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I was talking with a friend the other day who, was lamenting that she had too much work and not enough time to get it all done. Her manager contended the reason was that she and her teammate did not understand how to manage their time. This is an age-old argument that I hear often in the workplace.
It is a tendency for many in management roles to immediately assume that the root cause of any organizational problems is that the human capital assets can’t perform their responsibilities. Their assumption is that the way to resolve the issues is just to replace the human capital. However many studies have been done over time which show the real problem is rooted in the various processes within the organization. We will agree that there can be circumstances where this view is correct. This would occur in those cases where the human capital assets have either not had the sufficient training to perform the responsibilities or that they have just decided in their minds that they will not do what is expected from them. In these circumstances the answer to the question is that time management comes first. The solution is to coach the human capital assets so they gain the missing skills or coach them to the best way to leave the organization.
While we will stipulate, as we did above, that there are incidences where time management is the root cause, the vast majority of situations when this problem arises in an organization the real root cause is the very processes utilized by the organization. In a push for increased profits and revenues we force tasks through the organization. We force a workload on the human capital that results in long days and increased stress. Business has begun to awake to the fact that a push climate is not in the organization’s best interests. The direct result is that the organization gets overloaded.
The silver lining in this cloud is that the TLS Continuum toolbox provides us with a tool to identify where the process breakdown occurs. It is called TAKT time. TAKT time is derived from a German word, which describes the rate that things move through the organization. Originally designed for the factory floor it can be utilized in any process where there are process steps being implemented.
How does TAKT time work? To implement TAKT time, we need to begin by determining several data points. The first data point is to determine how many shifts are affected by the process. For example sake, we will determine that we have a single shift per day. The second data point is the length of that shift in hours. This provides the basis of the TAKT time calculation because it establishes the total available time to complete any tasks assigned to the functional area.
The next three data points look at the amount of time we lose each day from the available time. These data points consider how much time we provide for breaks, lunch and planed down time. When we total these exceptions and then subtract them from the available time, we are left with the total available work time in minutes. We then need to convert the total minutes to seconds.
The next data point is the most critical to the calculation. It tells the organization what the customer is demanding in the way of process outputs. It represents the work that the customer is willing to pay for. It also provides the organization with a picture of how well the process can work.
The final data point is the key to management on how well the process can work. It takes the total number of tasks expected to be completed per shift, and divides it into the total available time. The result provides us with a clear picture as to whether the process is functioning at the maximum efficiency.
To paint a better picture of this tool let’s look at an example:
Data Point #1: Number of Shifts per day 1
Data Point #2: Duration of the shift 8
Data Point #3: Break Time 30 minutes
Data Point #4: Lunch time 60 minutes
Data Point #5: Downtime 30 minutes
Data Point #6: Available time 360 minutes
Data Point #7: Available time 21600 seconds
Data Point #8: Client demands 75 new hire searches
Data Point #9: TAKT Time 288 seconds
What is the result telling us? If our data points are creditable and valid, the organization needs to understand that if we are expected to fill 75 sourcing tasks a day with the time we have available, then we have exactly 288 seconds or 4.8 minutes per search. Think about your organization, would this be a reasonable demand for your operation?
This brings us back to our original question. When we find that tasks are piling up and processes are being slowed down is it a process management issue or time management issue? The answer is that it depends. While it may clearly be the result of an employee refusing to do what is expected, it more likely a case of the organization pushing through demands into the process, which makes it unreasonable to expect the workload can be completed in the available time in a shift to get it accomplished. The clear path is to change the workflow from a push environment where we continue to force work to the function resulting in backlogs, added stress in the organization and failed fulfillment of the voice of the customer. The alternative is to move to one where we move demands through the organizational processes when the organization can adequately meet those demands. TAKT time is the tool to assist you inn reaching that goal as it clearly demonstrates whether the system can handle the added demand.
Do you remember those days from your elementary school days? Or better yet do you remember that from your kid’s elementary school days? (Sorry, I do not mean to put the getting older trap on you)? Well we have show and tell days in the workplace too. The purpose of the assignment was to have each child come to class to tell his/her fellow students about something that was important to them. The presentation was made and that was the end of the process. On rare occasions, another students got excited about the presentation and began to investigate the topic, themselves. Other than that there was no seeing a problem and feeling the problem. The student’s lives were not changed.
The business world is no different. We have our show and tell assignments. They are called process improvement teams. Consider this scenario for a moment. You have thrown together a cross-functional team and have begun the process of resolving a problem facing the organization. You do everything you are supposed to do. However when everything is said and done, the report ends up on a shelf somewhere and never visited again. The team then returns to their old responsibilities and nothing has changed. It becomes an adult version of show and tell. But why does this happen?
The above paragraph was not meant as a blanket condemnation of cross-functional teams or process improvement. It is a condemnation of process improvement for the sake of process improvement.
In order for any continuous process improvement effort to have validity we must be able to see the problem, feel the affect of the problem and from that change the culture of the organization. If we truly look at our organizations we can see the problems. They are right under our very noses if you look for them. When we do look for the problems they become obvious. The tougher part of the equation is the other two steps.
Once we see the problem or the organizational issue the next step is that we need to feel that problem and then we need to change the culture of the organization because of it. In that lies the problem.
We play corporate show and tell unless both the organization as a whole and management see it, feel it and understand that we need to change the way we do things. If the organization decides that so what if you found these problems and never changes the workplace, then the effort is for nothing. That is when we hear from potential clients that “we tried that and it didn’t work,” or “that is just not the way we do things here.” Continuous process improvement means a change of culture. It is a required outcome.
GE created the GE Workout and the Change Acceleration Process because they understood that change is necessary. They required management to see the problem, feel the problem and mandate change take place. It required management to change the way the organization functioned. As a result the culture changed. It is a requirement for future success of our organizations in order to become strategic, innovative and aligned with the corporate mission.
Final question for you – are you providing corporate show and tell or are you changing the way the organization operates and therefore changing the culture of the organization? It is your decision along with management’s decision as to whether you move the needle in the right direction.
On April 14 the Wall Street Journal ran an article about companies eliminating their HR departments. If you poll large enough population of corporate executives about the role of HR, a majority will tell you that HR is an obstacle to getting things done. A couple of weeks ago Robin Schooling, fellow HR blogger at HR Schoolhouse, stated she had asked a group of HR ladies how to increase employee engagement and their unanimous response was to hold a picnic. When we went to school many of us were taught to learn by the rote method.
So taking these facts into consideration where did HR lose its way? Since its inception, in many cases we were like the school student. We performed practices the same way every time. If we needed to help someone with a benefit question we followed the same plan for action each time we answered that question. We are considered an obstacle to the organization because we do so. We are considered an obstacle because we portray ourselves as this silo that can do no wrong because that is what we do.
But times have changed. We need a new model for HR that is centered around being a vital part of the equation, We need a new HR model that is centered around the culture of the organization, centered around the voice of the customer and centered around alignment between HR and the rest of the organization. So how do we achieve this new model?
The late Senator Edward Kennedy, in the eulogy for his brother Robert, uttered these words –
“The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not. “
Forgive me for a paraphrase of the above statement but the essence of the statement describes where we should be in today’s global workplace. The future does not belong to the HR function who are content with today, apathetic towards organizational problems and the needs and wants of the human capital assets, who respond to new ways with the time worn responses “we don’t do things that way here,” or “We tried that and it didn’t work.” The future of HR and even more important our organizations will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideas from within the organization. Some corporate executives see things as they are and say why, HR needs to critically think about their operations and say why not.
We lost our way because we as a profession have not learned how to get out of the schoolhouse realm (sorry for the pun Robin!!!) and stop trying to run the organization based on rote thoughts and actions. We need to look at the operation with new eyes. As Chip and Dan Heath and others have suggested we need to see the problems, feel the problems and through the use of critical thinking change the corporate culture. We need to understand that things change as we evolve. We need to understand that this evolution requires new ways of doing things and thinking about things. We need to learn to vision the organization as a whole not as a part of something. It is only by making these changes can we return to being a valued part of the organization. It is how we can guarantee that we still have a profession to be part of in the future.
I recently picked up a copy of the local Tampa newspaper and found an article regarding the teachers being upset with the new accountability system. It was not that they were upset about the system. They were upset about the fact that the data collected was not compared to anyone outside of their district.
My immediate thought was to Dr. Mikel Harry’s book “Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations” in which he suggests that we don’t value what we don’t measure. Think about your own organization for a moment. How many times have you been told that is just not how we do things here, but no one from top management down can tell you why? Why would you measure the impact of a process on your organization, if you do not compare it to something? The teachers were upset because the data that came out of the individual schools was not compared to anything meaningful. The same principle applies to the organizational structures. How do you create creditable, verifiable data points if you only judge it by your own actions?
One of the value-based tools in the process of improving our organizations is benchmarking. We do not compare the results from our processes to it self. We compare the results to the entire organization and what others in the same industry are doing to resolve the same issues. With the understanding that our corporate cultures maybe different, the key to our organizations being aligned and innovative is to seek out new ideas and solutions, which will benefit the organization as a whole. This means we have to get out of our preverbal silos. It means we have to accept that we are not always right. It means we have to be willing to recognize that there is always a better way to utilize the organizational processes.
Organizations tend to get into a rut. There is not necessarily anything wrong with creating a standardized work. In fact that should be the goal of every organization. We want to create a process, which is repeatable each and every time we complete that process. When we discover that the process is not performing to our anticipated levels, it is time we change the standard of work. When we discover that the process is not performing to our anticipated levels, it is time we look to entire industry and even better to the entire business marketplace for clues on how to improve the process. That was what the teachers were asking for. That is what our organizations should be asking for.
Dr. Harry’s suggestion that we don’t value what we don’t measure is the key to the solution. For the solutions to our process problems, whether we are talking about HR or another area of the organization, to be a value to the organization we need to measure the problem. We need to see the process as part of a bigger picture. For the solution to have merit it needs to meet several criteria.
First, it must be creditable. The data coming out of our review of the process must have a basis in reality. It must be the direct result of measuring the impact on the organization. We can’t do this by relying on internal data only. We have to look at the whole system view throughout the business world.
Second, it must be verifiable. We can’t expect that the suggestions for improvements are going to be valued if our basis for is the way we always have done things. We must ensure that our recommendations for changes to the corporate culture have a basis in what is proven changes. These proven changes come from solutions that have been verified in the greater marketplace.
The tile of this post asked you why would we do that? It is posing the question the teachers asked. Why would you create an accountability process based on nothing? Why would an organization begin the tedious process of bringing about change to the organization that is based on conjecture and not on creditable, verifiable and repeatable action son the part of the entire organization? The choice is clearly yours to make. We can measure the results of our exploration of the obstacles facing the organization based purely on what we currently do, which is no measure at all. Or, we can look at our processes and compare the suggested solutions to the global marketplace to see what had worked and what has not. By taking the latter route we create recommendations that are creditable and verifiable. It is these data based solutions that will lead the organization to be strategic, innovative and aligned.
If we poll our employee population, you are very likely going to hear the response that they are looking for an authentic work environment. But just what does authentic mean? Dictionary.com defines the term as “not false or copied; genuine; real” So look at your organization or your functional area of responsibility and are you being authentic? Are you honest with your employees in those little things that matter to them?
To get another view on the question I turned to Nicole Ochenduski, HR Manager of Church and Dwight and fellow HR Blogger (http://hr-roots.blogspot.com/). I asked Nicole what authentic meant to her and her response was four-fold. She felt that authentic meant that the organization was transparent, communicative, participative and maintained a sense of family.
If we return to Dictionary.com and search for the meaning of honesty, we find that the word is defined as the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness. truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud. All of these apply back to our organizations being authentic as described above.
Referencing back to our blog title, our human capital assets will feel the organization is authentic if the organizational management is transparent. It means that management does not try and hide facts that show the true nature of the organization financially, operational wise and policy wise. We can obtain an engaged organization if every segment of the organization understands clearly why we are doing things the way we are. When they understand what is in it for them if the change is not implemented. When they feel that the decisions made equally apply to them as they do to members of management.
A good part of this transparency and honest dealings comes through a solid basis of communication through out the organization. Management should not be placing any segment in a position where they are working from less than full facts about the organizational structure and operations. It does not help the organization when we tell the customer that something is going to happen and the management has no intention of following through on that message.
Look at Jim Collin’s Good to Great or Jeffrey Liker’s Toyota Way and see what constitutes a great organization. Many of the organizations presented in these two sources talk about the involvement of the entire organization on cross-functional teams. Their responsibility is to ensure that there is input from all facets of the organization in meeting the voice of the customer. In Toyota, the employee has the right to stop the entire process if there is something less than the expected quality level. It is the firm belief of these organizations that in order to understand the organization you go to the experts for answers. These experts are the front line employees. The employee, who is in the trenches, talking with the customer.
The final piece of this discussion is that of a sense of family. Today’s employee expects to be treated in the same manner that you treat your family members. I fully realize that we have tons of examples of dysfunctional families in society. But equally true is that we have our organizations where we feel part of a strong family environment. Cadbury Chocolate was founded on this premise.
Honesty in Little Things is not a little thing. If we want to be part of vibrant organization then managerial honesty is not a little thing. If we want to be part of a vibrant organization then employee honesty is not a little thing. In the bigger picture they may be part of a little thing. This new global workplace we find ourselves in must be based on honesty in our dealings with all of the stakeholders form the members of management to the customers who keep our doors open.
In the beginning of March I will be traveling to Raleigh to participate in the Capital Associated Industries Conference “HR 20/20: Focus, Evolve, Lead, facilitating a breakout session on identifying waste in your organization. As I look around the HR space many conferences are including similar programs on change management. However the real question do HR managers really understand what change management means? In order to be involved in authentic change management, HR managers need to take three very distinct steps.
Every organization has problems. Each of these problems involves the failure to meet the demands of the stakeholders of the organization. The real difficulty is that we know they are there but we do not truly understand the implications of the process obstacles that we know are present. In order to fully understand the ramifications of the problems we need to get our of the office and see first hand where the problems occur. In two different books I recently read, the authors made reference to a manufacturing environment where they utilized 42 different pairs of gloves. Each of the pair’s was ordered from a different provider. Taiichi Ohno, from the Toyota Manufacturing Company, required his manager to stand in a circle for a minimum of twenty-five minutes to see what problems existed.
It is one thing to see the problem; it is an entirely different issue to feel the impact of the problem on the organization. Both management and the rank and file employees need to feel the impact of the issue at hand. They need to see what is in it for me if this problem continues. Rank and file will need to deal with the angry customer who did not get their order on time. Managers need to deal with stakeholders who are asking how the organization can operate by ignoring the issues at hand.
Of the three steps this is the most difficult. We can see the problem. We can feel the impact of the problem. But unless we change the new normal within the organization the previous steps are for naught. We can’t operate from a point of view that this is the way we have always done it. To successfully solve the operational problems we have to change the corporate culture. Every level of the organization needs to understand why we must change the way we do things. They need to understand the urgency of the moves that management is implementing.
It is only after we see the problem, feel its impact and change the corporate culture to the new normal that we can begin to resolve the issues confronting the organization and hindering its ability to be strategic, innovative and aligned to the mission and values of the organization.
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