process and a method in place to learn from failures, and turn failures into successes.

To make this culture of learning from failures a reality, your process has to be driven by data, and not by emotion.

Have you ever started your morning meeting and someone brings up the biggest problem that needs to be solved? At least they're very vocal that it is... Well, oftentimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease; in this case, the person who's most vocal.

From my experience, 80% of the time and energy of these meetings is typically consumed by 20% of the people when emotion is the driver. These are the people claiming they have the biggest problem to solve.

Now fast forward to a time when we had a system in place to provide visibility and clarity to the issues happening in the plant. Once we had a system that provided us data around the biggest issues, we found that most of the time, the biggest (most costly) issues were actually not being addressed. And they were not the issues being talked about in our daily tier meetings.

We started to realize that before we had data, we didn't have a clue what the biggest issues were.

I remember realizing that welder adjustments were one of our biggest issues at the time. These adjustments were overlooked because they didn't quite disrupt or inflict enough pain on our operations to make us stop and solve them. What we didn't realize is that it was a chronic issue. When added up over time, welder adjustments were far more costly than what we had previously been spending our time trying to solve.

We were working hard. We just didn't have enough data to know whether we were also working smart. How do you know you're working smart? You know it when solving a problem:

  • Improves production throughput & cost
  • Gets you resources back
  • Improves quality
  • Improves morale (people like winning)

There are a few keys to knowing that you have the right system, one that reveals your biggest problems, and helps you to focus action around solving them. I call it a closed loop system. A closed loop system should:

  • Signal & escalate issues. This needs to be a data-driven signal, not one driven by emotion.
  • Captures and engages action on issues. Once the issue is signaled, you must have a system that ensures action is taken to address the issue. And know that if action isn't taken, it will automatically be escalated until it gets addressed (We used to call these "significant events.") As you do this, it's important to set the threshold on what gets escalated to be equal to what your team can handle. As you improve more and more, then you can lower the threshold.
  • Measure severity of problems over time so you can know what your priorities should be. Be careful not to shift your focus to the big problem that happened yesterday, but only happens every few years. It needs to be addressed of course, but focus your resources where the data is telling you that you can make the most difference.
  • Method and tools to solve your biggest issues. Standard problem-solving methods such as: A3, 8D, Fishbone, 5 Why's, Six Sigma, etc.
  • Method to share those solutions across the enterprise so all can improve. Once we solve a problem, the most important step is implementing the fix. Not just where it occurred, but also in other areas of the facility where it could potentially occur. Then share it across the entire enterprise (Yokoten). This is the most powerful step because it multiplies the benefits. From my experience, this is the step that most companies fail to execute. Typically, the reason they fail to take this step is they don't have a system to easily track and manage how improvements are being shared.
  • Method to celebrate success. Once all of the hard work is done and the win is realized it’s very important to celebrate the team’s success. This step cannot be undervalued. Even professionals that make millions strive for the championship ring. Give your team a reason to feel proud when they’ve earned it. The payback will be big!

There are many systems out there that point at failure, but there aren't many that facilitate doing something about it. There are systems to know your OEE needs improvement or downtime needs improvement. You need a system and process to close the loop on addressing those problems.

Everyone is chasing the magic pill that will solve all their problems (AI, IoT, fancy dashboards, etc.), but at the end of the day, if you don't have a system to engage people in solving the right problems at their root cause, and do it in real-time, you'll likely be disappointed with your results.

The results I mentioned above come from knowing with clarity what your most costly problems are and having a digital process to ensure action is taken to resolve them. Without the right action on the right problems, there can be no improvement.

About the Author: Bob Argyle
Bob Argyle is chief customer officer at Leading2Lean. He is a 30-year veteran of the manufacturing industry, and an expert in lean manufacturing, operations, maintenance, quality and engineering. Bob has developed a philosophy and core belief that winners in the new era of manufacturing will be the companies that combine the power of new technologies with the insight and creativity of the human mind. You can email Bob at [email protected].

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