Kaizen proposal for a dictator-manager
My boss is a jerk who doesn’t listen to employee suggestions. He often jokes: “My way or the highway.” I know that this approach makes the employees become demotivated, if not make them act like robots. As one of his managerial deputies in the department, I’m planning to establish a Kaizen program to help people come out with a structured system to help streamline our business operations and cut costs at the same time. I’m worried that even my idea would be dumped. What’s the best approach to convince our boss? – Worried Much.
Your situation reminded me of Steve Jobs who was often described as a ruthless, dictator boss. He was known to have violated many basic rules of effective communication and leadership. “He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager,” according to Frederick Allen, author of “Steve Jobs Broke Every Leadership Rule. Don’t Try it yourself,” an article that was published by Forbes.
But Jobs was the same person who said: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” That’s why I believe that your boss has the same capacity and mentality to act like Jobs, but still would be open to many employee ideas, except that you may not have taken the right approach in convincing him, maybe due in part to his tough management style.
Let’s give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Don’t lose hope. I’m sure he has been misinterpreted due to some issues that may have emerged in past dealings with other people.
One of the basic tools for management success is the ability to listen. This is particularly true as employee engagement and empowerment replace the traditional top-to-bottom flow of communication. Indeed, solid twoway communication is impossible unless you and your boss master the art of being a good listener.
So, how would you convince your dictatorial boss to accept a Kaizen program? Take time to think through the following: One, change the foreign Kaizen terms into something generic. Don’t give your boss the excuse that Kaizen is only for the Japanese and exclusively for the manufacturing sector. Remove that clear obstacle. Regardless of your industry focus, use a generic term like “employee suggestion program” or “employee participation scheme” or similar theme with the same force and effect.
If not, use the term “Lean Thinking” or “Lean Problem-Solving” as it is being used in the US. It started with similar programs like Lean Healthcare, when applied in medical clinics and hospitals, or Lean Banking, when applied in banks and financial institutions, among others. You only have to discover what would interest your boss and focus it to your sector.
Two, find a solution to something that turns off your boss. If he’s complaining about production delays, offer some ideas on how the workers are trying their best to eliminate the backlog. Justify the fact that management cannot handle it alone without the active support and participation of the workers.
Be practical. Focus on what irritates the boss and solve it with the active help of people. If you can get consistent small wins, it will be easy for your boss to accept your employee suggestion program. This can only happen if you continue to motivate the workers and train them with basic problem-solving tools to make it happen. Three, ensure that your suggestion program is inexpensive. Management will always be thinking of budgets and financial controls. You can’t argue against that. Therefore, the best approach is to make the program easy to implement and without necessarily requiring a big budget. If ever, guaranteed RoI must be clear and easily achieved in a short period of time.
Instead of giving material rewards to people with excellent ideas, make it an integral part of their key performance indicators and the organization’s succession planning and career development track. Many times, people are motivated to contribute their ideas if the organization has a structure and framework to make it happen.
Four, calculate the actual cost of operational issues. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is a popular cliché. You have to figure out the cost of waiting customers, inventory of raw materials, unused materials and machines, among other things. If you can accurately show the company’s recurring losses to your boss, he would not hesitate to agree on your program.
Review the company’s quality management policy, if there is one, and reconcile it with your proposal. If there is none, it’s an opportunity for you to create one. Under these circumstances, very few people, including your boss, are likely to reject your program if the advantages and benefits are clear for the organization. Last, stand your ground if your boss rejects your proposal. Be ready for any possible questions he can raise. Defend your answers to prove your point. Go back to the actual cost and how it could end up depleting organizational resources. Who knows? Maybe your boss is trying to test your determination to proceed with your program.
Whatever happens, don’t give him an excuse to blame you later on. If he rejects your proposal, maintain a paper trail demonstrating how you did your best. Protect your flanks. Email exchanges or even marginal notes on your docu- ments will prove that you did your best.
ELBONOMICS: Effective listening is understanding what’s not being said.