Working on three levels

guest blogs resources Aug 18, 2022

Guest blogger Chris Shannon, University of Queensland, has this to say about working on three levels ...

"While tidying up my electronic files recently, I came across this diagram. I first saw this in 2015  when attending introductory Lean training run by Mark Robinson from St Andrews Lean Consulting. The training included a detailed walk-through facilitating a rapid improvement event (RIE), also known as a kaizen event; something I had not done before. An RIE which can be up to five days long depending on the complexity of the process being worked on, involves mapping the current state of a process using sheets of brown paper and copious amounts of post-it notes, identifying a lot of improvement opportunities, having much debate, and finally creating a future state process map and an action plan to move from current state to future state as quickly as possible. It is both stimulating and draining, and also a lot of fun to be involved in.

What was evident very early on was the wisdom of this simple diagram. The RIE format involves assembling a team who collectively understands the business process from end to end in order to work together to identify all the waste and error opportunities in the process and eliminate them.  Led by a facilitator, the team develop skills in process mapping, waste identification, ideation, goal setting, communication and working collaboratively. When an organisation supports this sort of work and empowers teams to actually make the changes they identify in an RIE, the culture starts to change for the better. Employees feel listened to and empowered.

The potential for business improvement to influence culture is not limited to RIE, it is the same with all improvement activities. This is one of the themes explored in Collaborative Problem Solving: A Guide to Improving Your Workplace. When problems are seen as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than opportunities to blame, people want to understand how to solve problems, and are willing to share that understanding with other people. They work collaboratively to create a shared understanding of the current state of affairs and seek consensus on what to do to improve the situation.

As I describe in the book, how you behave during the problem-solving process matters enormously. Taking an intentional approach of curiosity, collaboration, and evidence-based thinking builds trust and leads to better results."

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