6 Leadership Habits for Effective Tiered Meetings

Regular tiered meetings are a staple of any company’s lean management system. The quick stand-up meetings represent part of the daily accountability process which, when combined with leader standard work and visual controls, provide the foundation for sustaining gains, rigorously practicing lean behaviors, aligning the organization, and moving to daily kaizen. Great stuff!

The effectiveness of any tiered meeting is largely driven by the leader. Here, we’re talking about multiple levels of leadership. For example, Tier I is usually comprised of the natural work team with the team leader being the supervisor or, well…team leader. Tier II often has a broader composition (and focus) and may be led by the value stream leader with line supervision and support folks participating. Tier III may be led by the plant manager, or general manager, etc. and have still a wider focus.

The backdrop for tiered meetings is primarily a visual process performance metric board and is supplemented with things like a task accountability board, posted leader standard work, suggestion status board, etc.

So, let’s get to the 6 habits. Tiered meeting leaders need to regularly practice certain behaviors in order to facilitate an effective meeting and engage the stakeholders. In no certain order:

  1. Follow standard work. Like anything lean, the tiered meetings should have their own standard work, including the agenda/sequence, timing and duration, and required visuals. The leader needs to adhere to the standard work or modify it, but never blow it off. Time management is big here. I once had a client who started the meeting by setting an egg timer. Once the timer went off, the meeting was concluded…even if he was mid-sentence. We want meeting participants, not hostages.
  2. Tell the story. An old sensei taught me that, “Charts talk, people don’t.” What does that mean? Tiered meeting leaders don’t need to over-narrate the obvious. Good visual performance metrics show trends and targets. However, the leader’s job is to weave together the story, if there is one within a particular metric and/or between metrics.  For example, underwriting inventory and aging is well within target, which means we have some available capacity to go visit some agents and help drive new business…which, as we can see from the new business metric(s), is lagging behind by x…so, let me know by noon what your business development plans are for the rest of the week.
  3. Integrate. Consistent with telling the story, the leader needs to integrate beyond what is just hanging on a performance metric board. There are many other relevant sources of insight: leader standard work observations, tier meeting points (suggestions, problems, etc.) from the level above or below, plan vs actual activity, customer feedback, etc. The leader’s job, among other things, is to expand the team member’s line of sight and ultimately their lean thinking.
  4. Get closure. Nothing is worse than talking about the same problem day after day. It’s absolutely maddening.  We need to “kill” problems, so that they don’t come back again. This can only be done by properly defining the problem, identifying the root cause(s), formulating an effective countermeasure(s), assigning the countermeasure, executing the countermeasure and validating that the countermeasure worked. The leader must make sure that the team gets good at getting closure. Often this requires a separate kaizen activity.
  5. Engage stakeholders. The tier meeting has to pass the “so what?” test. Meeting visuals and dialogue must be understandable, important, and actionable. Otherwise, the meeting is more like watching a cable weather report. The leader has to be adept at reading whether the participants are checked in or out. If they’re in sleep mode, then the leader needs to change things up, call people out, educate folks as to what the metrics mean and why they’re important, make people take a rotation as a meeting leader…whatever it takes.
  6. Pull ideas and facilitate problem-solving. Tier meeting participants need to regularly use their eyes for waste and flex their problem-solving muscles. The meeting is an opportunity for the team to reflect on the last 24 hours, anticipate the next 24 hours, and discuss issues, problems and opportunities. Daily kaizen means a lot of voluntary kaizen. The leader can breed this through challenge, creativity, courage, and coaching, within the context of employee suggestions, kaizen circle activities, etc.

Related posts: Lean Management Systems and Mysterious Performance Metrics, “So What?” – A Powerful Lean Question, Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!