Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top 3 Reasons Apple will be Successful without Steve Jobs

With the recently announced resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, many people are already speculating on the future of Apple. Certainly, the exceptional leadership, sage-like insightfulness and huge creative force of Steve Jobs will be greatly missed. However, there are three reasons Apple will continue to be successful:

1. Culture
2. Culture
3. Culture

Unlike other assets on the Apple’s corporate balance sheet or valuation on paper or products in the R&D pipeline, their corporate culture is much harder to quantify but is their single, most important strength. And it is Steve Job’s greatest contribution for their ongoing success.

I’m certainly not an expert in the inner workings of Apple’s corporate culture and not under the illusion that it is perfect, same goes for my understanding of Toyota’s culture for that matter. So simply take it as my humble opinion.

Culture matters. Big time! Cuture = People

Look at these great companies as a group, Apple, Toyota, Honda, Southwest, Starbucks, Disney, Virginia Mason, Group Health Cooperative, Zappos, TOMS. All different yet their common denominator is a great company culture with a great vision.

Here is my favorite quote by Steve Jobs, “I want to put a ding in the Universe.” What kind a corporate culture can be developed behind this vision?

Years ago this Steve Jobs’quote was taken from an Apple corporate poster, which I think gives a small insight to their corporate culture.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

As Lean Leaders, what can we learn from Apple and leadership of Steve Jobs? Look beyond their approach to “manufacturing” (or lack thereof) or Mr. Jobs’ specific leadership style but rather in the power of their corporate culture.

Are we developing a strong corporate culture or are we just learning Lean tools?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Like It or Not, They are Watching Us

In the hustle and bustle of everyday work, amid the chaos of surviving our broken systems to get things done while juggling our efforts to fix our current processes, we can easily forget that leading by example is our most powerful tool we have for improvement and creating our work culture. Even when we don’t notice it, what we say and what we do are seen by those around us. And they are always watching! Always!

I was reminded of this last week while guiding a kaizen event during a discussion with a newly hired team member. He told me that their team leader regularly wears his safely glasses on top of his head instead of properly over his eyes while walking through the manufacturing plant. As a result, this new employee was not inclined to always properly wear his PPE (personal protection equipment). What example has been set? What kind of work culture are we creating?

This is just one small example, but what is the impact?

What about a healthcare clinician who does not regularly or properly wash their hands before caring for a patient?

What about cutting corners on quality just to get the order out? Even just this once?

What if we get upset at a situation at work, letting our emotions go and say things that would make a sailor blush?

When faced with adversity at work or doing a less then pleasant task, do we show a positive or negative attitude?

When a problem arises, are we quick to blame others or do we try to find the root cause?

What if we see this any of these behaviors by others, do we speak up or turn a blind eye and what example are we setting then?

Growing up, how many of us heard our parents say, when seen in questionable behavior, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say” and that somehow was suppose to erase the example set before us. Is this our motto as a Lean Leader?

Certainly, just like our parents, none of us are perfect in the examples we set but that should not prevent us from trying to improve our behaviors to set a better example. And a funny thing about leading by example, it takes many good examples on a consistent basis to catch on yet it seems that it only takes one bad example to spread like wild fire through our company culture.

Like it or not, we are always being watched and the example we set matters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

4 Ways to Eliminate "That's Not My Job" Thinking

How many times have you heard someone say, “That’s not my job”?

As we moved from the craftsman era to specialized, functional silos of modern management over the last century, it has become more and more common to say “That’s not my job”. That thinking is supported by our specialized, functional silo based job descriptions. And it is easily seen in our work behaviors in both manufacturing and service industries.

It is easy to step over a piece of trash at work, thinking “That’s not my job” because we have a janitorial crew to do this task.

It is easy to let a defect go down the line, thinking “That’s not my job” because it the inspector’s job to catch it.

It is easy to let patients or family members to get lost finding their way around our hospital or clinics, thinking “That’s not my job” because that’s somebody else’s job, even if I don’t know who that somebody else is.

Faced with this problem, we could easily blame it on the new generation as being “lazy” or “apathetic”. Or we could say that people are overburdened and overwhelmed with years of downsizing. Maybe we fall in the same trap and think that “it’s not my job” to change our culture.

In the kaizen way, we must eliminate “That’s not my job” thinking and replace it with “How can I improve it?” and “How can I help?” thinking. In a lean transformation, there is no “That’s not my job” thinking anymore.

As Lean leaders, we must embrace this culture change in thinking and here are a few simple ways:

Lead by example: If we want our employees to take responsibility, we need to also take responsibility. When you see a piece of trash on the floor or hallways, always pick it up yourself. Never step over a piece of trash. If you see an undesirable condition, don’t turn a blind eye. Stop the process, and fix it. Before long, people will see you walking the talk and it will become part of expected behavior.

Brainstorm and Document: What does it mean in your place of work to eliminate “That’s not my job” thinking? You may know what the means in your mind but you cannot expect everyone to know what you have in mind. And there are probably many behaviors that you haven’t thought about that would make a big impact in your business to eliminate “That’s not my job” thinking. Brainstorm with your group to discuss the new ways to act and document them. Share the list.

Training: Make it a theme in your daily huddle meetings. Improve your new employee orientation training process by adding a complete section on expected behaviors. Teach people to recognized opportunities to serve our customers and practice them. Try role playing as part of this training.

Tell Stories: In meetings and newsletters, tell the stories of employees where they improved or helped beyond that “old way of thinking”. Maybe an employee saw a family looking lost and learned that they wanted to know where the Hospital cafeteria was located. Instead of telling them the directions, the employee said, “I’ll take you there, follow me. It's my pleasure, I have the time to help you” even if the employee would be late for a meeting as a result. Praise the employee for their action instead of punishing them for being late.

These are just a few simple ways but these ways are hard to do. Be prepared, it will take hard work and sustained effort to make this cultural shift.

As you eliminate “That’s not my job” thinking, more opportunities for improvement will become visible, teamwork is strengthened, processes will improve and customer satisfaction levels will increase. The best part is that it does not cost a lot of money to eliminate “That’s not my job” thinking.