“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”– Peter Drucker
As leaders, we focus on strategies to improve our leadership approach and increase value to our organizations. Striving for operational excellence is a worthy goal. As management guru Peter Drucker said, only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.
At the recent IPMA educational conference I presented a general session on leaders driving operational excellence. I chose to introduce the Shingo Model from the Shingo Institute. The Shingo Model is similar to other process improvement programs like Kaizen, Lean Manufacturing, and Lean Six Sigma. It is also very different as it focuses on the behavior of individuals and how to inspire teams which drives improved operational results. The model is based on three insights of organizational excellence:
- Ideal Results, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Require Ideal Behavior Indicators (KBIs)
- Purpose and Systems Drive Behavior
- Principles Inform Ideal Behavior
There are ten Guiding Principles for leaders to drive operational results. In part one of this article, I will provide insights for the following guiding principles.
- Respect Every Individual
- Lead with Humility
- Embrace Scientific Thinking
- Think Systemically
Respect for every individual includes respect for all associates, customers, suppliers, and your local community. Individuals are inspired when they see mutual respect demonstrated at their place of work. National surveys of employee satisfaction rank being respected as the most important aspect of job satisfaction. Talented leaders know that when people feel respected in their role, they give far more than their labor to their company. Associates that are treated with respect are loyal and put their heart and soul into their jobs.
The next guiding principle is Humility. Humble leaders are described as leaders willing to seek input, accept criticism, listen carefully and continuously learn. Leading with humility creates an environment where associates feel respected and energized and give freely of their creative skills and talents.
An in-plant manager and colleague, Jim Burns of Massachusetts General Hospital, shared a story at the National Postal Forum, demonstrating how he embraces respect and humility with his team. Burns manages an in-plant operation with a staff of 60 people operating 7 days per week. They manage inbound and outbound mail, shipping and receiving at 5 loading docks, and distributing medical oxygen to 100 delivery points throughout the main campus of the hospital.
A construction issue cut off the ability to provide medical air through the ports in patient rooms. This created an emergency situation – Burns and his team had to create a plan to manage, monitor and deliver heavy oxygen tanks twenty-four hours a day, in addition to their daily work.
Burns collaborated with his staff to plan, process and schedule movement of the tanks. Burns and everyone on the team were responsible for some part of physically moving tanks. Additionally, they had to manage critical daily communications to respiratory staff, facilities managers, senior leaders, and vendors to ensure a constant oxygen supply for patients. They received and moved over 300 tanks per week, while counting, replenishing, and staging on multiple floors. Burns said respecting everyone in the process, plus being open to suggestions on improvements, created an efficient process for the team.
Respect and humility are the foundation for building trust in our work relationships. The only place trust exists is in conversation. We all have experienced turmoil or conflict that has led to a break in trust with a colleague, family member or friend. The good news is trust can be repaired through conversation.
Creating a culture based on respect and trust enables leaders to earn the right to coach and lead individuals. When leaders demonstrate respect, humility and co-workers feel trusted, the team will feel empowered to share their personal motives. Knowing individual’s passions and motivations is the key to successful development plans for each employee. Change happens when each associate has clarity on their Key Behavioral Indicators.
The Guiding Principles to embrace scientific thinking and think systemically are foundational for operational improvements. Innovation comes from repeated cycles of experimentation. Leaders must eliminate barriers that prevent the flow of ideas and information to make change and improvements. Employees who feel confident to express new ideas without fear of failure inspire others to be forward thinking.
In my consulting engagements with in-plants, I recommend thinking systematically around various types of work and the results generated for the customers. Implementing tracking and measuring for mail and print jobs, is foundational to achieve operational improvements.
A manager at a large property and casualty insurance company led her operations team in moving all lines of business to one enterprise content management system. They had clarity on their goal to streamline print mail communications with policyholders and sales agents. During the pandemic, they couldn’t support the many manual processes across the siloed lines of business. By uncovering the number of manual steps, errors and delays she was able to justify a centralized content management system to generate all documents. A systemic approach meant creating a way to increase winning and retaining customers – through multiple channels, by leveraging data, and defining a better process.
How will you embrace new leadership principles? I look forward to hearing your success stories. Stay tuned for part 2 of leaders driving operational excellence coming this fall.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com