How to promote innovation, a must-know for leaders.

Leaders must know to promote innovation and the attitude to never stop exploring, learning, and growing.

Innovation is crucial for the success of any organization.  Finding out-of-the-box ways to improve the operation or satisfied your customers can give you a competitive edge over your competitors. Innovation can produce a new product or service.  It can also help you to empower your team.  Regardless of the purpose, creative thinking is a must.  Given the competition out there, leaders need to know how to promote innovation as part of the daily processes.

To promote innovation, develop your team’s skills.

To empower the team, leaders need to ensure they have what they need.  How do they know what skills to develop?  Some skills, like problem-solving or data visualization, are easy to recognize, but others are not.  If you are not sure, go to the best source for this information.  Ask your team member what do they need for success?  What skills or knowledge do they like to develop?  Then, evaluate if the request is reasonable or worth the resources. Finally, approve the request or work with them to find a solution that fits their needs and aligns with the company goals.

Create a safe place to learn.

One of the rules for a kaizen event is to create a safe place to learn, voice ideas, and test their hypothesis.  A safe environment is fundamental for a learning experience.  Employees are more likely to engage in the problem-solving or creative process when they feel safe.  Creating such a place is one-way servant leaders show that they care about their team. The absence of fear of losing their job or retaliation is critical for innovation.  

Even when there is no fear of losing their job, exposing themselves to failure is a deterrent.  Although in continuous improvement, you win or you learn, it feels like a failure if you don’t get what you expected. To change that, leaders will need to step up and model the expected behavior.  

Promote innovation modeling the expected behaviors.

They can model them in two different ways.  First, they can show how to react when they face failure.  Great leaders do not hesitate to show their vulnerabilities.  Leaders make mistakes like everybody else.  When people see the boss has fears or insecurities about following his ideas but do it anyway, they feel good.  It is that aha moment when they realize that their boss is human and feels fear like they do.  

The second way to model correct behavior is by demonstrating the expected reaction when things turn out differently than expected.  During those times, it is normal to feel defeated or upset.  However, it is the reaction to that feeling what counts.  Instead of roaming your sadness or anger, good leaders show their team that it is ok not to win all the time.  Ask your team how they feel and let them vent their emotions.  

After that moment of relief, reset the mindset by showing them how to reflect on the lessons learned. With those learning on hand, adjust the plan and test it.  Moreover, show them to never stop exploring, learning, and growing!  

What are the characteristics of a kaizen facilitator?

Some of the characteristics of a kaizen facilitator are excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence skills, and being courageous.

Kaizen events are an integral part of the continuous improvement culture.  The success of those events depends on many factors, such as the characteristics of the kaizen facilitator.  This person is responsible for leading the event, among other things.  Experience leading events and continuous improvement knowledge are not the only characteristics that a facilitator needs.  What are the characteristics of a kaizen facilitator?

Characteristics of a kaizen facilitator

Whether you are looking to hire or contract, the following are most haves’ characteristics.  The facilitator must be courageous.  In other words, a person who is comfortable having difficult conversations and asking tough questions.  While being brave in the name of the event’s success, a coach is respectful and supportive.

Whether you are looking to hire or contract, the following are most have characteristics.  The facilitator must be courageous.  In other words, a person who is comfortable having difficult conversations and asking tough questions.  While being brave, a coach is respectful and supportive.

Communication is another soft skill that is critical for success.  The ability to convey information in a clear, simple, and concise way.  A person who practices active listening and can do so with people of different levels in the organization or levels of education.  If they cannot explain something in simple words, it will not translate knowledge effectively.  Explain something complicated without too many technical words is an elusive skill for many.

Emotional intelligence skills are another characteristic of a kaizen facilitator

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence recognize and understand their feelings and how they can affect other people. The emotionally intelligent person is skilled in four areas: identifying emotions, using emotions, understanding emotions, and regulating emotions.

A facilitator must motivate, make others feel comfortable, overcome challenges, and manage conflict. Therefore, the ability to understand and manage their emotions to influence others in positive ways is critical.  Social skills such as interpersonal relationships with empathy, compassion, and humility are essential for this job.  With them, the facilitator will be coaching others to learn and be their best self.

For instance, understanding human psychology and change management are key to influence people and drive a successful event.  An honest and trustworthy individual who gives people credit for their ideas will navigate through the challenges of the event with greater chances of success.

A facilitator must have technical skills

A continuous improvement facilitator without technical skills and lean knowledge is not a good bet. Knowledge about continuous improvement and proven practical experience is non-negotiable.  Moreover, problem-solving, time management, organization skills, and team building are also crucial.  An energetic and passionate about continuous improvement person is the ideal driver for the cultural transformation from traditional to continuous improvement, one kaizen at a time.  

How do you sell the need for continuous improvement?

Know what matter to your team before you start to sell the need for continuous improvement.

This week I was facilitating a workshop for a group of team leaders and supervisors.  The subject was managing and sustaining 5S.  I asked what their biggest concern is to implement and sustain 5S.  Close to 70% of them answer that selling the need for it.  How do you sell the need for continuous improvement?  How do you get your team to buy in to lean? 

Using benefits to sell the need for continuous improvement

The answer of the workshop participants did not surprise me. My experience tells me that they were right on the money. For a long time, I struggle to get the buy-in of the team. It took me years before I realize what I was doing wrong.

During the launching phase, I talked about the benefits of continuous improvement. For example, for a 5S implementation, I mentioned things like better organization, increased productivity, cleaner machines, and no search for tools. But I failed to tell people what was vital for them.

People respond to what matters to them

Unfortunately, sometimes we forget that who we are is an inherent part of everything we do. Our beliefs, values, and life purpose are at the front and center of all our decisions. Even when we don’t realize that we are doing it, those things guide ours thought process.

Talking about how continuous improvement or 5S will benefit the company will not gain their buy-in. Your team needs to know what is in there for them. We would gain their support when they see how this new initiative connects with their needs and who they are. It is our job to find that connection and communicate it to them. To know that, we have to answer a few questions.

  • What are the most important things for them? – family, community, personal values
  • What higher purpose they pursue? – fighting climate change, curing cancer
  • Their personal goals – professional and personal
  • How do the team feel about their work?  – content, frustrated

Answer their questions and concerns to sell the need for CI  

Every proposed change will encounter resistance or hesitancy. None of those changes will be sustainable unless the team understands and support them. This statement is true for continuous improvement, 5S, or anything else. Job security gained through increased profits or better customer service is a great selling point. However, maybe it is not connected to their values or emotional needs.

To sell the need to change, you need to understand their goals and what they value. When the team sees the relationship between what matters to them and your proposal, buy-in and sustainability have better chances. Ensure that your communication plan highlights that relationship. Also, answer any other questions and concerns they may have before they voice them.  

Facilitators, their role in a kaizen event

A kaizen facilitator has various tasks to complete, for example keep the team focus, engaged, and energized.

Various roles are critical for a successful continuous improvement event. One of those roles is the event facilitator.  He or she is responsible for leading the event, but that is not the only responsibility.  

What are the responsibilities of the facilitator?

Most of the time, the facilitator is also the kaizen or continuous improvement event planner.  As an event planner, they organize and prepare all the activities related to the event.  For instance, the facilitator works with the event leaders to establish the scope of the event and develop the charter.  Also, they identify and gather resources and materials while keeping everything under budget.  

During the event, the facilitator has a couple of responsibilities that can make or break the activity.  A CI event requires a good coach that guides the team by asking questions.  Through these questions, he or she helps the team to see and approach problems using lean thinking.  In other words, participants learn lean thinking by doing it.  

While executing the different steps of the event, the use of CI tools is common.  Because not all team members know those tools, they learned them from the teacher or facilitator.  This means that during the event, they develop team skills.  

Keep the team motivated

Unfortunately, not everything always goes as planned.  Sometimes, participants do not show interest or lose focus during the event.  When that happens, it is time to put on a different hat.  This time the facilitator will act as a motivator and cheerleader.  Accepting change is never easy.  Therefore, people need to understand the purpose of the event.  Furthermore, why they are participating in the event and what is in there for them.

Even when event participants know those things, keeping them motivated and engage in the activities is a tall order.  A good facilitator will take time to learn about their audience before the action starts. Knowing ahead how they learn better and their learning type will go a long way to keep them motivated.

Some parts of a continuous improvement or kaizen event can be bored.  Not everybody enjoys sitting in a room for hours or analyze information.  The facilitator needs to work hard to keep those individuals engaged and energized.  A way to do this is to acknowledge those challenges and the accomplishment of milestones during the activity.  Celebrate those accomplishments as all small wins.  Keep the audience active by incorporating exercises and having them assisting you in some parts.  For example, participants can help as scribers.

Facilitators also manage conflict

Another situation that is inevitable when we are dealing with change is conflict.  Some people will be more open than others to accept change or participate in activities that lead to change the status quo. Those groups may disagree on the causes or solutions.  When that happens, the facilitator acts as a mediator to help those groups to reach a consensus.  

There are a few other things that can cause some trouble.  For instance, when technology fails, it must pivot and adjust the training to the new circumstances.  The same happens when the original training plan is not working.

Help the team succeed is the most important job of the facilitator

The event facilitator’s most important job is to help the team succeed.  Teaching and coaching while focusing on the kaizen’s objective is a critical part of that job.  Also, to remove any obstacles to learning and keep the group energized.  Motivate and show respect by focusing your attention on whoever is sharing an idea or commenting on a subject.  Celebrate small wins and praise teamwork and collaboration.  In other words, create a positive and safe environment that invites people to participate and be the best they can be!

Lean champions, who are they?

Every activity, movement, or new initiative needs advocates, people that support and promote the cause.  Continuous improvement or lean is not the exception.  The journey to transform the company will be easier if you have lean champions in your team.

Why you need them?

As we plan the continuous improvement rollout, we spend a lot of time on how to earn the trust of our employees.  During previous years, most of the staff changed.  At the time the plant changed its business operation model, many people retired.  For that reason, we hired new supervisors and managers.   The concern of the most senior members of the staff was that people could have trust issues.

Accept changes is never easy, especially when you tell people with an average of 22 years on the job that they will learn new ways to do it.  Knowing all the changes from the previous year, how could they trust that we were not trying to fire people?  Our lean coach suggested identifying team members known for being natural leaders to help.  People feel at ease with trusted leaders.  Therefore, they come into the conversation with less apprehension.  An advocate that is considered trustworthy by the team is the best way to gain their attention.

What are lean champions?

A lean champion is an advocate for the continuous improvement journey.  He or she knows the tools and helps others to use them.  Moreover, they promote lean thinking not only with words but with their actions.  In general, they will work closely with their coworkers to identify areas for improvement.  Also, they will guide and support the implementation of improvement ideas.  Most of the time, champions know the process very well and have experience in different functions.  That experience helps them to ask the right questions and guide their coworkers to learn.  However, it is not critical to be a subject matter expert.  

This group is more than promoters for the lean cause.  They will assist in continuous improvement events or even facilitate them.  Of course, they will need a coach to learn the ropes of the trade before going solo.

Lean champions may have different levels of experience, education, and qualifications.  People with previous continuous improvement experience are candidates to be champions.   However, not having experience in lean is not a deterrent to being a champion.  After all, continuous improvement is not about using tools but about the people and their learning experience.  For that reason, there are some characteristics or traits that have more weight than knowing the tools.

What are the characteristics of the lean champions?

Attitude and communication skills are among the most meaningful characteristics of members of this group.  They are positive people with the ability to adapt, avid learners, and enjoy helping others. Their communication skills are above average.  They can express ideas and simply and clearly.  Also, they can adapt their communication to different audiences. 

Honesty, integrity, consistency, and empathy are critical character traits for members of this group. Champions do what they say and have no problem admitting they don’t know something.  Of course, they have a strong will to succeed.  But also, they can cope with challenges and setbacks.  The ability to step back for a second to see the big picture and reflection as a learning tool is part of their skills.  

Lean champions don’t need to have any leadership positions.  The best I worked with were team members with a strong desire to learn and contribute to the company’s success.  Also, they have their egos under control and value the power of teamwork and collaboration.  These people don’t look to be in the spotlight at all times, although they feel comfortable doing it.

5S every day, not just once a month!

5S every day

A colleague who works in logistics is responsible for two warehouses in the same city.  Both sites have been implementing 5S.  One of them has been successful, while the other is not.  He asks me how it is possible to have different results.  Although both locations received the same training and support, their implementation approach was different.  Only one of those teams was practicing 5S every day.  

Change behaviors to do 5S every day

Have you ever tried to lose weight?  How well did it go?  I tried many times with no sustainable results until I learn what I was doing wrong.  Each time I failed; I was following a diet.  I treated my weight loss as individual events with a common goal.  However, healthy eating is for every day, not for special occasions.   It wasn’t until I change my eating habits that were able to lose weight for good.

Like with weight loss, 5S will not be successful until people build new behaviors.  Get used to putting things back in their place immediately after use takes time.  After all, it’s easier to leave things where you last used them.  The problem is to remember where that was.  For sustainable results, you have to change that behavior by creating new habits.

5S is an activity to practice every day, throughout the day.  Before launching the program, leadership needs to agree on how to achieve the fifth S, sustain.  The effort requires the participation of all site leaders.  Everybody needs to walk the workplace every day to verify cleanliness and organization conditions.  If shadow boards have empty spots, it means that tools are out of place.  If the material is missing from their allocated staging floor areas, it means that material is missing.  For instance, those examples represent future problems, either searching time or delays.

How to create the habits

While setting up the materials and equipment, work on how to create new habits.  Ask the team how they could trigger the desired response.  Once they finish work, what will trigger putting the tools or equipment back on their location.  

For example, empty printer cartridges go inside a labeled box in the office supply room.  However, some people throw them in the trash or leave them in their office or cubicle.  To build the habit, add how to dispose of the cartridge as part of the instructions to change it.  Also, include what the trigger would be for this action.  For instance, a good time would be the completion of the printer testing.  After confirmation that the printer is working, take the old cartridge to its designated location.  The problem is that most people would decide to move it to a location later.  And then, they don’t remember.  

Sometimes, people convince themselves that it is better to put things back in their place at the end of the shift.   Ask questions to understand why they think that way.  Where they leave them throughout the day?  Are there any safety hazards?  Are they wasting time searching for them?  Maybe the designated area is not the best.  By working with the team to understand their reasons and creating a plan together, sustainability will have a better chance.  

At times, like in the printer cartridge example, it makes sense to compromise.  For example, have a mailbox by the door or entrance.  They see it while walking out, take it, and move it to its place.

After launching the program, sustain it with 5S every day

That is the difference between the warehouse teams.  One group completed all the kick-off event preparation in detail.  After that, they completed the first three steps, leaving the areas with temporary marks.  They planned to test locations and quantities before making them permanent. The problem is the responsible parties never follow-up.  At that time, those temporary marks became permanent.  And then, when things didn’t go as planned, people were discouraged to continue.

At the same time, the other team follows similar planning and initial execution steps.  The only difference was that as part of their plan, they agreed on triggers for 5S activities.  The senior supervisor and his team had on their leader standard work a daily 5S walk.  They also had a board where they mark their visits and top three observations.  This information was part of the daily huddle meetings.   Also, the leadership group makes a point to acknowledge at least one positive comment every day.  That simple action helps to enforce the desired behavior.  For instance, supervisors celebrate each program milestone and recognize groups or individuals that achieve their 5S goals.

Forklift operators and clerks have their triggers for 5S activities as well.  For example, lunch break is one of the triggers for the operators.  With this one, they know it is time to park and charge their truck in one of the designated spaces.  

By identifying what will signal the start of each 5S task, the group initiates to build the habit of doing 5S every day, all day.  This way, their program for housekeeping and organization became a daily activity.  They created new behaviors to ensure sustainability.  For the other warehouse, it happens only when the warehouse was a mess or visitors were coming.  

Improvement suggestions program, what is it?

improvement suggestions box

A solid foundation of employee involvement activities is critical to achieving the continuous improvement goals.  One of those elements is the improvement suggestions program.

What is an improvement suggestions program?

An employee suggestion program gives your employees a formal way to express their ideas to improve the processes of the workplace conditions.  Also, it is a way to channel those ideas from the work floor to management.  

A well manage suggestion plan serves two purposes.  The first is to formalize the suggestions process.  The second is to provide documentation of individual contributions.  With the former, leadership can prioritize ideas aligned with the company goals.  The ladder provides documentation for the year-end performance review.

Are you ready to lunch this program?

Why do you want to lunch an improvement suggestions program?  If you want to check a box from your to-do list, do not do it.  Are you receiving a steady number of suggestions?  If ideas are not flowing from employees to supervisors and managers, maybe you are not there yet.  On the other hand, if enthusiasm is growing and team members are communicating ideas constantly, it is time to launch your suggestions program.

Characteristics of an improvement suggestions program

But the improvement suggestions program is much more than a suggestions box.  Above all, careful design of the process is important.  For instance, the following are factors that describe a successful suggestions plan.

  • Hassle-free process – Make it easy to participate by providing a simple suggestions form. 
  • Clear and fair rules – Same rules for everybody, explain how you would assign a value or impact to the results of the estimated improvements.  Moreover, explain the rewards and recognition system tied to the suggestions propositions and results.  Also, establish guidelines for the type of topics open to suggestions and how ideas are prioritized.
  • Quick feedback – Establish a standard, such as responding to suggestions within one week.  Even more, create the standard for what information should be included in the response and how the feedback will be provided.
  • Program promotion and evaluation – Check how the system is doing versus the standards and look for areas for improvement.  Furthermore, create a measuring or evaluation system and publish the results.  For example, the total number of suggestions and participation percentage

Don’ts

A badly designed program will hurt your continuous improvement transformation.  Once it loses credibility it will be undertaken to win it back.  Put simply, avoid hurting the continuous improvement journey and the business bottom-line. The following are mistakes that should avoid.

  • Create a complicated form requesting too much information.
  • Take too much time to answer, don’t be the bottleneck of the process!
  • Have a homogenous evaluation team, include people from different functions and levels.
  • Fail to follow the program rules.

Summary

Team involvement activities are critical to achieving improvement goals in the areas of quality, cost, and delivery.   For that reason, their engagement is decisive to achieve the continuous improvement goals.  Certainly, it is important to create and maintain a fair and simple program that motivates participation.

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts, behaviors for success.

The ten ground rules for practicing continuous improvement events exist to ensure the right environment to encourage participation exists.  Therefore, is the job of the event facilitator to set clear expectations about following those rules.  It is also their job to steer the group in the direction.  Effective facilitators know how to guide the team and get results creating a positive and high-energy environment.  They do that by encouraging and motivating the right behaviors.  Let’s summarize them with the continuous improvement or kaizen event do’s and don’ts.  

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts for Success

kaizen event dos and don'ts

Keep the momentum on your CI event

Through the kaizen event, the facilitator teaches team members how to think lean and identify waste. For instance, the team will learn by doing.  While they go through the event process, the team learns and uses tools to analyze the current state.  Using lean thinking they will question the status quo and will learn how to see things differently.

To keep momentum, the event facilitator keeps asking questions.  He or she builds upon the team’s ideas and concerns to challenge the status quo.  Maybe, asking questions is the facilitator’s most important job.  In other words, questions are the vehicle to guide the team to discover their solution.  Through questioning with respect, they learn how to challenge the status quo.

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts, one more don’t

Also, to keep momentum on your CI journey I have one more Don’t for you.  Do not engage in an event that is not aligned with your business goals.  Through events, you are targeting those big gaps between the goals and the current state.  Before you start planning the event, ask Do these activities help the business to achieve its goals?  If the answer is no, then find another subject for your event.

What are the key roles for successful kaizen?

continuous improvement or kaizen event

Planning and executing a continuous improvement event is a team activity.  The team participating in the event is vital for its success.  But there are other equally critical key roles.  These roles are executive sponsor, value-stream manager, facilitator, event coordinator, and team-leader.  Let’s see the responsibilities of each one.

Key roles for direction and support

The executive sponsor is typically a C-suite leader, vice-president, senior leader, general manager, or plant manager.  His/her job is to provide direction and support to the event.  For instance, the sponsor will talk at the beginning of the event to clarify that a successful activity is necessary for company performance.  Moreover, the achievements of this type of exercise will not risk anyone’s job.

Frequently, the value-stream manager is a vice-president, director, or middle manager.  It is someone that has the authority to approve policy-related changes.  In addition, he or she has the power to approve improvements that can impact regulatory, financial, safety, or a critical process. The value-stream manager works with the event coordinator and participates in the planning and preparation stages.  Another duty is to communicate complete support to the event and the team.  Above all, should be present during the event ready to answer questions and remove barriers.

Key roles for planning

The event coordinator is responsible for the logistics of the event.  For example, coordinate the event date(s), reserve the room, and send out invitations.  Another task is to ensure that all necessary equipment and materials are available.  The coordinator is part of the team whose responsibility is to identify the best team members.  The other people responsible for this task are the value-stream manager and the HR manager.

Event Execution Roles

The facilitator is responsible for leading the event.  Sometimes, the event coordinator and the facilitator are the same people.  This situation is typical when the company has a seasoned staff in CI matters.  The facilitator participates in planning, team selection, and event logistics.  Also, it is part of the follow-up and post-event reflection.

In general, the team leader is the team member with the most knowledge in the process.  This position may not be necessary if the event is led by an internal facilitator.  But, if the facilitator is a consultant or external resource, the team leader is an advisor.  The facilitator will ask this person for advice or help when needed. 

External help for your kaizen event

If you are starting and have never done an event, you may want to hire an outside professional as your facilitator.  The objective of a good external facilitator is to help you to become a skilled facilitator and coordinator.  A good consultant will work with all the key roles in the planning, event execution, implementation, and follow-up of the event.  He or she will teach each member how to fulfill their role successfully.  Also, will let all key roles member to do their tasks while coaching them.  

Are you ready for your first continuous improvement event?  If you have doubts or need help to start your improvement journey, call Better Process Solutions.  We can help! 

Small Steps philosophy as a way of life

The first time I read Gemba Kaizen by Masaaki Imai, I was a junior manager responsible for several production lines.  The concept of improving processes by taking small steps at a time capture my attention.  It was the beginning of a never-ending learning process in continuous improvement.  I believe in this philosophy; it drives the way I work and make decisions.  I don’t remember when I started, but one day I realize that kaizen or the art of improving by taking small steps was my way of life.  I was learning and improving how I do things all the time.

Small steps as way of life 

After that realization, I started to consciously apply the basic concepts of some tools in my house.  For example, I started to use 5S to ensure I kept everything in my kitchen, closets, and garage organized.  My father learned that if he put things in their place, he wasted no time when he needed them again.  I also use kanban for my groceries to ensure that I don’t run out of my favorite items or over-stock the less used items.  Visual management becomes a staple in my calendars, inbox, and agendas.  

Over the years, I roll out my home CI initiatives to improve home tasks, from cooking to gardening.  I used PDCA to cut time, distance, and other types of waste.  The strategy I follow is to change things in small steps.  I create small steps by breaking a task into smaller pieces.  I do a plan for each assignment, test it, learn the result, and adjust.  

When I started gardening, I had no clue what I was doing.  In the beginning, I bought grown plants at local stores.  After work, I used to relax while taking care of them.  That was fun, but I wanted more. Therefore, I start reading and learning what types of vegetables grow in my area. The first year I took note of everything I did.  At the end of the season, I noted what worked and what didn’t.  I kept doing that every year, learning more and taking small risks at a time.  My gardening skills are much better now, and the number of vegetables harvested each season is growing.

Small steps to create or break a habit, or develop a skill

CI is useful for creating a habit, break a habit, or develop new skills.  The formation of a new habit has three steps, a trigger, the routine, and the reward.  Make sure that the new routine is a small step.  I know it works but, I could not explain why until I read the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life:  The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.

In his book, he explains how to overcome fear and procrastination with seven small steps.  He also talks about how the reptilian brain governs the fight-or-flight response that keeps us alive in the face of danger.  When something triggers fear, this response kicks in to sabotage your intentions.  The trick to achieving change is to think of small steps.  Maurer recommends asking your brain what one small step you could take toward reaching your goal.  Small questions or small steps keep the fight-or-flight response in off position.

Fear paralyze us, use small steps to keep going

Fear or uncomfortable feelings keep us from doing things that we don’t like.  When you faced a situation you don’t like, the flight mode kicks in.  As a result, you ignore the event until you can’t anymore.  By then, it is a hot mess, only because you did not deal with it before.  It is better to listen to the warning signs and gut feelings that tell you that something is wrong. Once you recognized the warning, deal with a small problem and not a big one.    

A different way to see and do things

The secret to your success is to take small steps.  Sounds funny, even silly, but it works.  Before we learn to run, we learn to crawl, take one step while holding onto something, and then walk without help.  Breaking a task into smaller pieces makes sense.  It allows you to grasp the situation and deal with it with greater chances of success.  Many small wins add up to a big win.  Do not let fear paralyze you.  Keep going, one small step at a time.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Mark Twain