Keys to a Winning Team: Part 2

Keys to a Winning Team: Part 2


So far in this series, we’ve talked about the qualities of a winning team, which include:

  1. Strong Leadership
  2. Common Goal

For a team to be successful, they also have to work according to a certain set of cultural rules and core beliefs. Employees must understand these rules and that they govern the way the owner conducts business. Ideally, these rules are documented and available to everyone in an organization. 

In this vlog, we share the Rules of the Game that underpinned Chad and his team and how his understanding of these rules helped him build and execute his vision.

Watch this vlog to learn more about the third characteristic of a winning team – Rules of the Game!


All right, welcome back! In the first vlog, we talked about Chad and his strong leadership in terms of developing a vision and a goal that basically was about transforming the workplace at a factory in northern Michigan. And we left off when we were setting this, getting ready to set up the Rules of the Game. 

For a team to be successful, they have to work according to certain cultural rules and certain, just actual rules. And what I’d like to share with you are the rules that underpinned Chad and his team. The first thing was a set of core beliefs. And this was really important for Chad to understand and develop his vision. And the first Core Belief was: ‘Every situation is inherently simple’. 

Now, if you remember Chad’s project started out as “Improve Plant Availability” and there were 1000s of pieces of equipment with literally 10,000s of problems. Where do you start? It’s too complex. No matter how complex you look at things, every situation is inherently simple. And so we guided Chad to that understanding by systematically and logically helping him take this “boil the ocean” project of trying to improve global availability, to ‘Where does it actually matter?’ Where does it make a difference? And we used the concepts of the Theory of Constraints, a tool that was not taught in the Lean Six Sigma class, to help them focus down and realize that yes, there are 1000s of pieces of equipment. But there’s one process step, with one subset of equipment, that really was the linchpin in determining how many tons of product they can put out. And at this point in time in history, they were able to sell every ton they could make at an amazingly high price. So the money was good if they could do this. 

And so the situation went from 1000s of possibilities to working on this one process. And the part of the process they would work on was shutdowns. And shutdowns consisted of about 300 tasks. And so the idea of actually improving the availability that mattered, the availability that put tons out the door, turned, what was an inconceivably complex problem, into an extremely simple one. 

The second core belief is: ‘Every situation could be substantially improved.’ And so looking at the shutdowns and looking at how they were being executed, they were ranging between 14 and 21 days, and usually wrapped up in a hurry because they had to get back into production and not necessarily resulting in a quality job. And looking at, from a project management perspective, what was available, we realize, Chad realized that, oh, my goodness, we can cut that time down in half or less, without a whole lot of trouble, right. And so, he believed the situation could be substantially improved. And so going, you can imagine going from, hey, I don’t even know where to begin on my project to its focus, it’s simple, and they were chasing literally millions of dollars in this project. That’s pretty inspiring. And that did a lot for Chad’s energy and his passion and his ability to sell the project. 

The third core belief is: ‘People are fundamentally good’. Look, there were a lot of issues in the plant, there’s a lot of strain between the union and management. But the belief that we’re all in this together, and people are fundamentally good, and if we approach them, they’ll rise to the occasion. All right. 

And they’ll rise to the occasion because our core fourth core belief is ‘There’s always a win-win solution’. So no matter what we run into, we believe that if we put our minds to it, we can solve it in a way that’s good for everybody. Good for the company, good for the union, good for the individuals good for our customers, right? So those are the core four core beliefs that energize Chad. 

The four ‘Rules in Use’, which are based on the Toyota Production System, and a great Harvard Business Review article from 1999 by Spears and Bowen, is as follows: First rule: ‘How people work’. And this was kind of the key to the concept of success. This Rule One, How people work, says that all work should be clearly defined in terms of CONTENT, SEQUENCE, TIMING and OUTCOME. When you do Content, Sequence, Timing, and Outcome, in a work task, or a shutdown, which is a set of work tasks, then you’re setting up an experiment. You’re setting up an experiment that says, ‘If we do this work, in this sequence, we’ll get these results, in this timeframe. And when we set it up as an experiment, and we set out to learn, then the organization, every iteration of the execution of work, can learn and improve, right. And that was really energizing as well. 

The second rule is ‘How people connect’. When you communicate, you want to communicate directly from individual to individual. This was very different than communicating through the supervisor through the manager, through the general manager back to the other supervisor, the manager down to the supervisor down to the crew, this great big horseshoe of communications was BS wasn’t helpful, we wanted to make direct connections. And that meant we were going to take the message and the dream directly to people on the shop floor and every level of management.

‘How processes flow’, direct and simple single paths.

 ‘How people improve’, is through experimentation, and testing, and measuring.  Plan, Do, Check, Act. And these became the standards and the norms, and there was one more implied in here. And that was, we’re going to use the tools that made sense, not the tools that were dictated in terms of him getting certified. And one of those tools was critical chain project management, which we’ll talk about a little later, under action plan. But he built his plan. And he put it together with passion. He had his union members, by the way, the union members went to their union had said, Look, we’ve got this great opportunity, we’ve got this idea. And it’s gonna change the world. Probably predictably, the union management said, “Yeah, I don’t think so. We’ve heard that crap before”. They felt enough of Chad’s passion and enough belief in what he had explained to them, and how he, how he put it all together, say, guys, this really will work that they went back to the union, and the guy who was the Treasurer, basically told the union Look, this is the best thing that ever came along. And if you don’t want to do it, you can take a Treasurer’s job and shove it, I’m doing this, alright. So he was raising the standards on the union saying, you know, what, just not working with management isn’t in our interest. And we’re raising the bar, and you either come along, and you don’t come along. And they came along, and I didn’t want to lose the treasurer. And they gave their blessing, which was critical to this project being successful. 

The second hurdle that he that brought up the standards and norms and raised them was when Chad presented his new project plan to his not one but two bosses. Chad worked for the corporate director of Lean Six Sigma, and the corporate director of maintenance improvement, right, two guys located in Cleveland, that were pretty much disconnected from the world. And he had a call with him, and he laid out his revised plan that wasn’t going to boil the ocean, improve availability, but he was going to focus on shutdowns, specifically, shutdowns at the constraint and put together this process using critical chain to identify the key tasks and start a massive process of improvement at the grassroots level. And what do you think of that? 

First, the Master blackbelt said, Well, you know, critical chain, that’s a fad. And I don’t believe in it, and you read between the lines, I don’t understand that or know what it is. You can’t use it. So the answer’s no. All right. Then the maintenance leader chimed in and said, Well, you know, we’re working on work identification, which is the first step in the maintenance process, and you’re wanting to jump ahead to execution. And so the answer is no. So normally, when when we raise standards, we lose people low in the organization. We don’t lose leadership. In this case, we lost leadership. And Chad had a conundrum. I had a problem, right? If this didn’t go forward, it wasn’t working anymore. I was a consultant that was serving as the guide on this process. And so Chad, we talked it over. He wanted to verify that this really would work and that really, we really could pull this thing off. And he told us to bosses to stick it. He’s going to do it anyway. He got the backing of the General Manager of the site, and Well, the rest is history. And so as you raise your game, as you set the roles in place, as you start bringing structure in order to the business, it’s really critical to the team, that that structure is there. However, not everybody is going to be happy with that structure, and some folks will just have to leave.

So there we are, we have a strong leader with an amazing goal for the team and for the organization. And he’s put in place a whole set of rules. And that leads us to the action plan, which will be the next blog. Thank you for joining us. See you again soon.

Rick Phelps coaches business owners and their leadership teams to create and sustain cultures and systems with the goal of providing spectacular results.

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