The EQ Factor

Navigating through the emotions around Lean changes


Navigating through today's business climate can be a formidable task. In particular, when on the Lean path of challenging the norm, eliminating waste and searching for root-cause, business leaders must apply "Emotional Quotient" (EQ) skills to overcome roadblocks. It takes more than traditional cognitive intelligence to be a successful Lean change champion in today's business climate. You need to identify, take ownership, solve and meet the challenges head on while applying an emotionally intelligent response.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be defined as the innate dimension of intelligence responsible for our potential to manage opportunities when presented and manage relationships with others. EQ (like IQ, only with emotions) is the relative measure of a person's healthy or unhealthy development of their innate EI. EQ is the distinguishing factor that enables us to have healthy relationships, find a passion and collaborate with others. Emotion is distinct from cognition (thinking) and volition (will). While many leaders can comprehend tremendously intricate data, frequently those same leaders lack empathy, sabotage relationships, and ultimately fail to "rally the troops" and implement desired changes. As more companies downsize, delayer and work in teams, doing more with less equals stress. So being able to lead with EQ skills is becoming more critical. Sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is through case examples.

Case Study: The EQ Blunder

A Lean project team has been created to reduce cycle time on the fill line. Representatives from Engineering, Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Quality Control have assembled. The meeting begins with an initial pass at identifying root cause. The 5M+E root-cause analysis tool has been sent out as pre-work for the meeting. Pat, the plant planning manager, has done his pre-work and has some idea of what opportunities exist. At the meeting, Pat identifies some "very critical points" about label lead times, scheduling challenges and planned plant downtime. Wilber, the Vice President of Manufacturing, corrects Pat by stating that the shutdown dates for this year are not set in stone and tells him he needs to remain flexible. Pat chimes in later with his pessimistic views regarding forecast inaccuracy. Another point made by Pat has to do with a rash of late changes made to label design by Marketing. Susan, a Marketing manager and the team leader, takes offense to the comment and tells Pat that vendor lead-times drove the delays. Pat's perspectives tend to be voiced in a condescending and pessimistic tone that invites challenge. Wilber finally tells Pat to table his comments. I will explore alternatives for Pat throughout this paper as a way to illustrate EQ Skills.

An EQ blunder can quickly become a career-limiting move. Despite being a manager and strong technical player, Pat has managed to damage his character and devalue himself. The good news for Pat (and all of us) is that EQ skills can be developed. I will refer to the above case as I review the EQ skills that can be attained.

Today, many books, tools and trainings exist on the subject of emotional intelligence. Organizations are applying an array of EI-based instruments for predicting on-the-job performance. The American Society for Training and Development, for example, has published a volume describing "best practice" guidelines for helping people in organizations cultivate the EI-based competencies that distinguish outstanding performers from average ones (Cherniss & Adler, 2000). According to Daniel Goleman, author of the popular 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, for individuals in leadership positions 86 percent of their competencies were in the EI domain.

It is not uncommon for people to blame depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxieties on past experiences. There are billions spent annually on absenteeism and lost productivity that are blamed on terrible experiences and past wounds. However, even true victims need to overcome hurtful histories and develop a sense of accountability, futuristic perspective and empowerment.

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