Monday, August 31, 2020

62 - Better Huddles

How can you get teams to perform better together?

How can you improve relationships at work?

How can you boost satisfaction in your teams?

How can you see and solve problems more quickly?

You can get all of these benefits by using team huddles. 

I recommend huddling everyday and at every level of the organization. 

At the working level/the value creation level/where the rubber meets the road or Tier 1, I recommend starting the huddle within the first hour of the work shift or the work day.  Maybe allow just enough time to allow for people arriving just a little late for one reason or another.  Set a time and always start on time.

What will you do in the huddle?

You talk about how yesterday went, reviewing the key metrics, reviewing problems that occurred, and celebrating the successes you had.  Then celebrate whatever is happening today:  birthday's anniversaries, vacations, babies, graduations, etc.

Then you talk about Today.  What's the plan for today ("Here's what we have to finish today:")

So to make a huddle work, you have to have a plan for the day.

At tiers 2, 3, and 4 it's essentially the same, but these need to look further out than just today.  Tier 2 should anticipate needs for the next week or two.  Tier 3 next month.  Tier 4 next quarter and next year.  But everyone works everyday, and if you want these leadership levels to perform as teams, they need to have a daily plan and meet daily as well.

The key thing that makes all of this work ends up being what you measure.  If you measure the wrong things (things that aren't really something the teams can effect) then nobody really cares and the huddle will just be something they have to do. 

If you measure the right things, everything changes.  How do you know what the right things are?  Ask the teams.  Experiment a little.  If you just use whatever the senior leadership or the continuous improvement team gives you, it's not likely to work.  They just need different things.  They do have to be tied together, but they still have to be relevant to the team. 

So work with it.  The question that might help is "What do we need to know the most every day?"

If you have questions or if you need a little help getting these sorted, I can help.  Just send me a note and we'll figure it out.

Set your calendar alarm now so you can join me for a Lean Coffee discussion Wednesday at noon.  Then, Wednesday at 4 I'm hosting a webinar featuring Bruce Ross, a friend of mine in New Zealand.  His title is "Re-establish the Life, Business (and Bank Account) You Want…. Without Fear of Burnout".  I'll post the registration link in the comments.

On Thursday, I'm kicking off a weekly series of webinars on organizational culture with the aim of helping you reshape the company to get the culture and performance you want.  I'll share a little more of this tomorrow.

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

- David

Sunday, August 30, 2020

61 - Review and Reflect - Self Efficacy

This week we've focused on self-efficacy.  So how does this help you?  What do you get out of knowing about this topic?

I don't hear anyone talking about Self-Efficacy in the business world.  I do hear about it in Education and Development communities, but it seems like it's almost too academic for business.  That isn't really true, though.

It's important to understand cause and effect in any setting.  Ultimately, you want your work to be rewarding, both financially and spiritually.  Leaders want people to work more productively, and to continuously improve the ways we do the work. 

Designing work for self-efficacy and satisfaction provides both of these outcomes.

Self-efficacy is the confidence you have in your ability to do a particular task.  People with high self-efficacy will improve their workspace, try new things, and persist through failure.  If everyone in your company showed up doing these three things, that company would be unstoppable.

To review, there are 4 main elements: Mastery, Vicarious Learning, Verbal Persuasion or Coaching,
and Control. 

The learning piece focuses on designing work that a team can do together to build better relationships and learn from watching each other and talking about better ways to work together.

The coaching piece focuses on helping the team set better goals that challenge the skills of the team to build expertise in the required tasks. 

The coach also provide support and encouragement and should be done by whomever actually leads the team, even if it's a peer leader rather than a true supervisor.  By the way, in more advanced organizations, this can be a position through which team members rotate.

Mastery focuses on individual competence.  The higher the competence, the higher the self-efficacy.  So we deliberately focus on making everyone an expert.  Work that requires an expert feels more significant and meaningful that work that is menial.

To build that mastery, we set effective goals and targets that challenge our people in a positive way.  We provide the support they need to find the best way to do the work that achieves the challenge or hits the target.  Through repetition and accountability skills will improve.

So, while we can make an academic case out of this, there's nothing more practical that goal-setting, standardized work, practice, measurement, consistency, coaching, and feedback.

Tomorrow, go and make your work better.  Go and make work better for the people in your care.

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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

60 - The Elephant in the room


Today, I want to talk about the elephant in the room.  Not that I have one at the moment, but the metaphor has always been interesting to me.

We also use elephants in another metaphor about big problems - How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

But my daughter has always loved elephants and has quite the cute and cuddly collection that she's now sharing with my grand kids.

And I know elephants in the wild can at times be ferocious, but Elephants aren't predators.  We use the metaphor "elephant in the room" because its actually something that we can ignore, despite the tension. 

And eating an elephant, even one bite at a time, is a big job that is unpleasant, but if you don't finish, you can't really expect the elephant to eat you.

When I teach problem solving, and people want to start off with these giant problems that haven't really been clearly defined, I usually talk about a T Rex instead of an elephant. 

I don't want to be able to ignore a problem like the elephant in the room, so let's make it a T Rex and decide what we're going to do with it before it eats us (which problems are likely to do if they go unsolved.)

If we decide to eat the t rex, then we also have to decide where to start.  If we start in the toughest part, and that first bite ends up tasting bad, people won't want to keep eating.  If we start trying to solve a really tough problem without first building up some skill, we're not going to succeed.

Make the first bite some place juicy and tender, and properly cooked so it goes down sweet and nice and easy, so people will want to keep eating. 

Start with small pieces of a tough problem.  Build self-efficacy with a series of small wins.  This way, when it's time to tackle a really tough piece, we'll have the skills and the confidence to take it head on.

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

Friday, August 28, 2020

59 - Control

The final piece of the self-efficacy puzzle is Control.

As humans, we have a legitimate need to feel like we are in control of our environment.  Whether its, family, household, community, or work, we are at ease when we feel like things are under control.

Whenever anything happens to disrupt that feeling of control, we freak out.  Some people more vibrantly than others!

At work, many people are content to control their workspace and they don't worry about much of
anything else.

Leaders need to feel like they are in control as well, and so they often try to manage everything, including people.  I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like being managed - I prefer to be led by a caring leader.

The hard part is that we've built these work systems that reinforce every leader's attempt to keep things under control.  But organizations are complex systems, impossible to absolutely control, until you change your perspective on what control really is.

In the Army, the term "command and control" is steeped into everything we do.  While there are plenty of micromanaging control freak jerks in leadership positions, what we teach everyone is really focused on executing a mission.

To execute a military mission, leaders are forced to let go.  The terrain and the fluid situation require decentralized execution, so we train soldiers to take control of their piece of the terrain and act however the changing situation demands.

To maintain an overall feeling of control, commanders explain their intent for the mission (where we want to be at the end) and we train like hell, so everyone knows what they have to do. 

In other words, commanders share their vision, make pretty detailed plans and assign specific missions, then develop their people so they can trust that when they let go, people will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission and achieve the vision.

Isn't that what you want for your organization?  The more you help people feel like they have control over what they do, the higher the self-efficacy and the higher their satisfaction.  Go make someone's day today!

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

58 - Coaching for Self-efficacy

We're still talking about building your confidence and self-efficacy.

So far we have talked about Mastery and learning vicariously.   Today our topic is Coaching for self-efficacy.  If we are trying to push a team to achieve mastery in multiple tasks or job functions, we need to provide that team with effective coaching in the form of present and principled leadership.

The hallmark of an effective, professional, coaching leader is that they talk less and listen more.  That might not be what you see with sports coaches, but it's what works best in a work environment.

Too many leaders think coaching is primarily about feedback, and we're taught to always start with something positive before you destroy their morale with all the stuff they should be doing better.

Instead, remember that coaching is primarily about improvement.  To improve someone's performance, they need to know what's expected, so the coach helps the performer to set high standards that really challenge their skills. 

With any challenge, you should expect several failures because a good challenge exceeds their current skill level.  The coach supports the performer with the resources they need to build those skills.  That might be in the form of time or tools.

Coaching leaders also have to correct a performer.  We do this with compassion and again by asking questions and listening more.  Let the performer explain the result they got and what happened to get the result.  If they have failed, they know it.  You don't have to point that out!  Help them reflect on their performance to find where things went wrong and what they could do better next time.  Again - talk less, listen more.

Finally, a coach is the main source of encouragement.  If we are setting challenges that drive higher performance, there will be lots of failures along the way.  The coach helps the team persist through those failures by encouraging them to try again and to keep finding new ways to try the work until they can achieve the challenge.

The relationships you build as a proper coach will last a lifetime.  Remember:  Challenge, Support, Correct, and Encourage.  Four key skills for coaches.  Four key skills for leaders.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

57 - Learning from Others

Are you part of a team at work?  How does your team work together?

Self-efficacy is a special kind of confidence we have about our ability to do particular tasks or

People with high self-efficacy often improve their own workspace, try new things, and persist
through failure.

There are several deliberate things we can do ourselves and as leaders to build self-efficacy at work.  Yesterday, I spoke briefly about Mastery and how doing a job gets better with practice and that boosts self-efficacy.  Not exactly rocket science.  Leadership, though, can be the catalyst for getting that mastery process started.

But mastery is just one piece of the puzzle.  Another thing that helps is our ability to learn by watching other people.  This vicarious learning occurs throughout our lives, but an effective leader will design work that allows several people to work together and be able to actually see each other working.  As they work and discuss things, people will notice that they each do a job in a particular way.  Even when everyone is following the standardized work, there are still individual differences and knack points that certain people bring to the task that make it easier or quicker.

We have to see these differences ourselves, because the nature of expertise usually means the expert can't really explain what they do differently.  As we watch, we learn vicariously.  That gives us an opportunity to try what we've seen and then to make it better.

Bottom line:  put people on small teams and encourage them to experiment with different techniques to use while following the standardized work.

Join me at noon for a Lean Coffee discussion, and join me tomorrow for a webinar on Navigating Changing environments.

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

56 - Mastery - Improving your confidence

How can you boost your confidence at work?

More specifically, How can you improve your self-efficacy toward a particular job or task?

Self-efficacy is task-oriented.  

We can be self-confident overall, but still lack confidence for something.  For example, I'm pretty confident about speaking to groups and teaching, but my self-efficacy about making videos was pretty low.  

Until recently, I haven't done much video work.  Getting lighting and angles right, editing software, where and how to post and cross-post on social media just seemed like a lot to learn. 

Keep in mind that low self-efficacy toward a task doesn't mean a fear of doing it, it just means that we have to be more deliberate about doing that kind of work.  It helps when the circumstances force your hand and offer a challenge!

To meet the challenge, you have to find the way to achieve it - you have to define the process.  I’ve been doing videos since the start of July.  Some of the early ones were rough.  My first one was actually sideways.  I'm still not an expert, but I'm on my way.  My self-efficacy is high, even if my skills haven't reached that mastery level.

To build self-efficacy then, the first step is to set a challenge.  Next, build your experience by trying lots of different things to discover the best way for you to do the job.  Then practice, measuring each attempt against your process and your goal.  That repetition and accountability is crucial.

Mastery of the task will make you more confident about the task and that will translate to other tasks.  Start small and build consistently with a series of small successes.  Each time you'll learn something and take one more step toward Mastery.  

Don’t forget, Lean Coffee discussion at noon tomorrow and my webinar on navigating change is Thursday at 2 pm eastern.  I hope I’ll see you then!   -DV

Monday, August 24, 2020

55 - Self Efficacy - How confident are you about your ability to do your job?

How confident do you feel about your ability to do your job?

This confidence about specific tasks is called self-efficacy.   When I first learned about it, it connected a whole bunch of dots for me.  I was studying the Toyota Production System and this concept explained a lot about why team members there were so willing to submit ideas about improving the work.

I learned that people with high self-efficacy do 3 pretty cool things:

  1. They are much more likely to take steps on their own to improve their own workspace than people with low self-efficacy
  2. They are much more likely to try new things and experiment to see what might work better.
  3. When they try this new things and they don’t work, they dig in and persist through that failure.  They keep trying until they MAKE it work.

Other people might try something a leader suggests, or more likely directs them to do, but when it doesn’t work, they will shrug it off and say things like “I told you that wouldn’t work.”

I learned that you don’t have to just hire people with naturally high self-efficacy to get this kind of energy.  There are things that leaders can do to help improve levels of self-efficacy in their people!

That’s what I’ll be talking about this week.

Open your calendar and block Wednesday at noon so you can join me for a lean coffee and have a
good discussion about whatever is on your mind. 

Block Thursday at 2 pm, too and join my webinar on Navigating Changing Times.  I’m going to share 5 key things to help lead people through anything that is changing in their lives.

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

54 - Reflection

As we do every Sunday, let’s recap and review.

Remember, the general theme for August has been Learning, which can be pretty broad.

This past week, we opened with how people respond to change.  As with other things we don’t fully understand, any change without a clear picture of where we want to go brings some fear, which causes people to resist.  The leaders job then isn’t to manage change, but to manage fear, and we can do that by open communication, with consistent and clear messaging from all leaders, and showing gratitude to the workforce.

Tuesday I talked about how people learn, specifically in 4 learning domains: Psychomotor, Cognitive, Affective, and Social. 

Then on Wednesday I focused on that cognitive domain and shared 6 levels of learning within that
domain.  The top levels of learning:  Analyzing, Creating, and Evaluating are problem solving. 

On Thursday, when Apple’s market cap broke the $2 Trillion dollar mark, that gave me the opportunity to talk about perspective using the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion in time and distance.

I returned on Friday with 3 structures to create a learning organization, and those are small teams,
standardized work, and learning circles.  I believe that if you can correctly install these structures, you can build a resilient learning organization.

Finally, yesterday I celebrated my birthday by discussing my pursuit of Wisdom which is the ultimate goal of learning.  It, of course, begins when we acknowledge that we know nothing.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll start exploring what I think is the most important factor in employee
engagement, self-efficacy. 

Wednesday Lean Coffee.  Join Here.

Thursday 2:00 pm Eastern.  Navigating Change solex/webinar.  I hope you’ll join me.  Register here.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

53 Wisdom - Are you comfortable with what you know?

Are you comfortable with what you “know”?

Today, I’m 60 years old.  If I had enough hair, it would be gray.

That’s a pretty fair amount of time to be around, and I’ve tried to soak in as much as I possibly could over those years, some more clearly than others.

Happily, I feel like there’s still another several lifetimes of things to learn and things to know.

Knowledge, though is fleeting.  

There are things I just absolutely knew in the past that turned out to be wrong in another context.

So what I’ve learned from that is to keep thinking.  Keep thinking through different perspectives.  Keep putting myself into the shoes of others.  Keep seeking to understand what drives them.

There are lots of things I know I’ll never figure out or understand.  And there is where wisdom lies.

I wouldn’t dare call myself wise.  But I seek that wisdom by seeking to understand.

For my birthday, I wish all of you that desire to understand; that desire to see something from another person’s perspective.  I wish all of you the love it takes do that.

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

3 Structures for a Learning Organization

You can do a lot of stuff trying to make your work better and still not be very effective overall. The only sustainable kind of organization is a learning organization. 

You can start to build a learning organization with just 3 lean systems.  These 3 systems seem like they should be easy to do, but they are really pretty hard to do correctly. 

I'm talking about teams, standardized work, and learning circles.

Members of small teams learn more effectively from each other and reach higher levels of
expertise quickly.  Teams of 3 to 6 people with a team leader are able to establish supportive relationships that promote learning and development.

Standardized work is the primary vehicle for teaching work skills.  Too many people think standardized work is just about getting a work process documented.  The system works best when you focus on the learning benefits of having the people who do the work actually complete the analysis of the work and the documentation. 

They'll need some help from supporting staff like managers and engineers, but let them do it instead of having the support staff do it for them.

Learning circles, which we used to call Quality Circles, are exceptional learning groups when the focus is on learning and not on rushing to a solution. 

Here, you'll bring a small and cross-functional group of people together to solve a particular problem.  But it's not really the solution you are after...It's the learning that comes from going through the problem solving process.

If you've tried some of these but you aren't getting the results you expected, maybe a new perspective can help. 

Next Thursday, August 27, I'm offering a live short online learning experience (SOLX) - my
new term for a webinar - at 2:00 pm Eastern.   Register here.

I would love for you to subscribe to my Youtube Channel  and you're always welcome to join me every Wednesday at noon on Zoom for a lean coffee discussion. 

If you'd like to hear from me a little more frequently.  Subscribe to my mailing list here.

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Do you know how much a trillion really is?

Do you know how much one trillion really is?

Yesterday Apple's market cap broke $2 trillion.  That means investors think the company is that valuable - that's the value of their outstanding stock.  

What's really remarkable is that it took 42 years to reach $1 trillion valuation, then doubled that in just 2 years.  Yes, I wish I had 10,000 shares!

But what's the difference between a million, which used to be considered a lot of money, a billion, which is today's target for being rich, and a trillion, which is the realm of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Saudi Aramco, oh, and our National Deficit?

Tony Robbins shared the difference using time in his book Unshakeable.  1 Million seconds equals 277.78 hours, or 11 and a half days.

1 billion seconds equals 31.7 YEARS!

1 trillion seconds equals 31,709.79 Years.  That's how old we homo sapiens are!

If it were distance, using the length of dollar bills at 6.14 inches long each, a million bucks would get me from Columbus to Blue Ash, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.

A billion bucks would get me around the world at the equator 4 times.

A trillion bucks would get me to Mars and back with loads to spare. 96.9 Million miles

We throw billions and trillions around and we have become desensitized to these huge numbers.  I think it's great that our economy is able to produce that kind of wealth. 

But How can we have that much wealth and still have kids going to bed hungry?  

How can we have that much wealth and still have sex slavery? 

If we want to be great, let's make things great for the least of us.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Today is my 50th episode of Elevate Your Performance.  I'm still having fun with this so I expect I'll make it to 100 in early October.  

You can find all the videos on my YouTube channel.  

Today, I want to stick with what I started yesterday - Learning.


I mentioned the 4 domains we learn in, always concurrently.  The one I spend most time focusing on is the Cognitive domain.  To me, this is where we build thinking skills.


There are 6 levels of learning here:


  • Knowing
  • Understanding
  • Applying
  • Analyzing
  • Creating
  • Evaluating


The top three levels (Analyzing, Creating, and Evaluating) are called problem solving levels of learning, so we come back around to problem solving as a function of responsibility and then satisfaction at work.


If we focus on analyzing, what steps are really required?  How do you analyze something?


The key thing that makes analysis "analysis" is breaking something down into a series of steps.  It can be a timeline, or an ecosystem, or even something like a quality problem at work.


Once you identify the steps or the chunks, then you'll need to understand how each contributes to the overall outcome.  You might need to decide what data you'll need to collect and how to collect it so you can use that data to make better decision.


Outside perspectives always help you see the chunks more clearly and understand the systems that contribute to problems in workplaces. 


If you need an outside perspective brought in, please reach out to me.  Book a time to have a call with my by clicking on this link.

I can help you with a remote review of any problem you might need help with.  I want to ensure that when the pandemic lifts, instead of going back to normal, we go back to better.


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

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Learning Domains

The USPS has been in the news an awful lot so I want to shout out to my friends who work there.  They've been struggling for a while for lots of reasons but they are wonderful, hard working people who really care about us.  So please go buy some stamps and show them some love.


I can't believe I've gone this whole month so far, with a theme of Learning, without really talking about learning yet.  But all the satisfaction information I've shared ties into learning because one of the satisfiers people claim is learning or growth opportunities.  Are we providing these at work?


People learn in 4 domains:


Psychomotor learning is where we learn physical skills and hand-eye coordination.


Cognitive learning is where we learn to think critically and logically and solve problems.


Affective learning is where we classify what we've learned by the value we think it has, forgetting some and keeping some


Social learning is how we learn from others in a social group like work.


These all weave together, so you can never just learn in one domain, you learn in all of them, all the time as we go through life processing everything.


Knowing how people learn can make you a more effective leader because you can redesign workplaces to enhance learning and discovery rather than enforce old rules. 


If we want a culture of engagement, this is pretty important.


That's all I have time for today.  Join me for a lean coffee every Wednesday at noon.  Here's the link:

Make a comment, like, and share this post for me.  Let me know if you need help with anything.  I'm pretty good at helping people solve problems.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Responding to Change

How do you respond to change?


When the pandemic hit us and we were ordered to lock down, what kinds of things went through your mind?


Since we’ve been under these constraints for almost 5 months, what has changed about the way you think about change?


If you’re like most people, we respond to change in a relatively predictable way.  You probably greeted that first jarring news of the NBA season cancellation with a little disbelief.  That’s a form of resistance and it’s based on fear.  We all have a fear of unknown changes.  Some wear it a little better than others.


If you want to make a change at work, you can expect the same kind of reaction.  Lots of people blame resistance to change for failed initiatives, but they fail because of leadership.


Just like we had daily briefings about the pandemic, where our officials were trying to let everyone know as much as possible to help manage the fear, the way you, as a leader, communicate will either help bring people into a place of acceptance more smoothly, or turn everyone off.


As we saw with our government briefings at the beginning of the pandemic,  if you say things that make things LESS clear, or if there are conflicting messages from different leaders, people are left to do whatever they decide to do, which may be nothing, or it may be something that causes your initiative to fail.


Since this is a complex topic, I’m finishing up an on-demand, Short, On-Line Learning Experience on Navigating Change.  It’ll be available later this week for $19.  I would make it free, but my workload is way down and my bills aren’t!  REGISTER HERE!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Reset? 8/15/2020


I usually talk about making our work better, which has a relatively happy feel.  But it's difficult to make work better when you're out of work. 


The pandemic has kicked our butts but more importantly it has sharply exposed some of our underlying problems that we as a society really don't want to admit and don't want to face.


So what happens to problems when we ignore them? 


They always get worse.


What happens to problems when we deny they exist or flat out lie about them?


They always get worse.


Our national problems are significant.  Elections alone aren't going to solve them. 


Let's look to our families and communities and start small.  What can we do to help each other out?  Within our communities, whether geographical communities, or communities of practice or faith, we can bring out some equity through love and learning.


I'm willing to spend time on the phone with anyone who'd like to brainstorm and try to figure out what to do.  Send an email and we'll book a time.

Love each other.  Learn from each other what we need to step up, and then help each other take that step up.  Together we can lift the yoke of poverty.


Workplace Culture

Workplace Culture - August 14, 2020

Do you need a culture change?  

I’m picking up this blog because the format is easy and i like the way it presents each post.  I have been doing a daily video since July 1, 2020 and I nearly always write a sort of script before I record.  I haven’t figured out a good way to transfer all of those to this platform and preserve the sequence, but I’ll get that figured out soon enough. 

For now, let me just start rolling.  I’m sure I’ll adjust as I go.


The theme August has been Learning.  I've spent the past couple of weeks focusing on what you need to learn to make jobs more satisfying and why.


Today I want to add to the why with a shift to talk about culture.


Culture captures the collective behavior of the people in organizations.


I think there are 5 specific types of culture in organizations


Defiance - where trust between the leadership and the workforce is absent so the workforce actively works against the goals of the leadership


Compliance - where the workforce complies with the directives of leadership, doing what they are told to avoid negative consequences


Involvement - where leadership solicits some input from some of the workforce


Excitement - where leadership promotes the participation by the workforce in scheduled events and activities to improve the workplace


And Engagement - where leadership and the workforce work together to set and achieve goals, and where the workforce is fully empowered to make changes which they share proudly with leadership.


Most organizations are stuck down in Compliance.


2020 has been a huge shock for all of us.  Those compliant organizations took a hit while the leadership had to decide what to do and then put things in place to allow the workforce to work differently.


How much more quickly could they have pivoted if they had all of their employees seeking and discovering new ways to work?


This isn't going to be our last crisis.  Now is the time to start changing your culture to face the next one.


Reach out and let me show you how.  But you'd better be ready for some heavy lifting.  This is easy to talk about, but difficult to do.