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deming, improvement, leadership, lean, management, transformation

What’s Your Countermeasure?

Creating a lean culture requires a good deal of clarity and consistency from leaders.  Since lean is not normal for most people, there will be a continual pull within the organization to return to old ways.  Because of this, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity to transform the way people think and operate.

One valuable coaching opportunity occurs in the recurring meetings that take place within the organization.  The closer the meeting is to the daily operation, the more problems that will be highlighted because it is much easier to see the issues that affect us today than three or six months from now.  Whenever a problem is identified in a meeting like this, it is critical for leaders to ask, “what’s your countermeasure?”

Never Accept a Quick Fix

Remember that a countermeasure is not a quick fix that only addresses the symptoms of a problem.  To be effective, countermeasures must be developed and proven through the PDCA process where an issue’s root cause is determined, ideas are developed and tested, and actions are implemented to, not only address the current situation, but help prevent the problem from occurring again in the future.

In order for the kaizen process to work on a daily basis, people have to learn to move through the PDCA cycle quickly and frequently.  Because of this, expecting problems to be permanently fixed is unrealistic.  What is realistic, though, is to expect processes to improve and people to get better and more proactive at addressing problems.

It’s All About Expectations

The more leaders ask for countermeasures in team meetings, the more people will understand the importance of addressing problems when they happen instead of hoping they go away by themselves.  A clear message will be sent that it is never acceptable to let problems continue without addressing them through the kaizen process.

At first, the question of countermeasures will be met with strange looks and panic.  Over time, however, people will come to meetings prepared to talk about how problems have been addressed and what is being done to keep the problem from affecting the operation in the future.

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About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.

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