Monday, February 22, 2021

Strategy Deployment & Language

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

In the beginning was the Word...

So begins the Old Testament, which Canadian scholar Northrop Fry called The Great Code, the blue-print for Western culture.

Indeed, language reflects how we think, how we experience life, and who we are.

What's this got to do with strategy & strategy deployment?
Strategy is story-telling, strategy is language.

But what if our language is foggy? What's a team to make of head-scratchers like the following?

"We will leverage our World Class Operating Capabilities” or “We'll reshape pricing tactics to effectively manage demand while sustaining market access.”

My advice, head for the hills!

Sorry, but such language often means the team is clueless.


"We really don't understand what's happening, so let's slather on the buzzwords!"

I spend much of my time coaching senior leaders. My advice to them?

Ban fuzzy words & phrases!

Out with cliché! Down with the latest buzzwords!

Sayonara to 'leverage,' 'synergy,' 'disintermediation,' and 'robust' -- (to pick just a few).

PLAIN LANGUAGE, PLEASE!

We were lucky at our old Toyota plant.

Our Japanese senseis' grasp of English was very basic, which meant we had to express ourselves clearly & simply.

As a result, despite the language barrier, we communicated beautifully.

Best,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 2
Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 1
What is Courage & What’s It Mean for Strategy?
"How Will You Motivate Your Team, Pascal-san?"



Monday, February 8, 2021

Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 2

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

“What is your thinking way, Pascal-san?”

Thanks for your thoughtful feedback on part 1 of this note.

The Lean ‘movement’ is indeed in flux, no? We need to reflect and adjust our activities in accord with the needs of our partners and communities.


How to do this? In my view, we need to double-down on Lean principles. Otherwise, may I suggest that we are essentially a skilled trade – useful, honorable, worthy of study and practice – but not a game-changing, earth-shaking, get out of town transformation.

Lean – aka Toyota Production System, aka the ‘Profound System of Knowledge’ (Deming) – is a set of principles that turn into methods & tools appropriate to the situation.

But many of us have become enamoured of our tools & methods, have we not? To be sure, Standardized Work, Jidoka, Heijunka and the like are splendid & powerful methods. But unless we understand & translate the underlying principles, our impact will be limited.

Principles are ideas; methods are the action that bring them to life. Principles are eternal; methods, temporary.

For example, principle like ‘Make Problems Visible’ and ‘Build Quality into the Process’ find expression in Toyota’s famous Andon board. If we focus on the Andon board, and not the underlying principles, how are we to help, say, a developer of financial security software?

Do we advise them to install an Andon board & all the related electronics, because that’s how we did it in our manufacturing plant? The IT company would show the ‘sensei’ the door – rightfully! (“I don’t care what you did in your manufacturing plant…”)

But if we reflect deeply on the underlying principles, we might come up with very interesting countermeasures, as have the splendid Menlo Innovations and their CEO Richard Sheridan – (two coders side-by-side, checking & confirming each line…)

Or we might have come up Agile & its constituent methods (Scrum, Kanban etc.), as our IT colleagues did a decade ago.

Now ideas are harder to teach & apply than methods. Unlike methods, ideas cannot be turned into three-day, or five-day, or three-week ‘programs’. Ideas are not so easily monetized. But their impact is much greater, and the astute leader will notice the difference.

Much of my personal practice entails coaching senior executives. I start with the principles, to get their interest, then provide examples of how the principles have been applied in different industries.

Underlying message: “Lean is a transformational strategy, a game-changer…”

Starting with tools sends a different message. “Lean is like a skilled trade – helpful, useful, worth doing, but not a game-changer.”

Our Toyota senseis emphasized principles above all, and their core question is burned into my consciousness: “What is your thinking way?”

If we deepen our understanding & application of Lean principles (thinking), we’ll be relevant & helpful for decades to come – and have a hell of a good time too.

Best regards,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 1
What is Courage & What’s It Mean for Strategy?
"How Will You Motivate Your Team, Pascal-san?"
What is a Good Life?



Monday, January 25, 2021

Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 1

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Jim Womack had once written an insightful & heartfelt piece about where lean had failed. (Jim is a friend, supporter and visionary, not to mention a person of decency & kindness. It’s fair to say that Jim & Dan Jones kicked off the Lean movement twenty years ago. Their insights have penetrating ever since.)


Here are a few thoughts, building on Jim’s points.

Lean is hard and only fully succeeds when there is aligned motivation on many levels. While it’s true that few transformations succeed without the senior leader’s full-hearted participation, that’s not enough.

We need a single-minded strength of purpose throughout the organization. We need front line team leaders and middle managers teaching & doing the right thing – even when nobody is watching. And that, of course, means a management system, (a concept I’ve tried to illuminate, especially in all my most recent stuff - Andy & Me and the Hospital.)

Single-minded strength of purpose also requires full alignment between the organization’s Purpose, and each member’s Purpose. Toyota’s corresponding alignment is more or less: “You do the work that needs doing and help us to improve, and you’ll have an engaging & well-paying job here for as long as you want it.”

I believe each organization needs to develop something similar, in accord with its culture. Do not copy Toyota or any other strong Lean company. This alignment must resonate with your team members, culture and industry. In a number of our partner firms, the deal is subtly different: “You do the work that needs doing and help us to improve, and you’ll learn & grow more than you ever thought possible, and will do cool things for as long as you want to.”

People systems including Recruitment, Succession Planning and Compensation are central of course, and a very common impediment. We have to start with Strategy Deployment, the senior leader’s core methodology.

Negative motivators can be helpful too. A number of Lean Pathways team members are Toyota alumni and remember the acronym CLM – Career Limiting Move! Any selfish, destructive, random, political disrespectful to a team member, the customer or the community would quality as a CLM. Any action that compromised Safety or Quality was a CLM. A few CLMs and your future at Toyota was in doubt. These are, in effect, a healthy version of the corporate antibodies.

One more thing. After a decade & a half of practice, our Lean Pathways team has lived through many transformations. In every blow your socks off, get out of town, let’s do the Moon Walk in slow motion transformation, (pardon the body English), the CEO, COO and their teams have a) made significant time for Executive Coaching, and b) been wide open to making corresponding changes in their day to day work.

More to come.

Best regards,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

What is Courage & What’s It Mean for Strategy?
"How Will You Motivate Your Team, Pascal-san?"
What is a Good Life?
To Learn Corporate Strategy, Study the Military Masters



Monday, January 11, 2021

What is Courage & What’s It Mean for Strategy?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Strategy entails answering two questions: 1) Where are we going?, and 2) How are we going to get there?

Last time I talked about how we might create a pull for achievement, and thereby transcend the limitations of the carrot & stick.

Today I’d like to talk about how we stay the course. Achievement is hard, achievement hurts. How do we sustain our drive in the face of hurtles, hassles and hammerheads?

The ancients defined Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Courage.


Courage is the most admired, and rightly so. (Marcus Aurelius called in Fortitude). Breakthrough – transcendent, enduring achievement – requires all the Cardinal Virtues, and courage most of all. In fact, Courage makes the other virtues possible.

So what is Courage? It is not fearlessness. Courage is the capacity to overcome fear.

Courage, like True North, entails head and heart. [Getting the Right Things Done]

Courage without the head is simply foolhardiness. Courage means you understand the risks, and do it anyway.

Is courage a virtue under any circumstance? I'd say not. Is a courageous terrorist admirable?

Courage is only admirable when exercised in the service of others, of the greater good, of True North.

So what does this all mean for the practicing manager? Define & communicate Purpose clearly. Seek to develop Courage in yourself and your team.

Courage is our fuel. Understand that achievement hurts, and that you will fall down many times.

‘Fall down seven times, get up eight times…’

Best regards,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

"How Will You Motivate Your Team, Pascal-san?"
What is a Good Life?
To Learn Corporate Strategy, Study the Military Masters
Why is laughter important in business?