Creative teams

The secret to unlocking creativity is not to look for more creative people, but to unlock more creativity from the people who already work for you. The same body of creativity research that finds no distinct “creative personality” is incredibly consistent about what leads to creative work, and they are all things you can implement within your team. Here’s what you need to do:

Greg Satell “Set the Conditions for Anyone on Your Team to Be Creative”  05Dec2018 Harvard Business Review

In this great article Greg Satell lays out what an organization that drives creativity looks like. Facilitating creativity is crucial for continuous improvement and thus a fundamental part of a culture of quality. So let’s break it down.

Cultivate Expertise

In order to build expertise our organizations need to be apply to provide deliberate practice: identify the components of a skill, offer coaching, and encourage employees to work on weak areas.

Bring knowledge management to bear to ensure the knowledge behind a skill has been appropriately captured and published. To do this you need to identify who the expert performers currently are.

It is crucial when thinking about deliberate practice to recognize that this is not shallow work, those tasks we can do in our sleep. Unlike chess or weight-lifting you really do not get anything from the 100th validation protocol or batch record reviewed. For work to be of value for deliberate practice it needs to stretch us, to go a little further than before, and give the opportunity for reflection.

Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated gave six traits for deliberate practice:

  • It’s designed to improve performance. “The essence of deliberate practice is continually stretching an individual just beyond his or her current abilities. That may sound obvious, but most of us don’t do it in the activities we think of as practice.”
  • It’s repeated a lot. “High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task and performing the task for real, when it counts.”
  • Feedback on results is continuously available. “You may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn’t what counts.”
  • It’s highly demanding mentally. “Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it ‘deliberate,’ as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.”
  • It’s hard. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”
  • It requires (good) goals. “The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome.”

Encourage Exploration

The Innovators DNA by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen state that creativity is a function of five key behaviours

  • Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
  • Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
  • Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
  • Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives
  • Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge

Exploration can be seen as observing outside your sphere of knowledge, networking and experimenting.

Empower with Technology

Sure, I guess. Call me a luddite but I still think a big wall, lots of post-its, markers and some string work fine for me.

Reward Persistance

Remember this, we are always in this for the long haul. I think remembering the twelve levers can help give perspective.

Understanding Data – A Core Quality Skill

A critical skill of a quality professional (of any professional), and a fundamental part of Quality 4.0, is managing data — knowing how to acquire good data, analyze it properly, follow the clues those analyses offer, explore the implications, and present results in a fair, compelling way.

As we build systems, validate computer systems, create processes we need to ensure the quality of data. Think about the data you generate, and continually work to make it better.

I am a big fan of tools like the Friday Afternoon Measurement to determine where data has problems.

Have the tools to decide what data stands out, use control charts and regression analysis. These tools will help you understand the data. “Looks Good To Me: Visualizations As Sanity Checks” by Michael Correll is a great overview of how data visualization can help us decide if the data we are gathering makes sense.

Then root cause analysis (another core capability) allows us to determine what is truly going wrong with our data.

Throughout all your engagements with data understand statistical significance, how to quantify whether a result is likely due to chance or from the factors you were measuring.

In the past it was enough to understand a pareto chart, and histogram, and maybe a basic control chart. Those days are long gone. What quality professionals need to bring to the table today is a deeper understanding of data and how to gather, analyze and determine relevance. Data integrity is a key concept, and to have integrity, you need to understand data.

Lessons in Lean – Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves

There is little argument regarding the critical role that structured problem-solving plays in a lean transformation. Besides the business results associated with solving problems, developing problem-solving skills increases learning, drives the desired change in thinking, and helps people more clearly understand how lean works as a system. With this said, however, it is amazing how little effort many organizations put into developing effective problem-solving skills. It seems like more time is spent on things like 5S, value stream mapping, and other tools that are generally considered easier to apply and less likely to be met with resistance.  As a result, transformation does not occur, improvements are not sustainable, and the big gains possible through lean thinking are never achieved.

Lessons in Lean: Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves
by Greg Stocker

Good discussion on the importance of rigorous, sustained problem-solving as part of Lean initiatives. I think many of us have experienced this in our own organizations.

Utilizing problem solving tools in a structured way helps us better understand what is happening, how it is happening and most importantly, why it is happening. Armed with this understanding we can then engage in those improvements. Problem solving is key to getting those improvements because it allows us to discover why a problem is actually happening and not to just treat symptoms.

Problem Solving needs to reach a level of detail that accurately identifies an actionable cause that can then be addressed.

Quality is about teaching

One of the core skills for a quality professional is teaching. We teach skills, ways of thinking, methodologies. “Great Employees Want to Learn. Great Managers Know How to Teach” by Daniel Dobrygowski nicely covers some key points that every quality professional should think through as we go through out day advocating for quality in our organizations.

Define goals and communicate them clearly

Part of this is an evangelical role. Quality needs to be able to explain the quality goals, whether of the organization of a specific system or process. People in your organization want to know why they are doing things. Spend some time having clear talking points, be ready to give your pitch. Speak proudly of your quality systems. And be ready to understand how other’s goals intersect with your own.

Identify and build skills

Understand the skills necessary for quality, develop a plan to assess and build them and then execute to it. Knowledge management is crucial here.

Create opportunities for growth

Quality raises the prospects of all. Quality professionals who realize that our core job is building skills and growing the people in our organization benefit from teaching will drive continuous improvement and make folks happier using our systems. Growth is a reward loop, and people feeling they are rewarded by your system will want to use it more.

In short take each and every opportunity to use your interactions as a way to grow skills and capabilities. Quality will only grow as a result.

Seven Skills for success

Adam J. Gustein and John Sviokla explore a topic that is probably on many people’s minds in the Harvard Business Review in the article “7 Skills That Aren’t About to Be Automated.”

In this article seven skills are set out seven skills that make you employable no matter what: communication, content, context, emotional competence, teaching, connections, and an ethical compass.

It is a good, broad, skill set and also demonstrates exactly what every quality professional should have. And points out a great direction for growth.

I am a big fan of the seven basic quality tools, but the day is quickly coming when four of them will be fully automated (Control charts, Histogram, Pareto chart, and Scatter diagram). Most big companies already have pilots in place as part of their big digital transformations.

A fun example of just why this skill set matters can be seen from playing with a semantic network like ConceptNet. Look a look at the word quality, and you see pretty easy why several of the above skills make a difference and will continue to do so.

Quality professionals are well placed on many of these skills. As automation continues the life of a quality professional will change. This change brings us a great many opportunities, and isn’t that one of quality’s core competencies?