Time Management, are you good at it?

Poor time management cause stress and affects your performance.

Are you an effective time manager?  Before you answer, remember that being busy is not the same as being effective.  Effectiveness is getting the right things done.  However, if you are busy doing things that are not a priority, you are not using your time wisely.  Time management is a coveted skill, especially in this time and age where technology provides the means to be connected all the time.  Therefore, it is easy to get distracted and get off from your day plan.  

How do you know if you have poor performance administrating your time?  Here are some symptoms to help you decide if you are good at it or not.

Five symptoms of poor time management

The quality of your work is not what you would like it to be

As you climb the corporate ladder or your business grows, you have more responsibilities.  Future growth depends on your performance, which is highly influenced by your time management skills.  When you fail at this skill, it will show in different ways.  Some examples are being late for meetings all the time, lack of preparation for meetings, too many emails in your inbox, mistakes or incomplete tasks, and missing deadlines.   

That is not what you want other people to see about you or your work.  Therefore, you need to identify what is causing this situation.  Some possible causes are poorly defined goals, not prioritizing your tasks and the absence of a schedule.  

You are angry, frustrated, or impatient all the time

If you feel stressed, anxious, or fatigue frequently, maybe it is because you are angry, frustrated, or impatient most of the time.  Those negative feelings consume your energy and affect how you performed throughout the day.  Meanwhile, your lack of energy and difficulties in concentrating will force you to work overtime or not take breaks. As a result, the next day, you will be more tired, angry, and impatient.

Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself or give yourself too little time to complete a task. When that happens, you will not complete it as projected and will be frustrated.  This symptom can be caused by poor or lack of planning.  Likewise, can be a problem of execution or not following the plan.

Procrastination is common practice for you

There is a saying in my country that says, do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today.  Although some people thrive waiting until the last minute to complete important work, it is not recommended.  There are many studies that link procrastination with high levels of stress.  If procrastination is a habit for you, stop putting things off.  Learn why you wait until the last minute.  For example, some reasons are that you don’t like that task, or you are doing a less important job first.

Rush through things to accomplish more

If you decide what to do based on the deadlines of the work in front of you, chances are you are rushing through things to finish on time.  As a result, you end up multitasking, which is not a time management solution.  Management by crisis or rushing leads to mistakes and details overlooking, which affects the quality of your work.   

You do everything by yourself

Many entrepreneurs or managers feel that they need to do everything to make sure that things are well done.  I understand that it is nerve-racking, but it does not have to be that way.  First, when something comes up, there is no need to do it immediately.  You would make a note, revisit your tasks for the day, and assign a priority.  The only exception is if the situation is a real emergency.   Second, start to delegate some tasks to your team.  Use the opportunity to coach and develop the skills of your team. Finally, do not say yes to every assignment thrown your way.  Stop taking too much work and be realistic about how much you can accomplish.  Don’t be afraid to say no.

Do you use your time effectively?  

Remember that being effective is about completing the right things, not about doing many things.  In conclusion, you have to set clear goals, have a strategy to accomplish them, and create a daily schedule that would take you closer to the objective.  Also, find ways to keep your focus during the day.  Avoid distractions and unhealthy habits, like smoking.  

With good time management, you will improve the quality of your job, and your mood will be better. Similarly, your relationships will be better because you should have more time to enjoy yourself with your loved ones.

Mail handling, is that a hassle for you?

How to handle your mail efficiently

Remember the one-touch rule for emails? I indicated in that same post that it is useful for regular mail too.  Today, I will expand into the idea of a one-touch rule for mail handling. Before going into that, let me show you some fun facts.

Mail Fun Facts

  • In 2019 the USPS delivered 142.6 B pieces of mail, 75.7 B of them were marketing.
  • On average, Americans receive 605 emails and 16.8 pieces of mail every week.
  • 58% of the mail American households receive is marketing mail, this is about 454 pieces per year.
  • Periodical mail volume received and sent in the United States in 2019 was 4.2 B pieces.
  • Per USPS, 98% of people check their mail daily and Americans spend upwards of 30 minutes with their mail on a single occasion.

What types of mail do you receive most of the time?

Regardless you pick-up your mail daily or once a week, you need to create a process to handle it. Before you start to design it, learn what type of mail you receive.  Common categories for receiving mail are bills, invoices, letters, promotions, magazines, bank statements, and health insurance.  Do you need to file any of the documents you receive?  Anything that you would set aside to read later?

Create your mail handling system

For efficient mail handling, it is better to have a mail sorting and handling area.  In this area, you would need a desk or small table, a shredder, a trash can, and maybe a filing system.  Also, if you pick-up your mail daily but are going to manage it weekly, you would need a temporary storage area for it.     

The ideal situation is to touch your mail only once.  That is to say, that, if you pick-up your mail every day, you should handle it daily as well.  However, some of us do not have time to do this task daily.  If that is your case, it is ok to do it weekly, but you need to create the habit to do so.  For weekly sorting, you need an area to store the mail until that day.  For example, you can use letter trays or a wall mount letter holder.  

There are documents you need to keep. Therefore, you are going to need a cabinet. However, if you don’t have that many, you can use a binder.  For different categories, like pet’s vaccines records, house or auto, you can have one binder with divisions or multiple binders.  For more than one, you can organize them in a magazine holder or a kitchen baking sheet organizer.

If you have doubts regarding what you should file, this document from the Student Money Management Center of the University of Nebraska Lincoln contains a useful list of things to keep.

Schedule your mail handling time

One more step to design your system is to schedule when you are going to handle your mail.  For example, depending on your schedule, maybe a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening would be ideal.  After deciding the day, estimate how much time you will need for this task.  You can start with one hour, and later you can adjust as needed.  

Schedule this task on your calendar to help you make the habit.  You can use a reminder for one hour or so before the time.  A reminder helps you to organize your time and set your mind on the upcoming task ahead.

How to sort your mail

First, read or browse each piece to decide what to do with it.  For example, you can determine to pay, call, or clarify information, put aside to read later, archive, destroy, or trash.  Second, act upon your decision to trash or destroy.  Keep a small trash can and shredder machine in the same area so you can dispose of everything that you won’t need right away.  For security reasons, you should use a shredder to destroy any document that contains personal

For other actions, you can create little piles with documents for reading, pay, and others.  Therefore, you are focus on the sorting task before moving on to the next step.  After that, you can start with your piles, one at a time.  

Benefits of a mail handling system

According to a study published in Harris Interactive, 23% of adults say they pay their bills late because they lose them.  When this happens, they also have to pay late fees.  Avoid this situation with a simple method like the one described above.  You can minimize the amount of mail you need to handle by going paperless.  Also, you can take advantage of autopay options.  

Another benefit of efficient mail handling is saving space and keep your documents organized.  All these ideas are common-sense. They are just a simple way to keep yourself organized.

Bored employees, is your team part of them?

Boredom in the workplace

Do you have bored employees? How often you hear your kids saying they are bored?  All the time, right?  Not only do kids get bored, adults too. Often, they don’t say it. However, their actions are a reflection of it.  

The 2016 Workplace Boredom Study by Udemy for Business indicated that 43% of US office employees are bored. Moreover, they mentioned that boredom is a leading indicator of disengagement.  What are the causes of boredom?  What can you do to fight against it? 

Why people get bored? 

Monotony is probably the most known cause of boredom. Repetition or lack of interest in a task cause boredom. Personality and personal traits determine how well people react to boredom. Some people need more novelty or variety than others. Therefore, they have a higher risk of apathy. Besides, people with attention problems also tend to boredom.

Lack of flow is another cause of boredom. Shahram Heshmat, in a 2017 post in Psychology Today, talked about task flow. He indicated that flow occurs when a person’s skills match the environmental challenges. It also happens when a task includes clear goals and immediate feedback.

Reasons for workplace boredom

The top two reasons why employees feel bored at work are lack of opportunities to learn new skills and unchallenging work.

The Udemy study that I mentioned before noted as a takeaway the following. “The biggest driver of engagement is an employee’s personal view of their future. Today’s workers desire to be more involved in shaping their own experience in the workplace. Business and HR leaders must help people envision their future career and learning path in order to effectively engage them“.  

This is how you can fight boredom in the workplace.

Doesn’t that Udemy takeaway, remember you the continuous improvement tenet Respect for People? As servant leaders, our job is to create a culture of respect. Within it, we help the team to flourish and be what they can be. You do so by providing opportunities to develop their skills and get better jobs.

Empower your team to take control of their tasks and workplace. Do it by facilitating and supporting collaboration, learning, and personal development.  Provide a learning environment where employees feel comfortable exploring and testing new things. Finding ways to do their job and improve their work conditions becomes a challenge. Therefore, they have a focus, a purpose, or a challenge that keeps them engaged.  

Take time to know each person in your team. When you do, you can recognize characteristics that make them prone to boredom. As a result, you can create individualized development plans.  Get to know your team members’ aspirations and personal goals. Also, try to encourage them to work towards their achievement.

Everybody feels boredom sometimes, but we can fight it most of the time!

Reference:

Heshmat, S. (2017, June).  Eight Reasons Why We Get Bored:  Boredom can be viewed as a crisis of desire.  [Blog post] Accessed 11.18/2020.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201706/eight-reasons-why-we-get-bored

(Udemy for Business). 2016 Udemy Workplace Boredom Study.  Accessed 11/18/2020.  https://research.udemy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-Udemy-Workplace-Boredom-Study.pdf

Are you a good discoverer?

Are you a discoverer, an investigator? Hopefully, the scheduled gemba walk is not the only time you visit the workplace.  Another time is when something happens, and people escalate the situation to you.  To be able to help, you need to understand what happens, and for that, nothing is better than go and see what is going on.  But those times, you visit gemba with one objective in mind, looking at a previously defined situation.

Every opportunity you have to walk around the workplace is a chance to learn.   While I worked in manufacturing, I used to take every available opportunity to go and see to learn something.  You need to develop a new skill, being a discoverer.  

How do you become a discoverer?

How do you start uncovering potential problems or finding things to improve?  You need to develop discoverer’s eyes or become good in what I used to call, look for trouble.  

When you visit or walk through an area, not just walk, see, and understand the process.  Look at the three real things of the work area, the workplace, the facts, and the work in process.  Unleash your curiosity, observe the environment, how things flow, how people communicate.  Try to understand why things happen and how things work.  Take attention to detail of the steps sequence, best practices, and potential opportunities.  Learn about the metrics to measure the process’s success and if there is a way to highlight abnormal situations.  Is there any work in process?  Why it exists?  Does the flow stop?  Do you see waste? Can you see any risks or safety hazards? Talk with the people in the area and ask questions to understand the situation, never to judge.

Developing your skills

All that looks like a lot but, as you get used to it, you will do it quite fast.  The more you walk to see and understand, the better discoverer of opportunities you become.  There are a couple of things that you can do to develop that skill, for example, the following.

  • Visit an area that you are not familiar with, like a different process or department.
  • Volunteer to participate in continuous improvement events out of your work area
  • Grab the standard work document of one of your department processes and audit it
  • Learn a new job, shadow someone from your team.

Take every opportunity you have to explore a process, learn about it, and discover how to improve it. When you visit take close attention to the workplace, the facts, and the work in process.  Walk the process, observe, ask with respect, learn what happens and why, and finally discover how to improve it.  Being a good discoverer or investigator is an art. The art of finding trouble or improvement opportunities. Three characteristics of good discoverers are curiosity, detail-oriented, and communicative.  Let’s be good discoverers, like cats, and find all the hidden gems in our processes.

How can you organize your garage?

Is your garage a mess? If the answer to that question is yes, you are not alone. Around 50% of homeowners rate the garage as the most disorganized place in the house. It is where garden equipment and tools, sports gear, and holiday decorations end up. Do you think there is not enough space in the house for all the stuff you have? The fact is that 80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

Use 5S to organize your garage

My recommendation is to 5S your garage. You know already that 5S is an excellent tool for organization and it works everywhere. Let’s use it for the garage!

Remove everything and place it on the driveway in like by like categories. Have an area for items that are either broke, don’t need, or you are not interested in keeping. As you removed things, ask these two questions: Do I need it? Do I need to keep it here? For example, the garage is not the best place to store your insurance and mortgage documents. Do you have a shack or closet outside where you can keep garden tools? Have an area for those items and set aside as well. Use a sign to indicate the future location or not needed status.

With the empty garage, you can see how much space you have available. Check the keep in the garage categories to have a sense of how much space you need. Think about the best way to store them and the best location. There are lots of garage organizing solutions on the market. Design the storage areas for the garage. What do you want to do? Do you want to park your car? Do you need a work area?

Examples of organizing ideas

  • Go vertical! Space is a high-end commodity, utilize it wisely. 
  • Create overhead storage for kayaks or bicycles, or to hang bins.
  • Hang heavy items from the wall using gear tracks and hooks. There are hooks of different sizes and styles for light or heavy stuff. Use them for power tools, ladders, hoses, and others.
  • Check on organizers for specific uses like a broom holder and garden tools organizer or a sports gear organizer.
  • Create a shadow board for the most used tools.
  • Use open shelving whenever you can.

Cleaning your garage

Although, you assign a place for everything first and then shine, this time it is a good idea to clean the garage first. It is easier to clean before you start hanging organizers and placing shelves. Pressure wash the garage, starting with the ceiling, walls, and finally the floor. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one or just use a regular hose. After the cleaning is done, you can paint the garage if you want. Avoid bringing back dirt and dust by cleaning shelves and toolboxes before moving them into place.

Put organizers and shelves in place and then move back in all the stuff you will keep. Start with what goes overhead and then move to the walls. While you put everything in its place, think again if you want or need to keep it. As a rule of thumb, anything that has not been used in the past year should be removed. Hopefully, by the end of this step, you can park your car inside the garage again.

Create some rules

For the standardization piece, you can create labels to indicate what goes where. I like shadow boards because they don’t need an explanation. They are easy to understand and use. If you plan to do some work in the garage, place a trash can to ensure all trash goes to the right place.

Decide what to do with those items on the not-needed pile. Options are: give it away, garage sale, donation, recycle, or trash. Do not move them back to the garage! Keep yourself a deadline to dispose of them. Put in place those items that you decided to locate somewhere else.

To keep the housekeeping and organization, put in the calendar a periodic inspection and cleaning of the area. Make this a family activity engaging everybody in the garage cleaning. That way, they will be more willing to cooperate in maintaining the organization and cleanliness. Now go ahead, open that door and let your neighbors see your state of the art garage. Enjoy!

Basic concepts to support the improvements

Three basic concepts that leaders need to learn

To successfully overcome each challenge presented to us, we need to know certain basic concepts. For continuous improvement, there are three concepts that management should learn and teach to their team. They are, put quality first, the next process is the customer, and speak with data.

The basic concepts and the Customer

The CI goal is to deliver the customer the highest product or service quality, at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest lead time.  Therefore, the focus of all our decisions is quality, cost, and delivery.  

How do you keep the focus? How can you guide others to keep the focus? There are several changes in how we work as managers that have to change. None of them represents a new management style. However, many entrepreneurs keep doing the same thing since they learn the ropes of the trade and ignore these three ideas.

Put Quality First

Quality should be the highest priority over cost and delivery but, that is not common practice. Throughout my career, I have seen plenty of examples where quality is put to second or third place while making decisions.  The worst part is that the reason cited to do so was to give the customer what they want at the time they wanted it.  Really?  Is that the reason or that production planning does not want to fall behind on their attainment metrics?  Or to avoid the inspection cost?  Or maybe to evade having a difficult conversation with the customer?

Practicing quality first requires commitment from management.  Alignment within the organization is critical to ensure that the customer receives a high product or service quality.  When the entire management team makes decisions based on this and model this behavior all the time, the employees will understand that quality is more important than quantity or delivery and will act accordingly.

Quality is not only for the product, information, or service the external customer will receive.  It also applies to the quality of the internal processes.  With CI you are seeking to improve the processes with small daily changes, everywhere by everybody.  You go see the process, walk the process, and understand the process to identify ways to improve it and minimize all types of waste.  After improvements, you either change or create standard work for that particular process.  In other words, your focus to improving process quality is the process itself, not the results of the process.

The Next Process is the Customer

Although we all know that every process has a supplier and a customer, every time we talk about customers most people’s mind goes immediately to external customers.  Every member of the team should know two things, what is their role in providing the customer the value they expected and that the next process is their immediate customer.  It is management responsibility to provide this information to their team.

Knowing their role within the company strategies, including customer and quality give them the understanding of how their actions affect the value stream.  It is also a way to present them why their work is important.  How they contribute to ensure that the company achieves its goals, by producing a good quality job or service to the next process, which is their customer.

Speak with Data

While many people like to use their experience or gut feelings to make decisions, within a CI environment you speak with data.  Tools like huddle meetings, war rooms, 5S and visual management use data to tell what is going on.  Visual data presented clearly and simply is important for clear and effective communication as well as alignment with company goals.

Continuous improvement uses PDCA as a structured way to solve problems.  If you recall, the first step, Plan requires to define the problem or situation you want to fix.  To define it you need to collect all pertinent data, no gut feelings or believes but clear, accurate data.

Summary

To support your continuous improvement journey, three basic thoughts should be part of your daily though process, put quality first, the next process is the customer and speak with data.  For some people, these thoughts require a mindset change, and for others just a little tweak.  A continuous improvement culture is about exploring new ways to do what we do, learn, and adjust or change.  These concepts are another step on your CI journey.

Why did your strategy fail?

Your strategy failed, but why?

Why did your strategy fail? That is a question that you ask when things did not go as planned. During the last quarter of the fiscal year, entrepreneurs will take time to work on new strategies and plans. Those are the things that will become the compass to guide the business during the next year.  I am talking about the budget and the business plan. 

Action Plans are the reason why your strategy fails

Strategies for the areas of quality, cost, delivery, people development, and any other you feel adequate for your business are as effective as the action plans to achieve the objectives are.  Each strategy needs a good plan, a story that tells how you will attain the business objectives and goals.  Many companies fail to create a good action plan, and therefore the strategies fail.  Authors David Norton and Robert Kaplan indicate in their book The Balanced Scorecard that ninety percent of organizations fail to execute their plans successfully.  The following are the top three reasons why action plans, and therefore strategies, fail.

Lack of clarity

The goal or objective sometimes is not clear, is open to different interpretations, which leads to confusion and lack of accountability.  While stating your business goals, make sure to say what you want to achieve in simple words.  Be specific and never assume people know what you are talking about.  Make clear who is responsible for getting the results.  Name a person, not a department, or a group as the responsible party.  Finally, make crystal clear time expectations for completion.  

Unrealistic goals

Another problem is that goals are not SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  Unrealistic goals are often the result of the leadership process of setting goals without any involvement with the people who will be responsible.  There is no doubt that many leaders know their operations, but not better than the people working in the trenches every day.  By making your mid-level managers part of the planning process, you can make sure that objectives are clear, goals are realistic, performance is measured with the right metric, and the time estimated for completion is attainable.

Broken communication

The three C’s of Effective Communication, clear, collaborative, and consistent are indispensable for planning execution effectiveness.  Specific, crystal clear plans are critical to avoid confusion and ensure accountability.  Regardless of how good people in your team is, they need help to achieve the company goals.  Collaboration between team members is critical for success.  Not taking the time to listen to each other, not to judge or blame but to learn and help each other is a big mistake that will lead to not achieving the goals.

Effective communication has to start from the moment the plans are being drafted, continue once they are published to ensure everybody is aligned, and keep going during the year to revise performance and reflect on actions and results.  Make a routine of asking for progress during regular meetings, ask for challenges, what is working, what is not working.  Be on the lookout for changes in assumptions, the market environment, or any other change that may affect performance.  Talk about how to adapt or change the plan, is the goal still attainable, or does it need revision?  

What to do to avoid that your strategy fails

To be in the ten percent of organizations that execute their strategies successfully, make sure to define the strategy and state SMART goals.  For your planning process, identify all the action plans that are necessary to achieve each strategy.  Be clear, realistic, and communicate effectively with the right people while designing the action plan.  Once completed, ensure to be clear about who is responsible and the timing for completion.   Talk about the goals frequently, revise performance, assumptions, and results.  Reflect upon those things and adapt the plan if necessary.  Success is not easy, but it is possible by not losing sight of your destination and using your compass (action plans and goals reflection) to get there on time.

How do you build a new habit?

Every New Year, millions of people around the world make new year resolutions. They pledge to build a new habit. It can be to lose weight, stop smoking or learn a new skill. Perhaps, in your business or workplace, you want to create new work habits. For example, making continuous improvement thinking, the only way to work.

How our brain reacts when building new habits

There is evidence that the brain rewards us for fast thinking by activating pleasure centers and punishes us for slow thinking by activating the pain centers.  That situation comes from the time our ancestors have to think quickly to survive the elements, animals, and other existential threats.  How do you fight against thousands of years of fast responses?  

How to build a new habit

Years ago, I was struggling with creating the habit of exercising and started looking for information to learn how to form that habit.  I found that the formation of every habit has three steps, a trigger, the routine, and the reward.

The trigger starts the process or habit you are pursuing.  It can be a place, a feeling or emotion, time of the day, or a reminder in your calendar.  If you are going to do something effortlessly, without thinking about it, your brain needs to know what the reward will be.  For our ancestors, the prize was survival.  The reward can be a feeling, like the satisfaction of helping others, winning, learning, getting one step closer to a goal, or whatever makes you feel happy or good.  The reward must be something that you crave, something that you want to repeat.

After you figure out the trigger and the reward, it is time to create the new routine or behavior that you want to become a habit.  The trigger will remind you that it is time to follow the action you want to pursue. 

Does this work?

This analysis and the process that follows make sense for me. When I reflected on it, I realize that I unconsciously follow it. As a production planner, I could not visit the production floor on most days. I knew that the only way to find out why we could not follow the schedule was by observing what was going on and talking with the right people. I force myself to go it by blocking time in my calendar. The notification was the trigger I need it to stop what I was doing and go. I didn’t know it, but I was creating a habit.

Helping your team to build a new habit

To help your team to build self-discipline, you have to create some habits for yourself, like going to gemba every day or take time for daily coaching.  When your team sees that you are creating habits they will feel compelled to do the same.  Make sure that you are consistent, do not fail yourself or the team by not following your daily routines.  Building habits to change old behaviors takes a lot of discipline, focus, and more than a couple of months of practice.  Of course, this short analysis can also help you with your new year resolutions.

Show they matter, give the gift of giving.

Although it should happen all the time, during the holidays, it is more common. We show the people we love that they matter. But this Christmas season is like no other. Many things that we take for granted our entire lives are now challenging, scarce, or even non-existent. One of them is traveling to see our family. Despite the health situation, you can still travel following the appropriate precautions. Some people will choose not to travel to avoid health complications to their loved ones. But this does not mean that we have to be isolated or not have meaningful communication with the people we love and appreciate.

Feeling connected

Many people have a hard time feeling connected.  It happens with our family, friends, and the workplace.  The continuous improvement tenet of servant leadership is a universal concept that does not have to live inside a workplace. It can and should be how we express kindness and respect everywhere.

The following are different ways we can check-in with our family, friends, and colleagues to make them feel connected, and seen.

Show they matter, be present

One of the best ways to show people they matter is to be present.  If you are lucky enough to have the chance to visit and spend face to face time with your love ones, be mindful of that privilege.  Do now wasted spending time on your phone browsing through social media.  But if you won’t spend face to face time, you can plan for virtual events or a phone call. 

Sometimes we don’t reach out to people only because they haven’t reach out to us in a while.  Many things happen in life, we don’t know the reasons why this happened, but if you care about this person, it does not care.  Take the phone, call or send a text, or a message through any of the available messaging systems.  Or why not? a written note.  Send a postal card, or an old fashion letter.  If this is too old for you, then an email, but reach out.

Acknowledge their feelings 

Every year, we have around us people that is not too happy around this period.  Most of the time happen because they lose a loved one, or a job.  This year this situation is amplified by all the fallouts from the pandemic.  Gatherings of all type may have a different taste, but it is important to acknowledge the feelings, and the fact that this too will pass.  Hope and laughter are great things to share.  And while you are in that mood, acknowledge your feelings too!  It is ok to be feeling sad, missing the celebrations as we know them, and craving for human contact.  

Seize small opportunities to connect

You don’t need a party to initiate a conversation with someone you haven’t see in a while.  Do not miss the chance to use a Facebook birthday reminder or a LinkedIn work anniversary to connect.  Sometimes a simple hello, I was thinking about you goes a long way.  

Give the gift of giving, show they matter

Create the right environment to keep a connection with the people around you. Help those in need any way you can. For example, motivate those who feel sad to enjoy life and keep fighting the good fight.  Show people you care, share what you have, be a good neighbor, friend, colleague, leader, and family member.  During the holidays and all year long, the best gift is the gift of giving.  It makes you feel good, and it makes the other person feel connected and loved.  

Do you need a quality strategy?

I know I’ve said it hundreds of times, but I’m going to repeat it. The continuous improvement goal is to deliver the customer the highest quality, at the shortest lead time, at the lowest possible cost. For that reason, the focus of your CI activities is quality, cost, and delivery. We also know that continuous improvement is a people’s system. For that reason, the most influential job of a leader is to develop himself and develop the team. With those things in mind, your business should have strategies for each of those areas. A quality strategy is a must.

You need a quality strategy

Without customers, businesses would not exist, and yet, many do not have a quality strategy. Unfortunately, business owners or leaders wait until they have a customer crisis on their hands to create a quality strategy. While practicing continuous improvement, the customer defines value. There is no way to have a CI culture without a quality strategy. This strategy will provide a clear path to create products or services with the highest quality possible.

Given how important quality is, it deserves to be considered a key business strategy. The first step to create a strategy is to assess the current state and establish a vision. Part of this assessment is to understand the customers’ specific needs and desires. What do they value? What is important? Use the concept of “Go and See” to answer these questions. Visit your customer, or at least have a conversation about this. Nobody can answer what does the customer needs better than the customer itself.

Changes in mindset, be clear about your quality strategy and goals

If currently, the organization emphasizes cost over quality, leadership needs to highlight the change in mindset as part of the culture change from traditional to continuous improvement.  During the period leadership seeks to understand how the current culture would affect the CI implementation, they will have to look for understanding how the company views and understands quality.  Do people outside the quality department feel any responsibility for the product or service quality?  Do the team members understand how their work affects quality?  How their actions affect customer satisfaction?  Be crystal clear about this while creating or improving standard work.  

Customer needs and quality

Translate the customer needs into your business language to establish the performance indicators and to create breakthrough objectives.  Your quality strategic plan will tell people how to close the gap between the actual and goals.  While this plan cascades throughout the organization, make sure to use the appropriate KPIs and internal language for the tactical level.  PDCA is a tool that helps to create, deploy, and implement the plan as well as reviewing its effectiveness and adjust it when necessary.

Leadership needs to learn and teach how to shift their mindset from production planning and cost decision-making to a quality driven decision-making process.  The success of this new way to frame decisions rides on leadership modeling of the new behavior, just like with continuous improvement and lean Thinking.  To answer the initial question, yes, you do need a quality strategy.  Quality does not happen by magic; it needs to be part of your business strategy.