In a recent webinar, our Managing Partner Ryan Ramsey spoke about his early career as the captain of the HMS Turbulent, a Trafalgar class submarine of the Royal Navy. At the time he had no knowledge or training in Lean methodologies but still managed to use some of the tactics he would later learn after joining Project7.
One such example was his desire to improve the dive speed of the submarine. Despite what Hollywood has taught us, this is a complicated manoeuvre with over 200 individual steps and requiring the involvement of the entire crew.
The complexity of this manoeuvre meant he would never be able to accomplish his goal on his own. He would need the skills and expertise of his crew to help fine tune each step or where possible, remove redundant ones all together.
This presented a number of challenges but by involving his crew in the process, challenging them to get better results and giving them the responsibility to find better solutions the goal was achieved.
He knew some changes would fail but he also knew he had an existing process to revert back too and that failure still taught them something if you apply fast learning.
But how does this apply to leaders in a business environment?
Assign Responsibilities not Task Lists
Handing over responsibility can be hard for any leader. When doing it, many will worry by asking themselves questions like; Will they do what I need? Will they do it in time? Have they really understood what I asked of them? Worse is the feeling that teaching a team member a task will take twice as long as doing it yourself. For the busy leader this extra time seems not only wasteful but an added pressure to their already overflowing diary.
The result? Teams are handed task lists not responsibilities.
But why is this a bad thing? The job still gets done and clearly defined processes are what we need to aim for if we’re going to improve efficiencies and reduce waste.
These points are certainly true. Task lists allow a job to be completed the same way each and every time. They allow you to identify where a process is not followed and catch errors early. You can more accurately predict how long a job will take and they mean each employee is not ‘reinventing the wheel’ but instead benefiting from past learning’s.
This last point of benefiting from past learning’s is where problems creep in however. For a task list to exist someone must have sat down and wrote out their learning’s in a clearly defined way for others to follow. They probably even amended it when they found team members kept misunderstanding certain steps or added in steps they had missed out. In other words, this individual took responsibility for an area of the business and documented the best way they knew to complete a certain job, task or action.
The danger occurs when this is where the learning process ends. The task list is seen as ‘done’ and is never revisited or questioned. Overtime the process becomes more of a tradition and anyone who questions it is quickly told ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it’. Even if the process was the most efficient one at one time, changes to technology, environment and customer demand mean it might have become outdated.
As leaders, if all we do is assign task lists to our team members we can only expect them to be concerned with getting the job done. They have no scope, desire or incentive to look at quality, efficiency, waste, cost or any other aspect that could be improved. They don’t seek out new responsibilities or look for new challenges.
Assigning responsibility to an individual allows them to start thinking beyond the task and to wider implications. Is there a way of automating this? Could we do this faster? Can we deliver something better?
Much of leadership comes down to having the ability to let go. If you give responsibility, you get responsibility in return. It’s underpinned by your belief and trust that your team are more than capable of delivering what you’re asking of them, and you’ll support them on the journey. And that’s the reality. Sometimes, you just have to stay out of their way and let them find the answers.
To circle back to Ryan, when he joined the crew of the HMS Turbulent the dive time was 8 minutes. After going through this process of improvement, which involved his entire crew, the dive time was reduced to under 2 minutes.
Assigning task lists to his crew would never have delivered such impressive results. It was only by giving his crew the collective responsibility of improving this important manoeuvre that such gains were made.
If you ask Ryan about this he won’t say he improved things, he always says the crew did it. Ryan provided the vision but it was each member of the crew who brought their expertise to the challenge to try new ways of doing things in an effort to find the most optimum solution.
A key tenant of the P7 methodology is the right person for the right job. There are many jobs we can do but the question is not if we can do them but if it’s the best use of our time. Time for ourselves, time for our development and time for our businesses.
Many businesses will appoint a Facilities Management company to help streamline day-to-day operations and keep their people focused on delivering efficient solutions for customers.
But what about Facilities Management companies themselves? The day to day activities of running offices, logistics, IT and in some cases regulations can act as a drain on your time just as much as any other business. These tasks prevent us from completing activities which only you can do, hindering business performance.
Furthermore, Covid-19 has placed additional challenges on the day to day running of all businesses. This creates more demand from your clients but being able to plan, adapt and respond to these more stringent demands is not easy, quick or profitable. For Facilities Management businesses a new approach might be required.
On 25th June we’ll be partnering with CBRE GWS in a free webinar to help answer these questions and ones like them.
We will be showing how lean principles, when combined with your already considerable problem solving methods for your clients, can streamline your processes and business operations. We’ll also be showcasing how these principles can not only save you money and cut down on wasted time & materials, but also provide a template for delivering a far more effective solution to your clients.
Register today to save your seat.
With people returning to work leaders need to consider each individuals unique situations
As we adapt to new ways of working a major question to many will be the evolving nature of the workplace
There will be many challenges for businesses post lockdown. Here we look at a major one, observing social distancing.
In this unprecedented time, you need to evolve, and our consultancy is aiming to provide first-class service remotely, advising clients on how to achieve success. Our own rapid seamless adaptation to the changing conditions is helping our clients do the same. Good communications, real structure, disciplined approach, empathy, collaborative approach, understanding, humour, one-team approach. The right adapted process, people focused on success, enables great remote performance
Your business is your livelihood and how you like to spend your days. You’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into it over the years. It can be devastating and frustrating to learn that business isn’t going as well as you would have hoped.
The reality is that businesses go through ups and downs, and your entrepreneurial journey may not always be easy. Instead of getting down on yourself, view this as an opportunity and a challenge that you can overcome with the right approach. Be glad to know there are steps you can take to help your struggling business so you can get back on your feet and start heading in a positive direction.
REVISIT YOUR BUSINESS PLAN & GOALS
When your business is struggling, it’s a good time to go back and revisit your business plan and set new goals. It’s possible that what you’ve done in the past and going on with business, as usual, is creating more problems for you. Hopefully, you’ve been measuring your results and can see what’s working and where the hold-ups might exist. It’s possible that the business landscape and customer needs are changing and that you need to alter your strategy a bit to keep up with these latest developments.
SEEK OUTSIDE HELP
It’s never a bad idea to reach out and seek outside help when your business needs a refresh and new perspective. Find a resource or consulting company that can help your business Evolve to stay ahead of current challenges so you can get back on track quickly. There may be issues or leadership challenges that you’re not aware that a third party can point out. They can evaluate your current state and offer up a solution that will help you to refocus.
TWEAK YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY
You may want to consider increasing your marketing when your business is struggling. It could be that you’re not getting in front of the right customers at the right time. Tweak your marketing strategy so that you can create more brand awareness around your company and communicate why someone should do business with you. Consider taking an SEO course to educate yourself on best practices and how you can increase your visibility online.
FIND SUPPORT FROM YOUR NETWORK
You’ve likely been working on building up your network of business connections over the years. When your company is struggling is the perfect opportunity to reach out and take advantage of the relationships you’ve built. Find a mentor or someone in your network who can relate to what you’re going through and offer up useful advice and guidance regarding how you can approach the future.
Most importantly, it’s imperative that as the leader of the company, you maintain a positive mindset through all the uncertainty. Focus on what’s going well and applying your creativity to overcome difficult situations you’re facing. Try your best to think of all the ways your business may come out even better and on top after having gone through this experience. Encourage your employees to keep working hard and continue to brainstorm ideas for how you and your team can overcome this obstacle.
The concept of lean leadership emerged from lean manufacturing. C-suite executives saw the 25 percent-plus improvements in productivity in that sector and decided that they wanted to share in some of those gains. Thus, the concept of lean leadership was born.
“Lean” in the context of leadership, however, is quite different from its forebear. While the basic idea is to economize, the concept is far more nebulous than that. So much so, that some have gone as far as to suggest that lean leadership is just “good leadership” – there isn’t much distinction between them.
There are two main pillars that mark out lean leadership from its traditional corporate counterpart. The first is the notion that lean leaders take a less naive view of company profitability. Unlike traditional leaders, they’re not solely interested in the amount of money the firm makes in the next quarter. They also care about how their decisions will impact all stakeholders in years to come, including colleagues, customers, and owners. Thus, they’re more strategic in their thinking, considering issues more holistically.
The second pillar is the notion that lean leaders shirk the top-down management hierarchy of the past and, instead, work to improve the leadership capacities of their followers. In a sense, lean leaders help their teams internalize leadership qualities, aligning them with the company mission, enhancing the potency of every individual.
Lean Leadership Improves Business Efficiency
Traditionally, companies take a top-down approach to leadership. An executive issues an order which travels through successive layers of management, eventually reaching the relevant people on the ground.
Lean leadership, however, sees this approach as a missed opportunity. People with their fingers in the pie are a resource that goes to waste under this paradigm.
Lean philosophy, therefore, is to leverage leaders to provide the rank and file with skills that will enable them to make better decisions in real-world conditions. There are no complicated feedback loops or command-and-control structures: just individual decision-makers doing things that make sense in the context of the company’s mission, pushing it forward.
Under the lean leadership system, therefore, leaders attempt to distribute knowledge across their teams as widely as they can. It is a kind of insurance policy that reduces the risk when you allow individual team members to take a more active role in decision-making.
A Mentoring Style Of Leadership Improves Morale
Lean leadership also yields improved morale. Most workers don’t want a manager breathing down their neck all day, telling them precisely what they need to do next. Instead, they want someone who will coach them, help them develop, and enable them to make better decisions independently. Traditional management outsources this task to external coaching consultants, but lean leaders see it as fundamental to their role. In this paradigm, managers ARE the trainers, not just people who direct production.
Lean leadership, in summary, is a way of leading, a way of being efficient and, in a sense, a way of living. It takes a different tack to the problem of organizing a large group of people, doing away with micromanagement, and allowing things to evolve more organically. By seeding new leaders, it takes advantage of a firm’s latent human resources.