Tag Archives: process improvement

The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook


By Elisabeth Goodman, 10th June 2015

This is the third in my series of  “The Effective Team’s ” workbooks and it will be out shortly.

THE EFFECTIVE TEAM’S operational excellence WORKBOOK

Elisabeth Goodman (author), Nathaniel Spain (illustrator), 2015 – ISBN 978-0-9926323-7-3

Cover illustration for the Effective Team's Operational Excellence Workbook

Cover illustration for the Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook

This third book in the series focuses on how to achieve operational excellence.  Here is the description from the back of the book:

“Operational excellence helps us to create a more fulfilling work environment where everyone actively contributes to quality customer services or products and to the efficient flow of the organisation’s end-to-end processes. In this third book for ‘effective teams’ the author draws again on her experience with business support groups such as Library and Information services, and with organisations in the Life Sciences and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).

The book reflects her approach as a trainer, mentor and consultant for operational excellence. It takes you through a systematic approach for defining and improving how your team spends its time and resources. It will help you to ensure that you are focusing on the right priorities to deliver value to your customers, and that your processes are simplified and streamlined. As with her previous books on change management and high performance teams, the plentiful principles and methodologies are explained through scenarios and are accompanied by individual or team exercises. There are also notes on further reading.

Again, both operational teams and project teams will benefit from the book’s rich insights and depth.”

THE detailed content of the book

The approach and format for this workbook is much like that of my previous two. It can act as a refresher for people who have attended one of my workshops relating to operational excellence (or Lean and Six Sigma). It can be used as a stand-alone manual for individuals who wish to learn about how to continuously improve their work. It can also provide the basis for planning and facilitating workshops with others.

Please note that this book is an introduction to the discipline, and you might want to read around the subject, take some formal training, or use an accredited practitioner to support and mentor you on your further journey.

Each chapter is designed to reflect my approach for running workshops in operational excellence. The first chapter provides the context and framework for starting any operational excellence initiative. The subsequent chapters are best followed sequentially as they will take you through the framework in a step-by-step way.

There are practical scenarios to show how the various principles and methodologies can be applied in almost any area of work where there is some form of repeated process. Each chapter has an exercise for practising the principles and methodologies, either in teams or individually.

The workbook also includes support materials in the form of full-page versions of illustrations and tables for use as a team and for your individual planning.

Finally, there are references for further reading if you would like to find out more about the subject.

COST AND AVAILABILITY

Copies are priced at £10.00 each, plus packaging and posting, and will be available via the RiverRhee Publishing web page.  Or you can use the RiverRhee contact form to pre-order your copy.

Engaging staff in operational excellence – a case study on the visual workplace


Managing cargo shipments in the Port of Felixstowe

I’ve been catching-up on my business reading.  I always find something fascinating when I do….

True to form, my efforts were quickly rewarded this morning, with a case study on digital signage at the Port of Felixstowe in the August 14th issue of Business Weekly. This article caught my attention for two reasons:

  • I’d been impressed, whilst sketching* on the beach during a late summer trip to Felixstowe, by the size and frequency of the cargo ships going across the horizon.
  • I’m always intrigued by how organisations engage their staff in a commitment to operational excellence.
Cargo ship and operational excellence in Felixstowe

Cargo ship on the horizon and operational excellence in Felixstowe

(*I’m a very recently initiated amateur! More about this for anyone interested in the July-August RiverRhee Newsletter.)

Collecting metrics is a step towards operational excellence

Most business teams collect metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on their performance.  It’s a requirement from management.  Variations on cost, time and quality – often expressed as frequencies, quantities, timings etc. – are dutifully collected and included in monthly reports.

We talk about these metrics during the RiverRhee training courses that I run on Lean and Six Sigma, and on Change Management.  Questions that are often raised are:

  • Are the right things being measured: will they give us meaningful and useful information on how we are performing in relation to our customers and our goals?
  • Is anyone paying attention to the metrics and using them to make decisions, to improve performance on a continuous basis, to monitor whether anticipated  benefits are being delivered?
  • Have we in fact got too many metrics?

‘Stand-up’ meetings and a visual workplace can make a real difference to engagement and results

One of the things I enjoy about working with multiple customers is witnessing the diversity of their approaches and hearing about examples of operational excellence.

One company uses ‘stand-up’ meetings at the start of the day and at lunch time (to catch people working on different shifts).  They update a white board in a narrow corridor with their key targets and up to the minute metrics on performance in relation to customers and operations.  The local manager or supervisor runs through the figures, celebrates achievements, asks for comments and suggestions.  One or two members of staff might also share an item of news or a good practice.  The narrowness of the corridor and the absence of chairs help to ensure that the meeting is very brief – it lasts 15 minutes at the most. Everyone is engaged, informed, energised and committed to the organisation’s aims and their roles within it.

Other organisations have more sophisticated white boards or electronic displays in more spacious locations that can be viewed as people go by as well as in similar ‘stand up’ briefings at key points of the day or working week.

Using ‘media screens’ at the Port of Felixstowe

The case study in Business Weekly features Anders+Kern (A+K) PADS (www.anders-kern.co.uk) and the Port of Felixstowe’s decision to use their ‘media screens’ to provide ‘real-time and relevant information’ to the approximate 75 per cent of their staff involved in operational roles and delivering services to their customers. (The Port of Felixstowe A+K case study is also available online.)

The article describes how the information communicated includes ‘progress against customer service targets’ and ‘changes to operational procedures’.

This is all very good to hear about.  It would be wonderful to get an inside view on the impact that this approach to the visual workplace is having on employee engagement and operational excellence.

How are you engaging your staff in operational excellence?  Do you have some form of visual workplace?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), APM (Association for Project Management) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects


Notes from an APM Midlands Branch seminar by Elisabeth Goodman

About 40 people attended this evening seminar in Coventry on 30th January 2014.  The intent was to share a case study based approach of some of my experiences of leading and facilitating operational organisational change projects, and of using Lean and Six Sigma to support organisational change.  It also proved an excellent opportunity for the participants to share some of their experiences, and for all of us to learn from each other.

The delegates present appeared to be a mix of practitioners and consultants in project management, all of whom had encountered Lean and Six Sigma in some form.  It also became apparent as the evening progressed, that many of those present had a real interest in organisational change, with experience of the challenges and some of the successes involved.

Case studies of operational excellence and organisational change with Lean and Six Sigma

My case studies included:

  1. Coordinating a group of cross-organisational champions involved in rolling out Lean and Six Sigma as a way of working in a global Pharmaceutical R&D organisation.  I was also one of a team of four trainers for running three-day (Advocate or yellow belt), and two-week (Expert or green belt) training courses, and coordinated site-based ‘lunch and learn’ sessions for ongoing mentoring of the practitioners.
  2. Leading a global R&D programme consisting of several project work-streams for developing solutions, and implementing new governance and procedures to address the major outcomes of an internal audit.
  3. Project managing the introduction of an operational excellence culture, again using Lean and Six Sigma, for a Contract Research Organisation for pre-clinical studies, in France
  4. Running one-day in-house and off-site courses in Lean and Six Sigma, and in Change Management.

Organisational change case studies

Approaches to Lean and Six Sigma and Change Management in Project Management

It was obviously not practical to go into these approaches in any depth within the time available but my key framework for Lean and Six Sigma projects is the DMAIC framework: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control.

My approach for Change Management is described in my new book: The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook .  It addresses the behavioural aspects of change: personal journeys through change; how to move from being a victim or survivor through to being a navigator of change.  Clients I work with have found it very constructive to be able to articulate their concerns in a ‘safe’ environment as well as explore how they could tackle the change in a more positive way.

My approach to change also addresses procedural aspects, for instance using a checklist of questions (why is the change happening – the “burning platform for change”, what are the goals, who will be affected, when, where and how).  Again, my clients have found this relatively simple approach extremely helpful for articulating and gaining alignment on the key messages for their change strategies.

RiverRhee approaches to LSS and Change

I also referred to a previous APM event that my Associate John Riddell and I had led in Stevenage and Norwich a few years ago [Lean Six Sigma and Project Management].  In this seminar we explored the potential intersections and opportunities between Lean and Six Sigma and Project Management.

Riddell and Goodman on LSS and Project Management

Challenges, successes and questions about Operational Excellence and Lean and Six Sigma in organisational change

The participants in the Coventry seminar spent ten or so minutes in ‘huddles’ exploring their challenges, successes and questions and then shared the main themes with the rest of the room.

The challenges discussed included:

  • Change being scary
  • How to articulate the benefits
  • How to gain engagement with both the new processes and the new behaviours involved
  • How to ensure effective and visible leadership
  • How to pull the organisation together and add value quickly when facilitating significant organisational and team change
  • How to communicate the what and the why effectively
  • The importance of thinking about those not used to the world of change that we as practitioners are so well versed in
  • How to start on the right track right from the start in terms of the communication, people and physical aspects of change

The successes were fewer and included:

  • Being able to communicate the what and why of change
  • Ensuring the challenges are not barriers to change
  • Getting over the low points to achieve confidence in the change

Additional questions raised included:

  • How to ensure that the challenges are not barriers
  • How to ensure that the changes continue beyond the life of the project both in terms of culture and in terms of the way the business runs
  • How to accelerate through the change so that the organisation, the people and the processes are all aligned
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma in a non-repetitive environment
  • How an individual can use Lean and Six Sigma to make change happen both in their job and in the organisation as a whole
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma to services in the public sector
  • Can Lean and Six Sigma be used in IT projects to improve on the benefits delivered
  • How to apply Lean and Six Sigma to specific goals in a global context
  • Hints and tips for success in change projects

Some of these challenges, successes and questions were reflected in the detail of the case studies that I then shared.

Insights from case studies on Operational Excellence and Lean and Six Sigma in organisational change

It would take another blog or in-depth white paper to go into the detail of what I presented, so I am only posting the main slides here.  Do post a comment of anything you heard that you would like to highlight if you were at the event, or get in touch with me if you would like to learn more about what I covered.

Operational Excellence learnings

LSS in organisational change

RiverRhee one day LSS courses

RiverRhee one-day change management courses

Learnings, take-aways and further questions discussed

Sponsorship. A theme that sparked a lot of interest was that of sponsor turnover and the importance of getting the right sponsor with the right level of commitment.  Participants thought that there might be a tipping point: when the project is far enough along, or there are sufficient numbers engaged for the sponsorship to no longer be such a key factor for success.  The importance of having strong senior sponsorship may also vary with the scale of the organisation, or of the change involved.

Certainty and Control.  What makes change scary for people is not knowing what is going to happen, and what is happening not being under their control.  Even if the news is bad, knowing it is better than the guessing and rumours that go on with a lack of information.  Lean and Six Sigma approaches give people the opportunity to influence the change.  Using representatives / champions supports two-way flows of information.  Focus groups can also be a good way to involve people.

Lean and Six Sigma can be applied in non-repetitive, creative and service environments.  There is an excellent book by Michael George, Lean Six Sigma for Service that I’ve also referenced in a previous blog [Lean Six Sigma in R&D and service delivery].  My experience of working with scientists in drug discovery, and with people in finance and human resources is that there are always some processes in every type of work that can benefit from being simplified and streamlined to free up creativity.  For the discovery biologists it was the critical review of their cascade of assays for evaluating new chemical compounds as potential drug candidates.

People who ‘get it’ live it.  One delegate was particularly taken by this phrase: finding such people makes our work as change agents easier.  They are certainly the champions or sponsors to start with, especially in organisations that are “too busy” firefighting (and rewarding firefighting [Getting it right rather than firefighting]) to take the time to apply Lean and Six Sigma to make more time.

Effective organisational change is not easy!  There will always be complications and questions to answer to enable the smooth running of organisational change programmes and projects. However, some of those present, who were early on in managing their change projects, were reassured by the fact that the evening’s discussion confirmed that they were going about things the right way.

A good fit with the new APM Enabling Change Specific Interest Group

This was an excellent occasion for the chairman of the new APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor, to share a few words about the scope, status and next steps for this group, and I will also be sharing these notes from the seminar with my colleagues on the committee.

Notes

The full presentation of Facilitating Operational Excellence in and for business change projects can be viewed on SlideShare.

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

She is currently a committee member for the APM East of England branch, and for the APM Enabling Change Special Interest Group.

Reflections of a team facilitator


By Elisabeth Goodman

HAVING FUN WITH PINTEREST

Summer is a wonderful time to reflect and play with new ideas.  I’ve been having a lovely time exploring Pinterest for new insights to inspire the teams I work with in workshops.

Reflections

Pinterest has only been going since 2010 and although it already has more than 70 million users it is still not widely used by people in my community, so I was surprised at how much I have started to find in the way of pictures, annotated diagrams, mindmaps, and increasingly popular infographics to inspire and illustrate some of the ideas that I use for facilitation.

If you would like to follow me on my journey of exploration, please see my “Inspiring Learning” board.

But is Pinterest’s use of visuals for everyone?  One of the posts I found is a mindmap stating that we all think in pictures.  And yet the NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) representational styles are all about our different ways of representing and communicating information, suggesting that some of us prefer auditory, and others kinaesthetic (touch or feel) or auditory digital (‘self-talk’) representations.

Pinterest does include YouTube videos and audio files such as on this “youtube tips and tricks” board, but will that be enough to appeal to those whose preferred representational style is other than visual?  Pinterest statistics suggest that female users outnumber men by 4 to 1.  Perhaps we could get a demographic study by NLP representational styles?

Facilitating teams to help them achieve high performance

My colleagues and I have been facilitating a lot of team workshops – in fact that is at the heart of RiverRhee Consulting’s work for enhancing team effectiveness.  The goals and approaches that we use have been evolving as our clients ask different things of us, and as we’ve been developing our own expertise in the options available for helping teams to achieve high performance.

Team members benefit from additional insights on their own and others’ personalities.

Whether the team is relatively new, or has been around for a while, there is no doubt that gaining additional insights on people’s strengths and preferred ways of behaving will enhance relationships and build a stronger team.

A 1-hour icebreaker around the NLP representational styles, or a more in-depth 2-hour exercise based on MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can be powerful ways to kick off ½-day, 1 day or longer workshops.  The overall event might be focused on team building, managing change or overall team effectiveness.

People enjoy finding out new things about themselves and those they work with, and take away insights that they continue to reflect upon and add depth to as they apply them not only at work, but also in their everyday life.

The importance of articulating the strategic context: vision, purpose and goals

Certainty and control: these are the two key enabling factors that team members identify when asked what would help them move more positively through their personal journey of change.  Understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ – the strategic context of their work – gives them certainty about what will happen and clarity about what they can control or at least be involved with going forward.

Encouraging senior and line and managers to articulate their strategic goals in terms of key messages grounds them in the practical reality of what they want to achieve.

Sharing these key messages face-to-face with team members also makes the managers more approachable and opens up opportunities for dialogue.

I’m excited by how working with managers on their strategy is becoming an increasing component of my role as a coach and team facilitator, both independently and with the government sponsored GrowthAccelerator initiative for SMEs.

Facilitating discussions for improving team working

Managers often wish that members would take more of an active role in improving how the team works.  The answer is to give them the opportunity to have their say, and to then shape the way forward.  A pre-workshop diagnostic on the different aspects of team working, as described in “Team development, pre-requisites for success and temperature checks” can be very powerful for surfacing what’s going well, and what could be improved, especially with an outside facilitator collating the results anonymously into key themes.

It then takes only a little encouragement in a constructive workshop environment for team members to identify the priorities to focus on, along with suggested next steps and the roles they can play to address them.

Finding ways to make more of your team’s time and resources

Leaders and managers often approach us because they are looking for new ideas to address the nitty-gritty of how the team goes about its day-to-day work.

Their impetus may be a realisation that they need to do things differently in order to take on all the new things that their strategic goals entail.

There’s been a recent flurry of discussion in the APM LinkedIn group about the value or otherwise of Six Sigma and its focus on processes.  We use principles and tools taken from Lean as well as Six Sigma in our work with teams.  The opportunities these give for an open, constructive and fact-based discussion on how the team goes about its business has proved invaluable.  Contrary to what some protagonists claim, there is lots of scope for creativity, not only in the form of incremental improvements, but also for breakthrough innovation.  And yes, these workshops do make use of visual tools too!

More reflections to come

I’ll be continuing my explorations of Pinterest to expand my facilitator’s tool-kit.  I’m also looking forward to becoming qualified in MBTI Step II during the summer, so that I can further enhance team members’ insights into their own and others’ strengths.  Meanwhile, if you missed RiverRhee Consulting’s summer newsletter, and would like more food for thought, why not take a look at “Summer and the 3 Cs” now.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Getting it right rather than ‘firefighting’…unless that’s your job!


By Elisabeth Goodman

Being a ‘farmer’ not a ‘firefighter’

Some years ago when I was first learning about Lean and Six Sigma, a colleague shared an article he’d found comparing farmers and firefighters. People in organisations are often singled out when they have worked all hours to deal with a crisis, and yet the people who have worked more quietly to anticipate those problems and put preventative measures in place (the farmers) can often go un-noticed.

Lean Six Sigma and Project Management techniques advocate just that quiet and steady farming approach (the FMEA technique described in an earlier blog is one way to do this).  Lean Six Sigma also advocates stopping and addressing problems as soon as possible after they do arise so as to prevent the same thing happening again.

What can we learn from the competitors in the Olympics at London 2012?

It’s impossible to write blogs at this time without referring to the Olympics and London 2012, which has kept many of us supporting Team GB glued to our television screens!

The competitors have been training for 4 years or more for the Olympics. ‘Firefighting’ is hardly an option when you’re up against the clock in your event, and you just have to get it right on the day.  How did the medalists and the other competitors who achieved their personal bests manage to do so?

“Hard work and grafting” was the approach described by Mo Farah after his exciting finish in the 5,000 metres: the culmination of his strategic planning and execution of the race itself.

Contrast this with Brazil’s men’s football team’s desperate attempt to equalize Mexico’s 2-point lead in their final match. In the words of the BBC commentator: they “started sloppy and underestimated Mexico”. They managed to score a goal in the 90th minute but missed scoring a second with a simple header because “it was too much” for the player involved.  Their ‘firefighting’ was just too tall an order.

The quality of the Olympic competitors’ coaches and their ability to pass on their knowledge, experience and expertise will have been a big factor in these games. It was intriguing to watch the dynamics between the pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale and her coach as she tried to cope with a persistent breeze. She did seem to be in ‘firefighting’ mode and sadly things did not work out for her on this occasion.

Project management heroes

Coming back to the world of project management, Tony McGoldrick Opinion Piece in July’s issue of Project writes about how we can all be ‘heroes’ by doing the basics well. He also queried the all too frequent emphasis on ‘firefighters’.  For him, getting the basics right involves understanding and delivering what your stakeholders want, and getting the quality, timing and budget right.  Incidentally, the July issue of Project also carried an article by Andrew Hubbard on BT’s goal of ‘flawless delivery’ and getting it ‘right first time’ for the Olympic games!

Being the best that we can be

Amongst all the marvelous reflections and pronouncements about the Olympics, I found the following in this Sunday Observer’s ‘The farewell’ report by Tim Adams: “What these Olympics have been about, though, is not the necessity of being the best, but the pleasures of finding out the best you can be”.

Whether through “hard work and grafting”, anticipating and planning for risks, never underestimating the competition, being clear on how we can deliver value to our shareholders, and being committed to doing so, we can all not only become better farmers and heroes rather than ‘firefighters’ in our everyday lives, but enjoy the process of becoming so.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Failure modes and effect analysis (FMEA) a personal case study culminating in an aborted transatlantic flight


I have just spent a very comfortable night in a Heathrow hotel, after a 5 hour round trip spent in the air somewhere between London and Boston.  Although eating airline food, watching a (not very good) movie, and having a doze mid-air might be one way to spend an afternoon in May, it would not be my first choice!
It was the culmination of a series of misadventures that, viewed positively, provide an interesting case study on ‘Failure Modes and Effect Analysis’ (FMEA), or indeed Risk Management.

Failure Modes Effect Analysis – origins and applications

Put simply, FMEA is a technique that enables a team to identify what might go wrong and develop appropriate mitigation plans based on the probability, severity and ease of detection of the various ‘failures’.  The 3 metrics are assigned numeric values which, when multiplied, produce a Risk Priority Number (RPN).  The mitigation plans are prioritised based on the RPN of each failure.

The technique originated in the US army, and spread from there into various industries, including manufacturers such as Toyota and is now part of the American Society for Quality’s tool-kit.

This blog is written from the perspective of Lean and Six Sigma practitioners who use FMEA to evaluate current processes, and also potential solutions to the issues needing improvement.

Project Management practitioners’ Risk Management approach is also a variant of FMEAs.

My FMEA case study

I was due to catch a 3:00 pm plane from Heathrow to take me to Boston for a business assignment.  The journey involved catching a 10 o’clock train to London from my home village in Cambridgeshire, the underground to Heathrow, and then the plane.  My train and plane tickets were booked and I allowed plenty of time.  What could go wrong?  How did I end up staying in a hotel in London instead?

  1. Getting to the station.  I had to take my daughter into Cambridge, usually a 40 minute round trip which would get me home by a little after 9:00 am, so lots of time to walk to the train station.  However, there were some roadworks in Cambridge so that at 8:50 am we were still a long way from our destination.  Luckily I found an alternative route, dropped her off and was home by 9:30 am and so at the station in good time.
  2. Getting to Heathrow.  The train was on time. I picked up an underground train going to Terminal 3 straightaway. Check –in was from just after 1:00 pm, by about 12:10 we had passed Hounslow.  I could relax.  Not so: a defective train at Hatton meant that we had to go back to Hounslow and catch a bus to the airport.  By 12:40 the number of passengers waiting for the bus, and the scarcity of the bus itself, made this look impossible.  Some fellow passengers and I caught a cab, reaching the Terminal by about 1:15 pm.  No problem.
  3. Getting onto the plane.  The lady at the check-in desk patiently pointed out that I should have filled in an ‘ESTA’, the online equivalent to the ‘green form’ that I’d regularly filled in on previous flights to the US, but my last one had been about 4 years ago.  So, off to the internet lounge to fill one in.  Took me a little while due to my by then slightly agitated state, but got it done, and got checked in and to the boarding gate still in reasonable time.
  4. Flying to Boston.  We didn’t make it!  2 ½ hours into our flight time, the captain announced that a mechanical fault had been detected, and we were going back to London.  Everyone kept calm, and so after 5 hours, we landed safely, queued for our luggage, queued for our passes to local hotels, and there I am now, waiting to go back to the airport for the replacement flight.

THE FMEA ANALYSIS AND POTENTIAL PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

  1.  Getting to the station.  We do the journey into Cambridge on a daily basis, and although it can be slow, especially if it’s raining, we still manage to get home by a little after 9:00 am. However, there had been some roadworks the previous evening and if still there, they could have caused problems, which they did.  So probability high, severity medium but detection high had I thought about it!  I could have prevented the delay by listening to the radio before setting off or simply taking a different route from the start.
  2. Getting to Heathrow.  Train problems are frequent!  So high probability, high severity, medium detection capability.  I checked the train live departure information on-line before setting off and everything was fine. Underground train performance is less predictable, however the information boards and announcements also indicated the Piccadilly line was running normally. I allowed an extra half-hour before the start of check-in, in effect 1 ½ hours before the close.
  3. Getting onto the plane.  Not knowing about the ‘ESTA’ was pure negligence on my part.  Especially as my son had booked a trip to the US quite recently, and had said something about it which I’d not paid attention to.  A lesson in checking requirements before flying anywhere as a matter of course, even if I’ve flown there many times before.  Perhaps if I’d booked my own tickets I would have spotted this…
  4. Flying to Boston.  I am sure there are statistics on the likelihood of something going wrong during a flight, though most of us probably would prefer not to know.  The severity will obviously vary depending on the nature of the problem.  Luckily the in-flight detection system worked.  The cost of this incident to the airline in accommodating us all in hotels and in arranging replacement flights is very high.  From a business point of view, and from their customers’ peace of mind, let us hope that they adopt a rigorous FMEA procedure of their own when preparing for each flight.

Closing thoughts

I hope you agree that this makes for an interesting FMEA case study.  I’ve certainly learnt some lessons from it.  I’ve gone on-line already to see if my ESTA is valied for today’s flight but can’t find it on the system – so will be going to the airline’s customer desk in good time to check on this and possibly re-do it.  Hopefully by this evening I will be in Boston.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.

Why is employee engagement such an important topic?


By Elisabeth Goodman

My blog on employee engagement (Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners) is, of all the blogs that I have written since 2009), the one that has attracted the most attention.  I wrote it in response to an article I read in the business section of the Sunday Observer1 – a very informative study that the Observer had commissioned, rich in case studies and data from FTSE 100 companies.  So why has this blog attracted so much attention?

Employee engagement is the key to organisational and team effectiveness

The Observer article caught my attention because employee engagement, or involvement is intrinsic to business process improvement through such techniques as Lean and Six Sigma.  If people are not engaged, they won’t be committed to the organisation’s goals, won’t be able to communicate those goals as part of building strong customer relations, and won’t be looking for ways to achieve those goals through efficient internal processes.

People also need to be engaged in order to achieve effective business change.  Participants in my Change Management courses sometimes find it a revelation to hear that resistance from those experiencing change is a good thing, something to be welcomed.  Resistance is an indication that people are actually beginning to engage with a change:  that they are considering what the impact will be on them, rather than oblivious to or ignoring it.

And without engagement, people will find it impossible to identify and share the learning and insights, which are essential to healthy and thriving teams and organisations if they are to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.

As I wrote in the December 2011 version of my RiverRhee Newsletter, “The answer comes from within… with the help of others”, it’s only possible to have an effective team or organisation if people are engaged.  Employees have the key!

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Intrapreneurs’

One of the big themes in my life as a corporate employee was ‘empowerment’: encouraging employees to appreciate and act upon the idea that they had ‘the power’ to make decisions and carry them out without necessarily referring to their managers.

As someone who is now self-employed and runs my own business, the idea of acting otherwise makes no sense at all!  I work in teams in an associate relationship, and we collaborate in our decision-making and actions.  I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and have often wondered what it would be like if people took an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to working within organisations.  In a 2010 newsletter (‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?), I suggested that what might help people to do this is to take a more active perspective of their careers – so that they view their current job as one that they have chosen, and are in control of, rather than something that they are being subjected to (to put it a bit bluntly!).

What if there weren’t any managers?!

I really enjoyed reading the case study of Morning Star in the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review.2   Hamel describes a leading food processor, with revenues of over $700 million and 400 full-time employees, which functions entirely around the principles of self-management.

At Morning Star, no-one has a manager, each employee negotiates responsibilities with their peers and is responsible for finding the tools that they need for their work, everyone can spend the company money, there are no job titles or promotions, and compensation is decided between peers. The only ‘boss’ is the overall mission of the company.

This model works at Morning Star because it combines an individuals’ responsibility (and freedom) for managing their work within the context of the overall mission, and collaboration between peers to define and review individual roles and expected performance.

The article goes into a lot more detail, but one of the many interesting aspects of this model is that engagement and empowerment are not issues at all in this kind of scenario.  As a result of this approach, every individual inevitably has to:

  1. Use their initiative
  2. Continuously develop their skills to enhance the quality of their work
  3. Display flexibility to respond to the changing environment of the organisation
  4. Work in a collegiate way to fulfill their role in relation to their peers
  5. Make decisions that directly affect their work

These are wonderful illustrations of process improvement / Lean and Six Sigma (1,2,4,5), Change Management (3), and Knowledge Management (2, 4) in practice.

Some final thoughts about thriving

I love my work, and welcome Monday mornings as the start of another week of new discoveries, opportunities to work with others and practice and develop my skills.  I meet many others running their own business that feel the same.  It sounds like the employees at Morning Star may also feel like this.

Another Harvard Business Review article3 suggests that giving employees a chance to learn and grow will help them and the organisation to thrive.  This time the managers are in charge again, but some of the themes re-occur:

  1. Providing employees with the discretion to make decisions directly affecting their work
  2. Ensuring that people have the information they need to understand how their work relates to the organisation’s mission and strategy
  3. Encouraging good (civil) behaviour – positive relationships
  4. Offering performance feedback

The authors suggest that these 4 mechanisms will foster vitality (or energy in individuals and in those with whom they interact), and learning (or growth from new knowledge and skills).

Conclusion

It seems that, unless people are running their own business or are self-managing themselves in an organisation such as Morning Star, employers need to study and support the mechanisms that will enable employee engagement and so help individuals and the organisation to thrive.  We’re obviously not there yet.

Why are you interested in employee engagement? It would be great to read your comments.

Notes

  1. Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service? Observer, 22 August 2010, pp38-39
  2. Gary Hamel.  First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, December 2011, pp49-60
  3. Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath.  Creating sustainable performance.  Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, pp93-99

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).