Guest Contributor – Mike Stickler, Founder and President of Empowered Performance
No Two Are Alike
They come in all shapes and sizes, and no two are ever exactly alike.
I’m talking about problem solving teams. Yours might be a six sigma team, a kaizen blitz team, an autonomous work group, or a self-directed work team.
No matter what you call it, there is only one way to ensure success: visible top management commitment and active support.
More than lip service. Problem solving teams are hot. It seems every company serious about continuous improvement (and which isn’t?) has at least one.
But it takes more than just assembling team members and charging them with a mission. Management must demonstrate commitment and provide visible support at all times. If not, the team will fail … and fail miserably every time.
7 Tips For Success
A team’s success requires more than just your approval. It also requires more than a list of goals.
Here are some tactics that are easy for management to implement and will ensure your team’s success:
- Give your time each day. Be visible. Get out from behind your desk and talk with team members. Your job is to foster innovation, fuel new ways of thinking, and share information. Keep the process flowing, and when necessary, improve the process itself.
- Provide the best education and training. You can’t expect your team members to work productively together if they don’t know how. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that all manufacturers required from their employees, and in fact all they wanted, was labor. Suddenly, we want their minds. We want all employees to think creatively, to review systems and processes, to make suggestions for change, and implement change. Perhaps, hardest of all, we expect them to work cohesively with the other members of the group. Proper training will deter power struggles, define roles, and clarify action plans and methods. But education and training shouldn’t begin and end with the team. Consider all levels of your organization. Should all employees know about the team and its mission? Should top management be educated about realistic goal setting and time frames? This is not the place to cut corners. Provide the best education and training possible.
- Change the measurement process. Most behavior is driven by performance measurements. How many did you make? How much did you sell? This “pass-fail” method of measuring does little to motivate employees. Focus on measurements that move people toward process thinking, being creative, and trying different approaches. To do this, you must learn to ask questions that will give you the opportunity to listen and learn. Avoid the “how much” and “how many” questions that simply produce short term results and hide the problems.
- Implement a problem-solving method. Don’t just dictate the problem and outline the goals. You’ve brought together a group of individuals who must work together as a team. You can throw your best and brightest together, but without a focused plan or approach, you may get some interesting banter instead of an effective solution. Techniques such as six sigma, value stream mapping, and A3 problem solving are great methods. However, these techniques require the education and training discussed earlier.
- Celebrate successes. Recognize and publicize achievements every chance you get. Remember, you are encouraging creativity and different approaches. This means you must let the team implement new ideas (yes, even if you’re certain they’re a mistake). Let the team members know that their contributions matter. Use newsletters, bulletin boards, and verbal acknowledgment whenever possible.
- Give it time. Teams need adequate time to evolve. The easiest way to demonstrate commitment and support is to give the team plenty of time to grow and develop. Give them time to succeed. Recognize the five stages of team development described as “forming, norming, storming, performing, and adjourning”.
- Challenge your people. Use rewards and incentives to motivate everyone, including management, to search out better ways of doing things – even those things that your company does very well already. Welcome all new ideas with enthusiasm and praise. Create an atmosphere that challenges employees to think creatively.
Assess your chances.
- Is management commitment visible to your problem-solving teams?
- Is management actively involved in the team’s efforts?
- Is everyone properly trained to embark on the mission at hand?
- Does management foster creative thinking?
- Do team members receive encouragement and recognition?
- Is management willing to devote time to the project?
If you answered yes to these questions, your team’s efforts will have measurable success.
And, remember – the team’s success is your company’s success!
About Mike Stickler
Mike is “The Professional Provoker” and is the Founder and President of Empowered Performance, LLC a worldwide management education and consulting firm.
Mike has extensive international experience working with companies of varied sizes and industries helping them implement strategies to attain World-Class levels of performance. He has developed expertise in “Enterprise Excellence”, Enterprise Resource Planning and Supply Chain Management (ERP/SCM), Lean (Toyota Production System), Team Building and Problem Solving, Six Sigma and Reengineering Business Processes. He is considered an expert in helping companies develop and implement Strategic Business Units and fast response customer service production units.