Lean Process Innovation & Sustainable Continuous Improvement...

Our Most Formidable Competitive Weapons

Volume 2, Issue 25
December 09, 2015

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For the sake of innovation… make the process a KATA!

People — your most valuable asset?

It is people who make technology productive — and it always will be! We seem to be constantly in pursuit of the latest and latest and greatest piece of technology to meet today’s challenges — and with it, there is often a disdain that creeps in for the wisdom of the near past. In other words, we seem consumed by the excitement of the next big thing at the expense of existing and proven solutions. LEAN thinking comes to mind as an example. It is ignored as so many keep dreaming of magical silver bullets that never deliver.

As Jim Collins puts it, people are not our most valuable assets — unless they are the right people, with the right skills, in the right seats, on the right bus. And to achieve that takes managerial time, talent, and training to make it so. It’s especially a challenge to accomplish this in North America since the majority of SME operations managers were hired because of their technical competence, and not because of their managerial or communi-cation skills. We must think carefully about how to optimize the new productivity that new technology can bring into our manufacturing processes — and about how we equip our leaders. Twenty-three years before Stephen Covey’s passing in 2012, he was globally recognized for the effects his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, had on making people more effective. The book is still in play, and people in all walks of life are still learning and growing from those seven character-altering habits. They are habits that can strengthen a character trait that:

  • Is proactive (take initiative);

  • Begins with an end in mind (works and aligns with a vision)

  • Puts first things first (prioritizes)

  • Thinks win-win (builds team interdependence)

  • Seeks first to understand, and then to be understood (practises effective communications)

  • Synergizes with the world around them (makes things happen through teamwork)

  • Sharpens the saw (builds their own KATA skills, sustainability, and life-balance)

  • They are powerful and practical habits — but there’s one more habit we must develop but are not exploiting yet. 

Introducing the critical 8th habit

Covey’s The 8th Habit was published in 2004 and describes what is quite possibly the most powerful and most urgently needed habit in today’s world. It expresses Covey’s belief that the crucial challenge in our world today is to find our voice — and inspire others to find theirs.Warren Bennis salutes this book as Covey’s most important work, as do many others

The innovation connection 

By now, everyone who is not on an ice flow is thinking about innovation — or our lack of it — and the role it plays in determining winners and losers. Common to this discussion is the recognition that inter-personal communications must change if we are to maximize the surfac-ing of innovation-related ideas that will  remain hidden if we don’t. There is belief that conversations-for-innovation in the future must contain:

  • More openness and honesty

  • Full respect at all times

  • A willingness and& enthusiasm to look at problems from different perspectives

  • An adherence to follow a logical andly clear process consistent with the scientific method. 

This is serious stuff 

If we think about what this could mean as we are propelled into 2016 — it gets challenging — challenging because of a tightening economy and the increased competitive demands hanging over us to deliver more innovative results at all levels — including in Product Innovation, Process Innovation, Marketing Innovation, and Management innovation.

In 2015, we are not in a very good place. The World Economic Forum in Davos this this year, ranked Canada 23rd in the world out of 144 nations in terms of the ability to integrate our business sophistication with our ability to innovate.

We have much work to do to reverse this downward-destiny trend.

However, the discussion around inno-vation, and the enthusiasm to exchange Best Practices is heating up, which is a good start.

It was inspiring last week to see 30 companies from five consortia come together for a very full day to share their 21 Best Practices with 150 practition-ers. And what was also inspiring was to see the numbers of Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Business prac-titioners getting serious about applying LEAN to their operations.

For a day, the common language among all 150 people was LEAN thinking.  Perhaps a good first step in 2016 would be for each of us to develop a KATA that leads us to finding our voice — and to inspiring others to find theirs!

Migrating Birds photo

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