5 Whys is a blog about technical leadership in the software world.

Go see, ask why, show respect

The following is  guest post by Horia Sluşanschi. Contribute your own here.

About Horia: Horia is a passionate Agile Coach, serving as the leader of the HP Agile Mentoring Office, and the HP Software Engineering Profession.
He has written software of various kinds, from firmware for various devices, to compilers for supercomputers and all sorts of business systems in between for more than 25 years now. Horia holds a PhD in Computer Science, is a trained Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner, and holds various other certifications and memberships in various professional associations.
His calling lies in growing more accomplished leaders, helping numerous Teams to achieve amazing results.

The best way to help your Team to serve their clients ever better, to achieve and sustain a culture of continuous improvement, is to start by showing them deep respect.

How can you best show respect? Consider Jim Womack’s excellent advice in his excellent collection of essays “Gemba Walks”.

You do so by challenging their thinking about the current work process, asking lots of open, probing questions to uncover the root causes of the current impediments. No process is ever perfect, so you can focus on helping the Team to discover what its key constraint is at any particular time and then devise countermeasures to remedy it.

The key constraint is the area in which an improvement will show the biggest bang-for-buck when measured across the entire system, improving the overall flow of the work process, likely reducing cycle time and waste, with less overburden or absurdity involved.

By engaging your Team in problem-solving, you’re showing them that you choose not to attempt to solve the problem alone. You trust them to be best placed to come up with the most promising improvement ideas, as they are closest to the work being done and have all the facts at hand. As a Team Leader, you truly respect your Team’s knowledge and their dedication to find the best answer.

Even so, Team members can’t quite do it all alone either, because they are often too close to the issue to fully appreciate its full context. They may also avoid tough questions about the nature of the work and the reasoning behind certain inefficient practices. By showing mutual respect, better countermeasures can be devised, the Team can derive more pride in the quality of their work and everyone enjoys a more satisfying journey of professional accomplishment.

To better serve your Team, work to understand yourself better, assessing your own strengths and weaknesses. Strive to become aware of your Team’s characteristics as well, sensing their professional and emotional development needs. Be ready to adapt your leadership, coaching and mentoring style to suit the Team’s current spot on its journey to professional mastery.

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