30-day makeover: Engage your teams with positive change

By Richard Kunst   

Industry Operations Production Manufacturing Leadership management manufacturing

Make the first month of your leadership count with a focus on strategic and tactile analysis and action.

Mapping out a business makeover. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK.

Mapping out a business makeover. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK.

When you join an organization the “noise” made by issues that are preventing people from being successful in their tasks can be overwhelming. It’s the first 30 days on the job when the decision is made to launch a business makeover that lean can have the biggest impact. As a leader you need to enable both strategic and tactile analysis and action.

On the tactile side, quiet things down by investing in white boards and converting them into daily report-out boards. Locate them strategically by department or natural work groups, and don’t forget to include the office.

Appearance is important. The look and feel of your boards need to communicate your commitment to professionalism. Have the management team meet in front of the board daily – at the same time – to review results and discuss concerns. This forces managers into the workplace where the money is being made and it shows employees commitment to improving performance. Typically visiting the boards takes less than one hour per day.

People are competitive so leverage that attribute. Identify targets and measurements to benchmark against. Reach into past production records and plot the output of a particular operation. It’s something the team has proven it can do. Change the targets as you introduce other lean methods for improvement.


Create management rules that are simple but easily understood. Here are three:

  • don’t put stuff in my aisles … and I own all of the aisles;
  • don’t be late for meetings; if you’re late three times you don’t respect the team so we probably don’t need you;
  • and meet target dates (which you get to establish).

They combine to: draw unfiltered information directly from within specific operations and processes; force managers to get onto the shop floor; prioritize and eliminate concerns; create tangible goals; provide opportunities to see people daily and praise them for meeting targets; and monitor aisles to ensure they’re kept clear.

On the strategic side, activate a BBB report – a daily snapshot of bookings, billings and backlog. The backlog is separated into workable and non-workable. Divide billings into the backlog to determine what the typical order turn-around will be. If it’s too high, more capacity is needed. Speed is the new currency in operations. The faster you produce, the more a customer is willing to pay.

Defining KPIs
Keep billings and bookings in balance as long as the level of backlog is acceptable to support order turnaround. If the backlog starts to decline, remove throughput capacity, which allows you to quickly manage headcount requirements.

Use the STEP diagnostic to define critical KPIs for the next five years and desired improvements. Don’t spend time engineering how they’ll be achieved. Look at enablers to deploy and add definitions around them. This becomes a powerful document that:

  • gives credit to existing methodologies that are working well;
  • aligns the team around understanding and definitions of methods and names;
  • shows the rest of the organization you’re on a journey and many new methodologies will be introduced over time;
  • and allows for a simple annual assessment to determine the success of the journey.

Many organizations use the Demming cycle of plan, do, check and act; however, you will reap immediate benefits if you switch it up and go with check, act, plan and do.

Running an enterprise value stream mapping workshop will ease you into this mode of management style and help your team see what you are seeing. Be a participant rather than a facilitator (boss).

First decide what you’d like to map (such as quote to cash, order to ship or support processes).

Next pick a mapping team consisting of members from different parts and levels of the operation. Pick the best people because they’ll likely become your implementation steering committee.

Creating the current state map is the “check” part of the cycle. The mapping team is going to gather data by interviewing members responsible for functions within the process. There are many critical metrics to capture but the vital few include: process time (how long does it take to perform a task?); cycle time (frequency that a task is being performed); and complete and accurate (the time a person can complete the task without additional info).

Take time to reflect on the data. What does it tell you? Is the process working well? Does it meet customer expectations? What can be simplified to improve the process?

Many of the identified actions (“act” phase) will be simple and inexpensive to implement. Note the impact of every completed action on the overall metrics of your enterprise value stream map.

The “plan” part of the cycle requires a challenge to the mapping team, such as how to reduce total process cycle time by 50% without applying IT solutions.

In the final “do” phase, build the project plan with dates and milestones and the future state map.

Ultimately you will have created a roadmap for change and a steering committee that’s engaged and aligned to move the organization forward. You’ll see a difference within 30 days.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter and helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions.

This article appears in the April 2015 issue of PLANT.


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