The Coronavirus crisis has disrupted the lives of nearly everyone in the world at this point. It has caused us to change how we interact and how we go about living our daily lives. It also has changed how we work. Community lockdowns and shelter in place directives have resulted in a sudden shift to virtual work-from-home environments for many businesses and organizations. While work-from-home is not a new concept, the rapid transition to fully virtual companies is unsettling with the potential to create inefficiencies and undesirable outcomes if not managed carefully.
So how do we deal with this? Lean principles that have been effectively applied to improve how work is done in all types of businesses can also be applied to these sudden changes we’re all facing. Here are just a few ways that Lean Thinking can help.
Checking in with work teams is even more important when working remotely. It’s more important than ever to pull everyone together to make sure everyone understands plans and expectations and to communicate any changes in the plan. This is a best practice for both departmental work teams and cross-functional process teams. Click here for more tips about conducting virtual huddles.
Daily Continuous Improvement
New problems will arise, and they need to be dealt with quickly to facilitate smooth workflow and delivery of value to customers. Seek prevention-oriented solutions by identifying the root cause of problems. Don’t allow quick fixes and workarounds to become the new standard for virtual work. Use facts and data to determine which work practices are most effective.
New methods will be required to get the work done in a virtual work world. Collaborate virtually to identify and deploy proven best practices. Engage everyone to develop consistent best practices.
Make problems that arise in a virtual work environment highly visible. Treat them as opportunities to make things better in a virtual work world. Engage all people to make systematic problem-solving part of their daily work. Don’t blame people – instead, seek their help to identify root causes and effective remedies.
Value Stream Mapping
Define new process flows with visual flow diagrams. Keep them simple, but enlightening. Use the maps to help identify where potential delays, bottlenecks, and mistakes may occur.
Use visual indicators wherever possible to help people understand how work should be done, the status of workflows, and output performance. Share these online for real-time easy access for those with a need to know.
Respect for People
Leaders and co-workers must recognize that everyone is learning to adjust and dealing with a new way of getting work done to deliver customer value. Be tolerant of stress, anxiety, and grief that will occur naturally. Seek transparency in communications. Listen and confirm understanding. Be humble and don’t pretend to know all the answers. Help empower others to address the new challenges and collaborate to improve.
About Er Ralston
Er Ralston is an accomplished coach, trainer, and advisor, specializing in business process excellence, strategic and tactical business planning, Lean management systems, Six Sigma improvement methodology, and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria for performance excellence. Er brings more than 30 years of experience in numerous operations and quality leadership interventions. He is a Lean expert and certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt.