Volume 13 Number 6 - June 9, 2015


Have you told your employees "Don't bring me a problem unless you also bring me a solution"? That has been a common management philosophy, with the intention of creating accountability among employees.

There are two significant downsides to that approach. First, it encourages employees to delay bringing attention to problems. Second, when they do acknowledge a problem, it encourages them to bring the first solution that comes to mind.

Employees can usually develop better solutions to problems than can management, if only because they are closer to the issue. Speed is important, but developing a solution that will actually solve the problem and not merely apply a band aid is more important.

As you make problems a comfortable part of the conversation in your company, a few easy questions can ensure that a valid problem solving culture is developed.

First, ask "what evidence do you have that you've correctly identified the problem?" We all have opinions, but they bring little value. We need facts. Yes, education improves thinking, but its downside is making us think we know more than we do. Insist on facts, not anecdotal stories or opinions.

Next, as you discuss the recommended solution, ask "what other options did you consider?" Many of us jump to conclusion. The odds of jumping to the best and most permanent solution straight away are poor. By forcing consideration of 2-3 options, you are developing thinking and better solutions.

This next question can be asked at every stage, but after the selected countermeasure has been implemented is a great time. Ask "what did we learn?" Most don't think about learning, but about making the bleeding stop. This is your opportunity to force thinking and capture learning.

Leaders do not have all the answers, but they ask the best questions.

The Starting Pistol

Arnold H Glasow:
"The fewer the facts the stronger the opinion.”

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"Intuition has value, and facts add to that, or correct it."

June 17, 2015: Calgary, Alberta: Before you invest in expansion or borrow money for inventory, make sure your supply chain and inventory activities are effective. NovAtel, a 2014 AME Excellence Award winner, is presenting Extended Supply Chain – Making Materials Flow. Talk with key players in their success with the key elements of an extended supply chain – supplier partnerships, pull systems, Plan for Every Part (PFEP), pull signals, material delivery systems, Kanban locations and Kanban sizing.

June 24, 2015: Poway, CA: If you're interested in learning about Lean Accounting and useful operational measures from your financials, Metrics that Matter is a great opportunity. This full-day workshop with Brian Maskell, one of my favorite Lean Accounting gurus, will address all your initial questions, and no doubt, generate many more.

August 5, 2015: Cleveland, OH: Operational excellence is rarely a straight line. The discipline can be challenged, but even more critical, during periods of massive growth. Tour the Vitamix operations center, learning the long and winding road of the Vitamix Lean Journey. The in-depth conversations and Gemba experiences will include supply chain, shipping, tiered metrics, improvement processes, and cells. See how lean operations were able to successfully handle massive and unexpected growth, and how a current ERP systems change is providing a new challenge to the organization's operations.

October 5-7, 2015: Las Vegas, NV: The annual APICS conference will once again present multiple tracks of expert presentations on supply chain, offer plant tours, and continuous networking opportunities. Join 2,000 of your peers in supply chain to learn what the best organizations are doing, and share your successes and struggles.

October 18-23, 2015: Cincinnati, OH: The AME international conference is in Cincinnati (the north side of the river!) this year. Plant tours, workshops, keynotes, special interest sessions, and practitioner presentations supported by numerous networking opportunities provide value alternatives every day. If you haven't attended an AME conference and want to learn about operational excellence, here's your chance. If you've already attended one, you already know the value.

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