Unleashing the power of self-sufficient teams
Original article published on April 6th 2014 at mylean.org. Read original here.
Early on the Journey, when you start a Lean Transformation in any company, you usually find that the level of capabilities on the operating teams is low and therefore, continuous improvement work is largely led by those outside the team, by those in support roles who are not directly adding value to the product.
Then, in this first stage on the journey, and later at every point of the transformation, you need to be able to concretely answer:
What continuous improvement activities and consequent value for costumers are you expecting «the team/s» to deliver without utilizing support resources external to the team (other than information)?
With this driving purpose clear, you need to assess the strengths and the potential improvement areas that will enable your teams’ development for operating with less reliance on off-line support roles as the organization progresses on Lean Transformation.
In order to determine this, leaders need to look at three fundamental business issues that, according to Womack and Jones, should guide the Lean transformation in any organization. These three fundamental business issues also become the framework that integrates the key components to consider when developing Self-Sufficient Teams:
Thinking deeply about the key components within the purpose, process and people framework is key to help leaders reflect through the expectations and development required from a team and its members when they start working together.
Leaders or Team Coaches can also use this framework to understand current situation and develop plans to get their team become self-sufficient. Additionally, the model could be used by the HR departments to understand the priority areas to be addressed across the Organization to unleash the potential of groups working together to become Self-Sufficient Teams during Lean Transformation.
At this point, it is important for leaders and organizations to consider that performance in one component of the framework impacts the others. Likewise, if even one of the three components of the framework is missing, the team will never deliver superior results.
The components are represented in the following chart and described below in order of the priority to develop a Self-Sufficient Team:
What continuous improvement activities and consequent value for customers are you expecting «the team/s» to deliver without utilizing support resources external to the team (other than information)?
The answer to this question becomes the clear purpose and vision of the team, and therefore the foundation for all work accomplished by all the team members. It is not productive for a team to work the other components of the framework until the team’s purpose is extremely clear. This needs to be clarified among the members of the team, and with all key stakeholders (team sponsor, functional support groups, external customers, suppliers, etc.) before moving forward.
The purpose is therefore the guiding business issue of the other components:
How can be ensured that, for every process the team is being held accountable for, there is someone responsible for continually evaluating its value stream in terms of business purpose and lean process?
How can everyone in the team be actively engaged in operating correctly and continually improving that value stream to maximize customer value?
In order to answer these questions, it’s important to reflect about:
Effective leadership is crucial to effective team results. Strong leaders drive a common understanding of the ultimate vision and immediate mission, achieve better personal productivity and motivation by energizing their team, and consistently build capability of the team and its members.
Clearly definition of ownership and accountability for the team and each of the team members result in more effective use of team members’ strengths, avoid duplication of effort and cross-functional conflict, and increases overall team capacity.
Every team member needs to be process or equipment owner, and must deeply understand how these responsibilities contribute to the business purpose, feeling empowered and accountable for all the tasks required to drive the output measures they own.
Building trust and mutual respect leads to greater innovation, commitment and contribution from all members.
The differences that individuals bring to teams must be valued and fully utilized in order to enhance results. A team’s learning rate is accelerated by risk taking, innovation, and creativity fuelled by different ideas and experiences. Creating this environment also helps to improve employee retention.
How can be ensured that all the processes developed within the team are valuable, capable, adequate and flexible enough for satisfying customer needs?
In order to answer this question, it’s worth to think about:
Using consistent, standardized and clearly understood work processes with frequency-based reviews through the PDCA process allows teams to focus on execution, results and learning, thus eliminating sources of non-value added activities.
Appropriate reward/recognition systems must link individual motivation with the resolution of customer problems and consequent team successes.
Relevant and timely communication enables teams to make quality decisions quickly. Transparent and honest communication leads to increased personal productivity and reduces unhealthy conflict.
Communication over the «Go & See It» principle is also a powerful tool to avoid conflict. Going to the source of the problem to get the objective data and facts and avoid subjective discussions.
Don’t wait more. Let’s start unleash the power of your teams!
Jonathan Escobar Marin
Jonathan Escobar Marin is CEO and Partner of Actio Global Consulting, co-founder and Partner of the firm High-Performance Organization Global Alliance, co-founder and CEO of Inn—Be, a start-up dedicated to High-Performance Education, and member of the advisory board of the OpEx Society and the AXIOM Groupe.