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The First of Four Questions For a Frontline Manager …

May 1, 2023
You’re a frontline manager leading a ‘people-based system’ producing a product or service. Daily you ‘walk the floor’ building strength in the system through understanding then responding to answers to 4 questions posed to your frontline leaders.

Two weeks ago we proposed the 4 questions, they were:

With respect to our daily work, how easy is it for Leaders to identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

How is our (potential) problem/risk of ‘don’t know, can’t do’ being considered and addressed?

How is our problem/risk of ‘does know, can do, but isn’t doing’ being addressed?

How is our daily work being planned, reflected on, misses noted with recurring issues being addressed?

We will have a look at the first one in detail to which a Mark Rosenthal statement best captures reality of a weak answer …

“If you don’t have a clear expectation of what ‘good’ looks like then your definition of ‘not good’ is subjective and varies depending on who, what and when things are being looked at.”

There may be nothing more ‘system debilitating’ than this. Decisions will tend to be opinion based with a reliance on an individual or individuals – the subject or technical experts who need to be called upon to advise. (Worse still, those that seem to know the ‘black art’ the best.) Such decisions will cost more because they will consume more time, the time of more highly qualified people. If such people aren’t available, then those who need the answer to keep production or service going may well make decisions based on their own prior experience. Such decisions will have lower repeatability and consistency, they will invoke more risk.

Alternatively …

If you DO HAVE a clear expectation of what ‘good’ (‘normal’) looks like then your definition of ‘not good’ (‘abnormal’) is OBJECTIVE AND THE SAME no matter who, what and when things are being looked at.

Here, ‘normal’ is the predetermined acceptable standard that will deliver the required outcome. (‘Predetermined’ meaning it has been assessed and proven to be reliable.) It is the answer our frontline manager is seeking to the first part of their first question – WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING? A consistently reliable answer enables a consistently reliable answer to the full question of …

With respect to our daily work, how easy is it for Leaders to identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

We need it to be easy for Leaders to identify any difference so, when there is a difference, they can effectively and efficient flow into the next question of ‘why?’

Sounds good? So how do we get to a consistently reliable answer to our first question above? We start by practising ‘work standards development principles’ via a questioning pattern that, when applied, ticks the box of ‘what should be happening’? We then HAVE clear expectations of what ‘good’ (‘normal’) looks like.

By the way, this may well explain why Mr Isao Kato (Ohno’s HR Adviser) said “without Work Standards, you will never get to Standardized Work”.

If you have questions re any aspect of that above, please email Oscar (oscar@vwaust.com).