Keep it simple! Processes, training, everything.

keep it simple! Simple procedures and communication is easier to understand and follow.

A company culture transformation is an undertaking.  You will attempt to break with old habits and mental models.  Also, you will introduce new ones.  For that reason, you and your leadership team will make many decisions regarding what to do and how to do it.  Later, there will be a lot of communication, skills development, training, and new standards.  While teaching new behaviors, mental models, and ways to do things, keep it simple.

For a successful transformation, keep it simple

Along the transformation journey, you and your team will have countless communication efforts. That communication will happen in different scenarios and formats.  In other words, individual or group settings, in writing or verbal.  Also, you will write new policies, standards, work instructions, and others.  The purpose of the communication or procedures and other details needs to clear.  Keep the receiver or user in mind while deciding the language, design, or communication structure.  Moreover, it needs to be simple, easy to understand and execute.

If you can’t explain it simply, take a step back.

“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

Albert Einstein

Any continuous improvement activity starts with gaining an understanding of the current situation. The cultural transformation begins with a similar process, understanding the present culture.  The knowledge gain during this step helps to design the best way to share with the team the intention to change.

Why do you want to engage in the transformation process?  Why you propose to use continuous improvement?  What are the steps?  A long and hard thinking process is required to answer these questions in a simple way.  Refine your thoughts, do not use too many words, do not overthink.  Be honest and talk from your heart without fancy words or excuses, just the truth.

You are not ready to communicate this idea until you can say it in simple words.  

Keep it simple, all of the processes, language, structures, and formats.

Simple language is easier for the reader or receiver.  For instance, try to avoid the use of technical words unless it is necessary.  The same rule goes for industry jargon.  For example, in continuous improvement, we use many Japanese terms like kaizen.  Depending on the current culture, you should use generally accepted American words as a substitute.  In our previous example, you can use continuous improvement or rapid improvement events instead of kaizen.

While teaching new tools, use simple structures.  Further, give examples of things related to their work.  Things are complicated enough as it is, keep it simple.  Processes that are easy to understand have more probability of sustainability.  It is much easier to execute simple instructions than complicated words.  

Summary

Trying to explain something complex is often a humbling experience.  It makes you realize how much you don’t know.  Therefore, it forces you to break the subject into smaller pieces and understand each one of them.  When you think you know the process well enough, try to explain it with simple words. Would your five years old self understand?  If the answer is no, then keep refining your thoughts, keep improving your pitch.  

Simplicity avoids confusion, and processes are easier to execute consistently.  Don’t complicate it, keep it simple. 

What is Training within Industry?

While getting ready to write about Training within Industry, I remember my experience with the lack of this type of instruction. My first day as a team leader was exciting and terrifying.  I had no idea how to be a team leader.  While my supervisor and I discussed the job description, she highlights a few things. Nevertheless, there was nothing about how to supervise people.   When I asked, all the answers refer to instruct people what to do and how, follow-up, and fix problems.  Yet, that was not a good enough answer because how do you give instructions, how do you do a follow-up?  How do I know everything was all right?  Whenever I thought about how I was going to guide the team and ensure we meet our department goals, my brain went into overdrive.  The wheels inside my head were turning so hard that I could hear them.  In summary, I had no idea how to do my job.

How the Training Within Industry Program started?

Many years before my experience, a leadership development program was created by the U.S. government during World War II.  The program provides supervisors and team leaders with the ability to lead, instruct, and improve the methods of their jobs.  

The USA Department of War created the Training Within Industry (TWI) in the early 40s. The objective was to help ramp up the production of war materials and equipment. During the occupation period after World War II, the United States Air Force (USAF) initiated, developed, and introduce the Management Training Program (MTP) to Japan.  The American occupation forces brought in experts to Japan to help to rebuild their industry. Edward Deming and Joseph Juran were part of the group.  

MTP teaches the importance of human relations and employee involvement. It explains how to continuously improve processes and products and the value of practicing CI. The program also explains the scientific method approach (Deming Cycle or PDCA) to manage operations.

What is TWI?

TWI is a group of programs that are intended to be used together for comprehensive workforce development.  It introduced three standardized training programs, Job Instruction Training, Job Methods, and Job Relations Training.  Each program had a manual and a card summarizing the program, like a memory jogger. The first module, Job instruction training teaches how to prepare and train the “one best way” to do the work, which we now call standard work. The second, Job Methods teach employees how to improve processes by breaking them down into smaller steps questioning each one as a way to generate improvement ideas.  Job Relations Training teaches how to solve people’s problems. This training teaches supervisors how to evaluate and take proper actions to handle and to prevent people’s problems.

Although these programs were very successful, their use in the US gradually disappeared over time.  But in Japan, they were the foundation for developing the roles, responsibilities, and kills of supervisors at Toyota.   Why don’t we use these pieces of training as the baseline to create customized development plans for our supervisors?  I have no idea of the answer. But for sure, I would have had a lot fewer headaches if my former company had something like that.  In the following posts, I will give more details about each of these programs.

Do you really want to go back to normal? Business as usual, will not going to cut it anymore.

These days you can hear the phrase when we go back to normal, dozens of times a day.  We all want to return to our normal lives, right?

As a lean practitioner, I believe that each event is a learning opportunity, the coronavirus pandemic is no different.  During these slower days, there is time to learn new things and plan for the future.  Lean is all about learning, experimenting, and adapting.  That is just what everybody needs to learn now.  Every day I read about how people are adapting to the new normal, and many are using lean or continuous improvement thinking without knowing it.  For me, at this moment, Lean style problem solving is the on-demand skill.

I am not the only one that thinks that way.  Last year, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), published Indiana’s Employability Skills Benchmarks.  It describes a set of 18 workplace skills recommended for success in today’s competitive workforce.  One of the skills identified in the learning strategies category is problem-solving.  

The way each business adapts the operation to comply with the CDC guidelines is unique.   The solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and on top of that, those guidelines change as they gathered more information.   Learning how to use a systematic process like PDCA and apply lean thinking is critical to identify and implement the new operational guidelines for your business.  

This situation catches most people without the skills to learn and adapt, but it is never late to start.  You are on time to start using lean thinking to approach the current challenges.  With practice, you can build that muscle memory that will guide you through times like this.  The new normal then should be something better than before the coronavirus pandemic.  It is like when you create the future state value-stream-map, imagine a better and stronger business and plan how to make it happen!  Many will go back to business as usual, your competitive advantage will be your new way to do business.

Better Process Solutions can help you to start designing your new processes, get in touch!