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The articles below explain how to overcome common barriers to improvement and how industry leaders sustain the gains where others are not able to.

This is based on our work with well-known and award winning organisations.  There is much to learn from them.  If there are any topics you would like is to add, please get in touch.

For more detailed articles check out our DAK Academy website guide which contains links to videos, articles and downloads.

How Reflection Helps Leaders to Lead

Every year we learn more about how to be better at what we do so capturing those lessons and revisiting assumptions are a useful part of self development.  

Reflection and reassessment are also important Leadership skills. 

The ability to reflect on what worked, what didn't work and define what you want to do differently in the future is an essential part of the leadership role of setting direction.  Without it the best you can hope for is that results are no worse next year which is the opposite of value adding leadership.  

"If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got." Henry Ford

End of year is always a good time to do this because it is a time when thoughts naturally focus on the future.   Below is an approach to help leaders to tap into this instinct in a way that encourages sharing lessons learned, builds ownership to the need for change and aligns priorities for the coming 12 months. 

Also included is a case study illustrating why this is an important foundation for Leadership Direction Setting (AKA Hoshin Kanri). 

What is a Lean Culture Revolution

I first encountered 2 Second Lean when I met its creator, Paul Akers in the USA in 2019.  He explained how Lean thinking had propelled his business from a small garage based enterprise into an international, multi-million dollar business. 

His company were having inventory problems, specifically with managing our incoming raw materials and working with consultants to guide his team, they applied Lean Thinking to deal with the issues and drive improvement. 

His business cut a lot of waste, simplified processes and saw the business grow steadily but....

 

What Managers Need to Learn about Leadership

The reality of the management role is that even in well run organisations, as human beings, managers operate in a "default autopilot mode" most of the time and take decisions when necessary in response to stimuli.  

This innate ability to manage day to day routines on instinct and problem solve as needed is how humans have learned to adapt to the complexity of the real world.  The downside is that it can result in an organisational culture that is good at dealing with crises when they arise but fail to resolve underlying weaknesses. 

Our research indicates that around 60% of organisations exist in this "fragile" state where issues resurface, are accepted as inevitable and become invisible but it doesn't have to be like that if....

How To Shape Culture

A proactive culture can help your organisation become a shining beacon of success, making your life easier, more fun, and without the normal daily friction and fire-fighting. 

The outcome is "improvement pull" and conversations about improvement ideas providing leaders with a daily forum to shape outlook and reinforce behaviours.

It is these conversations that provide the vehicle to set expectations and change behaviours but it only works if all leaders are aligned so that the conversations have a consistent message.

Improvement Case Studies for Leadership Teams

The value of Continuous Improvement is pretty much accepted by all organisations but many improvement processes fail to deliver lasting gains. 

A typical example is the first case study below which despite 7 years of applying various improvement tools, failed to deliver significant improvement.  They turned that situation around by taking a long hard look at what they wanted from their improvement process and what was needed to deliver that goal.  The changes they made accelerated the pace of improvement. 

That success was not dependent on adopting sophisticated improvement tools but on leadership steps to:

What Industry Leaders Can Learn from The Numskills

Growing up I used to love reading the Numskulls cartoon in the Beezer/Beano comic which featured little people inside the head of a cartoon character. Alf and Fred shoved food down the tum hatch.  Blinky ran the eye department, brainy sat at computer in the brain department.  Nosey was in the Nose department, you get the picture.  (Find out more at  https://ukcomics.fandom.com/wiki/The_Numskulls)

Much of the cartoon strip humour comes from each Numskull character working as separate entities.  That leads to all sorts of unintended comical outcomes. (e.g. Brainy decides to grow hair to keep warm but it grows too long so Blinky can't see and the man falls over).

Unfortunately this sort of silo thinking is something that organisations can be guilty of for example....

Dealing with Skill and Knowledge Gaps

In our work helping organisations to improve effectiveness, we find that the most common causes of lost performance, defects and waste are front line skill and knowledge gaps.

What are the Risks

Recent research shows that the lack of effective skill development is a reason for people to seek alternative employment.

In addition, government research indicates that around 2/3rds of manufacturing companies don't feel that their skill development process is able to meet business development priorities.   In other words skill gaps are a significant inhibitor to organisational growth and operational improvement.

So what skills are missing and what does it take to break out of that situation?

Digital CI: Skills to Deliver Gains at Scale

In the last blog article we covered the idea that change is the only constant and how winning organisations adapt to change and avoid the Manfacturing Whack a Mole game! by adopting 4 principles. 

Think of these principles as the first part of a code to a combination padlock. To spring the lock you need additional numbers.  Those numbers depend on the nature of the change.

For example, consider the "combination padlock" factors needed for successful adoption of advanced technology based on World Economic Forum Research into the select group of leading manufacturers who are able to deploy advanced manufacturing at scale.  

Avoiding the Manufacturing "Whack a Mole" Game

Around 500BC Heraclitus a Greek philosopher presented the assertion that life is in constant flux and that “the only constant is change”.

Heraclitus was notorious for his use of riddles to get people to reflect on the meaning, gain insight and alter their perspective. In this case he wanted people to think about how to prepare for change so that they are ready for whatever the future holds.

This message is as relevant now as it was then. What we do today will not be good enough in the future so...prepare to adapt. Those that don't will experience the equivalent of a Manufacturing "whack a mole" game

Delivering Step Out Gains

The barriers to higher levels of performance most frequently occur at the interface between functions.  An effective Continuous Improvement programme will surface and resolve these barriers. 

This often overlooked aspect, is an essential foundation for the creation of a proactive improvement culture to fuel the journey to industry leading performance.  

The gains are significant because once this is in place, the synergy released improves the quality and pace of improvement across the organisation.  

The leadership challenge is to make that happen but that involves aligning improvement priorities and workflows across the organisation.