SKOL Leadership

 

Vikings win

What. A. Game. I live in Minnesota and while I am a Packer fan, for the last minute and a half of Sunday’s playoff game I was sweating purple. This miracle finish was just the latest chapter in a miraculous season. After losing their starting quarterback and starting running back in the opening weeks, somehow the Vikings, led by their third quarterback, Case Keenum, and their defense pulled the team together. Not only have they stayed together, they ended the regular season with the second-best record in the NFC.  As I watched the game I thought, this is an awesome leadership moment in motion. The Vikings showed how teamwork, strategy, and persistence are what it takes to lead and to win.

Teamwork. Good teams work together and come together, especially under times of stress. Great teams are clear on their goal and commit to their specific role in helping the team achieve it. In the Harvard Business School article The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make With Teams, author Tammy Erickson gives the analogy of an emergency room, and writes,  “Before the next ambulance arrives, they have no idea of the nature of the task ahead. Will the patient require surgery, heart resuscitation, medications? The condition of the next patient is unknown; the tasks that will be required of the team, ambiguous. But at no time while the team waits, do they negotiate roles: “Who would like to administer the anesthesia? Who will set out the instruments? Who will make key decisions?” Each role is clear. As a result, when the patient arrives, the team is able to move quickly into action. The Vikings acted surgically – each person focused on exactly what had to happen on that last play so the patient- in this case their playoff dreams- had a chance of surviving. In her research, Erickson found that the most successful leaders ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, everyone understands the project’s importance and ultimate objective, and the team is empowered to determine how to achieve their agreed to “what.” So help your team be great by setting clear goals and roles, and empowering and encouraging them to determine how to win.

Strategy. In football the coach can’t take over the various roles on the team, but off the field ask yourself, am I trying to be the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver or am I the coach? Mike Zimmer’s role was to create a strategy, make sure the team knew how to execute the strategy, and to build their confidence so that they could achieve their goal. Leaders don’t win games- they build teams that win games. In the article Doing Less, Leading More, author Ed Batista writes that many leaders believe if we work longer, harder, and smarter than our team, we’ll inspire by example. But he cautions that if you lead like a “Doer-in-Chief” you can’t pivot your teams from fire fighters to fire marshals. In Sunday’s game, it was evident that Zimmer had instilled a fire marshall mentality in the team – don’t panic when the heat is turned up, focus on execution. We can do the same in our roles with our teams if we do less, lead more, and stay focused on our strategy.

Persistence. Let’s not forget, the Vikings were not only down by 1 with 23 seconds on the clock. They have been down similar roads before. The Vikings have lost their last five NFC Championship games and lost four Super bowls. None of this is lost on the Vikings or their fans, nor is the fact that Minnesota is hosting the Super bowl in just 4 weeks. In the article Never Quit: Strategies on Perseverance From 6 Seasoned Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs share what it takes to be persistent. The willingness to “take the hit.” Lead confidently, think big, and influence your outcome. As entrepreneur Roy McDonald says, “You can influence the outcome with the power of thought and intention. It’s important to focus on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want.” That mental toughness, or Grit as Angela Duckworth would say, is all about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference in a person’s success.

In football and as a leader you want a team with strong teamwork, strategy, and persistence. Even before Diggs’ touchdown, the Vikings had to stretch their bench to get the right people on the field. They had to ensure everyone understood the playbook. They had to make big plays to be up 17-0, they had to have grit after the Saints came out with 17 unanswered points and they really had to dig deep when they were down in the last 23 seconds of the game. Their success- and the success of strong business teams– comes from knowing the plan, and committing to execute the plan. It means having a leader who clears the path and empowers the team. It also means having an unwavering belief that you will achieve your goal. I encourage you to think with SKOL leadership so you can see and celebrate your  team’s success.

Walk A Mile in My Gemba

Gemba-Kaizen-Quotes-Morpheus

Lean principles are no longer a new idea in the workplace. As many workplaces try to “do more with less”, identifying and eliminating waste not only makes sense, it is essential. A key element of the lean methodology is to “walk to the gemba.” The original Japanese term comes from gembutsu, which means “real thing.” It also sometimes refers to the “real place.” This concept stresses making a personal observation of work at the place where the work is happening.  Walking the gemba is a learning activity. We can learn how to do address delivery and quality challenges, how to deal with internal quality problems, how to sustain inventory, and how to make a better use of capital. We can also learn from our teams by asking the people closest to the work what they see as waste and what recommendations they have for improvement. I recently read the article Your Gemba Isn’t the Only Gemba to Walk by Aaron Hunt in the Lean Post. He highlights the value in seeing how others (your customers, your competitors) are working on challenges, and encourages us to walk their gembas for ideas. This got me thinking – what if we applied that to our own organizations?  The article The Future of HR: Run like Tech. Talk like Ops. Think Like Sales. Lead the Change by Jeff Palen offers some great recommendations on ensuring HR runs like a business. I think we can take this one step further by going to the gemba together to help each of these functions learn from each other. If we do, we can connect technology and talent, measure what matters, and be more customer-centric, and by doing so we will drive business value.

Connect technology and talent. Gone are the days of massive annual IT updates, where people were given big binders of instructions and had their systems down for hours while the new release was launched. Instead, technology has moved to micro releases sending regular, small updates in real time. HR could ask IT how to redesign the talent review as a micro release process instead of today’s annual, big binder process. By observing the process steps and the waste removed, HR may gain some insights on how to redesign their own talent process. In exchange, IT could ask HR how to engage stakeholders before a release is launched. An incremental release of a Workday program may launch but won’t stick unless managers understand why the change was made, believe this change is for the greater good, and understand how to execute the change.

Measure what matters. Operations teams are often experts in ROI metrics. Common customer experience metrics used by operations teams include on-time delivery, cycle time, and time to make changeovers. Walking through an operations gemba you may see the line stop and manufacturing employees giving feedback on an inefficiency that slows down delivery and/or cycle time. HR could ask Operations if performance reviews are efficient and if they measure what matters. Are managers delivering feedback in a timely manner? Is the cycle between feedback discussions optimal? Have managers changed over to the feedback approach you launched? In exchange, Operations could ask HR what internal customers are measuring. Is Quality measuring supply chain stability but Operations is switching to low cost suppliers? What are HR incentive plans designed to drive? Is that in synch with what operations is measuring? Making these connections is key to making ROI metrics real.

Be customer-centric. Sales people know that knowing your products is important but knowing your customer is essential. Key elements of the sales process are prospecting, conducting a needs assessment, and presenting benefits to the customer. HR could ask Sales how to better engage their customers.  For example, you may have identified major market segments (employees, managers, executives) but have you fully profiled each of these in order to adjust marketing tactics appropriately? Is your engagement strategy designed to solve your prospect’s problem? The only way to do that is by asking lots of questions. Asking good questions will not only help you determine potential solutions, but also builds confidence, trust, and may help prospects consider ideas they may never have thought of.  In exchange, Sales can ask HR how to better engage their employees. Gemba walks are a great way to do this, and anywhere a sales employee works is a place for a gemba walk. That could be in a home office, a car, or an onsite customer meeting. A gemba meetings looks at flow: what is the process, who are the people, and where is the friction. By asking the employee questions and offering him/her coaching, the sales leader can drive both results and engagement.

Most functions believe they know what their peer functions do. But as the quote says, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. By walking the gemba together we can get to the “real thing” we need to address to improve our performance. We can also learn from those closest to the work how we are generating waste and what recommendations they have for improvement. How could you walk the gemba with your peers at work?