8 Questions used to track lean progress

Monday, April 2, 2018

My ‘Mini-Assessment’ at the gemba

By Mark Russell, President & COO, Worthington Industries

We have formal assessments we use at Worthington to quantify our Transformation 2.0 progress. In addition to these, I have my own personal “mini-assessment” going on in my mind as I travel around the company and meet and talk with our people. I’m always trying to improve on this approach, but currently it boils down to eight areas of inquiry:                               

1. Is everyone’s health and safety obviously the first priority here?

That, to me, is the foundation of proving a core principle of Worthington’s philosophy: nothing is more important than our people. And if people matter most, then we should be treating and seeing them the way a parent does – their health and safety will always come first.

2. Do people see that what the company is doing is important, and that they are a valuable part of the team? If they think that what they do is important and valuable, then they are going to be more fully engaged in their work. We’re lucky at Worthington that our work makes cars safer and more efficient, provides safe and portable energy for activities at home, work and play; and securely and attractively holds up the walls and ceilings in offices, schools, stores, churches, and so forth. What we do helps almost all people and truly matters in the world.

3. Is there reciprocal respect for and between leaders and teammates? That is, do people respect their leader, and do they think their leader respects them, and is there similar respect between teammates? Mutual respect is a foundation for high level engagement. Without it, you will struggle to truly engage hearts and minds.

4. Does everyone have focused, aligned and stretched metrics? We use a formal process of cascading metrics and objectives to ensure that each person in the company has ways to measure their performance, in a priority order that has been tested for alignment with their superiors, peers and reports. Then we each set stretch goals that will push us to improve what we are responsible for, and to grow our personal capability in the process.

5. Is compensation seen as fair, and tied to metrics? I believe that the best and highest things people accomplish are not ultimately about money. But compensation can become a distraction that can prevent people from being at their best if it is seen as unfair, or if incentives are not effectively tied to the value people create. Here at Worthington we have a truly extraordinary profit sharing system, it’s the best incentive compensation approach I’ve seen.

6. Do people follow standard work exactly, until it can be improved? Standard work is hard to establish and maintain, especially when your end goal is to change and improve it constantly, but it is the foundation of all improvement. When people understand how important standard work is in the improvement of any process, then they will relentlessly follow it until their first opportunity to improve it.

7. When people need help with their standard work or with an improvement idea, how fast and effective are we at providing it? This is a question that tests the leader. If the person says, “just now I needed help with this, and my supervisor was right there; before you know it we had just what we needed to move forward,” then you know leadership support of an individual’s drive for standard work and continuous improvement is effective.

8. How do people talk and feel about the last change they were involved in? Our target is to have everyone actively engaged in an improvement change or kaizen event, all the time. The way people talk about the last one and the next one gives great insight into what they are thinking and feeling. If they are enthusiastically saying, “the last change we tried was this, and just look at this amazing result!” or “we thought this might make a big improvement, but the data showed it didn’t; so now we have another idea, and we’ll be testing that tomorrow!” Then you know they are in the zone and cannot be stopped – they are going to just get better (when the idea proves out) and smarter (when it does not) every day. And they are loving it.

Read more about how Worthington Industries utilizes people-centric leadership to drive lean transformation in the article “Building a performance-driven, people-centered leadership system” from Patricia Panchak in the spring issue of Target magazine. To access that article, visit http://bit.ly/2pMfYS7.