Category Archives: Teams and Motivation

Encouraging Your Team

motivation2As business leaders, project managers, and CI leaders endeavor to manage,  motivate, and engage their teams,  many incorporate some form of a rewards and recognition program.

Among the key objectives of doing so are gaining increased commitment or greater discretionary effort from the team, promoting desired behaviors, or achieving specifically measurable results.

Regardless of objective, during a best practices exchange by a group of CI and business leaders it was agreed that recognizing and rewarding employees has a strong impact on sustainable behavior and results — a perspective that aligns with the findings of numerous studies; or, as summarized by one of the participants, “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.” (Unknown)

The group also  indicated the following criteria would yield the best results when creating and implementing a rewards and recognition strategy:

  • Keep it simple: one of the most cost effective methods of all seemed to be the simple thank you note.
  • Extrinsic rewards programs require clear metrics, auditing, and mindful design to ensure a focus on the rewarded metrics will not lead to deterioration of teamwork or other facets of the organization due to things such as jealousy or resentment.
  • Be specific: it is much more effective to recognize a team or a person for a specific result or accomplishment than for generally “doing a good job.”
  • Be timely: the closer in time the reward or recognition is to the accomplishment being recognized, the more impact it will have
  • Communicate widely: Publicity helps extend the celebration and communicates widely what is valued by the organization. Similarly, the way in which rewards are presented has a significant impact on how recipients value their rewards. Make a splash! And DO involve organizational leaders in the presentation.
  • Be consistent: Be sure that you respond to comparable accomplishments in comparable ways.
  • Be authentic: Sincerity in words of appreciation and praise are essential to an effective system of reward and recognition.
  • Use team rewards to encourage better organization-wide results.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of “Quick Wins” in Continuous Improvement

time_is_money_800_10875As discussed in our three previous posts, when it comes to Continuous Improvement (CI) time is definitely a factor. Thus Quick Wins can be a powerful means of moving teams into action, and are an indispensable tool for any continuously improving organization!

As we complete our series of posts on the subject, here are five ideas that can help your organization get the most out of Quick Wins.

Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good. Often an organization has a problem for which the perfect technology solution is known — it is just not available, either because of the cost or because it is still under development. Ask “what else?” What are the other ways the problem can be solved? It is often difficult to think of a Plan B, when there is a big, gleaming, perfect, obvious solution that is simply not available now. The temptation is to set aside the problem as something you need to live with — but there may be other solutions not quite as good but that at least capture 50%, 60%, 80% of the benefit that the best solution could provide.

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time Many of us choose scopes that are way too big. A large scope greatly slows the work and reduces the likelihood of success, making the project into a lumbering giant. Our instincts may tell us if we have a big scope, we will have a big win — but the opposite is more often true. To get good results quickly, we must take a big problem and break it down into bite-sized chunks.

Rely on the People Close to the Work The people closest to the work often have the best ideas about the problem and possible solutions. They live with the problems in the work every day and are a great source of possible “quick fixes.” A Waste Walk is a great way to explore the work and talk to the people close to the work to identify potential targets for improvements or for a “kaizen blitz.”

Keep it Simple The simpler the better. Cross organizational projects move much more slowly as priorities and approvals must be aligned in order to make progress. The fewer people on the team, the simpler it is to get together and get to work on the problem. Start small and simple, execute, and build the skills and motivation to tackle more and more problems.

Enjoy It! A Quick Win is both satisfying and fun! Make sure you celebrate and spread the news. Take measurements, take pictures, take the team to lunch! Then go back and do it again.

Read the full article…

Continuous Improvement Quick Wins: Risks & Rewards

house_built_of_cards_400_clr_9356As noted in our previous two posts, Quick Wins can be a powerful means of moving teams into action.

But achieving a quick win is more easily said than done and going after Quick Wins is not a sure fire strategy. In fact, there are a few common pitfalls:

  • Analysis shortcuts… In an effort to implement a solution quickly a team might skip over the analysis. This is fine if trying the solution is cheap, and if it is quick and easy to determine if it solved the problem. Otherwise it is better to do more analysis up front to make sure that the solution you want to implement will actually yield improvements.
  • The first idea is the only idea… Sometimes, when you aim for speed, you get a rush to judgment resulting in sub-optimization. If “the first idea is the only idea,” it is quite possible more thoughtful consideration of the alternatives could surface a substantially better solution.
  • Band-aides… An organization may simply resort to a band-aide or patch or work-around rather than a solution that addresses a root cause. These band-aides can accumulate until they represent a pretty big component of waste in themselves.
  • Off-the-shelf ideas… Often a Quick Win is really just an idea someone has been carrying around for a while. When an organization is introduced to Continuous Improvement, a flood of these “off-the-shelf” ideas may be surfaced. Unless an organization really internalizes the search for waste, the study of facts and data, the search for root causes, and the testing then standardization of the solution, they don’t know how to keep improving once these “on the shelf” ideas get used up.

Quick Wins are important elements of an organization’s Continuous Improvement efforts, and speed does not necessarily mean a team must take short cuts in the process improvement methodology.

Thoughtful exploration of alternatives can be bounded by time. Even 30 minutes of brainstorming alternatives or improvements to an idea can make a difference; and allowing 24 hours for feedback and improvements on the idea can identify ways to make it even better — with minimal impact on speed.

A “Quick” Shot of Adrenalin for Continuous Improvement!

time_is_money_800_10875The key elements of a Quick Win are simple: it must be quick and it must be successful; it must be completed in 4 to 6 weeks at most, but many are implemented much faster.

And as noted in our previous post, Quick Wins are a powerful means of moving teams into action.  Consider that education, promptly followed by action, yields motivation… and success inspires success!

Theoretical opportunities and methodologies are meaningless until a person starts to see the possibilities through real-life hands-on process improvement.  So a Quick Win is a shot of adrenalin for a Continuous Improvement culture.

A few more reasons why, in the realm of Continuous Improvement,  Quick Wins matter:

  • The people involved get a great deal of satisfaction when their effort pays off, and pays off quickly.  They are more inclined to look for another such improvement.
  • The people who see or hear about the Quick Win are often inspired to begin looking for their own opportunities for improvement… so the motivational value of a Quick Win makes the return on the effort even higher.
  • A Quick Win starts paying off sooner and this can have a significant impact on the total return from the improvement.

In short — Quick Wins are an indispensable tool for any continuously improving organization!

Driving CI With Quick Wins

clockWhen it comes to Continuous Improvement (CI), time is definitely a factor.

When a project moves too slowly without tangible, measurable benefits, enthusiasm wanes and malaise creeps in.  And the longer something takes, the more expensive it becomes!

So in the realm of CI, action — and achieving some “quick wins”— is what it’s all about. It matters not a bit what training you provide, slogans you use, or posters you post if you do not promptly move into action to get things done, measured, and stabilized so the solution sticks.

Quick Wins are a powerful means of moving teams into action.  But achieving a quick win is more easily said than done.

In our next few posts we’ll discuss Quick Wins, why they matter, what can go wrong, and how to increase the chances of success.

Renew EQ to Drive a Culture of Continuous Improvement

EQandCI2Continuing our theme of how Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Continuous Improvement are a powerful combination, we share some results from work done by Richard E. Boyatzis, pioneering researcher into leadership and emotional intelligence.

Among his findings is the fact that EQ is applied extensively by leaders who want to effect positive change and to institute a culture of Continuous Improvement.

In other words, implementing an improvement or two can be accomplished with an engineer; but creating a culture of continuous improvement requires a resonant leader who can:

  • Communicate a vision
  • Inspire action
  • Drive out fear
  • Motivate truth-telling
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Create a safe place for people to exercise a passion for high quality, highly efficient work

Because of their ability to align and motivate people around a common vision and plan, emotionally intelligent leaders are very valuable in organizations desiring to create continuous steady improvement.

In his class at Case Western Reserve University Boyatzis teaches that it is not sufficient to simply have Emotional Intelligence. Even leaders who are naturally gifted with a great deal of EQ can deplete their reserves through the stress of their roles and responsibilities.

Boyatzis maintains that leaders must renew themselves, and that research indicates four methods that can restore a leader’s emotional strength and ability to resonate with an organization:

  • Compassion – often by becoming involved in empathetic and supportive activities that are unconnected with work responsibilities
  • Mindfulness – some form of conscious mediation on a daily basis
  • Playfulness – regular doses of fun, laughter and enjoyable activities
  • Hope – finding time each day for optimistic thought, encouragement, and positive communication that promotes a belief on the part of the leader as well as the team that positive change can, in fact, be achieved



EQandCI400As you may well be aware, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the phrase used to describe a person’s ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways. It has been identified as a means to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

There are several competencies that are sometimes grouped into four major components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

Research shows that organizations led by people with high emotional intelligence tend to have climates in which information sharing, trust, healthy risk-taking, and learning flourish.

Conversely, organizations led by people with low levels of EQ create climates rife with fear and anxiety. While fearful employees may produce well in the short term, over the long run quality and productivity suffer.

The same principles hold true for Continuous Improvement (CI) teams. The level of EQ on a process improvement team affects how much information sharing, how much inquiry, and even how creatively the team will exercise.

A low level of EQ on an improvement team causes operational problems. Silo mentality and lack of inquiry and listening create sub-optimal processes and impaired results.

On the other hand, a team that is emotionally in step has more drive, more commitment, and tends to achieve greater things. High EQ leads to better listening, and thus to better learning, to new insights and better solutions as well.

We will look more closely at the concept of emotional intelligence over the next few posts, and will share ways to increase one’s EQ level and also how to leverage higher levels of EQ in our continuous improvement efforts.

Assess the Quality of Your Meetings

meetings3As noted in our previous post, many of us don’t recognize the enormous impact (both positive and negative) meetings have on our organizations and careers!

Yet many professionals have had no real training in devising and managing an effective meeting.  This is truly regrettable as organizations of all types can experience significant gains by running effective team or project meetings.

Conversely, if these meetings are poorly executed, it’s only a matter of time before the workforce considers them to be non-productive, unnecessary or even unpleasant; in which case, certain opportunities will be forever lost!

So, the first step is to assess the quality of your organization’s meetings… which include “live” meetings, teleconferences and virtual sessions. Here are five key areas to consider:

  1. Preparation: Do you have a strategic plan, identified purpose, goals and objectives for your organization’s meetings? Does someone (Manager, Team or Project Leader) take the responsibility seriously and allocate the necessary time for planning each meeting? Is an agenda created? If so, is it shared in advance?
  2. Scheduling: Are meetings held on a regular basis… either weekly or bi-weekly? Are meetings held on the same day and at the same time each week or every two weeks? Are your meetings conducted with sufficient frequency? Is attendance considered mandatory? Do the meetings start and end on time? Do participants consistently arrive on time?
  3. Value: Are meetings run out of “habit” versus value-added need? The best meetings must be value-added for both leaders and the team, so protocols for exchanging relevant information must be incorporated in each agenda; each meeting should include an educational component that is based on the organization’s current situation, and that educates both leaders (through feedback) and the team on issues that are pertinent to each.
  4. Measurement: Do you measure the effectiveness of each meeting? Are action items from one meeting a component of the next meeting’s agenda? If so, is there consistent follow-through in between meetings? Are team members held accountable? Does management hold themselves accountable?
  5. Continuous Improvement: How can you make your organization’s meetings better? How can you leverage the time spent in preparation and execution to enhance your competitive edge?

If you’re wondering “what’s in it for you” or how you might maximize your ROI as a leader or member of management, here are a few thoughts:

  1. Assessment: Team meetings are key opportunities to assess the team all at once, measure the group’s attitude and identify the best opportunities for leveraging their collective effort.
  2. Team building: We can’t build team spirit if we don’t regularly “assemble” the team.
  3. Team engagement, motivation and recognition: Many people will go the extra mile for the team; but we can’t leverage team motivation if we only interact with the people on an individual basis. Recognizing significant individual achievement in a public forum is a prudent component of motivation and management as well workforce engagement.
  4. Thought leadership: Driving a high-performance culture begins with helping people focus on the right things, and publicly identifying / reaffirming core activities and values.
  5. Education: As stated above, every meeting should have an educational component that is based on the status of your organization or project, and relevant issues of the day; and let’s not forget that “the wisdom is often in the room.” Sharing value-added information and best practices in a public forum not only provides highly-credible education, but also allows successful team members an opportunity to shine in front of their peers.

Communication & A Culture of Continuous Improvement

rally_the_troops_800_10095Our previous post shared fundamental steps for building a high performing culture – a culture of continuous improvement; and a key element of doing so involves engaging the workforce.

There are 4 underlying principles to build engagement:

  1. Understand the various factors that motivate people
  2. Have excellent 2-way communication
  3. Build a great workplace
  4. Work at engagement every day

These steps may seem simple, but they are not necessarily easy.  Consider that in order to understand people and develop effective two-way communication leaders must create a systematic way of interacting with team members so they can cascade information to (and from) their reports and throughout the organization.

At the core of this communication mission is the ability to plan, run and follow-through on effective meetings, which we’ll discuss in upcoming posts.


Too Busy to Improve?

“How do you motivate people who say they are too busy to improve?”

culture5This question was posed during a recent discussion and the most common responses identified “culture.”

We agree… in fact, among the highest achieving organizations we’ve encountered are those that have successfully planned and developed high performance cultures.

Some of the key steps in helping clients develop a high performing/high achieving culture include:

  • Identifying a clear link between individual/team/department performance and organizational goals.
  • Helping people develop a clear sense of purpose.
  • Help managers develop and refine their skills and ability to coach for improved performance.
  • Helping management devote the necessary time and attention to the performance management culture.

While these steps might appear simple, they are not easy to implement; and nearly impossible to achieve without significant contributions of time and energy from senior leaders.

The image above illustrates a typical framework that we use for performance management. It defines in quantitative terms, what needs to be accomplished.

Read more…