We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Robert Hiltunen, Director of Auxiliary Services at Michigan Technological University.
What did you say? Ditch the report out? Are you crazy?
A normal feature of organizations that use lean methodology is the expectation that projects regularly “report out.” A report-out event allows the organization to recognize and celebrate the achievements of the various project teams and their members. Perhaps more importantly, others are able to learn from what the project teams have accomplished. In this way, we continuously improve our systems, share and build on knowledge, and reduce duplication or “re‐inventing the wheel.”
After some deep reflection about a blog I read by Dave LaHote entitled “Say Goodbye to the Report Out,” I came to realize that there are different types of report outs. With this headline I am talking about the report out that is elicited from people closest to the work during my gemba walks, when I ask “How is it going?” For those who know me, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “How’s it going?,” “How’re you doing?,” or “What’s happening?” Of course, not using open, probing questions causes the employee to naturally report out what is going on. Then I will ask how I can help, and the response is “I’m fine; no need for help.” This type of report out causes a transition of problems from the employee to me, and I then offer suggestions that might help solve the problem.
Instead, I should be asking about a specific observation which would lead to follow up questions that would increase my understanding and help coach the employee to solving their own issue. So I must learn to ditch my report-out eliciting questions and take a deeper dive into the real issues at hand.
Easier said than done, so if you see me asking an employee at the gemba “How’s it going?” please remind me that this is not the time or place for a report out.