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Expectation Management

How Process Management Can Guide Emergence from the COVID-19 Disruption

A process is defined as a series of actions or steps to achieve a desired outcome.  Any business or organization relies on many  processes to produce their products or services.  Manufacturing, in particular, has been honing these sets and subsets of instructions to produce the highest quality products in the most efficient manner at the lowest cost for decades.  The  COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent disruption to most of the norms that manufacturers have relied on to achieve economic growth and financial gains, has been enormous and painful.

Change is tough.  So many questions present themselves in order to keep our people safe and keep our processes intact:

  • What changes are needed?
  • How will this affect our processes?
  • How do we bring our employees along?
  • How do we know people will get it?

All of this is added work, more to manage, and an even bigger headache. How do we respond?

At CITEC, we have been consulting and training on LEAN principles for decades.  Some say it’s old news, butI beg to differ.  LEAN is not just a set of tools that, once implemented, designate a company as “LEAN.”  LEAN is a cultural transformation of operational excellence (OpEx).  When disruption occurs, desired results usually suffer.  Here are some thoughts about recovery and how to establish the new normal of achieving results.

We know that our processes and systems drive results. However, when things are turned upside down or any major change happens, established norms, activities and behaviors have to change. If change does not occur, processes and systems will drive actions that are not in line with the new direction. Leadership must realign how and what is done, with why the change is necessary.  In addition, management has to build in new processes and work systems that inform, engage and enable people to act in the new way, thus ensuring new results.

All behavior from every corner of the organization has to be on the same page. If management has not or is not doing the hard work of aligning expectations with the culture of an organization, tools will be useless. Behavior drives quality outcomes. 

In order for behavioral change to happen, management must seek to establish principles (LEAN has good ones) that manage the expectations of day-to-day work and thinking.  Principles such as: 

  • Respect of ideas
  • Use of data and not emotion
  • Bad processes, not bad people, create bad decisions
  • Standardized work helps quality compliance

To come out of the COVID-19 shadows, use the culture of LEAN to enlist your people, enable them to make a difference, and empower them with the expectations that allow them to achieve goals. Then use the tools.