Successful Supervisor 54 – Plotting Your Future

November 26, 2017

Regardless of current position, every professional owns his or her future. Some people leave it up to fate or “the breaks” to figure out their pathway in life. That tendency is evident in all occupations, including supervisors.

In this article, I will explore why only a few supervisors take command of their forward path and offer some ideas that may be helpful at changing the pattern for those supervisors who want to move up.

Sometimes the role of Supervisor is a terminal role

One typical pathway to arrive in a position of supervisor is up from the ranks. This person has a great deal of process knowledge and has demonstrated dedication to the organization over a long period of time.

In addition, this individual has displayed some form of natural leadership characteristics. People within the crews seem to listen to what this person says and usually do what is suggested. This individual will often perform as a backfill for another supervisor who is out.

When conditions call for someone to be elevated to the supervisor position due to a retirement or termination, this individual is the natural and easy choice for the job.

Without a professional degree, she is not likely to be elevated into levels above supervisor and may not even want to move up further. She might be content to lead crews at the operational level.

In other cases, a person is brought into the organization with a professional degree with the understanding that gaining knowledge and seasoning as a leader will lead to higher positions in the organization. Sometimes these professionals can stay in a supervisory role for many years before moving on.

Let’s examine some situations where a worthy person might languish in the first line supervisor position far longer than necessary and why they do not take more control of their path forward. I will suggest some antidotes.

1. Becoming a Forgotten Soul

People who operate at the shop floor level daily tend to get caught up in the activities that are necessary to run the operation well. They become preoccupied with things like attendance issues or the struggle to have all people follow the stated rules (such as length of breaks).

As they work to survive on a daily basis and put off seeking longer term goals, their exposure at the higher levels is less, and they may be taken for granted or forgotten by higher management.

Often the performance goal line for supervisors can be moved from year to year. If a supervisor performs well during the current year, then the goals for next year may be increased in a never ending cycle of continuous improvement and higher expectations.

In that environment it is hard to step back and plot a pathway to a better existence, so some supervisors remain in the position longer than they really want to.

If you are in this position, the antidote is to put a priority on your long term goals and take the time to figure out where you wish to go next in your career.

This planning should include your supervisor and some concrete positive steps to take in the direction so you are ready to move up when a slot opens up. Try to include one or two development courses a year that will prepare you to advance.

2. Getting too embroiled in the turmoil

The role of supervisor is extremely challenging, even in the best organizations. Hourly people test the supervisor’s ability to maintain control on a daily basis.

It is important to establish a pleasant work environment where the workers are both empowered and engaged in the job, but inevitably the supervisor needs to play the role of enforcer in order to maintain control.

This tension between the ideal state and reality creates a kind of turmoil where the supervisor is compelled to be unpopular at times. In fact, it is a mistake to have an objective to be popular all of the time. It means the supervisor is weak and lets the employees abuse the rules to make life easier.

On the flip side, some supervisors revert to a command and control atmosphere where the workers will find ways to subvert the rules in ways that cannot easily be detected.

Some workers will become openly hostile when the supervisor tries to gain control of their behaviors. She will often spend inordinate amounts of time trying to deal with a few troublemakers while the more docile workers watch with amusement.

If you can relate to these symptoms, the antidote is to be both hard and soft at the same time. Show people you care about them personally, but stress that the organization requires that people follow the rules, and that you intend to have that happen.

In the crucible of trying to make the best decisions today, it is easy to lose sight of the longer term objective instead of continually seeking to leverage a positive reputation for performance into a pathway to the future. The cure is to keep the future in mind while striving to make excellent decisions today.

3. Getting a bad reputation

The role of a supervisor is like a juggling contest trying to balance all the needs of the people who report to her while simultaneously turning in impressive performance numbers.

Many supervisors fail to get the right balance and either appear to lose control or have sabotage crop up. Upper management sees only the result of the chaos and may not be sympathetic to the daily plight of the supervisor.

The antidote here is to manage your reputation with upper management. That is a tall order because of the balancing act previously mentioned. Since your reputation is mostly what people say about you when you are not present, it is necessary to be an expert at reading body language.

You can often learn more by watching your superiors than by what they tell you. Learn to be alert to signals that something has soured your reputation and find out what it is. Often the damage can be mitigated if you are aware of it.

4. Operating outside of the Supervisor’s control

There are a number of situations where the path to higher positions appears to be blocked, at least temporarily. Sometimes there is not much a supervisor can do but continue to shine in her role and be patient.

The politics of moving up in the organization can include things that are not easily understood, such as diversity issues or other forces that can impact organizational choices.

5. Failing to plan

Every person should have a plan for his or her life. I believe in setting aside a day each year to assess where I am and plot my own future. This simple practice has made a huge difference in my life, and it will do the same for anyone who expends the energy to do it.

The magic lies in setting aside the time to actually do the exercise. If you want to see a template for how it works for me, here is the URL for my Renewal Article  https://thetrustambassador.com/2010/12/29/renewal/.

No matter your situation, take the time to invest in your own future and do not be content to just do your best in your current role. We all need to grow and become more valuable to our organization. That is a formula for getting ahead in life.

Bottom line: Focus on the Next Step

The point of this article is to encourage supervisors to not get so focused on surviving the vicissitudes of current business that you neglect your path forward. Use the ideas above to keep an eye on your future every day. Do everything with a purpose to enhance your path toward your next step in your career.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor Part 53 – Getting Management Buy-in

November 18, 2017

In this article I will discuss one of the most vexing problems facing professionals of all kinds, including supervisors. Supervisors are often faced with the dilemma of getting full buy-in for an initiative that they know will advance the organization.

A typical complaint might sound like this, “I know bringing in this training would pay huge dividends for my operation, but I cannot get their attention long enough to make my case. If I turn up the volume, then I am accused of getting emotional, which lowers my chance of getting what is obviously needed.”

Let’s explore the root causes of this problem and suggest some potential antidotes. Note: this problem is so pervasive that fully resolving it may not be possible.

Why isn’t Top Management Listening to Your Ideas?

There are likely numerous answers to your question. Let me suggest a few of the more common causes of managers failing to get behind initiatives that are proposed at lower levels.

1. Isolation and Preoccupation

Many top managers work in a kind of bubble where they interface with the managers who report directly to them but have a lot less contact with people lower in the organization.

Their days, and nights, are full of thought patterns relative to how they can keep the ship moving in the right direction, so they appear to be very preoccupied with details and hard to reach for different ideas.

When they are at work, every minute in every meeting is often spoken for. A new initiative might feel threatening to them as if it might cause some distraction from their primary agenda. Trying to get a new idea or initiative on the agenda, no matter how brilliantly conceived, will require some creative thinking.

One tip that can help is to always focus in on the benefits that will accrue from your idea before describing the steps that need to be accomplished. If your idea will reduce an organizational problem, be sure to stress this first to get the attention of the top brass.

2. Working Through Layers

Often the supervisor or person with a great idea has to work through a layer or two of other managers in order to get air time on the agenda at the top. These other layers have been put in place primarily to allow the senior leaders time to work on their agenda.

It is common for a manager to come back from the top level meeting and explain that even though she had gotten your idea on the agenda, it never surfaced at the meeting because there were more urgent topics to resolve.

The tip here is to find a way to get your idea exposed to the top leader yourself. If you count on your boss or her boss to take your case to the top, you have less chance of success.

Your agenda will get watered down significantly as it moves through the layers. Rather than allow another person to pitch your idea, explore creative ways to get before the decision makers yourself.

This technique can be tricky because your boss has to justify her role as well. You might suggest a route to the top with an approach like this: “I really want to present the idea to Mr. Big myself this time. Would you be willing to tee up the conversation and arrange a lunch meeting for the three of us?”

3. Chain of Command Issues

The well intended professional may not have enough recognition at the top of the organization to gain share of mind. The supervisor may have a wonderful idea, but the top leader will never know it because he assumes her direct boss is the one who should pass judgment on the idea.

The tip here is to get a chance to surface your idea at a meeting where both your direct boss and the top leader are there together. Ask for the support of your boss ahead of time, so when you surface the idea she can provide immediate support in front of the top layer.

That approach has three benefits: 1) the top layer hears your idea in the way you describe it, 2) the senior person knows you have done your homework, and 3) you have an opportunity to make your boss look good in front of the senior leaders.

4. Insufficient Credibility

The top leaders may not be adequately aware of your prowess in terms of seeing and executing innovative opportunities for the organization. If this is the case, you need to start small and generate several small successes.

It also helps to volunteer for leadership roles in furthering the causes already being pushed from the top. Be strategic because credibility is earned over time, but the equity can be destroyed by a single misstep.

5. Not Invented Here

NIH thinking permeates the mind of people at all levels. If you are three levels below me in the organization and you come up with a magic solution to all my problems, what force makes me want to displace the solutions that are coming out of my head to give your solution a try?

The top leaders may fear that the changes you advocate will lead to loss of control or some side effect that will cause extra effort or cost to unscramble. To fight this problem, you need to present the idea as simple, logical, and bullet proof (low risk).

It also will add to your credibility if you have thought through some potential problems and have solutions to offer if these might arise. When you present a balanced and thoroughly investigated idea, it lowers the risk.

Some Other Tips

I will suggest some ideas here, but recognize that individual differences will make them successful or not depending on the circumstances. Maybe the best advice is to build a reputation for excellence and innovation in the areas you control. A track record of excellence is your best calling card.

1. Don’t Appear to be Overly Anxious or Disgruntled

If you lose your cool out of frustration, then not only will you not get approval for your project, but you will damage all future proposals. Always remain respectful and helpful. Keep stressing the benefits and remind superiors that we are all on the same team.

In some circumstances, you can even ask for a “favor” to allow your idea to be executed. This approach shows that you really care about the organization and have the initiative to bring up solid solutions. One good technique to accomplish this is to suggest a “pilot program” that can demonstrate the benefits with a lower risk.

2. Always be a Team Player

Seek out allies and friends at all levels. Make sure you are doing more than your share of the work and be generous with your praise for others. If people genuinely like you they will go to bat for you in many ways.

Also, foster good relationships with the administrative helpers of people higher in the organization. These people have more power than is sometimes realized by people lower in the organization. For one thing, they control the time agenda of the people in power, so if they like you it means you can get more access.

In addition, the administrative assistant is privy to discussions that go on when you are not around. If the person likes you, he or she will tip you off if you are coming on too strong or in some other way hurting your own agenda.

3. If You Get Approval, Make Sure to Express Appreciation and Report Results

Work is really a series of initiatives, so you do yourself a favor by praising the big boss if you are granted the opportunity to show how your idea will help. Do this in writing (not texting or email). Make sure to report back the fine results of the implemented idea with expressions of further gratitude.

Basically, you want to develop a groove or pattern of successful implementation of ideas. This pattern will make future proposals have a higher chance of success and will often lead to eventual promotions for you.

Gaining and maintaining a reputation that causes senior leaders to be eager to hear your ideas is a daunting task, but it is possible to accomplish through the application of excellent political skills.

Selling your ideas is an ultimate test of your professional capability. Study the ideas above and add more to your repertoire through your own experiences.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 51 – Employee Value Proposition

November 4, 2017

There is a relatively new term being batted around in HR circles. The term is “Employee Value Proposition.” I want to discuss the concept here and suggest that some of the ideas would be helpful to any supervisor.

I understand that supervisors need to adhere to policies and procedures set from a higher level, but the extent that you can lobby for more rules consistent with maximizing EVP, the better your organization will run.

The concept of Employee Value Proposition is very simple. It is the appeal employees feel for working in your organization. The concept takes in all of the policies and procedures that impact personnel at all levels.

If your HR policies are such that employees are thrilled to be working in your organization, then you are in good shape. If the rules make some people wish they were elsewhere, then there is work to be done.

The value proposition is more than rules, however. How employees are treated by all levels of supervision and all other employees is a large part of EVP. A high EVP is a reflection of a great culture where employees not only value the rules but appreciate how they feel about the work.

The vision is to be so appealing to employees that your organization becomes like a magnet for the very best resources. It is easy to recruit the best people and also to retain them with significantly less turnover. The objective is to have people become convinced that they would be fools to ever think of leaving. They know that there is no grass greener than where they are right now.

Few organizations are able to achieve that level of appeal, but I know of several groups that are close to it, and they have several hundred people apply for any posted job. Their turnover is a tiny fraction of the average turnover in our region and those few people who leave do so because of a spouse leaving the area or some other mechanical force that literally pries them away from the organization.

Attracting the best employees gives an immediate benefit because we all know that hiring a dud of an employee is like an albatross on the entire operation. Having low turnover gives numerous financial benefits that really add up. The cost of recruiting and training go way down for organizations with high EVP. The savings go directly to the bottom line.

Talentsmoothie.com suggests two main reasons for a low Employee Value Proposition. They are as follows:

1. Not differentiating your own organization from the competition. If several groups have the same conditions for employees, then there is no sustainable competitive advantage, but it is not enough to be better than the other groups.

You need to make the difference obvious to current and prospective employees. It is vital to have a solid list of the reasons why your organization is a better place to work than the similar type of organization down the street.

To do this well, you need to not only know your policies and climate well, you also need to know what other competing companies are doing. This means doing a lot of solid research and then documenting your advantages.

2. The second factor that is all too common is that the branding is appealing, but it does not fully reflect daily practices throughout the organization.

The hypocrisy of saying one thing but doing something different will destroy EVP in a heartbeat. It is vital that all supervisors and managers know what is being advertized and are actually doing that on a daily basis.

Pay attention to the Employee Value Proposition for your organization and for your area within it. The benefits of maintaining a high EVP are huge, but they must be earned and be real to provide the advantages.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 50 – Moving Toward a Teal Environment

October 28, 2017

In 2015, my dear friend and fellow author, Bob Vanourek introduced me to a book entitled “Reinventing Organizations,” by Frederick LaLoux.

It was a great read, and since that time I have brought some of the thinking process into my own consulting work, since it is entirely compatible with my views on enlightened leadership.

I wanted to introduce the concepts in this series for supervisors because moving in the direction of what Frederick called a “Teal Organization” is a thinking process that can take one very far down the road toward a more fully engaged workforce.

Defining a Teal Environment

When Frederick described the characteristics of organizations, he outlined a sort of progression where organizations can move from being hierarchical and rigid to being much more self directed and fluid.

He gave several typical organizations names of colors so they would be more memorable. Here are some of the colors in his progression.

1. Red Organizations

Red organizations are like power structures where the group with the most authority lords over all of the other groups. They are characterized by fear and submission.

The leader is all powerful and runs the organization with a firm hand. The model is one of impulse. It is a game of survival of the fittest, and many organizations today are run on a red model.

2. Amber Organizations

These groups are strong and very hierarchical. For example, a military organization might take on the characteristics of an amber organization. It is the traditional organizational pyramid that is so familiar.

The idea is to have stable, well controlled processes that are replicable and predictable. There are many rituals that must be adhered to, and individualism is discouraged. To thrive in an amber organization, you need to stay in your box and do your job as prescribed.

3. Orange Organizations

Here we see a wider view of what must be done, and processes are well defined. Innovation is encouraged. Advancement is based on merit and tenacity.

The key element to describe an orange culture is achievement. This type of organization fueled the industrial revolution and the explosive growth after World War II.

4. Green Organizations

As we progress toward more teamwork and a family feeling toward work, we see some signs of empowerment showing up. The world of the green organization is more pluralistic.

Here people are encouraged to think for themselves as long as they stay consistent with the organization’s values. The focus of green organizations is on maximizing shareholder value.

4. Teal Organizations

LaLoux goes on to envision a type of organization where the focus has shifted to where the ego elements are less pronounced and people become free to do what they believe is right.

The focus is on a kind of wholeness that takes a broader view of why the organization exists in the first place. The emphasis shifts from pleasing shareholders (owners) to serving all stakeholders, including the environment and society.

Individuals engage in the work because they truly believe in the cause, not to just earn a paycheck.

Moving in the direction of Teal

I recently did some training work for an organization that is on the path toward a Teal Culture. My observation is that you never completely arrive at the perfect system, you are always seeking to grow and morph into a better paradigm.

The road is not without hazards and twists and turns to navigate, but having a vision of a more thoughtful approach to doing work and having all people actively involved in the journey is a pleasant way to get things done.

My observation is that people are much more satisfied when working in this environment. It is not a picnic for everyone, however. Some people would rather be told what to do and even how to do it.

To manage a Teal environment means giving up the rigid authority of the Amber or Orange style of management in favor of a more engaging culture where a broader slice of the population participates in the decisions and hence has a larger stake in the success of the organization.

This higher level of ownership means greater productivity and satisfaction in the end.

If this idea sounds intriguing, you might want to pick up a copy of “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederick LaLoux. You will find it entertaining, and it will probably have you thinking of moving to a more Teal-like culture for your place of work.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 49 Getting to a Lean Culture

October 22, 2017

The Lean Thinking program is an outgrowth of the Toyota Production System that was developed in the early 1990s.

Many organizations combine the concepts of Lean Thinking and Six Sigma into a single thrust they call “Lean/Six Sigma.”

My preference is to think of these initiatives separately, since they were derived by different groups at different points in the evolution of improvement efforts and have vastly different tools and objectives.

It is true that you can combine staff groups to go after the gains of both programs in one thrust, but I prefer to keep them separate.

For supervisors, it is important to understand what Lean Thinking entails and how to manage a process to eliminate all waste. There are numerous techniques and tools for doing this, and I will discuss a few of the main ones later in this article.

Objectives

First, let’s contrast six sigma and lean in terms of their objectives. The primary objective of six sigma is continuous improvement toward process perfection. The objective of “Lean” is the relentless quest to eliminate all waste (or MUDA, which is the Japanese word for waste).

When we think of waste in our personal life, it is all about the stuff that gets thrown away. In the “Lean” lexicon, waste takes on a much different perspective.

In lean programs, we work on seven different types of waste simultaneously, and only one is the stuff that goes in the garbage can. Here are the seven types of waste.

Note the common way to remember the seven types of waste is by the acronym TIM WOOD.

1. Transport

Any time we move products or sub assemblies, we are incurring costs and waste that the customer is not interested in paying for. Think of it this way, if you purchase a car, you are not at all interested in the pathway it took to be manufactured.

You are interested that the car is perfect in every way, but do not want to pay extra to have it go to six different cities while it is being manufactured in pieces.

2. Inventory

Inventory is waste because it cannot be sold. It also takes up space, which is expensive to maintain. A good lean program can usually cut the space used to manufacture a product by at least 50% by cutting down on the level of inventory or in-process goods.

3. Motion

Similar to transport, the customer is not interested in paying for the motions necessary to produce a product. If you can combine operations to eliminate motion, you have reduced the MUDA for the entire process.

4. Waiting

Waiting is one of the largest forms of waste for most processes. If you tour through even the best factories, you will see pallets of product waiting to be serviced by the next step in the process.

I recall a Tom Peters program entitled “Speed is Life” where he noted that in an average manufacturing cycle for a product that takes two weeks to complete, there is a good solid 18 minutes of actual work being done on the product.

The remainder of the time is wasted because the product is sitting and waiting for the next operation.

5. Overproduction

If we have customers who want to buy five refrigerators from us today, and we make eight refrigerators, three of them represent wasted effort. There is no immediate demand for the product, so it goes into inventory and becomes a form of waste until there is a demand for it.

6. Overprocessing

This kind of waste is all about the number of process steps that are required to actually make a part.

If you have to pick up a carburetor 12 times in order to assemble all the parts onto it, that is a lot of picking up. Suppose you could reduce the number of times needed to pick up the part to just two. That would save 10 process steps to make the same part.

7. Defects

If a product is defective, it cannot be sold, so it is either reworked (which requires extra resources) or it is discarded (which wastes the materials and labor put in to that point).

This is where Six Sigma and Lean intersect. We want all of our processes to be so perfect that they never produce any defects.

Some of the More Popular Lean Tools

If I were to describe all the tools used in lean thinking, this would be a book rather than an article. Let me focus here on just five of the most useful tools.

1. Process Flow Map

A Process Flow Map is a diagram of the entire process on a large piece of paper.

There are specific symbols that depict the various parts of the process flow and the movement of materials as well as any inventory points. The idea is to allow a team of technical people to actually “see” the whole process and how it works at once.

It is imperative to have a fully trained person actually construct the Process Flow Map, or the whole analysis may be flawed.

There is an excellent book on how to construct Process Flow Maps. It is entitled “Learning to See,” by Mike Rother and John Shook. The book deals with many of the tools to eliminate MUDA and how to use them correctly.

2. Kaizen

A Kaizen is an event that takes place on the process site, where a team actually takes the process apart physically and puts it together in a more streamlined configuration.

There are many techniques used to accomplish a Kaizen, such as “spaghetti diagrams” that trace the actual movement of the process on a diagram.

The caveat here is to not try to perform a Kaizen unless you have a qualified facilitator and really know what you are doing.

A poorly done Kaizen can do a lot of damage. You may be able to take the process apart but fail at putting it back together.

3. 5 S

The process of 5 S is built around five Japanese words that all begin with S.

Seri – Sort
Seiton – Set in order
Seiso – Shine
Seiketsu – Standardize
Shitsuke – Sustain

The idea is to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.

When you walk into a 5 S operation, it is neat and tidy with everything available but absolutely no clutter to be seen.

4. Poka-Yoke

Poka-Yoke means to make the operation fool proof. If you simply cannot put something together incorrectly it has some good poka-yoke thinking associated with it.

The best example in our personal world is the three pronged electrical plug. There is no way to put it together incorrectly.

When you think of it, we have many examples of good poka- yoke thinking that we use every day from symmetrical ignition keys to USB connectors on computers.

Something that is not poka-yoke is your shoes. It is possible, albeit not comfortable, to put them on the wrong feet.

5. Kanban

Kanban is a philosophy that allows a continuous process while maintaining a minimum of inventory of parts. You work off a two bin system.

You have an active bin where you are drawing parts until it is empty. You then move the spare full bin into place to continue the process, and the empty space (called a Kanban square) is the signal to go get another bin of parts.

Administering Lean

The lean philosophy is a very powerful mindset for any operation. As a supervisor, you must be careful to administer the effort with care and professionalism.

Make sure the effort is well staffed with qualified people. Trying to do lean manufacturing on a flimsy base can produce great confusion and lead to expensive rework and disillusionment among the workers.

Another consideration is that lean efforts are usually being performed while production is still running through parts of the operation. One cell might be down while the work is being done, but the rest of the plant is working.

It takes a lot of coordination and planning to accomplish a lean program, but the result is well worth the effort.

In addition to keeping parts of the process running, the supervisor needs to ensure the safety of all personnel, even though parts of the operation are not in a normal steady state of operation. In general, you should spend as much time planning a lean activity as it takes to actually accomplish it.

Eliminating all forms of waste and using the tools of Lean Thinking allows the supervisor to produce the maximum saleable products in the least amount of time and at the lowest possible cost.

Think of lean as an ideal or state of perfection that you never actually fully achieve. With a philosophy of “continuous improvement” you refine and make the process more perfect every day. The techniques must become a way of life to be able to sustain the gains, but they are well worth the effort.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 48 Tips to Employ Six Sigma

October 15, 2017

The “Six Sigma” movement grew out of the Total Quality Revolution of the 1990s. It is a mindset to minimize variation in manufacturing or business processes.

The objective is to achieve processes that are nearly perfect, with a statistical approach that achieves less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

Having worked in the era of the Total Quality Revolution myself and studied personally with some of the great names such as W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Brian Joiner, and others, I built a strong foundation of knowledge that supports a six-sigma mindset.

Trying to employ this “profound knowledge” (a Deming phrase) in a real manufacturing environment allowed me to see some precautions or areas where significant care is needed to obtain the full benefits.

This article is written to help supervisors trying to implement a six sigma philosophy in a manufacturing operation. To be successful, one must begin by learning a new way of communicating information about the process.

Learn the jargon, but do not be a slave to it

The whole area of lean six sigma is rife with a special language that practitioners use to communicate with each other but which often confuses people who are less informed.

The processes are really pretty simple and logical, so try to educate people to avoid hiding behind a lexicon of acronyms or mathematical calculations that can confuse mere mortals.

Focus more energy on putting the ball in the hoop than figuring out how many standard deviations the hoop is from the foul line.

1. Understand the Six Sigma issue

The meaning of six sigma is that the process you are running is so close to perfection that it will produce less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. I am not going to go into the derivation of why that last statement is true (although I do know why).

If you are interested, go look it up. My struggle is that trying to measure either the numerator or the denominator of the equation is nearly impossible.

Just trying to define what a defect is can suck the life out of a technically oriented person. There are numerous different interpretations and lots of papers written trying to identify what a defect is.

If trying to pin down a “defect” is difficult, understanding how to measure what an “opportunity” is can keep you occupied forever.

You not only have to contend with the opportunities you can see and count, but you also need to conceptualize the missed opportunities that did not happen. Trying to understand the true level of opportunities is like trying to find the edge of the earth.

Since the real number of opportunities is infinite, an equation that puts this number in the denominator might drive mathematics graduate students to the local beer garden.

A much better way to think about six sigma is to focus on something other than defects per opportunity. Rather, picture a process so perfect that we just don’t have to think about it ever producing a defect.

We do not need to inspect the part because the process is so robust we never find any problems. As Joe Juran used to say, “You cannot inspect quality into a product.”

2. Support the “Black Belt” Program

The “Black Belt” program is a series of educational milestones that designate the knowledge and experience level of an individual.

A brown belt is better equipped than a yellow or green belt, and a black belt shows mastery level. The benefit of a black belt program is not that we have visible signs of the education level of a person.

What the program produces is a support system for educating people to become proficient with the tools. The stepwise program ensures that you continually invest in educating your people, which is a great way to improve engagement and reduce turnover.

3. Know what you are getting into

Get educated yourself on the philosophy and tools of Total Quality Management. I saw problems crop up when the supervisor was trying to direct traffic but did not understand the tools personally.

Continuous improvement toward process perfection is not a program for amateurs. You can create chaos and confusion if you seek to implement a program that has a lot of bells and whistles but is not grounded in “profound knowledge.”

4. Get real top level support

Make sure top management is truly engaged in the program. If they understand the incredible payback for a six sigma program, they should be easy to convince.

Unfortunately I have seen several instances where top managers give lip service to the program but starve the training or the resources. When that happens, the whole effort becomes a kind of sham where people go through the motions but do not make the gains.

Honor the experts and become a mentor

Most of the gurus of the Total Quality Revolution died in the 1990s. Their work revolutionized the world for the last half of the last century, but the gains can be easily diluted and lost. Implementing a successful six-sigma program takes strong leadership on the part of the supervisor.

There is a significant challenge here for all supervisors.

I once heard Deming express his personal concern that there are not enough leaders coming along to carry on his work. Here is a brief story of that event from my third book, “Leading With Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.”

By 1990, Deming was 89 years old and in failing health. You had to admire this old man with his trademark silver crew cut for keeping up a rigorous teaching schedule, even though he could no longer walk and could barely talk.

A nurse would roll his wheelchair up to the platform, and he would bend over a microphone and speak in a gravelly voice, just above a whisper.

The most poignant part came when he reflected on the gains made by manufacturing over his lifetime and attempted to project them into the future. Deming’s outlook for the last decade of the 20th century was grim. Unfortunately, it was grim for Deming since he died in 1993, but in 1990 the great man had a profound message to the audience of about 400 managers and engineers crammed into the huge ballroom.

At one point, he sat up straight; his voice rose up, becoming strong and clear as he asked, “Where are the leaders going to come from?” He paused and repeated himself, “Where are the leaders going to come from?” Then he said it again and again, gaining in volume and strength with each statement. I remember vividly his fist in the air almost yelling now, “Where are the leaders going to come from?”

People in the room became uncomfortable and started looking at each other. Was the old man insane? Did he need medical attention? What was this all about? His question was crystal clear, but what did it mean? I felt like yelling back, “from over here,” but I held my tongue. Finally, the old man stopped and kind of slumped down again. He muttered some additional points that nobody seemed to hear.

Why was this great man so interested in having the audience think about his question? He obviously knew he was dying soon and was desperately trying to send out a message with all the passion and urgency his feeble body allowed. With all the technology he taught the world for over 50 years, why was he dwelling on this point?

There was a good reason: he was right. Without enlightened leadership, his technology would atrophy and eventually amount to very little. Obviously he was doing everything in his power to get the audience to realize this.

The technological advances brought about by the Quality Revolution were no less dramatic than those of the Industrial Revolution 70 years earlier. For the first time, workers and managers really focused on their processes to identify which ones were in control and which were not.

People started paying attention to data in ways that were robust. Instead of chasing after a trend based on two points of data, control charts helped to identify situations that required explanation versus those that were basically in control.

Deming called this “profound knowledge,” and it transformed manufacturing worldwide for several decades.

As a leader, embracing leadership knowledge and passing it on to the next generation is not an onerous task, but an uplifting way of doing business.

When Deming asks, “Where are the leaders going to come from?” we all need to shout out, “right here!” Unfortunately, none of us in his class in 1990 got that message, and many leaders still don’t today.

Embrace the profound knowledge and pass it on to the next generation with urgency.

The Supervisor’s Role

The supervisor has a key role to play in any six sigma effort. In some organizations, the effort is spearheaded by staff people from a “quality” group.

I think it is fine to use staff people to help with some of the administration, but the passion to drive for process perfection needs to be owned by the line organization actually running the process.

Supervisors need to assume the leadership role in support of the six sigma thrust. When Deming asks “Where are the leaders going to come from,” say “right here!”

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 47 – Coaching People on Money Problems

October 8, 2017

I am not aware of any individual who has not had money problems at some point in life. One question I ask in all my seminars is, “Show of hands, how many people in this room are making too much money?” I have never had a hand go up.

I do include the tips in this article in my leadership training course, not so much for the people in the classes, but to help those people advise their workers and their children.

We Know the Rules but Many People Ignore Them

We all know the rules for fiscal wellness and security, and we know for sure the things to avoid doing.

The problem is that once people get to a certain point by ignoring the rules, then life can become unbearable to the point where some people resort to socially unacceptable behavior or even suicide.

The wise supervisor helps people avoid falling into the inevitable traps.

In general, one’s fiscal responsibility is built upon the values that were programmed in at an early age. However, two children from the same family can have very different fiscal values.

We all have values, although many people cannot articulate them. As a starting point for a supervisor, it really helps if you encourage people to clarify and document their values with respect to money. That forms a solid foundation for dialog.

In addition, it is important to select a life partner based on the mutual understanding of values. Most people select a partner and create a life together, which includes raising children, in the majority of cases.

Knowing and stating your fiscal values is a critical element in good parenting.

Below is a list of things to do or avoid to have a good chance at a strong financial position when you retire and beyond. You will recognize them all, but ask yourself seriously whether you or some of your workers are making these mistakes.

1. Credit cards

This is the granddaddy of all financial problems, yet the rule is quite simple. Always pay off the full balance on each credit card in the month it is due.

When you yield to the temptation to buy things on time, it becomes like a giant sucking force that takes you to fiscal ruin in most cases. Once you are caught in the vortex, it is nearly impossible to extricate yourself.

I finally got that message across to one young person when I pointed to a large flat panel television. I said, “I can buy that TV for $150, but if you buy it and pay the minimum each month, it is going to cost you over $400. I don’t know what kind of job you have, but if you need to pay over twice as much for the things you buy, you will always be forced to do without.”

In the age of instant gratification, it is very hard to have the discipline to postpone a purchase until you can afford it. So many people get sucked in, and it is many times more of a challenge to dig out than it is to just wait till you can afford to pay for the item.

As a supervisor, you need to help all people understand the logic of this truth. I also advise that you not offer to help bail out those who are in credit card debt, because their quicksand will immediately start grabbing at your own ankles.

2. Save at least 10% of EVERY paycheck

If you simply keep the discipline to put away 10% of your earnings, eventually you will become rich. Here is the trick to this. Kiss that money goodbye and don’t ever touch it until you are a wealthy person. Some people call this philosophy “pay yourself first.” The cumulative effect of saving even small amounts of money religiously over several decades is the engine that can create generational wealth.

The challenge is getting over the mental hurdle of making $X each payday but only being able to use $.9X. It is a mental exercise. Because we all have money withheld automatically for taxes and Social Security, it is possible to put an additional 10% out of reach, but it takes fortitude to do it.

3. Participate in the 401K plan to the maximum

When you have access to a 401K Plan at work, it is like the government is paying you to save. Of course, you do not get the money up front, but the deferred taxes add up over the long haul. If you have the fortitude to invest in your own future by using this mechanism, it significantly enhances your “nest egg” because you are using pre-tax dollars to build up your assets.

If you do not have a 401K plan at work, start an IRA and put the maximum in that each year.

4. Diversify your financial portfolio

You were probably taught by your parents to “never put all your eggs in one basket.” It is intuitively obvious that diversifying your investments lowers the risk factors associated with different kinds of investments.

It is important to constantly scan your portfolio asking the question of whether you are in the best position for current conditions.

Making small changes frequently to the blend of investments is better than making mega changes hoping to catch a whopper of a deal.

Most people are not skilled enough and do not have the time to figure out the best blend of investments for any point in time, which leads to the next tip.

5. Get a trusted advisor

You must be very careful who you select as a partner with your investments. Many people trusted Bernie Madoff with their investments and lost everything. Another old adage comes into play here: “If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Look for a firm that has a long history and an agent with whom you can talk with openly and that you trust completely. Beware of hucksters that promise unusually high returns with low risk.

Look for an individual who will probe deeply into your financial profile and risk tolerance and set up a system that is made just for you. Monitor all transactions and discuss the logic with your agent often.

Some Philosophical Ideas

Keeping out of financial trouble is possible if you follow the rules above, but there are also some thinking patterns that can help keep you fiscally strong.

1. Act and think like you are poor, and you will become rich

This idea is just a different mindset. You know that you have enough money to buy a fancy boat, and yet you don’t buy one because you are pretending you cannot afford it.

There are thousands of temptations in life, and if you yield to them you will drain your resources down quickly. You do not have to starve yourself of all indulgences to the point that you live like a monk, but it is important to never touch your “nest egg for the future.” Spend on the things that are important to you and let the trivial or tempting go.

2. Own your dwelling as soon as possible

Paying rent to have a roof over your head is necessary at some points in your life, but you should not make it a long term philosophy. In the final analysis, it is usually better to own than to rent your abode.

There are many different life and financial circumstances in which renting can be the better option, especially if the living situation is short term. The rule to own your home whenever possible needs to be tempered with the specific situation, and a good financial advisor can be helpful for specific advice.

Paying for a mortgage so you eventually own your home “feels” the same as paying rent, but there is a huge difference. In the former case you are building up equity, so eventually you have something to show for the monthly payments instead of a bunch of cancelled rent checks.

My father taught me to think of it this way. When you are paying rent, you take money out of your pocket and put it into the pocket of the landlord. When you pay a mortgage payment for a house, you take money out of your pocket, but actually put some of it back into another one of your own pockets.

3. Think about family size

There are no right or wrong answers to how many children to have. Each couple will decide for themselves, but do recognize that it is expensive to have kids. If you add up the cost of having a child these days, it is estimated that before that child is out on his or her own, the out-of-pocket cost to you will be over $250,000 BEFORE you add in the cost of a college education.

4. Don’t pay extra for frills you don’t need

Some people buy the top-of-the-line model of everything. For example, they will buy the high end washing machine for $1200 even though the standard version for $700 will be perfectly adequate to clean their clothes.

Recognize there is a hefty premium price at the high end of any product line. This is because the manufacturer knows some people will pay an exorbitant price to get the best there is, so they make those people shoulder a huge markup.

Use Common Sense and Discipline

Using simple common sense and having the discipline to postpone or skip some purchases that would be nice to have are the best approaches to financial security.

You probably already knew everything in this article, but some of your employees or perhaps your adult offspring have not fully understood the significance of these concepts.

Do them a big favor and print out this article for them to read. It may help them live a more comfortable life, and perhaps even have some money to pass on to future generations.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763