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.  

What are the characteristics of good communicators

Good communicators convey their thoughts clearly and with honesty.  Those are only two characteristics of good communicators.

Effective communication is one of the key elements for a successful continuous improvement transformation.  Therefore, being a good communicator is essential for leadership.  What are the characteristics of good communicators?

Characteristics of good communicators

Every step of the way during the transformation, leadership communication needs to be effective. Clarity is one of the characteristics of effective communication.  Convey all the necessary information with clarity is not easy.  Not only that but being concise and clear is even more difficult.  Good communicators master the art of getting their ideas across while being concise.   They share clear ideas, direct to the point, without fancy words.

To spark curiosity and the desire to learn and discover, asking the right questions is critical.  A good communicator knows how and when to ask.  They listen to the answers and use them to keep asking questions.  With this process, they guide people to learn lean thinking.  That is to say that asking questions is another way to communicate ideas and share information.

Honesty is always good!

Honesty is another characteristic of this group.  Changing minds and behaviors is not an easy task.  Influencing people to change requires a good dose of honesty while being respectful.  It also requires having tough conversations at the appropriate time.

In continuous improvement, root cause analysis is an everyday activity.  While investigating the reasons for failure, focus on the process.  Most of the time, this or the materials are the culprits.  However, sometimes a person did make a mistake.  Those times, you need to be honest without criticizing or blaming.  The way you present the facts will determine how the person feels and react in the future.  The trick is to provide feedback while motivating the person to keep learning and improving.  

Practice the characteristics of good communicators

Good communicators create a safe environment to have courageous conversations.  They are honest, empathetic, and compassionate.  Also, they practice active listening, convey their ideas with clarity and concisely.  The best communicators ask questions to understand and learn.  They are mindful of the tone of their words and the timing of the questions.  We all can learn to be better communicators.  With practice, we can become good ones.   

Overcommunicate to prevent problems, right?

Overcommunication is used with specific information to keep the team focus and aligned

I once had a conversation with a seasoned manager who proudly explained different ways his company uses to prevent problems.  One of them strikes my attention and curiosity.  He claimed that they overcommunicate to make sure things go as planned. 

What overcommunication means?

When I asked what he means by overcommunication, his explanation left me worried.  For instance, his definition was indeed what it is not.  Dumping all kinds of information through countless emails, oversharing, or repeating instructions while checking performance is not the right way to do it.  

First, over-communication is not a way to share all kinds of things.  It is used only to clarify and reinforcing critical information.  For example, to convey instructions or concerns during crisis times, top priorities, and the company vision.  Second, it is about communicating the right things effectively.  In other words, in a clear, consistent way, promoting collaboration between teams.  By sharing the right things frequently, you ensure alignment between the company vision and the daily operations.

Overcommunicate prevent problems, right?

When you over-communicate in the right way, it is possible to prevent problems.  However, when what you are doing is oversharing or micromanaging, the results are different.  The team can feel distracted by too much information, overwhelmed, or frustrated.  And they have all the right to feel that way because that behavior is disrespectful.  The team will respond much better if you convey the information effectively.  If you want them to remember the company’s core values and vision, become a model of those behaviors.  Also, incorporate the enterprise vision in what you do and become a coach.

Communicate right, do not overcommunicate

Excessive communication is not the right way to prevent problems.  Effective communication is the right way to ensure everybody receives and understands the same message.  When you disseminate critical information frequently enough, people will know that it is meaningful.  Over time, they will start to use it, and the result is alignment between values and daily actions such as problem-solving, project selection, and others.

Team communication, how do you know it needs to improve?

team communication

While I was facilitating a problem-solving session in a client facility, I noticed that something was wrong.  We were discussing the possible causes for the problem under analysis.  Three team members were very active in the discussion providing thoughtful ideas.  However, the rest of the group was either silent or being sarcastic.  Another person was constantly interrupting others while yelling.  I ask the event sponsor if those behaviors were normal, and he said they were.  He didn’t see it that way, but the team’s behavior was asking for help.  Those actions were a symptom of a deeper problem.  That is, team communication needed improvement.

How do you know team communication needs to improve?

The situation described above contains several signs that indicate the team communication is poor.  When a team cannot collaborate, productivity and quality can affect the company’s bottom line.  Therefore, it is a priority to learn how to identify those signs and fix them.

Despite having technical knowledge, the company from the example hire me as the facilitator.  The reason is that they have not been able to get the expected results.  

Be on the lookout for these signs

Over the week, I had multiple individual conversations with team members and the sponsor.  As a result, I identify several behaviors that affect communication.  All of them are signs of ineffective team communication.  

Confusion regarding responsibilities or priorities leads to frustration.  As a result, you can see duplicate work, missed deadlines, or not getting expected results.  In turn, those results create disappointment, anger, and more frustration.  When this happens, it is common to see disrespect as part of the culture.  For example, you can see rude reactions, demeaning communication, and finger-pointing.

People deal with frustration in different ways.  Sometimes, even when they are silent, their demeanor screams disagreement.  Team communication is failing when you sense that people have concerns but never voice their opinion.  Likewise, if they constantly interrupt the conversation or scream to ensure their voice is heard.  Another sign is when team members feel the need to compete against each other all the time.  At the same time, there is no collaboration.

How to improve team communication

Effective communication is one of the critical elements for a successful continuous improvement journey.  Another element is the cultural transformation from traditional to lean thinking.  A culture that values respect and teamwork fosters creativity and collaboration.  

People need to know how their work connects with the company goals.  Also, they need to understand how their actions affect the customers and business growth.  Knowing that information is easier to understand why collaboration is critical to the success of the company.  When the company is still in the early steps of the transformation, it is natural for some individuals to push back.  However, as soon as you notice behaviors like those previously indicated, it is time to enforce the new expectations.  Nothing demoralized the team more than seeing their leaders tolerating disrespectful actions.

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 is Communication in a Continuous Improvement Culture?

how communication is in continuous improvement

Have you ever wonder how communication is in continuous improvement? Poor communication affects productivity, quality, customer experience. Also, it costs money. David Grossman wrote the article titled The Cost of Poor Communications. He reported that the total estimated cost of employee misunderstanding is $37 billion. The article use information from 400 surveyed corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom. On top of that, many companies spend a good chunk of money every year on communication training.   

Poor communication is critical for the successful operation of any business. Consequently, can you imagine how critical it is when you are trying to change the culture?  For instance, let’s see how communication is in continuous improvement.

Communication in continuous improvement is clear and transparent

Clarity of purpose and transparency are critical elements of the lean culture. Therefore, effective communication is imperative to convey a shared vision of the future that the company wants to build. To inspire people with that vision, you need clarity of purpose. For instance, everybody needs to know and understand how their daily work supports the company’s strategic vision. Moreover, to achieve the dramatic change from a traditional to a continuous improvement culture, people need to trust. Trust grows within the organization when transparency exists, and people receive the information they need.

As a leader, your job is to communicate. For instance, 80% of the time you are communicating instructions, expectations, policies, news, standards, and others.  A leader in a continuous improvement culture is expected to be a role model and a teacher. These two tasks are forms of communication.

Many sources offer advice to achieve effective communication. For me, one thing is clear, you need to know when and where or how to communicate. Also, I learned that you need to follow the three C’s of effective communication.

Know your audience

One of the best ways to quickly improve the effectiveness of your communication is to adapt your communication style to match your team member’s styles. You need to know his or her communication style. How do they like to receive the information? Also, how much detail do they like? Adapt your vocabulary and examples to the receiver. Remember that not everybody understands the same kind of jargon.

Choose the best time to start your conversation.  Do not try to discuss something with a person who is in the middle of an important task.  Show respect, ask for a good time to talk.  Besides, where and how the communication takes place is also influential. You don’t need a meeting for everything, sometimes a short conversation over a coffee is more than enough.  However, other times an email is ok. But always remember that face to face communication is better.  If you choose to send a written communication schedule a follow-up conversation to ensure the message gets through as intended.

The three C’s of effective communication

All types of communication need to have at least these three basic characteristics, clarity, collaboration, and consistency.  

Communication has to be clear and simple, avoid fancy words if they are not critical to convey the message.  It has to be complete but concise to prevent misunderstanding and gives people the information they need.  

Effective communication is a collaborative process, in which two or more people contribute to the talking subject.  Communication is a two-way process where both parties send and receive information.  If you talk without expecting any interaction from the individual(s) you are talking with, you are making an announcement not communicating.  Don’t try to dominate the conversation, give other people a chance to express themselves.

Be consistent, commit to your message and act the same way always.  When your words and actions do not match, you lose trust, and credibility.  

Communication in continuous improvement

Continuous improvement and lean need effective communication for its success.  Lean is a people-centric system, which means that the way you treat and communicate with the people is critical for success.  In continuous improvement, we want to make the standards and the deviation from them, visible.  We want to communicate the standards and performance against them.  5S, visual management, visual displays, kanban, and others are forms of communication.  They are tools to ensure transparency and keep the clarity of purpose by making the information and standards visible.