Tuesday, January 26, 2021

127 - Timelines for industrial and cultural change

Hi, I'm David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

I love studying historical timelines.  History's stories have always been fascinating.  But there is so much rich detail, and so often contradictory records based on the point of view of the writer at the time. 

We can't see everything and we can't know everything.  Facts from one point of view are different from another.  You and I might watch the same video of an accident, a shoplifter, a police shooting and walk away drawing two completely opposite conclusions.  

My message is to try your best to keep and open mind, and try your best to understand multiple points of view before you charge off to take action.

Among these timelines, if you take a macro view, you can see patterns of change.  Sometimes it might be new knowledge driving the change - like Galileo discovering that the earth revolved around the sun, although this kept him under house arrest while he lived - or it might be new technology driving the change - like James Watt's steam engine.  

Every now and then, you'll find something so momentous that it changes everything and creates a new culture around that technology - think about the smart phone and how it has changed the way we all live.

Over the next few weeks, I want to explore some of these timelines with you and the culture that prevailed in each of these chunks of time.  Specifically, I will talk about craft production and a craft culture, then I'll share some key technologies that resulted in a mass production age and how that changed the culture - particularly in the US and the UK.

To try to help us all maintain that open mind, I have partnered with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky and Hiitide and we're doing a book review online of his book "The Blind Spots Between Us:  How to Overcome Unconscious Bias & Build Better Relationships".  It begins on February 1st.  

I hope you'll join me on this journey.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

126 - Culture of Confidence

Good morning. I'm David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

The term "High Performance Culture" has been in circulation for a pretty long time now with probably a dozen consulting firms offering strategies to create one.  Most of these are very good.  

What I want to do is to view the need for higher performance as a management-response problem, one that is created by leaders to take the organization to another level.  We'll have to define what we mean and how to measure it, and there are many components to this.

For example, at one client, they adopted an HPC that involved 15 key components, and many of them had subcomponents for further clarification.  It is an excellent package, but there weren't any measures of performance actually tied to HPC.  It was more of a "reminder" to leaders to behave according to the values described.

Based on my research, organizations want cultures of engagement.  They might call them Problem Solving cultures, or continuous improvement cultures, or even high performance cultures, but the desire is the same:  we want our people to show up, do good work, improve that work whenever they can, and achieve our goals.  So we have 4 key measurement areas:  Attendance, Productivity, Improvements, and Results.  But the way we measure and respond is far more important than what we measure.

Are we measuring these things at work?  Most places I've been aren't really.  But let's say we're not getting what we think we want.  If that's a problem, let's look at the root cause.  In the years that I've been working on this with people, I believe the single most important root cause for failure in all four of these areas is that our workforce has low self-efficacy for engagement.

Self-efficacy is the belief in our ability to influence events that affect our life and our sense of control over the way we experience events (Bandura, 1997). [From Self-Efficacy and Leadership Commitment During Lean Strategy Deployment by Angela D. Pearson. November 2019 PhD Dissertation.] 

Another way to think about it is our individual confidence in our ability to perform a particular task in a particular setting.  I think it is particularly relevant in a work environment.  Performing the work is typically taken care of during someone's on-boarding and on-the-job training.  

We expect people to have to work up to a level of competence over time.  But how much time to we spend reflecting on why that competence is really important?  In most cases, managers will tell you that competence is important only for how it affects the results; not how it affects the person.  

Competence is the most critical builder of self-efficacy for that job.  Competence leads to mastery.  Mastery leads to innovation.  When you're an expert, you don't burn cognitive energy on actually doing the work - you just work.  Your brain is free to think about ways to improve the work - but we, as leaders, need to make that a clear expectation.  We want you to achieve a level of competence because it will allow you to find better ways to work and that benefits both the worker and the company.

I've hit this in a few other videos, and in the future, I'll go into a lot more detail.  But for now, I'm going to shift gears a little over the next couple of weeks and talk about some historical developments that have shaped the way we think about work.  Hopefully, if we understand what shaped that thinking, we can change things and reshape or reframe our thinking.

Subscribe and follow along.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Thinking about 2021

After the new year, I'm planning to get back into the daily video business.  I've been spending these past couple of weeks focused first on family, then on developing some new ideas.

Neither of these are really new ideas, but I'm mustering up some energy to get them going this time around.

First is a concept around a high confidence culture.  This is based on what I think is the most significant factor in a successful culture of engagement: self-efficacy.  I've been talking about self-efficacy for years and sometimes it seems like I'm the only lean guy who does.  Self-Efficacy is the confidence we have about our own ability to do a particular task.  It could be a particular job at work, or an entrepreneur's marketing efforts, or my confidence that I can take a train from one part of DC to another.

Self-efficacy isn't something that just happens. Leaders can help shape this in team members, and I believe this fundamental understanding of how to build confidence in team members, and then to let it flourish is the first step to becoming a more effective leader.

The second idea is to build a more focused practice on coaching others.  I intend to take on clients who want to become more effective leaders and build engaging, high-confidence cultures.  I need to keep it oriented toward leadership in organizations, since it's that culture piece that we want to employ to create a better work environment for as many people as we can.

I guess I'll end up with three tiers of membership.  

    Tier 1 is individual, one-on-one coaching.  It'll start with a 360 degree assessment.  I use the LifeStyles Inventory (LSI) from Human Synergistics.  It'll also include an organizational assessment for profitability using the Quantum Profit Science Profit Model and will show how your organization compares with its industry averages.  We'll build a personal development plan and a roadmap to more engagement and we'll connect once a month for an hour to help you with accountability.

    Tier 2 is individual, one-on-one coaching as in Tier 1 but with 2 sessions per month, plus access to a weekly group Zoom call that will use lean coffee dialog techniques to discuss issues that participants bring to the table, rather than a set agenda.

    Tier 3 is the big Kahuna.  It includes the same individual one-on-one coaching as at Tier 2, and this group'll get their own weekly Zoom call.  But for this group, we add a specific project for participants from their own workplace.  Every 6 to 8 weeks, we will have a 3 to 4 day workshop focusing on a deep dive into a familiar topic, or an introduction to something completely new.  Finally, twice a year, pandemics notwithstanding, we'll meet face-to-face as a group in a place where we can learn, reflect, and relax.

What will the coaching focus on?  I'm glad you asked.  As the author of a book on leadership and another book on problem solving, it's a good bet that we'll be spending a lot of time on both of those topics.  But they will always be discussed within the framework of the high confidence culture.  Lots of lean systems thinking, principles, practices, tools and techniques with a special emphasis on standardized work (no, it's not the same thing that you're familiar with), workplace organization, visual management systems, and problem solving systems.

What's it going to cost??  I haven't figured that out yet.  I do know that I'm capping tier 3 at 16 people so I can provide a proper level of attention to achieve their learning and performance objectives.  What would you be willing to pay to get one or two of your key people into a focused development group like that?  Let me know.  

If you want to know when we're going to start and how you can be first in line, send me an email (david.veech@leadersights.com).  If you're ready to take that plunge now, go to https://calendly.com/davidveech/15min and schedule a 15 minute video chat with me.

All the best and Happy New Year.


Monday, December 14, 2020

125 - Cultures of Engagement


Hi, I'm David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

It's December 14, 2020.  The first truckloads of COVID-19 Vaccines headed toward 636 distributions centers over the weekend.  It'll still be months before we reach a point of saturation that will allow us to put aside our masks and social distancing, so please, keep maintaining your safety protocols through the holidays and well past when you get your own vaccination.

Here are a couple of cool events from history on this date.

On the sadder side, in 1799, George Washington, our first president, died at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.  In 1861, Prince Albert - Queen Victoria's husband - died in England.  He was a strong advocate for our Union - an important ally for the United States that was now in our 8th month of Civil War.

On the cool side, today is the day in 1900 that Max Planck presented Quantum Theory at the Physics Society in Berlin.  In 1911, Raold Amundsen reached the South Pole with 4 team members, after a 1400 mile trek over Antarctica.  

What piqued my interest in the Amundsen/Scott race to the south pole was Jim Collins and Morten Hansen's book Great by Choice.  They use it to contrast todays companies, in highly competitive and unpredictable markets.  

Some companies prepare like Amundsen and get similar results - they win.  Others prepare like Scott.  Scott's team died on the return trip from the south pole.  Pick up Collins' and Hansen's book along with Roland Huntford's "The Last Place on Earth" which Collins recommends as an excellent study of the two explorers.

The discipline applied by Amundsen's team created a culture that drove excellent performance.  In that kind of environment, your team has to be fully engaged.  

How do I define a culture of engagement?  The biggest difference between a culture of excitement, as I described in my last video, and a culture of engagement is the level of self-determination by the team.  

In a culture of engagement, everyone knows the vision, the goals, and the boundaries; they're trained to mastery level; and they're allowed to do whatever is necessary within the boundaries to achieve the goal.  And then, they do it.

Engaged team members don't wait until the Kaizen team comes to make improvements.  They make improvements everyday, practicing true kaizen - doing something everyday to make like a little better for those around you.

The leader's job is clear...set the vision and the direction, along with what's allowed and what's not allowed.  In lean we call these boundaries and rules Standardized Work.  But once these are set, the leader trains, teaches, and coaches, emphasizing problem solving and then let's go - encouraging everyone to improve everything without waiting for approval, as long as they operate within the rules to determine that a solution is in fact better through experimentation.

The harder part comes in how the leaders respond to failure.  If you hope to sustain this culture of engagement, we need to celebrate failure as learning events.

Please keep in mind that culture is fragile.  Any mishandling by leaders can undo any progress made toward this highest level of performance.  

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Merch:  https://teespring.com/stores/leadersights

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

124 - Cultures of Excitement

Hi, I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

Let’s take a quick look back at what happened on December 8 in history, then we’ll get into today’s topic - Cultures of Excitement

Perhaps the first crack in the glass ceiling occurred on this day in 1660 when a woman was allowed to play the part of Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello.  Apparently up to this point, men played all the roles, even email characters like Desdemona.

On the bad news side, today in 1980, John Lennon was murdered outside of his Manhattan apartment building by Mark David Chapman.

Let see what shapes up for today and what kind of history we can make.

Today, I want to continue building on the evolution of corporate culture.  We started with a culture of defiance, then compliance.  Compliance is the default organizational culture.  No matter what we do, we normalize in compliance and we’ll get locked in there if we don’t deliberately shake things up.

For future business survival, we have to break out of Compliance as often as we can think to and we do that first by asking for involvement.  In a culture of involvement, leaders ask for input to improve the workplace.  A lot of leaders in a lot of organizations do this regularly, but we can’t sustain this and push to the next level without certain working systems that allow us to process the input from involved employees productively.

As we push past involvement and begin allowing employees to not just share ideas, but participate in testing and implementing their ideas, we lay the foundation for a culture of excitement.

We love a workplace that’s exciting.  But what is it that excites people?  

Participation is a big part of it.  So what are we asking people to participate in with us?  One of the more popular activities is a rapid improvement event.  These events go by a wide variety of names:  Kaizen Event, Kaizen Blitz, Action Workout, 5 days/4 nights, Improvement workshops…anything.  

They are focused activities that bring a cross-functional group of people together for a set period of time…usually 5 days.  In that week, participants receive focused training on solving the problem at hand or implementing a particular strategy - something like creating a work cell, or a 5S campaign to organize the workplace. 

These same kinds of things make for popular Television Shows like Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Fixer-Upper, or Flip or Flop.  These are focused on getting the maximum result possible in the minimum amount of time.

What makes these exciting is the attention, the resources available, and the results.  These events are facilitated by skilled team members.  The tools they employ are designed to equalize the group so that the input from the front-line employee weighs the same as input from the CEO.  That’s very satisfying for most of us mortal humans.

So in that week, we feel listened to.  We feel like we matter.  We help make a real change in the workplace, and we can measure that change to show how much better we made things.  And that feeling of “look what we did” or “I helped” and “We won” is wonderful.  I think it’s winning that excites us the most.  So these events have to leave us feeling like we won. 

But how long does it last?

When the event is over and the facilitators go on to the next event, the participants are usually back to their old status - just team members.  They’ll remember how exciting the event was and they’ll say things like “I can’t wait till the Kaizen team comes back to do that with us again.”

A culture of excitement runs on events.  Since events are usually limited in scope to a small area that can actually get finished in a week, for a large organization, people might never participate in a second event.

These events drive great improvements in organizations of all kinds.  They work.  Don’t misunderstand me.  But they don’t create real, broad employee ENGAGEMENT.  The difference is critical. 

I’ll talk more about that in the next post.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2020

123 - Involvement

Hi, I’m David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

It’s my granddaughter Ivy’s first birthday today.  She’s a fireball already and promises to be the perfect wild child.  I’m sure her moms will be able to handle it…one way or another.  Happy birthday, Ivy!

For the past two days, I’ve facilitated an online workshop sponsored by Lean Frontiers that I called High Speed Problem Solving.  I had 5 active participants that were just great to work with.  

As each introduced themselves, they described some frustration that in their organizations, getting to solutions just seemed to take too long.  Several were holding kaizen events that they hoped to shorten by applying what I might be able to teach them in this “high speed problem-solving” workshop.  

I spoke to them about the Lean Adage that says “sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.”  That pretty much sums up the premise of High Speed Problem Solving:  Slow down and do the thinking required to find the right problem, set the right scope, find the right root causes, and evaluate several different countermeasures to find the right one.  The speed comes from never having to solve that particular problem again.

I did share some very specific techniques for speeding things up, including ways to see problems more quickly through visual management and workplace organization; writing better problem statements, so we don’t have to ask a lot of questions to get the clarity we need; breaking down a big problem; stem-and-leaf cause mapping; and ways to cultivate creativity.

But all of those are just tips and techniques.  The context that makes them work, really, is in the culture of the organization.  Last week I spoke about cultures of defiance and cultures of compliance.  To get to a culture of engagement, we have to navigate our way through involvement and excitement while we build the skills required to thrive in engagement.  These include leadership skills as well as problem solving skills like critical thinking, quantitative analysis, creativity, planning and organizing, execution, and evaluation.

Getting to involvement should be easy, but staying there is very tough.  To get there, all you have to do is ask people for their input.  Staying there requires that you act on their input.  What makes this hard is that this early input expects the leader to solve the problems they point out, many of which are beyond the leader’s authority.  When the leader fails to act, people notice.  They go back into their compliance mode telling themselves that the leadership was never really serious about listening to employees anyway.

To make our way through this involvement stage, we have to have systems that allow us to show that we are listening to people, but we need to make it clear from the start that the leader’s role is not to solve the problems, but to provide resources to people to solve their own.  Those resources include time, coaching, and supplies.  Problems and ideas have to be tangible and work related, so complaints about how lazy other employees are doesn’t count.

If we don’t think through what the new rules should be for involvement, we’ll fall pretty quickly.  I’ll be happy to help you define those rules and help you begin your journey to a new culture.  Just give me a call.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Welcome December

Hi everyone.

We have made it to December, despite 2020!  Of course, there have always been end-of-the-world predictions surrounding the first day of Winter, December 21, so we can't say we've got it made until at least after that.

2020 has definitely been a year for disrupting habits.  There are so many things we "used to do" that we've had to reinvent.  But we've done just that...Reinvented.  So I've been thinking this morning about habits and how it's so hard to build good habits that stick for long.  If we've reinvented and created something that works, will we keep it after the pandemic passes?  That made me think about change initiatives, projects, and programs and why so many fail, or why we have so many in the first place.

Being human is just difficult.  If we could stick to stuff, would we be better off?  Let's start with diets.  I can show you in my "LoseIt" app that I was able to maintain a streak of 481 days of logging every meal.  In that time, I lost 30 pounds!  But then, for one reason or another, I broke the streak. 

Once it's broken, the effort to get back into it is enormous.  So, I've gained all that weight back.  I don't really need anything new, though, because I know exactly what to do to achieve that level of success.   My biggest question now is: Why can't I get back into it? 

I learned everything I needed to know and I should have been able to sustain without the details of keeping track of everything.  But I didn't.  So the lesson to me is that the system and some help are absolutely required even after all that learning.  The same applies to your work.  You can't rely on people doing everything that needs to be done just because they know how.  Leaders build the systems that not only sustain, but also propel the workplace into the future.

Have a wonderful December. I have two things I'm prioritizing (after family) that I could use your help with:

1. I want to do more professional speaking in 2021.  (Profession is code for "Paid".)  If your company is having a meeting, either virtually or in person, I hope you'll consider me as a keynote or workshop speaker.  If you're in a chamber of commerce or professional association, please recommend me to the program committee.  I'm happy to follow up with proposals to provide the details, but start by booking a call with me.

2.  I have discovered a cloud based system that changes the way we keep track of work as it progresses through our processes.  It is unlike any financial software or ERP system I've ever seen.  It bases everything on a profit model created from your current financials but run through an algorithm that allows you to see first if you're in line with competitors in your market segment, and second, precisely where you can focus to increase productivity, profitability, and engagement. 

I need 6 to 10 small- to medium-sized companies to try this with so I can really understand how it works.   The company that produced it (QPS) is making a special offer that makes it affordable for even a very small business.  Please think about this and book a call with me to talk about how we might be able to run it in your company and what you can expect.

If I can help you with anything else, send me a message. 

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