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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Hill

Improving Daily Management

Meredith Fisher and I recently had the pleasure of being guests on Jamie Parker’s Lean Leadership for Ops Managers podcast, “Improving Daily Management.”

In case you have not had the chance to listen, I posted the partial interview in this blog.

You can listen to the full episode here:

Jamie: Now we are going to hear from Stephanie Hill. Stephanie is owner of Light Bulb Moment Consulting, which provides services for businesses that want to improve their organization’s effectiveness and efficiency. Hi, Stephanie. Welcome to the show. So glad to have you here.

Stephanie: Hi, Jamie, thanks so much for inviting me to participate.

Jamie: All right. Well, before we jump into our topic of daily meetings, would you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what some of your experience is?

Stephanie: Sure. I own Lightbulb Moment Consulting out of Des Moines, Iowa. I have been working in continuous improvement for the past 20 years, and half of that has been with manufacturing organizations. The other half has been in insurance, health care and retail. I have a Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma, a master’s degree in public health, bachelor’s in chemistry and a certification in strategic HR leadership. I have two sons who recently graduated high school, one during COVID, which is kind of crazy. I have a cat and a new used dog I say, because I adopted her in May and she just celebrated her 16th birthday. And it is also worth noting that I am a huge LEGO fan.

Jamie: Oh, wow! Oh, my goodness, so much there.

Stephanie: I also wanted to say that I have been involved in stand-ups not just in the manufacturing setting, but I have also been in finance, customer experience and supply chain, setting up those stand-up boards too.

Jamie: Yeah, so you are all over the place, tons of education. So, it sounds like you might be a lifelong learner.

Stephanie: Yes. I think many of us are in our field, right?

Jamie: Yeah. I feel you on that for sure. And then really broad experience, which I think just can inform so much of how we show up and what we learn and how all of that comes together when we have such broad experience, so that’s awesome.

Stephanie: Yeah, definitely.

Jamie: All right, well, let’s jump into talking about these daily meetings or startups or huddles, everybody kind of has their own word for them. So, you’ve had quite a bit of experience, can you share maybe a challenge that you’ve seen teams experience when they start bringing in daily meetings into their work?

Stephanie: Yeah, I think that the biggest obstacle I have seen with daily huddles – I’ll probably say all kinds of terms really – is just poor engagement. I think every stand-up probably has the intention to be informative, drive action, and engage attendees, not only with the content, but also with each other. But stand-ups can really become routine and more like checking a box if that engagement is not kept in check.

Jamie: So, what are some ways that you’ve seen teams work to kind of address this challenge of low engagement?

Stephanie: Yeah. I tend to be a list person, so I think of engagement and how we increase engagement through four different ways.

First, being sure that we’re adding value for each participant.

Second, being sure that we are making our boards – the actual visual of the boards – easy to understand.

Third, being that we’re involving an action and outcome relationship.

And then fourth, that we’re driving accountability.

I can dive deeper, if that works, into each of those.

Jamie: Yes, that’d be great.

Stephanie: Okay, so in general, what I typically see with manufacturing is that the board has different elements. So typically, we have information under safety, quality, delivery, and cost, or SQDC. And then the better boards will have things like problem solving with actions and owners as well. And so just a side note, I have seen very effective stand-ups in the office setting that do not use these elements, but I typically do see them in manufacturing this way and I just kind of think they have a timeless application.

The first one with adding value, if you’re anything like me, which you probably are a little bit because you’re in Lean, I just hate when people feel like they’re wasting their time doing something that’s non-value added. So, the heart of Lean is really around reducing those time wasters, reducing waste in general. I feel like, it’s really important to start with adding value.

Each element of the board can add more value just by viewing it from the attendee’s standpoint versus the person who’s always putting it together. So it’s fine to have standard metrics for each of those areas, especially if they tied to key company metrics, or topics that are being discussed, maybe at the executive level. So those are really important to keep your eye on. But you can also add a rotation of metrics that are meaningful to the attendees. So for instance, if a group just recently did an improvement event, maybe around cycle time in a particular cell, you could have a team representative that’s sharing the cycle time metrics in that cell for a period of time as they’re discussing delivery because that’s really personal for them. I mean, there’s probably a number of people at the board who have been through that event, and they want to see that improving. And you can do that for any of the metrics really.

Second is that they’re easy to understand. Some people cannot always make it to stand-up, and maybe there are multiple shifts in an organization that don’t share that same stand-up. You might also have visitors from other departments. I’ve been to companies where we have tours coming through, people from other locations that are doing benchmarking. So, at a glance, you should be able to look at the board and understand why people are there, what they’re seeing and what will happen next. I’ve seen some really good examples, actually, in the finance department. We had a mission at the top of the board, we had a list of acronyms that were commonly used, and we even had equations for what got us to the numbers that were being reported. I also like if there’s any, which I’m sure you’re probably seeing, like a red, yellow or green designation on a board. So just having a legend that tells people what those colors stand for and what prompts something to turn red, for instance.

In one manufacturing setting, cost was shared as a percentage. And so I asked different participants what they thought that that percentage meant, and most people had no idea. So then a person in the second shift at that same company created a new board, and they not only provided a dollar figure under cost, but they also shared an image of what that dollar figure represented. So for instance, they have a picture of a car or a kid with braces or college or something like that that made the dollar figure more relatable just visually at a quick image for them.

Jamie: I love that.

Stephanie: Yeah, I thought that was really clever.

The other part I liked about that finance (and other department boards) was having a mission, I just think that’s a great thing to include because it doesn’t change unless the group agrees that it needs to change, but it really should provide the why behind the stand-up that ties to the overall company’s goals.

Jamie: So, let me ask you this. So, when you’re saying this mission at the top of this board, you’re not saying the company mission statement?

Stephanie: No.

Jamie: All right, tell me what you mean.

Stephanie: So maybe a group comes together and maybe at the top of it, it could say, “We come together daily to ensure we get the best product to our customer as quickly and safely as possible.” Something as basic as that, just so they’re all kind of marching to the same beat, and they get their purpose.

Jamie: Yeah, you know what I think could be really great about that, too, is that we’ve all kind of started something like this and then seen it go off on all of these tangents, and we almost forgot the reason why we’re doing it in the first place.

Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. That’s the whole reason a company has a mission too, right?

Jamie: That’s right.

Stephanie: The third thing that you can do is to make sure you involve action-outcome relationship there. A common discussion at stand-ups will be around problems that the workforce might be experiencing. So, they might want to launch like an A3 or some other kind of problem-solving tool. And I’m not saying that they would necessarily do that at the stand-up, they could initiate it. But the participants in that problem-solving group could be coming back and sharing any action items that they have, and then the group can see tracking of the actions and those outcomes. So being able to witness the full cycle of initiating action toward eliminating a cause and then seeing the outcome of that goes a long way towards engaging participants. They feel like their coming there and taking action and doing something like that, really is making a difference. It’s not just standing there to show up.

Jamie: Yeah.

Stephanie: And then the fourth one, the last one is about accountability. I think I had kind of a transition in my own brain, around the term accountability because I would always hear it used in the phrase “to hold someone accountable”. And that really kind of makes this like disciplinary thing go off in my head like somebody’s going to discipline someone if they’re not doing the thing they’re supposed to do. But I started switching the way I look at the word accountability as more of a term of engagement because when I think about my own experience, if I have accountability, it tells me that I’m included. It says that what I contribute matters, and that people rely on my role to make things work smoothly. So that’s a really important piece to get people to feel engaged. It can take many shapes in a stand-up. You might have each topic or metric reported by a different person. Maybe each action of the problem-solving tool has an owner that can share the status of it. I’ve even seen a Gemba rotation at the end of the stand-ups, where people will walk over to different cells. And then we could have people at the cells have responsibilities to talk through what happens at the cell or sharing the cell level metrics. There are all sorts of ways to have accountability grow there. It shouldn’t be the same people talking all the time.

Jamie: Yeah, I love that reframe for accountability. Fantastic. And I think you’re right. Nobody wants to just come to this meeting and have one person stand up and talk at you. That’s not the point, right?

Stephanie: Exactly. Definitely. Yeah. So that’s it basically, so I’ll just sum it up one more time.

First one, adding value for each participant.

Second, ensuring your board is easy to understand.

Third, involving an action-outcome relationship.

And then for providing opportunities for more accountability.

Jamie: Awesome. I love those, Stephanie. These are fantastic, and really great ways of thinking about engagement, and how to make our stand-up meetings actually contribute in some way, right?

Stephanie: Yes, definitely.

Jamie: Yeah, we don’t want to just go through the motions. And we don’t do it just because we read in a book we’re supposed to do it.

Stephanie: Right.

Jamie: Right. We do it because there’s a purpose to it.

Stephanie: Exactly. Yep. Totally agree.

Jamie: Fantastic. Well, let me ask you this as we close out. For those that are out there, maybe they’ve started, maybe they’ve restarted, maybe they’re down the road and trying to get just more maturity and effectiveness, but what maybe final words of encouragement do you have for those Ops Leaders out there who are incorporating daily meetings in their work?

Stephanie: Yeah, so probably two things. I would say first, the most fundamental way to engage people is just by asking their opinion. Periodically stop and ask people how things are or aren’t working and ask them to be part of that change. I think it’s daunting sometimes to ask people what they think because we don’t want to hear the answer; it’s going to feel personal. But just objectively find out what they think, and then don’t really respond necessarily, just take their answers to heart and see if there are ways to apply. And then second, I would say, kudos to the listeners who are already doing stand-ups or who are even thinking about starting them. I think that they go a long way in connecting people to one another, and to their work, as well as to the overall business. So just even getting started I think that you’re taking a great step, and you’re heading in the right direction.

Jamie: All right, awesome. Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing your insights and things that you’ve learned along the way. We appreciate you joining us today.

Stephanie: Yeah, thank you.

Jamie: All right, some great tips from Stephanie. How fun was the story where the second shift team member translated the cost into visual images from everyday life, right, braces or a car? I also loved how she talked about making these things more relevant for team members, making huddles more relevant for team members, and the agenda and all that stuff. Because too often, we approach visual management and daily huddles and other systems and tools from our vantage point, and huddles are not for us as leaders. We are not the consumer here.

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