How Do You Engage, Involve, and Motivate Employees?

Any Lean or performance-improvement initiative cannot survive on tools alone. Leaders must cultivate learning environments and develop the shared values that serve as the foundation for  dynamic culture. This month, Janis Allen and Mike McCarthy published an interesting book called How to Engage, Involve, and Motivate Employees: Building a Culture of Lean Leadership and Two-Way Communication that shows just how important it is to motivate and excite employees to take ownership of their roles.

When I spoke with Janis recently, I asked her, "Why do current employee-engagement programs fall short?” Here is her complete answer:

When asked, “Do you have an employee engagement program?” many managers answer, “Sure! Look at these engagement survey scores.” Beware! Quite often, people tell us what we want to hear on engagement surveys. If you really want to know about engagement, gemba gembutsu (go to the shop floor and see for yourself). Ask questions. Ask operators what ideas they have for improving the work. Then: 1. listen, and 2. help them test their ideas. You are now engaging people in improving their own work.

“Engagement” is a noun. Nouns are names of objects. Engage is a verb. Verbs are action. So, instead of asking your company’s managers “Do you have engagement?” say “Let’s go walk the shop floor and engage with our operators by asking what improvements they are making.” It’s the difference between saying “I have a stapler,” (the name of the object sitting on the desk doing nothing) and saying “I’m stapling these papers” (stapling is a verb, action, and you are doing something).

Engaged = observable actions by employees working on improvements. So, when a visitor comes into your workplace and asks, “Are your employees engaged?” say, “Let’s go talk to them. Then you tell me.” Take that visitor to the work area and introduce him to an employee. Say, “Allie, would you show our visitor the changes the team made on the shop floor?” If your employees can do this, they are actively engaged. The purpose of engaging employees is to inspire them to make improvements they can be proud of.

Survey Scores Vs. Go Engage. My new automobile monitors oil level, tire pressure, and other indicators electronically. I get an email with a link once a month that shows me if the tire pressure etc. has been low during the past month. What’s wrong with this picture? After all, I “have” a tire pressure report. Here’s what’s wrong: If I’m about to go on a long trip, I need to know right now if the tire pressure is low. I need to go to the garage (gemba gembutsu) and measure the psi in my tires by pressing (action verb) my tire pressure gauge to each valve stem and see for myself. When your focus is on a measurement tool rather than the actions you want, you get off track. If you steadily gazed at the speedometer while driving, you’d run off the road!

“What do you want me to say, Boss?” Many employees don’t tell the truth on engagement surveys; they say what they think management expects them to say. And in case this so-called anonymous survey isn’t really anonymous, who wants to be the one who says, “I’m not engaged?” This is another reason survey data is not an accurate indicator of actual engagement.

At an airline departure gate, we heard the announcement, “Please complete our customer survey when you receive the email. We want you to rate us a five, not a four. Five is alive; four is out the door. Ha ha. Just to help you remember to rate us a five, we have this basket of snacks here on the counter for you. Help yourselves. It’s not a bribe or anything.”

We saw a half-dozen people help themselves to the snacks. We wonder how many completed the survey, and even if they all rated the airline “Five is alive,” if it was an accurate indicator of their customer experience, whether they would fly with that airline again, and what they tell their colleagues about that airline. Often, people say what they think someone wants to hear. Why not? The person giving the score has nothing to lose. So beware of surveys. People have all kinds of wrong motives for the ratings they give.

Leaders can show people how they can take actions to make improvements they can be proud of. You can help them to do it. The most important results for your organization are the real actions taken to make improvements. But a positive side-effect of those engagement actions is that answers on engagement surveys will also improve. The survey improvement will be based on employees’ actions, their good results, and the satisfying feeling of being on a team. With action-focused engagement, your survey results will be based on actions and their real experience, not just words! And your company will be growing and prospering. 

Does your company have an employee-engagement program? Does it commit many of the mistakes Janis Allen mentioned here?


Is the Hoshin Kanri Forest More Effective than the Traditional Hoshin Kanri?

Many companies involved in Lean initiatives know the effectiveness of Hoshin Kanri as a policy-deployment methodology. It ensures that an organization's clear strategic goals drive progress and action at every level within that company and it incentivizes proper behavior.

Earlier this year, Javier Villalba-Diez published a book that expands on the concept called The Hoshin Kanri Forest: Lean Strategic Organizational Design. In this book, Javier introduces a theory called the Hoshin Kanri Forest that considers organizations as networks with organizational structure, functional connectivity, and effective dynamic patterns for attaining an optimal strategic organizational design towards the strategic goal of Lean management. I had a chance recently to speak with Javier about his book, and I asked him “What makes the Hoshin Kanri Forest methodology different and more effective than traditional Hoshin Kanri?” Here is his answer:

The crucial finding (there are others) of Hoshin Kanri Forest, and what makes it more effective than traditional Hoshin Kanri methodologies, is that it embeds complexity within the organizational design configuration. For the first time in Lean history, Lean practitioners have a model that enables them to embrace complexity in the management system.

Traditional Hoshin Kanri approaches aim to create alignment throughout the organization by coordinating several organizational units. This is typically done by describing a Hoshin (long-term goal) and cascading or deploying this goal throughout the organization (usually through some sort of problem-solving empowerment methodology). The problems with this approach, which is very deterministic and regular, pops up when complexity arises and the matrix-like thinking is no longer able to cope with the complexity associated usually to product or environmental variability.

To picture an example, the average path length (the number of managers information needs to touch to get from one manager to another in average) of a matrix organization of N=800 managers equals 100. This means that in average, to transmit a message/management order from any given node to any other, we would need 100 steps. The Hoshin Kanri Forest introduces the standardization of business communication through (CPD)nA (which is a developed form of the traditional current-state / target-state based PDCA). By doing so, the Hoshin Kanri Forest is able to create forest-like organizational networks that present several important topological advantages as compared with traditional organizational design configurations.

In the previous example, the APL of a Hoshin Kanri Forest organization is typically APL=ln(ln(N) which for N=800 managers equals APL=1,9!!! This is a 50-fold increase in performance than the traditional design configuration! With the same organization, with the same people, the Hoshin Kanri Forest changes the organizational design to enable the organization to compute complexity. In addition, the Hoshin Kanri Forest shows why methodologies such as Kata do not provide the necessary tool set to compute organizational complexity. But to find out more detail about this and other advantages of Hoshin Kanri Forest, you will need to read the book! ;-) You can visit the book´s website for more information: www.hoshinkanriforest.com

Here is a video of Javier explaining the differences between traditional Hoshin Kanri and the Hoshin Kanri Forest:


What are Current Leader-Development Systems Lacking?

This month, David Veech published a very interesting new book called Leadersights: Creating Great Leaders Who Create Great Workplaces. This book addresses an important need: How organizations can create a leader-development system that defines, builds, and reinforces critical leader behaviors. When I had the chance to speak with David about his book, I asked him: What is the biggest problem with current leader-development systems and how can they be improved? He provided an insightful answer:

I'm not sure there are problems with leader-development systems that would threaten the livelihood of organizations, but as with everything else in our continuous-improvement community, there are always parts we can improve. I’ve centered and focused on a couple of areas, and I’ve tried to simplify things a bit as I try to communicate with people about becoming better leaders.

After years of studying the Toyota Production System and other companies that demonstrate consistent success, specifically those profiled in Jim Collins’ books Good to Great and Great by Choice, I have come to believe that the key features of any leader-development program must be built on a platform of servant leadership. I get a lot of agreement with this from people, but there are lots of pieces to becoming an effective servant leader.

The most significant of these pieces is the structure of the workplace. If we have an organization structure that is based on traditional, functional silos, and one that bases compensation of the accomplishment of self-set goals, that structure forces leaders into a particularly results-oriented focus, regardless of their personal leadership style preferences. The system affects their leadership behavior. When a leader assumes a new role, the subtle (or not-so-subtle) competitive pressures implied by the results-oriented system force that leader, out of self-preservation, to either undo what previous leaders have done, or make a change that has their fingerprints on it so they can stand out a bit from the crowd. In most organizations, leaders rotate through key positions moderately frequently (sometimes as little as 18 months between roles), and they get conditioned to this kind of activity even though personally they may be humble and very people-oriented. Lean helps because we try to change the work structures for better performance, and because we focus on the development of people as the primary outcome.

Changing the fundamental structure of the conventional organization is a large undertaking, so I have tried to outline something of a more subversive approach than blowing things up and rebuilding from the rubble. We’ll need to first identify what behaviors are truly important to us as a workplace. Empathy. Listening. Encouraging. Correcting. Coaching. These we describe and operationalize in our statement of corporate values, which with our vision and mission set out our operating philosophy. Then we tie these to performance appraisals and bonus compensation. These are hard to measure, so this is a leap of faith for most workplaces. More importantly though, we must have systems and leaders who model and teach these behaviors, and as with other skills we want to develop, these need to be set out in the leaders’ standardized work. I think this might be the biggest departure from what most of us talk about when we describe leaders’ standardized work. Where most of us use this tool as a checklist and reminder of the key things we must complete daily, weekly, and monthly, we don’t articulate how to be empathetic; how to listen; how to encourage. I think we can fix this be setting out standardized work for these types of skills and reinforcing these skills through frequent coaching as a task within Short-Interval Leadership. 

Ultimately, leaders only need to do three things: Decide to love, continue to learn, and let go of the control they think they have over the workplace. Those skills I mentioned are all components of these three decisions/actions/ habits. These allow us to integrate various leadership styles in our daily work, including the “go out and get noticed” piece that I call “connecting”. But I have to take this back to the structure conversation. Without key changes in the way we describe, hire, evaluate, and compensate leaders; and without key changes in how the work is structured in the workplace away from batch-and-queue, lots of handoffs, and transaction-driven and toward flow, it will be very difficult to build these types of leaders for the future.  

What type of leadership-development system exists in your organization?  What are the major factors affecting your leaders' behaviors?


The Training Within Industry (TWI) Programs -- Are You Using Them Correctly?

An important new book by Donald Dinero just recently hit the streets titled The TWI Facilitator's Guide: How to Use the TWI Programs Successfully. In it, Don explains how practitioners of TWI (Training Within Industry) often alter the programs without understanding the underlying principles. These changes, he contends, have made the programs less effective. During a recent conversation with Don, I asked him specifically: "How have the TWI Programs been recently misused?" Here is his complete answer:

The TWI “J” Programs have many success stories -- those recorded both in the initial period of 1940-1945 and also in the contemporary period after they had been re-introduced. On the other hand, there have been instances in which the TWI Programs have not achieved their intended objectives giving people the idea that “TWI won’t work in our facility because we’re different.” If the TWI Programs are not yielding the intended results, they are not being used properly. Here are some ideas about how these programs are misused which subsequently leads to their being ineffective.

Each of the TWI Programs teaches a skill and each skill is learned for a specific purpose. Just in Time (JIT) teaches us how to transfer knowledge. Job Methods Training (JMT) teaches us how to see waste and improve a process. Job Relations Training (JRT) teaches us how to effectively prevent and deal with personnel issues. For a given program to be seen as useful, the problem that it addresses must first be identified, defined, and quantified. If this is not done, we won’t know whether or not we have achieved what we set out to achieve.

Another area of misuse is when people underestimate the effort and time required to master the skill necessary for the program’s proper use. Outwardly, each program is simple because it is represented by a four-step method. Many practitioners do not realize that it usually takes many hours to fully understand and get a “feel” for how to use each program. Attending a 10-hour session will introduce you to the concepts and methods of each program, but it takes many hours afterward to gain mastery of each program.

A third area of misuse is when practitioners attempt to change a program either to improve it or to have it fit a time schedule or some other parameter. The programs were designed to fit people’s needs and as those needs change, the founders believed the programs should also change. A key point here is that there are some principles in the programs that should not be changed unless society’s behavior changes. Ignoring these principles leads to their being ineffective.

What do you think of Don's thoughts on the misuse of the TWI programs? What have been your experiences when implementing TWI?