I meet a lot of people traveling and working as a consultant. I enjoy learning about people and what they do, what makes them tick, and things of that nature. However, describing what we do as consultants for The Effective Syndicate is more than just learning about and talking to people, so I wanted to dig deeper, and really get to the core of why we do what we do.
I started working in Lean Manufacturing in 2001. I had some fantastic leaders and coaches, and I learned more in the next nine years than in the previous 30 years of my life. My Lean education started out being focused on the tools and techniques-- I learned all about 5S, standard work, visual management, pull systems, the 8 Wastes and Kanban—all the basics. I then supplemented the Lean knowledge with Six Sigma and attained the level of Certified Master Black Belt. What I noticed through all this development and training, however, was that you could give an organization all the tools, the knowledge, and the support to implement lean improvements, but that it was extremely hard to maintain those improvements.
So I started looking very hard at why it was so hard to sustain and maintain. Why could we easily make these giant leaps forward, but then it would take a herculean effort to try to keep them in place? I started studying and asking lots of questions, and what I realized is that Lean isn’t only about the tools and techniques used to simply eliminate waste. Then about 7 years ago, I had the good fortune of spending time with the best coach I have ever met named Dr. Michael McIntyre (or “Doc,” as I like to call him). Doc is an organizational psychologist and is just an all-around awesome guy. He and I would discuss teamwork and leadership at length. And the answer became increasingly clear to me. The difference between an organization that maintains lean improvements versus one that does not was the company culture.
What is truly needed for a company to achieve greatness and maintain lean improvements is a culture of excellence. Culture, in this sense, is really made up of the behaviors, attitudes and practices of the people in the organization.
In the organizations that struggled to maintain improvements, the people who were in and around these new methods were not involved enough. Often times, they hadn’t bought in or they hadn’t been effectively led to a point where they too felt like they were part of the solution. Leadership had done a poor job of explaining why to the organization, or maybe even worse, the why became: “We are striving to improve profitability and drive shareholder value.” (YAWN) In short, it felt like the Lean implementation was being done to them instead of with them.
I realized that if you have really good processes, but the people haven’t bought in, you will only be good. Likewise, if you have really great people working in very poor processes you can also only be good. But if you truly want to be awesome, you must have great people working IN great processes. And if you aren’t trying to be awesome, what are you trying for?
This little nugget became the cornerstone of our approach, and the reason that we launched The Effective Syndicate. There are plenty of companies who can help you with Lean and Six Sigma. And there are a lot of companies that can help you with Leadership and Teamwork. The Effective Syndicate brings these two focus areas together. You must build the team and develop the Leadership with every bit as much intention and focus as you work on your processes. The Effective Syndicate does both.
We work with organizations and teams on the people side of the business, and simultaneously work on building fantastic processes. You must grow both aspects together to avoid the monumental effort to try and sustain the things that you gain. If you only do one without the other, you can become good, but not awesome.
As I have been working in this space for years, I see companies who think if I build great processes, the people will follow and the culture will evolve to where they want it. Or conversely, they believe if they work really hard on the culture, the people will figure it out. Both of these cases may be true if you have years and years to get there. However, if you want to get there faster and in a more sustainable way, focus your efforts on both.
The Effective Syndicate brings together the awesome power of a high-performing culture, with the incredible processes based on Lean and Six Sigma. When done well, this combination is truly unstoppable. If implemented consistently, your competition will be unable to keep up with you.
If you want to learn more about The Effective Syndicate, please read more on our website, on our Facebook page, or join us on Twitter. We regularly have webinars and workshops to teach the approach, and would love the opportunity to help you build your organization.