Finding the Best People for Process Improvement

Finding the Best People for Process Improvement

best people for process improvement


Any business, from Google to the hot dog cart guy, is defined by the people working in it. No matter how slick or strict your processes are, the people using them will adapt and (hopefully) improve them in their own image. 

It stands to reason, then, that you need the best people. You need people who won’t let any inefficiency escape without attacking it and rooting it out. You need an A-Team for Process Improvement. And that, of course, is the rub.

So how do you hire the people to get you there?  In another article we gave you some unique interview questions to try. Now, here are some outside-the-box tips to help get you there…

finding the best people steps

1) Listen to the People You Have

If you’re the Owner, I have some bad news for you. Statistically speaking, you probably make pretty terrible hiring decisions. 

You know what you need more than anything else. You also know how expensive it is every day that position isn’t filled. So, you look for the right stuff in the wrong people. You don’t think you do, but you do. You might ask leading questions or look for nuggets you only think are there. In short, it’s hard for an Owner to make a disinterested decision. 

If you want to be part of the interviews, have someone there with you whose opinion you genuinely trust. Create a script and stick to it, and keep those questions the same for everyone. Also, never hire without sleeping on it first.


2) Seek the Right Attributes

KASH box

If you haven’t heard of the KASH Box, look it up. Read our KASH box article for the details, but here’s the summary. You hire on 4 qualities:

  • K – knowledge. What they know coming in.
  • A – attitude. Their perspective on life.
  • S – skills. What they can do coming in.
  • H – habits. How they live their lives.

K and S are easy to test, ask questions about, and hire on. It’s appealing to be able to bring a front-end loader operator on day 1 and they’re rocking. And for many jobs – the jobs that require specific and detailed day 1 skill sets, K and S are key.

A and H are harder to unearth. It’s more than their words, it’s also how they respond to your questions. 

You’re not trying to measure how well they’ll perform a process anymore. You’re measuring what they will do when they see a potential improvement for the process. Will they let it slide and just keep doing their job, or will they tackle it, mentally wrestle with it, and come to you with a potential fix?

If you want someone to be good at their job on day 1, hire for Skills and Knowledge. If you want them to grow into their job over time, and help you grow your business with you as they get to know the inner workings better, hire for Attitude and Habits. 

Ultimately, you can train any skill you need. But you can’t train habits, nor can you train attitude. 


Remember that every new hire has the potential to be with you for a long time—for better or worse. The right people aren’t just capable. They care about being a real part of your business’ success.

Real and False Urgency

Real and False Urgency

real vs false urgencyComplacency kills businesses. The problem is that we know this. We’re so scared of complacency that we push our teams to stay busy. Complacency kills; busyness wounds.

Urgency is key. There are 2 kinds:

  • False urgency needs this job done now and then the next job done now. It thinks about the next step and then the next. It doesn’t coordinate with others. It trades aerial perspective for the perspective of those grinding away in the trenches.
  • True urgency finds the horizon, and create a map as it charts backwards. It keeps perspective, knowing the goal is urgent but the task is not. It neither hustles nor bustles, but takes correct, coordinated steps, exactly when it needs to.

True urgency is the fuel that drives Process Improvement forward. False urgency is false hope that drives your people into burnout.

false vs true urgency

3 steps to urgency

1) Listen

Stop measuring your day by hours. Start measuring it by focus. You always have more hours available than you have focus to make them productive. Choose wisely.

Listen to your team. How many times per day do they mention how busy they are? Do they list off what they need to do when you say “hi?” Do they wear their busyness like a badge of honour?

Keeping a business running smoothly is not checking off a list of errands. It’s giving your focus to the processes that matter the most.

Ask your team what was their 1 solid accomplishment that day. If they can’t think of one amid their errands-list of busyness, you need to slow them down so they can be more effective.


2) Look

Is your office a kicked-over anthill?  Are people scuttling this way and that way, each with their own task?

Pay attention. Are they working together like a symphony, or all tooting their own tune? Are they focused on one task at a time, or multi-tasking? Is one task happening well, or are 5 tasks happening poorly? Are they talking to each other? Passing tasks on like batons in constant collaboration? Or quiet and heads-down-busy?

Someone can look productive when they’re really looking for a stapler. See beyond the busy.


3) Ask

In order to run the business, you need to be present in it. Check in with your team, both in groups and one-on-one. Is your team thinking about the horizon, or are their eyes focused on the ground so they can take the next step? You won’t know unless you ask.

Process Improvement works when you tap into your business’ most valuable resource: its people. Buy them a coffee or walk with them in the hallway. Talk to them, and find out where their focus is.

If it seems they are solely focused on getting through some “To-Do” list, get curious. And start with yourself. Your fear of complacency may be rubbing off, so check in with the example you’re setting and make sure it is moving your team forward. Remember: false urgency only replaces complacency with waste, at your team and the organization’s expense.

Inspire them, don’t scare them. Show them where on the horizon you need to go, and then hand them a pencil to map it out together. Start to frame each task they do with the horizon in mind. Stop being busy, and start being visionary.

The Importance of Urgency in Process Improvement

The Importance of Urgency in Process Improvement

importance of urgency in process improvement

Culture of Urgency: Why It’s Hard

Sprinting is easy. We:

  • Focus hard on the finish line.
  • Stretch till we’re limber.
  • Put everything we can into our burst of speed.

Do you have a sense of urgency when you sprint?  Of course you do. And then it dissipates after. Imagine maintaining the urgency of a sprint for a marathon. Not the speed (that’s impossible), but the focus. Grit. Intensity.

Every business wants to succeed at Process Improvement. We all try. We mostly fail.  We fail because we think it’s about speed. But…

It’s about urgency.

Assume this: that your business has a deep culture of complacency. Most do. Our cubicles and job-sites are full of people pulling 8-5, day-in and day-out tasks. They do their job well, get paid, repeat.

You’re the boss, and you want to be more profitable. You hear HLH talk about “process improvement” and it’s a good idea. You wake up at 3am with thoughts on how you can do things better. You write memos and give pep talks. You have intensity and focus, and your staff rally around you. And you see small changes happening…

And then the sprint is over. The sense of urgency gets trampled by daily tasks.  We’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now.


Culture of Urgency: What It Looks Like

It looks like you showing up Every. Single. Day. with the same message: seek waste and destroy it. It looks like you doing this until your managers catch the bug. Then their teams. And then you’re running a marathon with the urgency of a sprint. It looks like the janitor spotting waste and telling the CEO about it, and action happens. And money is saved.


Culture of Urgency: How to Get There

culture of urgency main points

Tell the Truth:

They won’t feel urgency if they aren’t motivated

They won’t be motivated if they think the business is invincible

They won’t know the bottom line is fragile if you pretend it isn’t

Employees always think you make more money than you do. Be transparent about market realities. The more you tell them, the more they feel included. It’s what we teach our kids but forget ourselves.


Include Everybody:

The Culture of Urgency isn’t just for managers. Everyone’s mortgage is on the line. Everyone wants to make more money.

Set up a forum where everyone is heard. Walk the floors. Re-learn how to talk to your staff without giving orders. Break bread with them. Listen.


Don’t Make Big Changes:

Make small changes; make them permanently.

One small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.

Another small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.


And another.

And another until you have a stack of sustainable changes, and an army of engaged, included staff sniffing around for more waste to fix.

And then you start to save some real money.

Lean Principles to Lead Culture Process Involvement

Lean Principles to Lead Culture Process Involvement

Lean Principles




You look at your net profit and it’s not where it should be. You can feel the waste.

So you decide to take some action. You’ve heard about Process Improvement, possibly at an HLH seminar or read “2 Second Lean.” You talk to your core team and they’re on board.

Now there’s a fork in the road. We typically only see it through hindsight, but it’s there. There are 2 ways to implement change. Neither option is “wrong,” although one of them will impact that net profit more.


 Change Management

This is the kind of change that is planned, deliberate, and typically small. Here’s the process:

change management

You hope that the change will stick when the boardroom turns its focus to the next matter. It usually doesn’t. That’s because if change is driven by a formal plan, it will evaporate when the plan expires.

Change Management is often effective and it can save you money, especially if it’s consistent. It also allows the boardroom to retain control of the entire process in exchange for the process being limited to containable targets.


Change Leadership

This is the sort of change that focuses on a cultural shift over a plan. It’s about empowering your entire team (not just specific stakeholders) until they’re driven to deliver unpredictable, uncontrollable, paths to Process Improvement.

It’s like injecting your entire business with a sense of urgency. It can get out of hand, can drown you in multiple visions that often compete with each other, and is the only path to lasting, systemic change.

change leadership

Change Leadership turns your entire team into a collective engine for change. Don’t expect that engine to take you to predictable places. Guide it with your vision, and be open to the experience.


Questions Towards Leadership

Change Management empowers stakeholders to a degree, but it’s still driven and controlled by the boardroom. It’s an extension of standard management practices and mindset.

If you want to become a Change Leader, you must first trust your team. If you mistrust them to the point of micromanaging, it will be impossible to trust their new ideas to move you forward.

Articulating a vision to your team is different than emailing them exactly what the change process will look like. The latter is a to-do list, the former is an agent of inspiration.

To inspire them, you must have a clear vision. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you move towards that:

four questions to change leadership

The more honestly you can answer those questions, the more urgency you’ll be able to spread across your business. Get inspired, inspire others, then let them flourish.

Systemic change can be planned in advance. It’s about creating a sense of urgency to drive forward unproven ideas. Your team members aren’t Change Consultants, so don’t expect polish. Polish is for small and temporary change; collective urgency is systemic and sustainable.


“Change your thoughts and you can change the world.”

 Norman Vincent Peale

8 deadly wastes seminar cta april 16


the winding path toward culture change cta april 18

Happy Holidays! A Stocking Stuffer From the Department of Finance

Happy Holidays! A Stocking Stuffer From the Department of Finance

On December 13, 2017, the Department of Finance gave Canadian taxpayers some additional information regarding the proposed changes to the tax on split income (“TOSI”) rules regarding certain adult shareholders of private corporations. Intended to be a simplification and a more targeted approach than the original proposals introduced over the summer, these revisions are as follows:

  • Spouses aged 65 or over will be excluded from the rules, provided that the owner “meaningfully contributed” to the business.
  • Owners aged 18 or over who contribute an average of at least 20 hours a week to the business will be excluded from the TOSI rules.
  • Adults 25 or over who own 10 percent (of votes and value) or more of a corporation are exempt from the rules. However, where that corporation earns 10% or more from the provision of services or is a professional corporation, this exemption is not available.
  • Individuals who use their lifetime capital gains exemption on qualifying small business corporation shares or farm or fishing property are excluded if they would not have otherwise been subject to the highest marginal rate of tax under current legislation.
  • Adults aged 18 to 24 will be exempt if they have contributed their own capital and the dividend paid passes the reasonableness test.
  • Adult shareholders 25 years of age or older who do not meet any of the above exclusions are subject to the reasonableness test to determine whether TOSI applies.

Given the above changes, the Department of Finance states “the vast majority of private corporations will not be impacted by these proposals.” However, we point out that professional and service corporations continue to be the seemingly hardest hit by the rule changes. As well, although the government touts the latest changes as “clear, bright-line tests”, we challenge that much subjectivity still remains regarding the definitions of “meaningful contributions” or the “reasonableness test”. A lot of “grey” areas may be left up to your local CRA auditor to decide upon.

The revised proposals are projected to be effective for 2018 and subsequent taxation years and the government intends to legislate these measures as a part of the upcoming budget process in early 2018. As a result, it’s a good idea to discuss with your tax advisor how these changes may apply to you and what actions, if any, should be taken to minimize the impact of the new rules.

On the other side of the legislative branch of our Parliament, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance also released its report entitled “Fair, Simple and Competitive Taxation: The Way Forward for Canada.” This report was the conclusion of two months of meetings, submission reviews and interviews of Canadians from all across our country. In their executive summary, the Committee states a few very direct recommendations:

  • “…most witnesses told our committee that the proposed changes should be withdrawn in their entirety. We are inclined to agree. We are not convinced that the government has made a good case for its proposals.”
  • “We also believe that we need an independent comprehensive review of our tax system to ensure that it is not overly complex, maintains our economic competitiveness and is fair to all Canadians.”
  • “Canada needs a strategy to ensure our tax system encourages, rather than inhibits, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth.”

The Committee’s seemingly direct challenge to our Members of Parliament is refreshing to see. The principles they point the reader to in their report seem like valuable and worthwhile goals to pursue. However, it remains to be seen whether their report will influence the path these proposals take through our Parliament.

For all his work in the above-mentioned areas, our Finance Minister, Bill Morneau has recently been named the Canadian Press’s “business newsmaker of the year”. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t go for the repeat in 2018!

Link to Department of Finance – Backgrounder on Simplified Measures to Address Income Sprinkling

Link to Standing Senate Committee on National Finance – Fair, Simple and Competitive Taxation: The Way Forward for Canada