Sometimes it seems like we are continually fighting the same issue ever year or worse yet, the business environment has changed and the old way no longer works. Today’s leaders are seeing $1 billion dollar valuations from small companies and they’re thinking “Why can’t we do that?”. If Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, etc. can do that, why can’t our company? The sad fact is that, overall productivity in American manufacturing is declining. Our traditional approaches to problem solving are not working. There has to be a better way.
This week I had a chance to meet with Lesa Nichols and her partner, Tommy Thornton, and I believe they have uncovered a better way. Both Lesa and Tommy have 50+ combined years of expert problem solving skills. If they are called in, it’s because the go-to lean guys have failed. They continue to hear senior operations executives complaining that traditional lean consultants aren’t enough.
Out of frustration, Lesa was able to uncover a revolutionary new problem solving approach that helps break down communication barriers quickly and establish lasting change. Lesa combines her new training with Tommy’s masterful facilitation skills and the two are able to deliver amazing results in less than a day. My own shop supervisor was begging to practice this new method with our most stubborn machine operator!
How do they work? When Lesa and Tommy first joined us, we didn’t know either. We launched into the traditional shop tour, even taking time to show details of processes that are broken. Traditional lean consultants would process map the situation and run a series of kaizens to improve the process, only to return a year later to find the new processes undone. Lesa and Tommy did not take the bait. They sat back and concluded that the root cause in our situation was communication. Not bad communication, but ineffective communication.
In the afternoon, they introduced us to a new way of thinking using their deep problem solving process. Their process and tools were a blast to work with but the methodology is backed by research in neuroscience as well as behavioral science. They used a structured set of questions and models to have us learn more about ourselves and how we were dealing with our current situation. The next step is designing or improving our processes to take this into account. Everyone in the training, including the doubters, were 100% bought in. Their problem solving approach doesn’t ask anyone to change, it is designed to work with the people the way they really are.
We can’t wait for Lesa and Tommy to return. Already we are talking about new models for new problems. I have never seen my team so energized to solve the hard problems!
Note: If you want to learn more, talk with Lesa directly at lnichols86 [at] yahoo (dot) com.