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Talent and Transparency

By Richard Wolin, DirectorRichard Wolin Headshot

Recently, an increasing number of personal observations and experiences inspired me to write about the deep connection between organizational success, building and retaining talent, and workplace transparency. Having learned, practiced, and taught Lean principles for more than 25 years, it’s been in the last five years I have come to fully appreciate the impact transparency can have on talent attraction and job satisfaction while at the same time delivering outstanding results to the bottom line. More recently I have seen the visible impact on organizations in northwest Michigan that do it well and for the right reasons.

To understand the importance of talent in growing your organization, it might be helpful to have a quick review of the history of Lean. We’ll start with the eight wastes commonly used in Lean principles. Actually, let’s back up to when there were only seven. Originally developed by Toyota’s Chief Engineer, Taiichi Ohno, the seven wastes were: transportation, excessive inventory, motion, waiting, over processing, overproduction, and defects. These labels were a tool to help identify opportunities to drive out unnecessary effort and resources that did not add value from the customer’s perspective. These wastes are still the core of the Toyota Production System and are a foundational basis for lean management. In the U.S., an eighth waste was added to include un-utilized talent, which begs the question, “How could Toyota miss such a thing?” The answer is, they didn’t. In Toyota, the importance of talent is so ingrained in their corporate culture that it can be seen throughout their core belief system as a “Respect for People!”

So how does organizational “transparency” affect a “respect for people”? Transparency is likely the single most important element in building trust. It is a demonstration by leadership that we are all in this together, trying to meet the same mission, serve the same customer or patient, and solve the same problems. Transparency creates a shared journey that can tap into the collective knowledge and experience of individuals that work together. It allows and invites us to bring our full self to each day and done well, it reduces “decisions by committee” and the notorious “group think.”

Think about the unique places each of us have worked and visited, the organizations in which we volunteer, non-profits we help, teams we coach, households we run. It’s an infinite list of problems solved, challenges overcome, failures and sorrows endured, and successes celebrated. Transparency also makes a statement that the organization has nothing to hide--the good, the bad, my successes and failures, your successes and failures, our successes and failures. It helps us to help each other, to grow in our life, while growing the organization in which we work. Being transparent and tapping into each person’s life experiences is the fullest use of talent.

Recently I was introduced to the book An Everyone Culture by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laslow. This is arguably the most impactful book I have read since Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The experience and research of both Kegan and Laslow is useful in codifying the approaches, philosophies, and cultures that promote individual and organizational growth while at the same time resulting in outstanding business success. This is it not a book about Lean; however, many of the tools and philosophies that the case study companies use are consistent with Lean and LMS. This book is my recommended reading for this month’s newsletter.

Making all key information of your organization visible from top to bottom is a requirement of transparency. In An Everyone Culture this means clearly posting the mission, vision, values, planning documents, goals, targets, unit performance, individual performance, challenges from top to bottom, ideas to improve, ideas to innovate, and problems to solve, while also being forthright about failures at all levels. A Leadership Management System (LMS) is an intentional approach to bring an opaque planning and decision-making process of leadership into the light of day. It gives people the context to bring their full self, their life experience to each and every day in order to help move the organizational needle in measurable and impactful ways. This approach results in an “employer-of-choice” environment because it fulfills the human need to do something worthwhile and make a difference while increasing the connection between an individual’s work and the workplace.

If you are unsure if your employees have much to add beyond their current role, then consider if your organization has the mindset, systems, and routines in place to utilize their knowledge to the fullest. Are you willing to share information and offer challenges for employees to move beyond the edge of their current knowledge and capabilities? If you want better talent and better business results, I encourage you to look inside and unleash the un-utilized talent you already have and begin the spiral upward.

Richard Wolin
Director of NMC Training Services and Northern Lower Region of Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
(231) 995-2003
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