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3 Strategies to Help Frontline Find Solutions, Not Problems

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Andrei Anca Shares How to Recruit Your Frontline in Continuous Improvement

You already know your frontline employees are closest to the action, and therefore best suited to identify opportunities for continuous improvement. But sorting through the problems these employees present can be overwhelming for any manager. For this reason, change management expert Andrei Anca suggests that training frontline employees on basic Lean tools can lead to a world of difference.

In the latest Lean Frontline podcast Anca, the author of Lead from Any Seat, shared some of the simplest and most effective strategies for driving continuous improvement from the frontline.

Treat everyone as your customer

Anca encourages every worker, from the frontline to the executive suite, to think of their peers and stakeholders. This mentality shift drives people to focus on helping others and, consequently, seeking solutions.

With this shift toward treating everyone as a customer, the next step is to get to know that customer. For example, a frontline employee might ask: How do I work with my manager? How does he or she approach a problem? What are their actual needs?

Present approaches, not problems

In doing process mapping with frontline employees for his book, Anca found over 90 percent of the time the interviewee had improvement ideas already in mind. Unfortunately, what often happened was they would bring problems to their manager. Those managers become overwhelmed with the number of problems coming to them and that leaves employees feeling like no one is listening to them.

Instead, Anca suggests that anyone, from machine operators to office clerks, can lead a small fishbowl conversation or 5 Whys analysis to map out some basic approaches to the problem. “You don’t necessarily need a solution but some kind of approach,” Anca says.

Treat every problem like a project

Once employees start looking for approaches, it’s easy to start finding more problems. To prevent “scope creep,” Anca suggests answering a few questions before committing to any project:

  • What’s the problem?
  • What am I trying to accomplish here?
  • What metrics do I need to know if I’m successful?
  • How much time do I have to work on this problem?

By setting clear boundaries, employees can more successfully tackle one problem at a time.

For more strategies on how to drive continuous improvement from the entire workforce, listen to the full podcast on The Lean Frontline.

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