Growing Your Team for Alignment


Last month was a diversion that I couldn’t resist. A discussion with other Lean professionals led to talk of just how simple and straightforward Lean principles are and how we really “learned to see.” Getting silly for a moment only reinforced our beliefs that Lean is the natural way to operate, to execute an organization’s strategy because it is people-dependent and people oriented.

If you truly want to align the culture of your organization with your strategic purpose, you will need to communicate your expectations to everyone in your company, and then you will need to be sure all are trained in the tasks and techniques that will help you accomplish this goal. People Development means creating the processes and procedures that will support the mindsets and behaviors which each individual must now adopt to create the culture that will sustain your strategy.

Let’s start with some questions for self-reflection.

How do you view your employees? Do they understand your purpose? Do they know what is expected? Do you rely on supervisors cascading ideas and understanding to all or are you everyone’s “go-to” for questions? Do your people know what they need to do in order to advance in salary and opportunity? Do they understand the metrics you use to gauge success for both the company and themselves?

Lots of questions, and as always, no right answers or easy ones. The answers must come from you and be evident in the way you want your organization to operate. Your culture is the reflection back to you of your answers to these questions.

Does your Human Resources function have the necessary skills to find and recruit the right candidates to help you align your culture? Recruiting through Indeed or Monster can save lots of time in finding qualified candidates, but you cannot afford to have merely qualified candidates. You need someone who will also fit into your company’s culture, and this is not always easily identified, even during in-person interviews and plant tours.

I remember an episode years ago when my boss observed a candidate I was interviewing. “Hire her,” he told me. “She walks fast.” I did, and she worked out great. Later, as a manufacturing manager, I had a second-floor office and made use of it with every hiring decision. After a factory tour, I would head back to my office, and when I reached the steps, I would run up. I didn’t hire every candidate who ran up, but I never hired one who wasn’t right behind me at the top. I wanted “go-getters” and found a way to determine which otherwise qualified candidate might be the best fit for my organization.

Fortunately, there are more scientific tools available today to help find someone who will fit. A small but growing number of firms offer an assessment of such culture fit, but be sure to get confirmation of the scientific reliability of their survey and interpretation.

The most important condition for success is having a great and talented team. But it’s not enough to hire your team and leave them to their job — if you want their best work, you have to engage continuously.

Build your team consciously. Train those who understand what you want so they can help train others. Broadcast your message at every opportunity. In fact, create opportunities to speak about the strategy and alignment you want people to help you with. The more that people understand what is expected, the closer you are to achieving the results you want. Well-intentioned, capable people working at cross-purposes create confusion and frustration. Frustrated people check out, retiring in place, forcing others to work harder. Be a Lean leader! Avoid the waste caused by these avoidable poor behaviors.