“Readers are leaders” is a slogan that can be found in most children’s libraries, but it’s a sentiment that PSbyM practitioners wholeheartedly agree with and still believe. They are always finding new books that help them tackle old problems or discovering authors that spark unique insights. Finding time to read, though – aye, there’s the rub. For those of us who want to be readers and leaders, too, how can we carve out hours in our already overloaded schedules filled with demanding workloads, family commitments, mandated exercise, community involvement, and the myriad of other modern life requirements?
The answer: children’s books.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 books that highlight key operational principles but are still entertaining enough to read to your favorite child (or just to yourself; we won’t judge). Many of these books are classics that you’ve read before. Looking at them now through the lens of performance, we think you might find some bits of wisdom that can help you on your journey to excellence.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Root cause analysis is an important step as you work toward eliminating waste. You often work backwards to find the activities and situations that led you to the place you’re in now. This book is an excellent example of process flow mapping to identify the root cause.
Spoiler alert: in this case, the root cause was giving a baked good to a rodent.
The Giving Tree
Staying flexible and adapting to changing demands keeps you relevant in the marketplace. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that once their product or service fulfills a customer’s need, that customer is content with that single solution. Shel Silverstein’s classic shows us that our customers will always be looking for new innovations to meet new challenges. A successful performance system helps keep a company agile instead of being a bump on a log.
Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
Operational excellence involves everyone, from the production floor to the C-office. That means great ideas can come from anyone in the organization – but so can the roadblocks. As seen in Click Clack Moo, senior leaders might be the obstacle to implementing new processes that will increase long-term productivity instead of championing them. The production associates in Click Clack Moo have embraced new technology to make their jobs more efficient. Farmer Brown’s lack of vision and reluctance to change, however, serve as a reminder that the journey to excellence isn’t without problems, and persistence pays off.
The Velveteen Rabbit
Changing both your mindset and behaviors will result in maximum benefits. Completing projects and tasks is only half of the equation when implementing a performance system. Changing the way you define problems, costs, success, etc. results in new beliefs, and these new beliefs, in turn, sustain the new processes. Without a shift in both actions and mindset, continuous improvement stalls, and worn out toys end up clogging landfills.
The Little Engine that Could
New equipment isn’t always the answer. When companies are in the first phase of implementation and looking for a model machine, we often suggest using the dirtiest, worst-running one in the plant. This idea might run counter to productivity improvement, but choosing the worst machine serves as a great visual of the hidden potential that the performance system will uncover. Sometimes, organizations will want to solve a manufacturing problem by buying new equipment. New equipment can’t always save the day, as the freight engine proves in Watty Piper’s classic motivational tale. The right mindset can transform seemingly outdated machines into winners.
Communicate clearly to get the results you really want. At the start of an implementation, it can be difficult to get buy-in from all employees because they don’t know what the results will look like. They aren’t always sure what will be expected of them, and that causes reluctance to change. Clear, consistent communication helps to overcome this and keeps everyone aligned. Using terms that everyone understands, defining new terms or acronyms, and reducing jargon when talking with employees boosts the success rate of both performance system implementations and of domestic engineering contractors alike.
Setting guidelines and boundaries are important for focusing energy on the right projects. The flip side of people being obstacles to a performance system implementation is excited employees trying to change everything at once. Enthusiasm for making improvements is a positive attribute, but it still needs to be channeled correctly. The number of things that could be improved can be overwhelming at the start. Masterplanning provides the roadmap for selecting which areas will have the most impact and allocating resources accordingly. Assessing progress along the way ensures that no one is monkeying with the process.
Green Eggs and Ham
Limited resources can generate innovative thinking. Theodore Geisel wrote this gem after his agent bet him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. Many companies feel similar restrictions when trying to make improvements to their processes. They’re expected to win the market while manufacturing products for bigger profits with fewer employees in less time. Instead of being stymied by their situations, successful organizations approach continuous improvement by reimagining what they can do with the resources they do have.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Long term planning is very important. Just like Mike and his trusty steam shovel Mary Ann did, it can be easy to overlook this in the effort to achieve a win in the short term. Think through your implementation strategy for the months to come and identify potential holes in the plan early. There might be seasonal changes in the calendar that can work to your plan’s advantage. Looking ahead, paired with a bias for action, can maintain the energy needed to successfully implement your performance system.
Alexander and the Terrible No Good Day
Implementations aren’t easy, but the results are worth it. On the days when everything goes according to plan, your employees are 200% engaged and there are zero fires to put out. You can see how the daily management system is supporting focused improvement projects, and the performance system is working as it should be. However, there will be days when you want to move to Australia. On those days, it’s important to remember that operational excellence is not a destination but an ongoing journey.
To learn more about how Performance Solutions by Milliken can help your company implement a performance system for operations or to get more book recommendations, please contact us.