• Bill Greider

Developing People in Reverse

One of the four basic tenets of the Toyota Production System is "Continuously develop your people and partners." Notice it doesn't say once in a while, or when we have time, or at the company means continuously.

How many times have you seen this scenario play out?

You need to go out and hire someone. An ad goes into the paper, or maybe you enlist the help of a recruiter (headhunter). You know the old saying, "hire slowly, fire quickly". You do your due diligence. Resumes, phone interviews, 2 or 3 face-to-face interviews, narrowing the candidates. You get so excited when you give and they accept the offer. They're starting in 2 weeks!!

2 weeks go by, and they show up, a little nervous. You have their work area ready, and HR has all of the paperwork ready to go. They get the grand tour, and you introduce them to everyone. Handshakes and smiles all around!

Fast forward a few years. New strategy. We need to get rid of someone. Seems there is no longer "room on the bus". Maybe on Friday we can approach them right before everyone goes home for the weekend. A couple of us can stay late and watch as they pull together their personal affects. We'll walk them out and change the locks. Then on Monday we can spill the beans to the others.

Unfortunately, in America, this little scenario plays itself out hundreds and hundreds of times every Friday. Real good job we do continuously developing people, eh?

I would like to suggest a few things you can do to "continuously develop your people and partners" and avoid this:

1. Establish constant routine communication-daily huddles, weekly group meetings, monthly town hall meetings. Make sure that everyone is constantly in the loop. Many people begin to feel insecure when they believe "nobody tells me anything around here." Make sure that the communication "kata" are two way streets.

2. Meaningful "reviews"-Disney says that "no feedback" is worse than negative feedback. I believe there should be ZERO surprises at annual or semi annual reviews. People should know exactly where they stand at all times. (my annual reviews were all about goal setting, and what they need more of from me).

3. Engage everyone in kaizen activity-Toyota measures employee morale by the number of employee suggestions. Periodic kaizen events by the lean department just doesn't cut it. Self-directed work teams using A3 to do continuous continuous improvement builds a sense of ownership and pride in everyone.

4. Express gratitude-many people lose energy when they believe their work and effort is not appreciated. When was the last time you thanked someone else at work? When was the last time YOU were thanked? Trust me, if you do #3, you will suddenly find yourself thanking people left and right because you will be in awe of the ownership, creativity and genius in the people you were smart enough to hire.

5. "Go to gemba"-as leaders, this should go without saying. All it means is make sure you show up regularly. Make seeing people part of your standard work. Managers shouldn't be managing the computer.

Don't underestimate your impact on people (especially Senior leaders). Tag along on Gemba walks, sit in on one huddle meeting per week, and show up at A3 closings, then watch what happens! Customer satisfaction surveys-I love when companies regularly survey their primary customers....their employees. My company was selected as one of the best companies to work 5 times, but the best thing that came out of the process was the feedback we got to improve!

Like all things lean, apply the concept of heijunka (load levelling) to constantly developing people...slow and steady....and every single day.

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