From the Ask Tom Mailbag –
I would love to get more information on how to beat back those Alligators! What happens when the Alligators are taking over?
This is where the role of the Manager becomes truly important. The people who do production work (Strata I) can only work harder. The people who make sure production gets done (Supervisor, Strata II) can only organize the chaos (also known as straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic).
The role of the Manager (Strata III) is to analyze what is causing things to be overwhelming and out of control. This is system work.
Stop and think. What is the cause?
The most useful tool I know of is a long roll of butcher paper (available at any restaurant supply store). Roll it out and tape it on the wall. Create a flow chart of the essential steps necessary to do the work that is required. We are talking circles, boxes and triangles connected by arrows, cause and effect. Step One, Two, Three and Four. Then, for each step, ask why we are doing that? Is that in line with our senior purpose?
This exercise will expose unnecessary steps or activities that simply do not add value to the process. Get back to the fundamentals, do only those things that are truly essential.
Draw flames around the hotspots, the burning platforms. Are instructions clear, is there a hand-off missed? This is system work.
I love this technique for continuous improvement! The only thing that I would add is that the Value Stream Map should not be developed in a vacuum and the process must include some of the Strata I team members who actually perform the process steps. This will provide a much more realistic view of the work, identify waste in the process steps and achieve buy-in from the front line team members.