“Will you please look up” (the pitfalls of looking as though you’ve dropped some money) (#35)

…about coaching, gemba, treasure hunts

I’m a lucky man in more ways than I have fingers and toes to count. However, curious as to why I'm a little jaded mentally I counted up the number of people being formally one-to-one coached by me at the moment.

The number came to 17, spread across 3 clients, levelled (ish) throughout the month in amongst other activities. Coaching is by far the most interesting aspect of this job, but it can be mentally tiring because (a) it's the polar opposite of generic training and (b) I batch them to do 4 or 5 back to back to be cost effective for my clients.

Each session on the shopfloor requires enough prior thought to bear the goal in mind (for that individual with their specific gaps) whilst leaving enough flexibility to capitalise on the live opportunities we come across on the day. Before getting to the point, some broad generalisations…

  • Sessions with Directors are often about engagement, focus & learning how not to constantly showcase that they’re the smartest person in the room. Speaking ‘truth to power’ is the useful part here and establishing sufficient trust and rapport for them to admit to incomplete knowledge.

  • Managers often need coaxing to get them to surrender to the fact that habitual confirmation & kaizen in their team is an elusive dream until THEY THEMSELVES start doing it regularly; then the people working for them will give it some credence. This means surrendering to the routines of farmers-not-heroes for short periods of time daily, without exception, as a habit. Funny how we expect everybody else to perform the routines but exempt ourselves as being above the fray. There is only the fray, nothing else; and there, barely visible, ducking in and out of the fray avoiding blows is “the value” within your business.

  • Team Leaders I find to be victims of a failed magic trick. Instead of using the “abracadabra” incantation, our magicians (operations leaders) labour under the misapprehension that uttering the words “you’re a Team Leader” is enough to imbue the lucky recipient with all of the gifts necessary for the job. Thus, many Team Leaders have never been told how stuff should be done. I come along, let a little common sense daylight in amongst the magic and they grasp it quickly. More often than not they intuitively know the right things to do but need a little confirmation for confidence.

These are, of course, just sample generalisations but one common thing I find myself saying to coaching all-comers at the moment is “Have you dropped some money?”  Allow me to explain.

Before starting gemba coaching with someone new I have to calibrate their attitude to members, behaviour around members and the shopfloor, eye sharpness, and mental processing patterns (they may see something important but react badly). So I’ll often start by taking them to a process they know, ask them to watch it for 3-4 minutes before asking “What do you see?”

What they actually see is of secondary importance, it’s about how they see & in what sequence they take in the feast of information around them. What happens next is that their eyes swivel downwards scouring the floor area & workbenches of the cell in front of them looking for 5s issues in a misguided treasure hunt. What I want to happen is what I’ll describe in a future blog. Suffice it to say, it starts with the words “Will you please look up”

Have a good weekend as the British & Irish Lions break All Black hearts.


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