Team Building Using the Workforce Engagement Equation

Jamison J. Manion published a book titled The Workforce Engagement Equation: A Practitioner’s Guide to Creating and Sustaining High Performance, and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions during a phone conversation. I wanted to know why he developed The Workforce Equation.  Specifically, I asked him: "What value would practitioners gain from investing their time to learn standardized approach to team building outlined in The Workforce Engagement Equation?”  Here is Jamison's response:

The pace of change in today’s world is staggering; it’s hard to keep up with all the technological advances.  To remain competitive organizations are incessantly driven towards process improvement.  Practitioners in every field must continuously sharpen their skills to remain relevant.  What’s more, every field is becoming more and more specialized.  People aren’t just programmers anymore; there are programs just for mobile apps, programmers for the healthcare industry, industrial drives, PLCs, ERPs and CRMs, etc.  Every field is becoming more and more niched.  But, regardless of the industry, the human element lies at the heart of every change initiative.  Post-project analysis consistently confirms that human factors, more than any other single element, are at the root of poor performance and failed change initiatives.  So, regardless of the industry or business sector, successful change agents must understand the human variables involved in implementing change in order to effectively utilize their in-depth professional expertise. 
Where do you begin? If a practitioner wants to gain expertise in managing the human elements there is a virtually endless supply of literature about leadership, change management, communications, conflict resolution, engagement, productivity improvement, performance improvement etc.  It becomes overwhelming; people just don’t have the time.  They end up picking up techniques here and there as they have time and apply whatever they can.  Like the old adage says, 'The solution to any problem you face is the one you happen to know.'  It’s all very piecemeal.  Consequently project success relies too heavily upon chance and circumstances – hoping that the problems that arise fall within the solution set available.  Speaking for myself, I became very frustrated that so much of the advice available was overly simplistic, nonspecific non actionable, and redundant.  I wanted a solution I could apply in my own practice on real-world problems and projects. 
Analysis of the research and personal experience observing how people learn, how teams form, what drives behavior, and how people make the transition from involved to engaged, revealed some consistent behavioral patterns.  To simplify the patterns I built upon the work of past practitioners and applied systems thinking to define the five stages of organizational development that resulted in The Workforce Engagement Equation:
Forming à Focusing à Committing à Sustained Performance à Renewal
Each phase represents a juncture where the team will either successfully navigate the situation to move to a higher, more cohesive level of group dynamics and operational performance or they’ll stumble, experiencing confusion, frustration, and lower productivity. 
Each stage requires appropriate management and leadership interventions to simultaneously satisfy the needs of both the project and the team.  The comprehensive change management approach addresses:
·       People Needs
·       Effective Management Responses
·       Effective Leadership Responses
·       Tools and Techniques to Employ

Understanding the logic model prepares practitioners to recognize the patterns and empowers them to adapt their response to successfully navigate the phase.  Regardless of the industry or the size of the team, understanding The Workforce Engagement Equation will equip practitioners to achieve success more consistently and in shorter time. 
What do you think of Jamison's response?  How often have you been frustrated by the human factors involved in project management or process improvement?


The "Preceptor" and the Lean Transformation

Conrad Soltero and Patrice Boutier recently published an interesting book titled The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training that explains why a mix of the skill sets that Training Within Industry (TWI) and the Toyota Kata (behavior patterns) teach is the ideal recipe to boost organizational synergies and enhance any Lean transformation.

In this book, the authors introduce a term -- preceptor -- that might be unfamiliar to readers of Lean literature. I asked Conrad if he could expound on how exactly he and Patrice define this term, and here is his repsonse:

After working in a healthcare environment, I became curious about its use in that industry sector. After a deeper understanding of its use in healthcare and delving a bit into the word’s origins, Patrice and I became convinced that it was an important concept that would convey a proper meaning for the English reader.

Any organization preparing for a Lean journey must understand that what they’re actually undertaking is an organizational transformation -- a true renovation of their entire culture. As creatures of habit, we know that transformation at this level is not trivial and many managers will be asked to not only do things differently, but quite possibly to lead for the first time in their careers.

When we say lead, we mean the ability to: prepare their charges for the transformation, demonstrate Lean skills (7 kata), teach the Lean skills, maintain the efficacy of the skills, and have a command of the tools of Lean and Six Sigma. This depth and breadth of required improvement knowledge exceeds certifications, colored and non-colored belts, and even formal education. Once this knowledge is acquired, however, a tacit understanding of the organization’s “precepts” becomes inherent and can be more easily spread throughout the organization. Hence the word preceptor was chosen to reflect the level of commitment that the organization’s leadership must prepare for.

The use of the word preceptor seeks to translate the word sensei into a descriptive English word. We understand from martial arts that a sensei is more than a trainer or teacher. Our understanding was that a sensei is also tasked with preserving the ethic or “precepts” of the given martial style. We felt the need to not only distinguish the differences between a kata coach and a preceptor, but also sought out a somewhat unfamiliar expression that might evoke curious investigation. Our primary concern was in convincing management that their Lean transformational efforts will fall flat without their practice and teaching of the three Lean skills (improvement, one-on-one JT, and problem solving).

Are any readers familiar the term preceptor in this context? Do you agree with Conrad's use of the word in relation to the term sensei?