Lean – Use Lean to Transform Your Organisation’s Culture

Lean – Use Lean to Transform Your Organisation’s Culture

A common misconception is that lean is only suitable for manufacturing but have a look at the article below and see how lean can be applied in the creative world and professional services.

Lean – first of all, what is it?

The core philosophy of lean is the elimination of waste. While it is easy to identify physical waste the greater challenge in most organisations is to identify the waste of time and resources. Most organisations are extremely busy, fire-fighting and pressure to meet deadlines are a way of life. Lean provides a structured approach and tried and trusted methodologies to eliminating wasted effort in organisations. It goes beyond the sloganeering of “work smarter not harder” and shows people how to analyse the true value of their work and eliminate non-value added activities.

A popular misconception is that lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every organisation and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organisation.

The starting point of any lean programme is Value Stream Mapping. This involves the people working in the process stepping back and mapping the process to identify the value and non-value activities they regularly engage with. From here several techniques are employed to get to the root cause of the non-value add activities. The result is an increase in the effectiveness of the individuals or team performance.

Lean is not a stand-alone programme but supports the implementation of policies and procedures in a meaningful way. It is a change management programme and as such will require the engagement of employees fully. Therefore, it is important that a lean initiative is not seen as the “flavour of the month” or something that is imposed by senior management. Key to success will be introducing a lean programme in such a way that employees see the benefits of the programme and that it is fully supported by the leadership of the organisation. All successful lean initiatives recognise that people are the key to success and as such LEAP are well equipped to support the people development element of the programme.

 

 Examples of Lean in practice.

  A Design Studio

A design studio in a printing company kept five fully committed designers very busy. When we analysed how many hours of their working week was billed to customers (Value add work) we discovered that they were 52{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} efficient. The remaining 48{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} of their time was non-value added work. This was the time spent answering queries from production, requesting further information from clients, clarifying issues with the sales teams etc.

The first thing we did was create an “Interruptions Board” We assigned one of the five designers to deal with all interruptions. Each of the five were assigned one day per week as their day to deal with interruptions. On their assigned day, they would deal with the call or visitor and place their query on the board under the name of designer the query was directed towards. That designer would then deal with the query when he/she was taking a break or at the end of the day. This allowed four designers to work uninterrupted every day.

Following on from this, the designers could look at the nature of the interruptions and through using lean techniques were able to establish the root cause of the interruptions. Working together with production, clients and sales team they developed systems to reduce the non-value added activities.  The increase in value added activity in the studio increased from 52{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} to 83{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} within months and they continue to uses the methodology for continuous improvement.

 Accountancy Practice.

When you visit an accounts office the “work” is invisible, in other words you see lots of people sitting at computer terminals. It is impossible to determine how effective the operation is or how efficient each individual is. There is no doubt that everyone is “busy”.

By undertaking Value Stream Mapping, we were able to see that most of the work that came into the office had incomplete paperwork, forms missing, items not attached etc. This meant that when employees started a job they were not in position to complete it. This necessitated making a phone call or emailing a client to request the full information. The job was set aside until the information was made available. They then started another job and the same thing happened. This resulted in a huge amount of Work In Progress. There was confusion as to the status of individual jobs, clients not returning information, forgetting to chase up etc. This kept everyone busy.

When we demonstrated this by graphing the workflows we then set about doing a root cause analysis to develop systems and processes to prevent incomplete jobs entering the system. We also created a visual system that could measure the improved efficiency of the department. It resulted in much better management of peak times in the business such as year-end accounts. There was less stress for the staff and the necessity to work late in the evenings disappeared.

 

John Raftery       March 2017

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4 Key Questions Every Successful Manager Must Be Able To Answer

4 Key Questions Every Successful Manager Must Be Able To Answer

4 key questions every successful manager must be able to answer

Management effectiveness is ultimately about developing a strong team capable of delivering company objectives. There are two crucial components of a manager’s job – operational management and people management. In this article Tricia Cunningham outlines the people aspect of the role and what managers need to get right in order to be successful.

Tricia, what is management effectiveness in practice?
A great manager has two fey focuses. There is the technical or operational side of their role and there is the people side of their role. So for a great manager there are two components to the management role, with 4 elements within each component.

On the operational effectiveness side there are four key requirements:

Technical

1. Plan
2. Organise
3. Influence
4. Control

As Marcus Buckingham, prolific writer on best management practices points out, there are four key requirements on the people side that an effective manager needs to get right:

People

1. Select the right people for their team
2. Set and agree on expectations with the team members
3. Motivate the individual members
4. Develop people for long-term contribution to the organisation

Management effectiveness is about achieving results through optimum use of the resources available, the key resource being the people on the team. If you really want to be a great manager you need to pay attention to both the operational and the people aspects of the role. Our experience of working in the SME sector for nearly 20 years has highlighted the need for management to understand how to manage a team effectively. That’s the most challenging part of the role.

Our Management Effectiveness Programme doesn’t focus on the technical aspects of the role because that is very specific to each organisation, but the issues and challenges around managing people are common across all sectors and all industries. This is the area we zone in on and explore comprehensively with participants – building their confidence and competency in a range of management skills.

Here are 4 Key Questions for Managers in Managing People

1. Do you understand how to select the right talent for your team and for the organisation?

2. Do you know how to set expectations and measure results?
– do you regularly review expectations with feedback sessions with your employees?
– do you know how to measure performance effectively?
– how about annual performance appraisals with your team members?

3. How will you keep your team members motivated so that they want to keep coming in to work and continue to do the very best job they can?

4. Finally, when you have developed a great team, ask yourself how are you going to keep them in the organisation long-term? You need to keep them engaged and that requires further development. Have you a long-term development plan for your team?

 


Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.
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Interview with Des Kirby

3 Signs You Have an Effective Team

3 signs you have an effective team

In 3 signs you have an effective team, Tricia Cunningham focuses on results, communication and conflict resolution. Here she outlines why these requirements are so important for managers, not just for the immediate impact on the bottom line but also for the long-term stability and profitability of the business.

1 The Team Achieve Positive Results

The most obvious sign of effective management, and the one most people are eager to see, is results. However, it’s not just the positive results themselves that needs to be achieved but the process needs to be positive. Results need to be achieved in a way that can be maintained long term. If the process of achieving the positive results is too stressful and intense employees will burn out or leave – not a desired outcome.

2 Team Members Communicate Effectively

The second sign of effective management is clear communication between each team member within the group and with management. Core to this communication is clarity of role and responsibilities. People need to know what others are doing and where there needs to be a handover. Effective communication allows team members to understand what is happening within the team, what is likely to happen next and where support is needed. The manager drives this activity assisting the team in finding the optimum communication approaches and ensuring they are adhered to.

3 The Team Resolve Issues Without Resorting to Blame

Thirdly, when an issue arises, effective teams are able to resolve it without it becoming personal or resorting to blaming each other and falling out over it. Managers guide team members to analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or natural instinct. The focus becomes the issue and not the person. Language is monitored and labels are avoided.

No playing the blame game or finger pointing.

What if the team gets along well but their results are poor?
Every area of the business must have clearly identified targets they are expected to achieve and these targets need to be clearly communicated to all team members, tracked regularly and assessed for corrective action. If targets are not achieved, then something has to change. Managers may need to review targets to see how realistic they were in the first place; maybe they were never achievable based on the resources available.

However, if the targets have been properly assessed and found to be both valid and necessary but the team can’t reach them, then the team has to be held accountable. There needs to be a rigorous review of what prevented the team from succeeding. The manager needs to have that tough conversation with each team member who didn’t perform and with the collective team. Together they need to determine the corrective course of action and need to commit to sticking to that course of action. Once agreed, the manager needs to be rigorous in monitoring progress and address issues promptly.

By the same token, if the results are good in terms of the bottom line but morale within the team is poor, the manager must also address this issue. Fortunately, most team leaders and business owners understand that to sustain the business, you need a motivated workforce.

Low morale will eventually lead to poor results. Productivity will drop if morale is poor.

The other advantage of focusing on developing a strong, positive work culture is that it attracts stronger talent. A positive work environment is more likely to achieve positive results and attract positive, strong performers to the organisation. That’s a win for everyone.

Interview by Des Kirby

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Create a Personal Development Plan to Help You Succeed

 

Create a personal development plan to help you succeed

A Personal Development Plan can prove to be a very useful tool for managers at every level of the organisation, whether you are just starting out or you’re a management veteran. Here Tricia Cunningham outlines what a personal development plan looks like, how it helps you as well as your boss and why measuring the plan is vital. 

What is a Personal Development Plan?
A personal development plan is a document that captures agreed actions and areas of focus to help the individual with an existing role or a potential role and to be able to deliver on that role. The personal development plan generally speaking includes a number of areas of focus the person is going to take on board. Specific actions that they can take on board relate to those areas of focus.

For example, to attend a training programme or it might be to read up on some specific area of the business, or it could be to work in a different area of the business for a period of time. That may be one day a week continuously or for a temporary period of several weeks working in a particular area of the organisation. It outlines some action the individual will take that they need to develop to enhance their existing role or to grow into a new role.

Is the plan time-based?
There has to be time-frames associated with it otherwise it will drag on indefinitely. We know from studies and from experience that what gets measured gets managed. So if the time frames have deadlines included in them, people are more likely to feel accountable and therefore more likely to deliver on the plan.

What would a typical personal development plan look like for a manager?
Well for example, we have front line managers starting on our programmes and one of the key areas they would list in their personal development plan would be communication. So an action might be attending a training programme on developing communication skills. Or it may be simply watching a set of videos or TedTV clips on how to give constructive feedback effectively. Another step would be the individual, within a defined period of time, would provide some kind of feedback to each employee within their team, then assess the impact that it had and evaluate whether or not the individual handled the process effectively in terms of changes in behaviour.

In addition to communication skills, a frontline manager could also have some technical aspect to their role. For example, project management skills. So the individual may include completing a certified course in project management in their development plan, by a particular date. There may be an upcoming project that they will be working on where knowledge of project management tools will be required. They could be partnered with a mentor in the company who will work with them using those project management tools.

Essentially the personal development plan recognises the areas where the employee needs to improve or some new aspect of the job that they have never worked in before. So the plan may be written in order to address deficiencies in a particular area, or it may be used to develop the ambitions of the employee who wants to be in a stronger position to take on new opportunities within the organisation.

Personal Development Plan

What should be done with the Personal Development Plan once it’s written?
A personal development plan usually comes about as a result of an appraisal of an employee. So the senior manager and employee sit down and they talk about the areas of focus and then from that they write a development plan. They may get input from another area, for example HR, or it may be just between themselves. Or the manager may suggest to the employee that they come up with the development plan themselves and then review it together.

However once written, it’s vital there is always somebody driving this process. Ideally it should be the employee driving it but the employee must provide feedback to their manager to show that real progress is being made. Senior managers should also demonstrate interest by agreeing when they will review the plan – weekly or monthly – and discuss the progress that has been made. It cannot be left in a folder on your desktop as some aspirational document that just gets forgotten, that’s no good. Both sides must take responsibility for monitoring the document otherwise neither side gains from it, nor does the company.

Interview by Des Kirby

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Do I Need To Do a Management Development Programme

Do I need to do a management development programme__blog

“Do I need to do a management development programme?” It doesn’t sound like a particularly difficult question but for some managers admitting they are struggling in their role is tantamount to admitting failure, or that their admission will be perceived as a sign of weakness. In reality it is neither. Mike Gaffney explains why looking for help in the form of a management development programme is a clear sign of strength not weakness. Keeping it simple, what’s needed is an open and honest discussion between the manager and the boss.

Try to clearly state what the actual need is regarding your current situation. It could be as simple and as frustrating as:

Look I don’t feel confident in my management role. I used to work with these people 6 months ago. Now I’m their supervisor but they still see me as a colleague. I’m finding it hard to delegate and there’s one particular member of the group who won’t accept that I am now his manager. How can I sort this out?”

Very few senior managers or employers would respond negatively to such a request, because first of all the individual is showing huge commitment to the company but also to changing themselves in order to improve their performance. If you have somebody of that mind-set, they are valuable and you want to keep them and tap into more of their potential. They have had the courage to come to you and put their case to you. From the boss’s perspective, this is someone who wants to develop and contribute more so they should be willing to make that happen. The return on investment in getting managers performing to a high standard is very substantial.

do i need to do a management development programmeBy having that conversation with your boss, you invite open and honest discussion and get their perspective which helps to lock them into a commitment. It is not a sign of weakness to go to your boss and admit that you are struggling in the role and that you need help. On the contrary it is a sign of strength. When you make yourself vulnerable and challenge yourself you will often find the world responds by saying “fair play, you are giving it your best shot.” You might assume that people see it as weakness when really the world sees it as courageous. We don’t like being vulnerable because it’s an uncertain feeling and we don’t like uncertainty, but others often see it differently; they see it as a sign of strength.

With the economy improving we are finding more and more employers asking the question, “how do we retain our best people?” Well, one way is to provide them with all the support they need. So managers should ask for the support that will make a difference to you and your organisation.

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Businesses Need To Stay In Shape To Qualify For Loans

Businesses Need To Stay in Shape To Qualify For Loans

Recently the Bank of Ireland approved €1.2Bn in new credit for SMEs in the first quarter of the year. But businesses need to stay in shape to qualify for loans in terms of structure and strategy, as well as being efficient in their daily operations. Business advisor John Raftery explains why focusing on the bigger picture is crucial for companies seeking funding to grow their companies.

John why is it important for businesses to be in good health all the time to access funds?
Many companies don’t think about getting themselves into the right shape until they want to access funds, or put themselves on the market to sell the business. I would argue that companies need be in the right shape all the time, right throughout their lifespan. By that I mean companies need a very clear set of performance metrics that drive the company’s performance. These KPIs need to be visible and shared with as many of the staff as possible, if not the entire workforce.

In order to get to that point quite a lot of work needs to be done to make sure you are measuring the right things i.e. your KPIs are the correct ones. This goes back to what I’ve learned from working with SMEs throughout Ireland; that information is assumed to be available but often the information is in people’s heads or it’s stored away on laptops or in spreadsheets. Various individuals have certain pieces of the information, but there isn’t one overall document or format containing all the information for everybody to follow.

A lack of focus on the big picture
A lot of companies are very busy with day to day operations delivering their products and services. This ‘busy’ environment results in a lack of focus on the big picture. I think innately companies know they need to address that issue. They are aware they need to be better organised and create more efficiencies and focus more on the bigger picture, and they need access to information more readily. It’s always in the back of their minds to do that but they never get around to doing it because day-to- day activities take over and a lot of firefighting takes place. One of the reasons so many companies end up firefighting problems is because they don’t take the time to stand back and look at the bigger picture, and get themselves organised and more focused.

What are the consequences for companies who don’t share information like KPIs?
The consequences are more and more inefficiencies, a lack of communication between people and tasks getting completed with the same issues and problems arising again and again. A lot of companies are solving the same problem repeatedly without ever taking the time to do some root cause analysis. Information is often misinterpreted; people assume that what they are doing is the right thing.

For example, I was working with a white goods company who had a team of engineers taking care of service repairs. But the information regarding each engineer’s call out performance was not relayed back to management. It turned out that the first-time repair rate of the engineers was very poor, somewhere between 55 – 60{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4}. The company owner never took the time to step back and examine that first time call-out rate because he was too busy firefighting problems within the business. As a result there were a lot of issues around this from customer complaints to rescheduling of visits, wasted time and problems with availability of materials. The company was very busy but unless they share information and step back to analyse and understand that information properly, and understand the issues that are causing the poor performance, they won’t be able to find the right solutions.

So companies can appear to be very busy but they‘re busy doing all the wrong things.
Yes, ‘busy fools’ is a term often used to describe companies in that situation. I always get uncomfortable when I see a company whose staff are doing a lot of firefighting. Now firefighting may be understandable sometimes when a business is going through a particularly busy period, or something dramatic has happened to the business. But firefighting should only be carried out for a short period of time. Then it should be back to normality, back to the organisation’s disciplined behaviours by everybody in the business. Unfortunately some companies are firefighting all the time. Some people even derive satisfaction from firefighting; they say a good firefighter always carries his own box of matches. There are people who think of themselves as heroes – MacGyver types – who like dramatic solutions, rescuing a situation and pulling it out of the fire.

Company Culture
It’s all to do with the culture of the organisation. You can walk into some businesses and everything is very calm because it’s very well organised. People know exactly what they are about and what they are required to do. If you ask them to report on their activities they can articulate exactly what their roles and responsibilities are, and tell you the performance of their department in relation to the overall performance of the business. You go into other companies and they tell you their tale of woe, how busy they are and all the hours they’re working, how they can’t take a holiday, the stress etc. But they are all over the place, there is no central core in the organisation to keep them focused and no disciplined approach that gets them to report back on a regular basis.

What solutions can you offer companies that are stuck in firefighting mode?
Well LEAP has a product called futureSME which is a business solution developed by researchers at the University of Stratclyde using European Union funding. It takes the best practice methodologies of the most successful large companies from around the world and applies them to small and medium enterprises. The futureSME method is the ideal tool to help businesses achieve clarity about their current performance and their vision for the company.

The methodology is divided into two sections

1. Visual Strategy
The first section looks at visual strategy which is about creating a vision for the company, and understanding what the company mission is in terms of its values and behaviours. It also examines the business model by performing a SWOT analysis to help business owners and senior managers create a clear strategy for the business going forward, and understand what their priorities are.

2. Visual Management
Once that company vision has been clarified you can move to the second step which is about visual management. This is where you set four or five goals for the company and those goals have to be succinct and clearly articulated and, most importantly of all, they must be measureable. Without measurement the staff and management teams won’t be able to gauge if progress is being made or not. You then need to create lines of action which prioritize various activities of the company. You assign owners to those activities and set timelines for completion of activities and outcomes. You also look at what type of results those activities will bring you in terms of efficiencies or cost savings. You will then be able to measure progress against your goals by using those lines of activities. Most importantly you will be able to use KPIs that will tell you if you are on track or not. Visual management will allow you to see where you are successful, but also tell you where you are falling behind and who is responsible.

Management Discipline
Once you have a clear set of KPIs they will drive performance of the company. But what you really need to underpin all of that is management discipline. The management team should meet on a regular basis, weekly or monthly, to review overall performance using the visual management tools. They should review the same things each month like their sales pipeline, their customer service performance, financial performance, operations and staff performance.

You have to have a very disciplined approach to it so that you are continuously monitoring your performance and progress in relation to your goals. If you want to approach a bank to raise cash then the bank can see very clearly how the company is performing. They can see what its direction is, what its goals are, what its strategy is. Rather than deciding that you need money and then creating more work for yourself by developing some business plan on-the-fly to get funding from the bank. That is not the most effective use of people’s time.

Are companies more likely to qualify for loans if they provide evidence of a visual strategy?
Well it’s not the only factor. They also take into account the market the business is in, that also has an influence. But if you require the money for investment because you believe you can improve your business performance, then you will need to be able to articulate what your strategy is, what your current performance is, what your goals are and what you are tracking to measure those goals. So it’s not the only factor but it’s a vital one to get right.

Why should business owners contact LEAP before trying to access funds?
We help businesses get into the right shape so they can access the funds they need to grow. LEAP is the sole licensed provider for delivering the futureSME business model to companies in Ireland. We have an excellent record of transforming businesses particularly in the SME sector. The tools we use were designed specifically for SMEs, and we have a very experienced business team who have worked with a wide variety of companies around the country.

 

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In interview with Des Kirby 

Chaotic Management Leading to Increased Stress

Chaotic management leading to increased stress_Tricia Cunningham

Being a manager is both challenging and rewarding. Achieving results and seeing team members thrive as they settle into their roles is very satisfying. Great managers succeed in the role when they pay attention to the dynamics of team work. Great managers recognise that the technical aspect of the function needs attention. Results have to be achieved but the more challenging aspect of the role is managing people. When results are dropping, productivity nose-diving, co-operation vanishing and pressure is mounting from the leader, the role can be challenging and stressful.

In these situations the manager can experience a sense of loss of control. Natural instincts tend to push us towards pedalling harder in the hope the situation will be reversed. Actually the opposite action is required of the manager. This is the time to pause, step back and assess what is happening and why it is happening. Pausing is counter intuitive but necessary to gain control and in the process reduce stress. There is a direct correlation between control and stress levels. As we lose control we increase our stress levels. So obviously the key to reducing stress is taking control. How do managers tend to lose control?

Reacting in the moment

1. Do you find yourself constantly responding to requests and reacting to issues? Do you feel like you are always putting out fires? This type of behaviour becomes habitual and often we’re not aware of how we are feeding into it, encouraging it. It’s time to step back for a moment. Give yourself some space before reacting. Ask yourself “is this important and urgent” or is it “important but not urgent”? Of course your initial response will probably be it’s both important and urgent. However, when you dig at this question the answer is often that the issue is “important but not urgent”. If so, then take control. Figure out how and when you can work on the issue. In other words, plan.

Biting off more than you can chew

2. Break down tasks and activities to manageable sizes. Don’t be overly ambitious. Be realistic. You’ve a lot more control when managing small tasks or activities which means you’ll find the process of completing them less stressful. When the tasks or activities have been identified schedule them into your working day or week. In other words, plan.

Pushing out deadlines

3. With each deadline that is pushed out your sense of control and confidence in what you’re doing is eroded. Commit to deadlines and deliver to them. Be realistic about your deadlines and use your influencing skills when negotiating deadlines with others. People prefer when the deadline is longer than anticipated but it’s achieved rather than an ambitious deadline that constantly moves.

All of the above are small but necessary actions. As you implement these steps not only do you help yourself to manage your stress but you demonstrate best practices to key team members with the potential to be great managers.

Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP. How do you manage stress within your organisation? Leave a comment in the box below. Thanks.

Tricia Cunningham

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Successful Teams Use Visual Management

What is Visual Management?

Successful teams use visual management_John RafteryHow do you go about developing a visual management system within your business? In our continuing series of visual management training articles, John Raftery delves deeper into the process of visual mapping. Here he discusses how management teams can use visual tools to help them display company goals and the actions that underpin them. Visual aids such as Gantt charts and bar graphs keep management teams focused on strategy and accountable for results.

Visual Strategy

‘I work with management teams and generally what we start with is getting the top 3 – 5 goals of the company articulated. Then under each of those goals we would discuss the strategies needed in order to achieve those goals. The strategies then have to be turned into clear lines of action. If you can imagine a large whiteboard or notice board that has lines of action, as in the form of a Gantt Chart. On the left hand side you have the lines of action, in other words the actions that need to be taken in order to achieve the top level goals. The next column will list the owners of those actions, in other words the people responsible for implementing the agreed actions.

Tracking Activities

There may also be a timeline that could be divided up into 52 weeks or 12 months or whatever is appropriate for that particular team. The chart will show when the various actions are going to occur, and you can flag the actions with a colour coded ‘traffic light’ system. Green means that the action is on target, orange indicates that the action is in difficulty or has been delayed or is still in progress, and red flags indicate the action has not been completed within the time frame agreed.

Gantt Chart_successful teams use visual management

Creating Accountability

This is a very simple but clear mechanism that allows the team to see clearly what activities are taking place within the company, who’s doing what and what progress is being made. The information is displayed on one large whiteboard, and alongside this you can display key performance indicators (KPI) in the form of bar graphs which will indicate how well your lines of action are affecting the performance of the business. Tracking these KPIs is crucial for identifying which lines of action are working and which ones need adjusting.’

 Are you using visual management methods in your business? How are they effecting your business operations? Leave a comment in the box below. Thanks.

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Visualise Your Company Success Story

 

Visualise Your Company Success Story

Visualise Your Company Success Story

In a new management training series business advisor John Raftery discusses Visual Management, a business methodology that has worked wonders for management teams within large corporate organisations. Here he explains how you can visualise your company’s success story and why this visual approach is more successful than traditional methods, and how small and medium businesses can benefit from the ‘display and engage’ approach.

What is Visual Management?

I work a lot with clients in the SME sector and often when I go into their offices or business premises I see little by way of business related posters, graphs, bulletin boards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or business charts around the building. But if you walk into a multinational corporation’s building that’s exactly what you find.

Every type of visual mechanism is being used to try and get the message across to the workforce about what the company represents, how it’s performing and what it’s key goals are and what it’s key performance indicators are on a daily basis. So really visual management is about trying to take that culture from the multinational organisations and try to bring it into the SME sector.

Why is visual management better than traditional methods?

Why is visual management better, or an improvement on, the way companies currently work? The answer is simple; the thing is that for the vast majority of companies I work with the key information is being kept in people’s heads, or stored on spreadsheets on their laptops. Everybody in the organisation then assumes that everyone else knows what’s going on, but in actual fact a lot of that key business information remains hidden away and largely ignored.

Visual management is about trying to extract the most important facets of that business information and make it visual. In other words to display the most vital information on a noticeboard or Gantt chart, or to represent KPIs through the use of bar graphs. You get the information out there and this helps engage people more in the business process.

Management Engagement

It distils the information into communicative, more consumable pieces for management team members and team leaders to track, understand and act upon. Remember one of the most important things about trying to communicate with people; people remember what they see and engage with, they recall very little of what they hear. If teams are fully engaged with the company’s goals and vision they come to understand it and that has a powerful effect.

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John RafteryAre you using visual management in your company? What effect has it had on your team? Let us know with a comment in the box below.

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How To Create a Successful Company Culture

How to create a successful company culture

According to Mike Gaffney many businesses underperform because of a negative company culture, rather than aggressive market forces or macro conditions. It’s often the lack of recognition of underlying bad habits and leadership behaviours that cause stagnation in the business. But business owners can take solace in the fact that there is a way to address the negative habits that are holding your company back.

Mike, just how damaging can a negative company culture be to a business?
In working with companies throughout Ireland, it’s becoming evident that we totally underestimate the effect of bad habits and norms in the business. You may send your people on a management development programme, and embark on a strategic review of the business, but unless we take a detached perspective, and take a serious look at how we think and act within the business, then all the commitment to logical changes won’t take hold; those underlying bad habits must be addressed

What drives these habits?
This behaviour is natural, the human brain is programmed to develop habits, like driving a car; the first time it’s awkward and clunky. After a while it becomes a subconscious behaviour, that’s how the brain works. So if you’re going to make serious changes in your business and maximize new opportunities, you need to recognise the subconscious habits and often limiting behaviours that are holding the organisation back. Without recognising and addressing them you won’t achieve the changes that are necessary to transform the business.

What should business owners do to change negative habitual behaviour?
It was Einstein who said ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ The big issue here is the lack of recognition of underlying negative habits and behaviours of business owners and management. Making statements to staff such as ‘we need to change’ isn’t good enough. And you can map out a new strategy for the business, but that won’t work either if you don’t address people’s negative behaviours. A fundamental change in behaviour must occur for any real progress to be made. Highly successful businesses recognise that they need three things.

1. a clear vision for where they want the business to get to
2. a mission statement as to why they exist now
3. a clear set of values that underpin the organisation’s culture & behaviour

If they can get their people to buy into those three areas, then they can address those old negative habits and develop new positive ones, and a new mind-set for the organisation.

Does that mean confronting staff who are not aligned with the company core values?
Before business owners can implement change they have to let people know what they want the company to change into. Clarity is required – clear vision, clear mission, clear values – so that people know what’s expected and are given a chance to adapt. Unless people have clarity in terms of what’s expected of them then people won’t change, and that clarity must come from the business owner. If there are certain values that are critical to the success of the business, and if people deviate from those values, then they are out of the organisation.

Does articulating the company values usually get the results business owners want?
Articulating it is not enough, the business owner has to walk the talk and lead by example. Sometimes the people who are most resistant to change are the most senior, longest serving employees in the organisation. Their attitude is ‘that’s all very well for the troops but I’m ok doing the same old routine.’ But if everyone acknowledges their underlying negative behaviours, and agrees to buy into a new set of core values and behaviours, then together you can take the company to the next level. Without that buy-in everyone will just continue pulling against each other.

What tools can businesses use to help them clarify their vision, mission and core values?
As part of the futureSME methodology, a method that we use ourselves, we sit with the management team and have them craft a vision, a mission statement, and 5 or 6 core company values that will become part of their new visual strategy for the business. It’s just one part of what is known as visual mapping; a tool that business owners and management teams can use to great effect, with real tangible results.

 

In interview with Des Kirby
How do you get staff to buy-in to your vision for the business? Share your suggestions in the comments box below. And remember you can follow us on Linkedin.

 

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