The Mental Well-Being of Colleagues and Continuous Improvement Culture -- Are They Intertwined and Mutually Reinforcing?

At the beginning of June, Chris Butterworth published a new book entitled Why Care? How Thriving Individuals Create Thriving Cultures of Continuous Improvement Within Organizations, which contends that to create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement there must be an organization-wide focus on mental well-being at the individual level. A culture of continuous improvement nurtured in the right way, however, will indeed support mental well-being and help create a thriving organization.

When I recently spoke with Chris about his book, I asked him: "How are mental well-being and a culture of continuous improvement intertwined and mutually reinforcing with an organization?" Here is his complete answer:

Today’s ever-increasing VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment means that organizations must be more adaptable and flexible than ever.  Organizational performance depends on the collective psychological capacity (emotional and cognitive energy) of everyone in the organization.  Without high levels of mental, or psychological, well-being individuals suffer, organizational performance is stifled and continuous improvement (CI) is throttled.

Creating high levels of mental, or psychological, well-being means starting with an inside-out perspective focused on mental well-being at an individual level.  Like the nucleus of an atom, high levels of individual psychological well-being unleash psychological capacity. This precious resource is critical for people to be able to do their work effectively and continuously improve their work. It provides the organization with the energy and agility to prosper. 

However, individual psychological well-being is not enough on its own.  High levels of psychological well-being without a robust CI system limit people’s potential to fully utilize their psychological capacity. Both systems are essential to a thriving organization. Psychological well-being and CI working together create a thriving high-performance environment, where individuals feel they matter, are cared for, and can grow and develop.  Together they create environments where teams can solve problems, innovate, adapt, and grow generating sustainable organizational success. In our book Why Care? we explore how to do this at different levels – individual, team, leader, and organizational and the foundations needed, such as diversity, equality, inclusion, belonging, and an understanding of the brain.

The CI system must be co-designed to leverage the available psychological capacity of everyone in the organization.  In Why Care? we illustrate how the CI system and tools can be reorientated to engender and maximize psychological well-being and how continuously improving work also increases levels of psychological well-being.  Not only are the two intertwined but they are mutually reinforcing.  We believe this is not just a nice thing to do. It is critical to the future of every organization and its people.

Do you agree with Chris' statements? Does your continuous improvement initiative include the psychological capacity of colleagues? 


Toxic Workplace Cultures -- Can Organizations Recover from Them?

Just this past April, Seth Allcorn published a new book entitled Managing Toxic Leaders and Dysfunctional Organizational Dynamics: The Psychosocial Nature of the Workplace, which explores work-life dynamics and the effects toxicities and dysfunctions have on members of organizations.

When I spoke with Seth this past week, I asked him: “How can organizations deal with toxic cultures and recover from them?” Here is his complete response: 

Leaders and organization members can become contributors to creating a toxic workplace that includes a wide range of dysfunctions and oppressive organizational dynamics that limit creativity and productivity. This is regrettably common and limits what the organization can achieve. Healing a toxic organizational culture begins by acknowledging its presence. This opens it up for inspection, “What is it like to work here?” However, like many if not most organizational problems, calling an organizational toxic culture into question can threaten leaders who may be a part of the problem. Organization members may also identify with these leaders and contribute their own harmful behavior. This process of “selecting-in” to these organizational dynamics by organization members creates a like-minded group who defend the toxicity. As a result, when striving to create positive change, a sense of threat may arise for advocating for change. Even so, taking up this challenge is to be applauded. However, the threats associated with creating change may lead to engaging a “disposable” psychosocially informed organizational consultant. 

The consultant should begin by first listening to organization members and then locate a meaningful and as near as possible non-threatening plan for change to avoid resistance to change. If the sense of threat is not too great, a group of motivated organization members may step forward to support the consultant and facilitate the change process. The consultant should also, after listening to a cross-section of organization members, engage the leadership group in a discussion of the findings and facilitate their development of a non-defensive plan to respond to the findings. The plan should be designed to safely engage everyone in a process of no-fault change. The direction of the change process should be toward creating a more open, inclusive, collaborative, trusting, and respectful culture.

What do you think of Seth Allcorn's perspective? Have you worked in organizations in which the culture would be considered toxic? Did the organization take steps to improve it? Was it successful?


Leadership Principles -- How Do They Build Motivation and Commitment?

Back in March, David Sharpley published a new book entitled Leadership Principles and Purpose: Developing Leadership Effectiveness and Future-Focused Capability, which provides a fresh perspective on leadership and the steps required to achieve high performance. It explores how we create purpose by moving from vision and values through principles to action. When I spoke with David this month, I asked him directly: "How do principles shape competencies and build motivation and commitment?" Here is his complete answer: 

We hear executives talk about "vision" and "values," but there’s less mention of the principles that define how activities are completed. These provide points of reference and set boundaries. They also underpin competencies linked to high performance. Higher-order principles influence people’s expectations of what is fair and reasonable. They help clarify how leaders create enabling conditions that enhance motivation, commitment, and shared purpose.  

Self Determination Theory (SDT) offers insight into why principles matter. The SDT Model reveals that everyone has an innate need for positive, trust-based Relationships. We also seek to develop the Competence that fuels meaningful activity and builds motivation. Autonomy adds to self-direction, responsibility, and purpose. Underlying needs are also reflected in people’s desire for social cohesion and stability. Significant principles therefore relate to Justice, Equality, Compassion, and Accountability. Principles are closely aligned with ethical values but expressed in the form of rules, protocols, and norms.  

Clearly stated principles ensure consistency of approach, support cascaded leadership, and define the work culture. Effective leaders build on principles that will develop capability and create shared purpose. They appreciate that discretionary effort is influenced by a range of factors, which include opportunities for self-directed, meaningful activity. Significant, Superordinate Principles strengthen trust-based relationships and motivation. They help build commitment, which is the emotional connection and identification people feel towards the organization. It is enhanced when people feel valued and there are opportunities for personal development (e.g. "my manager supports my development"). Commitment helps maintain motivation when we are faced with the inevitable setbacks that undermine progress.  

Over time, authentic leaders internalize important principles, including an emphasis on transparency, equality, and accountability. Clear principles increase personal conviction, but also our willingness to develop capability in others. Acting on the basis of higher-order principles conveys integrity and establishes a clear rationale for effective action, which adds to the leader's credibility. Principles have a significant role in building and maintaining people's motivation and commitment. They help leaders create shared purpose, develop effective systems, and achieve more meaningful connections with others.

What do you think of David's perspective? What is the state of leadership in your organization? Do the principles stated and practiced build motivation and commitment?


Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence -- What is Their Role in Coaching and Training?

In February, Matteo Zaralli published a new book -- entitled Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence: Risks and Opportunities for Your Business -- which focuses on how virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping the way we learn and coach. 

When I spoke with Matteo this past week, I asked him: “What are some of the ways virtual reality and artficial intelligence are being incorporated into coaching and training?” Here is his complete answer:

Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are revolutionary technologies with the potential to radically transform the landscape of learning and coaching, significantly accelerating, enriching, and enhancing the process.

Exploring the domain of artificial intelligence, we see how the accessibility to information and the speed of its acquisition highlight the transformative power of AI. However, its application extends far beyond this. Recently, Open AI introduced a groundbreaking development with the launch of a vocal feature for ChatGPT, offering users the opportunity to interact with an advanced virtual assistant, further expanding the horizons of digital learning.

In parallel, virtual reality is opening new frontiers in education and coaching, thanks to the introduction of cutting-edge devices from Oculus and Apple. Studies conducted on these platforms demonstrate that learning can be up to four times faster, with improved performance and optimal concentration, thanks to an immersive environment that minimizes distractions.

By combining the strengths of VR and AI, we can envision innovative scenarios such as public speaking, healthcare procedures (such as surgical room preparation and intricate surgeries), work safety certifications alongside standards compliance, construction projects, engineering challenges, and energy and plant maintenance represent areas where advanced tools significantly enhance learning and execution of specialized skills; where users can practice in a safe, interactive, and emotionally engaging context. This environment is enriched by the presence of a virtual assistant, with whom users can discuss specific topics, offering an unprecedented learning experience. For coaches and instructors, often constrained by limited time, this synergy provides a valuable simulation tool, allowing them to efficiently support every individual and ensure a high level of continuous learning.

The benefit of having a tool to train and exercise our skills is needed today more than ever. Technology runs, companies run, and more and more skills and abilities developed quickly are demanded at work, but like everyone, the day consists of 24 hours. So it required a tool that allows us to learn faster, with an impact on our recollection and memory, and above all that untied from space and time.

What do you think of Matteo's perspective? Has VR and AI been incorporated into your organization's learning and coaching processes? Have the results been successful? 


The Future of Manufacturing -- What are the New Core Technologies?

This month, Philip J. Gisi published his third book with Productivity Press entitled The Dark Factory and the Future of Manufacturing: A Guide to Operational Efficiency and Competitiveness. His new book provides a view into the future and direction on how to navigate the journey to a more automated, smarter, and continuously learning factory. This book consolidates the major elements of the fourth industrial revolution and describes them in clear terms within the context of integrated manufacturing. It creates awareness and a fundamental understanding of the advanced technologies that are coming together to facilitate highly automated, smarter, agile, and sustainable operations.

When I spoke with Phil this past week, I asked him: "What are some of the newer core technologies in manufacturing and how are they being used?” Here is his complete answer:

Manufacturing is undergoing a significant transformation with the adoption of several newer core technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR), and Digital Twins. IIoT involves connecting machinery, sensors, and other devices to collect and exchange data. This data can be used for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and improving overall efficiency.  AI is being used in manufacturing for process optimization, quality control, predictive maintenance, and even autonomous decision-making. Machine learning algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and make predictions to avoid unplanned equipment downtime.  

AR and VR technologies are being used in manufacturing for training, design visualization, and maintenance. These technologies can help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance collaboration while the application of a digital twin, serving as a virtual model of a physical manufacturing asset, process, or system, can enable real-time monitoring, simulation, and optimization, leading to improved performance and reduced downtime. As I stated in my latest book, “Manufacturers must be aware of, understand, and embrace these changes to stay competitive and meet the evolving demands of customers in the modern era. This book enhances the awareness and understanding of these core technologies by explaining what they are and how they are being used in manufacturing."  Clearly, these technologies are reshaping the future of manufacturing and will continue to do so as they evolve within the scope of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 for short.

What do you think of Philip's perspective? Are these core technologies now part of your business? If so, have they delivered the expected results?


Lean Six Sigma -- Its Evolving Best Practices and Issues

This past December, Terra Vanzant Stern published the third edition of Lean Six Sigma: International Standards and Global Guidelines. Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is designed to accommodate global challenges and constraints by capitalizing on Six Sigma and Lean Thinking, and her book assumes that the overall goal of operational excellence is to ensure that organizational tasks and activities are being performed to the best of their process capabilities. It defines continuous improvement as activities that support and empower environments to make flexible decisions that lead to ongoing improvement and effectiveness. It covers new global LSS standards, international implementation of process improvement programs,  new international LSS applications, and international LSS areas of competency.

When I spoke with Terra this month, I asked her: "What important updates are covered in this third edition of your book?” Here is her complete answer:

The updates included in this edition are crucial because I have taken Lean Six Sigma to new heights, incorporating cutting-edge updates and advancements that will leave you captivated. With a focus on enhancing change management and data governance programs, this edition is a game-changer for organizations seeking to optimize their processes and drive sustainable growth.

What sets this edition apart is its ability to seamlessly integrate process improvement methodologies with change management and data governance. We understand that these three pillars are essential for organizations to thrive in the current dynamic business landscape. By leveraging Lean Six Sigma principles, you can streamline your processes, drive efficiency, and achieve remarkable results.

Imagine a world where every process is optimized, every change is seamlessly implemented, and every data point is governed with precision. This vision becomes a reality with the help of the latest edition of this book. I have meticulously crafted a framework that empowers organizations to achieve operational excellence while ensuring compliance and data integrity.

But what truly makes this edition intriguing is the transformative power it holds. By embracing Lean Six Sigma, organizations can unlock their full potential and drive a culture of continuous improvement. From reducing waste and defects to enhancing customer satisfaction, the possibilities are endless.

With this third edition of the book, you surely discover how Lean Six Sigma can revolutionize your organization's process improvement, change management, and data governance programs. Embrace the power of Lean Six Sigma and unlock a world of endless possibilities.

The new edition of this book assists you as you embark on a journey toward operational excellence, enhanced change management, and impeccable data governance. It's time to revolutionize the way you do business.

What are your experiences with Lean Six Sigma initiatives? What issues and aspects do you feel should be incorporated as organizations change and evolve?


"Green" Workspaces = Healthier Workspaces!

Just this month, Steve Famulari published an important new book entitled Ways of Greening: Using Plants and Gardens for Healthy Work and Living Surroundings. This book focuses on rethinking working and living spaces and understanding how "greening" can make them healthier and their occupants happier. It teaches how to see unique ideas for spaces and some of the materials needed to create the designs. In addition, it gives readers a way to not only understand greening but to understand how to see greening applied to their place. 

When I spoke with Stevie this month, I asked her: "What are some of the ways in which ‘greening’ makes working spaces healthier?" Here is her complete answer:

Work spaces as well as home spaces are where people spend much of their time. These are spaces where people need healthy surroundings to be inspired, be safe, be creative, grow, and move forward toward their dreams and goals. Greening these spaces can help people in this. 

Having a space with at least 10% of the surface space of the room with living thriving plants improves air quality allowing people to be healthier with each breath. There are also studies that have found that being in green spaces improves people’s memory while studying, improves productivity, reduces the amount of time for people to heal, and reduces stress.

Be creative in designing your workspace and allow it to change over time as the interior garden grows and responds to the light and objects in the space. You can design your own green wall to fit your space which includes plants with colors, shapes, and scents that you enjoy. Using scented plants such as lavender or mint can enhance your space. Some scents such as lavender are helpful for relaxing, while others such as mint are helpful for reducing headaches. Scents have a close correlation with memory. A scent can help people recall a memory from their recent past or from a distant past. Using plants with scents while studying or preparing for presentations, and then having the same scent at the presentation can help people recall what they studied or researched for presentations.

By creating designs that are unique to the space, using green walls, and having plants that have bloomed randomly throughout the year, the site you create with your unique living garden changes and grows with colors and forms daily. Seeing change and growth happen naturally on a daily basis in green office surroundings encourages people to accept change in their lives with more ease and grace.

What do you think of Stevie Famulari's perspective on how "greening" affects workspaces and their occupants? Has your company incorporated these types of improvements in their office locations? How have employees reacted?


The Evolution of Product Development -- Has Lean Adjusted?

In October, Cécile Roche and Luc Delamotte published a book entitled The Lean Engineering Travel Guide: The Best Itineraries for Developing New Products and Satisfying Customers. This book explains many Lean Engineering practices in some detail and the best itineraries to develop better products, discussing the underlying intentions and offering advice for implementation. It includes numerous concrete cases that illustrate this part with case material drawn from the authors’ own experiences. In addition, there is a brief guide to where and how to get started.  

When I spoke with Cécile this month, I asked her: "How has Lean adjusted as product development evolves?" Here is her complete answer:

The power of the Lean approach is that it is based on two strong convictions. 

The first is that a company will succeed if it really takes care of the customers, and therefore offers products that will solve their real problems - Do the right thing!

The second is that the company will make money thanks to the ingenuity of its employees, which must be encouraged by the existence of organized thinking spaces. 

By doing this, you avoid the biggest wastes imaginable: products that don't sell, products that you don't know how to produce, maintain, or recycle at the right cost, and all the rework caused by poor choices - Do the right thing, then do it right!

The practices and tools of Lean are all geared towards answering this question: what are we doing to give our staff the means to understand customers properly, and the means to identify the waste caused by our misconceptions? This constant questioning, which always begins with "Do we know what we don't know?” is the best way of ensuring that we are constantly adapting to change.

To encourage this questioning, we must set up a system that can very quickly identify the gaps, knowledge gaps, and trade-offs that need to give rise to creative discussions and train people to solve problems using appropriate methods. It is the Lean system.

Lean is a dynamic approach. It's not about freezing practices in procedures that are excellent one day but already unsuitable the next, but about regularly questioning all changes (in the context, of technology, resources, skills, etc.) to assess their impact. This is what we call the Kaizen spirit. As Allen Ward said, "Instead of learning to surf, conventional organizations try to control the waves! This almost never works."

What do you think of Cécile Roche's thoughts on Lean methodology? Do you feel that Lean continues to benefit the changing face of product development? 


Managing Process Downtime -- What Are the Biggest Mistakes?

In September, Michael Beauregard published a book entitled Process Downtime Reduction: How to Minimize Waste from Breakdowns, Set-Ups, Supply Chain Issues, and Staffing Constraints. This book provides manufacturers the techniques they crucially need to keep their critical manufacturing equipment running correctly and efficiently – which increases production, decreases labor costs, decreases breakdown costs, and ultimately increases the bottom line. 

When I spoke with Michael this month, I asked him: “What are some of the biggest mistakes manufacturers make while trying to manage process downtime?” Here is his complete answer:

That is an excellent question. 

I think the biggest mistake manufacturers make with managing process downtime is that they don’t manage it – instead, they learn to live with it. They make longer runs so that they can amortize the cost of that long product changeover over more parts. They get the order out by working overtime at the end of the month. They buy more equipment than they actually need. Manufacturers are smart – they learn to adapt to survive, but often those adaptations are the fastest way to solve the problem now and not the most efficient.  

Another big mistake is not measuring downtime and where it occurs. As I wrote in Process Downtime Reduction, “Show me the data!” Many companies cannot. They have anecdotal evidence of their downtime. It takes about two hours to complete a changeover. They remember they ran out of bottles once two years ago so they are focusing tremendous efforts and costs to manage inventory at high levels when the numbers actually show that labor is their biggest downtime cause. They do not make a systematic effort to understand the downtime and where it occurs so they attack where they perceive the downtime problems to be and not the issues that cause the greatest amount of downtime. 

And a third big area is not getting the whole workforce involved. Well, maybe “involved” is the wrong word. They fail to change the culture of the workforce to be looking for wastes in the operation. They load and unload parts without thinking that the machine could have been co-extruding 10 minutes earlier if they hadn’t waited until the core had run out to notify the material handler that another roll of core was needed. 

Do you agree with Michael's thoughts here? How does process downtime affect your organization? What do you do to manage it?


The Toyota Production System -- A Humanitarian Economic System?

In August,  Olivier Larue publsihed a book entitled The Toyota Economic System: How Leaders Create True Prosperity Through Financial Congruency, Dignity of Work, and Environmental Stewardship, which analyzes the purpose and relationship between the different elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and how they add up to an economic system rather than just a production system that brings engineering and managerial solutions to businesses. It argues how TPS can be viewed as a science as opposed to a tool-based technique. 

When I spoke with Olivier this month, I asked him, "Why do you believe that the various components of the Toyota Production System (TPS) constitute a humanitarian economic system rather than just a production system?" Here is his complete response:

Many people associate societal economic progress with the creation of goods. However, from the era of craftsmanship to the advent of mass production, the way we organize work also plays a pivotal role in enhancing living standards.

The Toyota Production System represents the most recent methodology in this realm and possesses the potential to become the third and most advanced production system. It comprises three distinctive elements: the better-known technical element, which focuses on eliminating unevenness, waste, and overburden; the familiar managerial element, which prioritizes human safety and development; and the lesser-known philosophical element, which serves as the guiding principle for both the technical and managerial elements. When all three elements are simultaneously implemented, the benefits derived from adopting TPS are not confined to a company's gains alone. Instead, as with previous production systems, these benefits extend to the broader spectrum of our society. However, this is particularly pronounced with TPS because it is not primarily the result of technological advancements, as was the case with mass production systems. TPS also emerges from the application of human principles guided by a distinct philosophical concept of efficiency that markedly deviates from the efficiency favored by the mass production system.

Rather than fixating on a singular notion of efficiency—individual efficiency—with the belief that it will yield the optimal level of efficiency for all, TPS centers around total and true efficiency through the elimination of waste to remove the trade-offs inherent in optimization. Total efficiency entails resolving issues that hinder all factors or actors from attaining their full benefits. True efficiency entails eliminating costs rather than transferring them elsewhere. Eliminating waste entails increasing the ratio of value-added activity in work. 

The principle of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of waste is not confined to the shop floor, where TPS originated. 

The principle of total efficiency doesn’t stop at a particular line, process, or piece of equipment which should not be boosted independently from the efficiency of preceding or subsequent processes. Total efficiency extends to the broader realm of efficiency management. For instance, it applies in the boardroom, where the pursuit of profit should not come at the expense of cash flow. Profit is undoubtedly essential for competitiveness, but it is equally crucial and substantially more efficient to achieve sufficient cash flow from operations to meet financial obligations promptly. 

The principle of true efficiency is not restricted to the shop floor either, where the aim is to use the minimum number of workers, equipment, and materials required to produce only what is needed. True efficiency also implies not trading one self-worth in the workplace for better comfort at home, or raising the living standards of people in the present at the expense of the future when payments are due later. 

The principle of eliminating waste is not limited to increasing the portion of value-added activity in the work, reducing unevenness and overburden to reduce cost but it also extends to reducing the environmental footprint as a result of all activities, value-added or not. 

Together, the philosophies of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of unevenness, waste, and overburden extend to all the stakeholders of society that contribute to a firm's success. This includes customers, employees, and the ecological environment of our planet. Each benefit supports the other as opposed to itself individually regardless of the cost to others. When all parts of the system reap their full benefits without incurring future costs, it coalesces into an economically humanitarian system. It contrasts with a more primitive economic system based on competition where losers are necessary in order to have winners. 

Of course, this call for a specific course of action necessitates problem-solving, and the unattainable remains beyond our reach. However, what is attainable is not always accomplished unless guided by economic humanitarian principles. As Pastor Tim Keller reminds us of what the critical philosopher Jurgen Habermas said “Science might tell us what is, but it doesn’t tell us what ought to be.” Today, The Toyota Production System offers possibilities beyond what a company can gain from adopting it. It presents an opportunity to eliminate socio-economic and environmental contradictions that have historically compelled economic trade-offs. 

What do you think of Olivier's thoughts regarding the far-reaching effects of the Toyota Production System? Do you feel TPS can be an "economically humanitarian system"?