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APRIL 2013 Issue #009



Poor supervisors tell people what they want done and leave it at that. Middling supervisors also tell people when the task is required.

Great supervisors start the conversation about time by asking the workers how long they think the task will take to complete.

Why this works?

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I recently saw a delightful parody of a 5S project gone wrong (if you missed my recent posts about it, you can see it here). Many of you will recognize your own experience in this little clip. If you haven't run into 5S, it is a way to think about organizing a workplace at the cell or workstation level. It got me to thinking that it might be useful to do a few posts about some of the concepts that you may run into in the workplace – ideas that your boss or a consultant may announce with great fanfare.

Many of these ideas have great potential, but are often poorly executed. There are many reasons for that – more than we have time to go into here.

But if you can be aware of them when they show up, and know how they fit into the skills and responsibilities of a supervisor, you may be able to have them help you rather than just get in the way.


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If you've ever had someone mess up because they didn't follow the instructions, you know how expensive it can be. Often, the root problem is not the person, it is the job instructions themselves. If they're not perfectly clear, your staff will guess before they ask questions, and that's when the mistakes happen. In this free 7-part e-course you'll learn the details of how to write amazing job instructions that will help your people get things right every time. Please join me by clicking on the link below.

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"I'm too busy!"

One of the ideas that we keep emphasizing in our programs is that when you assign work, you must have a conversation about time. There are two parts to the conversation. One is the question, "how long do you think this will take?" The second is a discussion about priorities: what is the impact on other work if this work is inserted.

"Claire" (not her real name) recently told me about just such a conversation. She asked her production worker how long a task would take, and was told 4 hours for 100 units of the product. Claire was expecting 1 ½ hours. So she challenged the person.

"Do you really think it will take over 2 ½ minutes to do each unit?" she asked? And when the operator was asked, she replied, "No way! I should be able to do it in a ..."

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"One of the oddest things in our culture is that we seem to be tolerant of all sorts of behaviour, yet are deeply unforgiving."

This was written by Rowan Williams, the recently retired Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England. He was writing about forgiveness. And while you may not have the same perspective on forgiveness as Williams, his comment made me think about how we as supervisors function.

When we, as supervisors overlook poor performance, we are, as Williams says, "tolerant of all sorts of behaviour." We accept it and don't deal with it. We work around it, and make excuses for ...

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Lean manufacturing is a term that has been given to a set of tools and practices that focus on reducing waste in any process. The best known organization used as an example is Toyota, but interestingly, they don't think of it as "lean manufacturing." To them it is just the Toyota Production System. And for them, they are very clear that it is a set of solutions that works for them, but that it cannot simply be copied. Each company needs to make it their own.

The Toyota Production System is more than a set of tools. It is a mindset. The mindset is that they want to eliminate anything that the customer doesn't want to pay for. If an activity doesn't obviously add value for the customer, then they'd like to ...

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Blog Posts
March 24, 2013

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In just those five comments I learned so much about his supervisor ...

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Take a Step Towards Your Team

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