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Why performance behaviour is the key to unlocking Lean

performance behaviour

November 10, 2017

As I have written many times before, roadblocks in the Lean journey can often be traced back to human behaviour. Whether it’s an unwillingness to adapt, poor communication or ineffective management, all too frequently it’s the people in your organisation who are most likely to be the root cause of your problem.  The more I talk to clients about such challenges, the more convinced I am that performance behaviour is the key to unlocking Lean.

But what are the key characteristics of performance behaviour, and how do you foster them in your organisation? Neil Webers’s seminal work on the subject sets out eight forms of ‘human waste’ and posits that by minimising these, performance behaviour will be optimised.

1. Leadership waste

Resulting from too much push management and not enough pull, leadership waste is one of the major problems we see from autocratic leaders who don’t collaborate with and empower their teams but just dictate from the top. Lean leaders need to be expert coaches, coaxing the best from their employees and encouraging them to take ownership of problem solving.

2. Comfort waste

Comfort waste occurs when targets aren’t stretching enough and employees aren’t pushed out of their comfort zone. Motivation to meet and exceed targets relies upon them being demanding but doable, ideally resulting in a Lean team meeting goals at least 50% of the time. To foster performance behaviour, ensure that targets for managers and their colleagues are appropriately challenging and are reviewed regularly.

3. Communication waste

Poorly-run meetings are the main source of communication waste, which is where there is a fundamental misunderstanding between workers. Set out clear KPIs for your targets and focus on structuring meetings to maximise clear communication and mutual understanding.

4. Discipline waste

A lack of accountability among workers lies at the heart of discipline waste. At all levels of the organisation, employees need to understand what is expected of them and be inspired to meet and exceed those expectations. Webers recommends using a mini-audit system to continuously check and challenge every standard.

5. Goal waste

Goal waste is, again, the fault largely of poor communication, when employees don’t understand what is expected of them. Performance behaviour dictates that there should be a clear link between company KPI and team KPI so each person understands the part they need to play in the organisation’s success.

6. Engagement waste

Webers defines this as “the result of asking people to take responsibility for events or results which they cannot influence themselves.” To eliminate this, managers need to assign ownership of tasks appropriately and be sure not to engage in buck-passing. Every team member should have a vested interest in making a success of the work he or she is involved in.

7. Solving waste

Solving waste refers to the need for effective problem solving where the root cause of an issue is successfully identified and dealt with to prevent it recurring. Slapping on a Band-Aid and hoping for the best will inevitably mean the problem will come back in the future and require further investment of time and effort, thus wasting considerable resources.

8. Tuning waste

Tuning waste is arguably one of the harder performance behaviour issues to solve as it arises from a fundamental mismatch between colleagues, when people are focusing on different problems or solutions rather than working together in harmony.  Managers need to work hard to identify the cause of the misalignment and then find effective ways to create a unified view. This ability to carry people with you on your Lean journey is one of the most important and sought-after skills among Lean practitioners.

If your Lean programme isn’t quite going to plan, it may be that there are unidentified performance behaviour issues at play.  Equally, you may have spotted performance behaviour gaps in your organisation, but are unsure how to tackle them effectively.

In either case, I’d be happy to help you assess the situation and find the right solution to get things back on-track pronto, so please do drop me an email or call me on 07583 149243.

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