Prioritise your values for success

I have been looking on LinkedIn and I saw another post advocating gaining clarity in your business through Vision – Mission – Values. It got me thinking, who sets their values after deciding what they are going to do to achieve their aims? I don’t think that’s how people work. It also implies that people choose their values according to the situation – are your values flexible? If they are, can they really be called values?

The values a person holds are part of their character and adherence to those values demonstrates integrity. Integrity adn consistency lead to authenticity and ultimately to trust. The same is true of businesses. Without trust, you can’t build brands, relationships or teams. It would be impossible to trust a business or person whose values are flexible. So it seems odd to me that those charged with advising us on how to develop our businesses seem to advocate flexible values. Perhaps it is unintended, the problem is that communication is really hard to do well. Determining your values individually and collectively in a business is hard work. It takes serious consideration, you must understand what impact choosing these values will have on your daily activities. This is because IF these are your values and IF you truly believe in them, there may be some activities you must stop doing. Some of these activities may be lucrative, but if they conflict with your stated values and you continue to do them, are your values really worth anything?

I propose a small change. First establish your values. Once you know your values you can choose a vision that is consistent with your values. The vision is what you want to achieve, now create your mission, this is how you will deliver your vision. Since your values are already defined, you can choose actions that are aligned with your values. This eliminates any conflict that could arise if the actions you think you should take to deliver your vision and mission is inconsistent with your values. As business leaders we have a responsibility to live the values we espouse for our business. If we cannot adhere to these values, why should any of our employees? If we cannot commit to them as core beliefs, are they really values?

You values must be real and lived, fake values laminated on a wall are a web that will trap you eventually. Own your values, choose a vision that is consistent with your values, then live your values through your mission and daily activities. This will deliver constancy of purpose to your organisation and is a starting platform for continuous improvement.

5S – Sustain

5S programmes are started and fail again and again. What do the successful project do differently?

To make 5S sustainable it is vital that all employees are properly trained and committed to the process. All employees includes management and executive leadership. If your executives don’t understand their role in 5S it cannot be sustained. Visual management techniques should be understood and used by all. Workplaces that are well ordered with employees who adhere to the procedures that have been agreed will remain well ordered. Through repetition and discipline, the new ways of working become habits, these habits become principles. When the process of 5S becomes principle, it will be part of the company way until people say “that’s just how we do it”.

Checklists should be developed for each area to ensure that the things that are agreed are transparent and obvious. This enables everyone to focus on the things that are important, have specific and observable definitions, employees own their working area. This supports improvement and enables workers to identify improvement opportunities As a result of this, the checklists are living documents that evolve over time. One useful way to present the checklist is as a laminated list to enable write on and wipe off. The objective is to have a timely and visible reminder, not to create a paper trail. This should be posted where the work happens and include space for comments and questions. The checklist should be limited to between 5 and 10 points, Any less and the checklist is ineffective. Any more and completing the checklist becomes a burden.

Having set the schedule and agreed on the items, the area should be audited. Audits work best when there is a layered structure. Operator and supervisor audits focus on tasks and ensuring things are done. They ensure activity and corrective actions. Manager and director audits focus on workload and facilities. Managers and directors should ask more frequently what help is needed and what more they can do. Telling an operator about an error is system tampering. The results of the audit are presented to the operators to help them identify areas for improvement, not to shame or punish. the purpose of audits is to support the people doing the work with objective feedback on their progress.


3S – Scrub

Whilst the obvious impact of scrub is to get the area clean, there are a range of added benefits that greatly enhance process improvement. Rather than becoming a laborious chore, cleaning becomes a checking process that leads to continuous improvement.

Making cleaning processes a routine part of the process highlights abnormalities. These abnormalities become items to be fixed, and fixing them requires us to learn about the process and solve problems. The habit of solving problems is continuous improvement, and working in a continually improving work place encourages employees to make a positive contribution. Since each employee can see how their own efforts are expressed in the process, they are more likely to feel some ownership of the process and take pride in their work place.

Making cleaning a habit doesn’t happen by accident, it requires a strategy involving leadership will to stop the process for cleaning, and plans to ensure cleaning becomes standard work. Cleaning plans should follow the 5W1H model;


The aim of cleaning plans is to clean little and often, with everyone having the responsibility to clean as they go. Eliminating root causes prevents dirt and debris building up and reduces the time spent cleaning. When combined with visual sweeping, this technique becomes a powerful source of improvement. Visual sweeping involves looking at all work surfaces, floors, aisles, storage areas/containers and equipment and really seeing the condition of each area. You are looking for dirt and debris,  equipment that is ready to use, missing or damaged parts or fixings, excess materials, damage, storage, or any other defect relevant to the work done in that area.

As with 1S and 2S this exercise should be repeated every 3 to 6 months to adjust for changes in working practices and area usage.

2S – Straighten

Straighten is focused on organising the workplace to reduce waste. To do this we must clearly understand the frequency of use of each item. When this is understood we can decide where items should be placed and make the workplace visual.

To decide where items should be placed, we should first understand the flow of the area and look for evidence of waste. We consider 7 types of waste

  • Transport
    Do we need to move items to different locations for work to be done. If so, we could move the items closer together.
  • Inventory
    Inventory is cash tied up in the business. The longer that cash is tied up in inventory, the greater the risk of obsolescence. In addition, high cash demand for inventory increases the cash gap, stifling growth.
  • Waiting
    Waiting is `wasteful at the best of times, however, what must be tracked is waiting at bottleneck resources. Bottleneck process steps are rate-determining and limit output already If they are waiting it is impossible for the process to recover lost time.
  • Overproduction
    Production of more than is needed is a waste since it consumes time and resources, potentially taking them away from orders that the customer is waiting for. Adding stock to warehouse where it may become outdated is also an increased risk
  • Overprocessing
    Processing items more than necessary, or duplication of effort are clearly wastes or resources. Duplicated processing or elongated processing times reduce capacity and add to costs.
  • Defects
    Making something incorrectly will result in either rework or replacement. Replacement means that item took twice the materials expected, rework means it took far more labour than expected. If the item escapes from the organisation and reaches the customer, it will result in complaints and possibly loss of custom.

Understanding the flow of materials and work in the business can be accomplished using a spaghetti diagram. These are created by tracing the movement of work on a floorplan. Similarly a physical process map can be used by placing post-its for each step on a floorplan, connecting the dots and calculating the distance travelled. The diagrams can then be analysed for waste, congestion or any other problems that may contribute to ineffectiveness in the process.

Having identified the problems a new process layout can be created to eliminate as many of the problems as possible.
Some things we use daily, some weekly, some monthly and some rarely. Clearly they don’t all need to be here right now. Using the information from 1S about what is needed, decide how often items are used. Daily use items should be at the workstation. Items that are needed on a weekly basis should be close by, and as the usage gets less frequent the item can be further away. Items that are used infrequently can be in storage.

Now we know what is stored and how often it is used, we can place things to make the workplace visual. In a visual workplace, it is obvious where to go to find what they need, where to return it and what needs to be done.  Item recoil is the hardest thing to build into the system. How can we ensure that itens are returned to their correct storage location? There are many ways, using colour, shadow boards, labelling, and floor markings.

As with 1S, 2S must be repeated every 3 to 6 months to ensure routines are maintained and that the arrangements remain cinsistent with process and business needs.

6 tips to live your values, not just laminate them

Every business has a set of values that they tell the world about, but do they live by these values?

All too often, the values are laminated, put on a wall and ignored. Managers are neither held to account nor do they hold their staff to account for deviating from the values. If asked intellectually what do their values mean, they can explain what they mean, however, if challenged when deviating from the values there is always an explanation, a set of special circumstances that mean the values don’t apply. The more money that is involved in following the values, the more pressure the employee feels to make an exception. The problem is increased if the mission and vision are inconsistent with the values, or the employees are not connected to the values. Here are some tips for ensuring that your values are lived not laminated.

  1. Select the right team to set values
    Values are typically set by the management team. What happens when there is a conflict between the business practices and the new values? Will the management team even recognise the conflict? Involving staff at different levels creates an opportunity for assumptions and biases to be challenged. Management must listen to the issues raised and discuss the challenges that will be faced throughout the organisation arising from the values choices.
  2. Ensure there are not too many values
    If you have more than four or five key values, they become hard to remember. If your employees can’t remember the values, how do you expect them to implement your values. Distilling your values to such a small list is difficult, you must decide what really matters.
  3. Create a red flag mechanism
    For the values to have meaning there must be a mechanism to raise conflict between values and actions that is transparent to employees. It is inevitable that there will be challenges in upholding the values, times when the actions that seem obvious are in conflict with one or more of the values. The temptation is always to say that the circumstances are unique or unprecedented, you can’t expect the values to be upheld, or our competitors aren’t restricted in the same way. There are many excuses used to deviate from the values. Having a red flag mechanism enables everyone in the business to raise a concern and also allows the business to stop and choose a different action that is compatible with the values.
  4. Communicate the values
    For the values to be meaningful they must be communicated to everyone in the organisation. Communication does not mean laminate the values and place them on every notice board, although this can be done. Communicate the values through briefing sessions and open discussions, give your teams the opportunity to explore what the values mean and how they will impact on their daily activities. Acknowledge the things that need to change and commit to the changes. Most importantly communicate that this is not a fad, it is the new normal. Your integrity will be judged on how well your future behaviour implements the declared values.
  5. Use the values to make decisions
    Once the value set is agreed, they MUST be used. Ideally, the use of values will be overt and obvious. For example, at the start of a meeting, state the values and remind everyone that all actions must be consistent with the values. At the end of a meeting, review actions agreed against the values of the business. Ask if the actions are consistent with the values. If any action is inconsistent with the values revisit the issue and determine an alternative action. Include a review of values in non-conformance and complaint handling processes. Adhering to values is easy when there are no challenges, you will only know if the values are important when the business is under pressure.
  6. Hold everyone accountable for upholding the values
    If the business believes in its values, everyone will adhere to them. From the chairman to the cleaner, everyone must uphold and implement the values, no-one is exempt from them. Values set the character of the business, and like a person, the business behaviours must be consistent with its expressed values. If the business does not adhere to its own values, the stakeholders will create their own set of values for the business based on its behaviours. Be warned that these values are unlikely to showcase your business favourably!


Values communicate the character of your business to all of the stakeholders, it is easy to write a set of values that looks good, but adhering to them is much harder. Laminating your values is worse than not documenting them IF you don’t uphold them.

My advice is to document your values after careful consideration then adhere to them with discipline and rigour.

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