When our large factory decided to create self-directed work teams, we had no idea how powerful the transformation would be. All our KPI’s improved as we saw employees engage on a level we had never seen before. (safety, cost, quality and delivery improved to record-breaking levels.)


No one likes being told what to do. We would rather be told what the problems are and given the opportunity to solve them. This is what management did; empowered those that do the work to manage how they do it. Self-directed work teams are the most efficient structure for working as a group.

Key Points we will review:

  1. Challenges that face companies today - Safety, cost, quality, delivery, the pace of change
  2. What is a self-directed work team?
  3. Why formal teams are the solution you are looking for.
  4. How to form work teams.
  5. Maturing teams produce leaders and growth - What you can expect in return.


[Webinar Transcription]

Tiffany:Hello, and a warm welcome to everybody. We would like to wish everyone a good morning, a good afternoon or a good evening, depending on where you are in the world. My name is Tiffany, and I'm a part of Safeopedia. Safeopedia’s mission is to support EHS professionals, operational folks and any safety minded individuals with free safety information, tools and education. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to those dedicated professionals for the great work they do on a daily basis.

Just a reminder, the webinar is being recorded, and we’ll send out a link to the recording to everybody in a few days. This webinar is for you, the audience, so we'll keep it interactive. Get your questions into the GoToWebinar console as we go, and we'll get to them at the end of the presentation. Today, we're proud to present, How to Improve Safety with Self-Directed Work Teams.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you today's presenter, Bryan McWhorter. Bryan is a productivity expert and safety professional with over 10 years’ experience in implementing and teaching safety, leadership and productivity tools. He gained much of his knowledge and experience through over 30 years as a supervisor, safety officer, and senior trainer in the manufacturing industry at the largest fluorescent lighting factory in the world.

I'm very grateful to have you sit back, relax and enjoy this webinar. With that, Bryan, please take it away.

Bryan:Thank you, Tiffany! Thanks for the warm introduction. I’d like to thank everyone for taking time out of your busy schedules to join us at our webinar today.

I think, I was first exposed to self-directed work teams back in 2007 when our factory started kind of go through, kind of a lot of negative things. I know that word death spiral was used a few times. All our KPIs were going the wrong direction. And the management team, some of which had had experience with self-directed work teams, decided to embrace that as one of our changes.

So, in 2007, we started switching to self-directed work teams, and we turned everything around. We actually, at that point, had one of the most unsafe factories of all our factories globally. And within a few years, we got a global safety award as one of the safest factories. And not only that, but all our KPIs improved. So, hopefully, we'll give you some really good information today. And I want to really challenge your thinking on giving consideration to using self-directed work teams.

So, what are we going to look at today? We're going to look at the challenges that face companies today. We'll look at defining what a self-directed work team actually is and why they are the solution that you're looking for, why they are so effective. Then we'll look at how to create and form self-directed work teams, and then what you can expect for a return on your investment, what you're going to see happen as a result of going to self-directed work teams.

“If you want one year of prosperity, grow rice. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.”

And this is a long-term thinking philosophy that I see with a lot of thought leaders. You have people like Simon Sinek, Stephen Covey, John Maxwell, so many that embrace the idea of personal growth: Grow yourself, grow your people, and you'll see everything improve along with it. There's a reason why Toyota says, “Before we build cars, we build our people.” So, for that long-term growth that’s steady, again, invest in your people, your team.

So, first key point that we're going to look at: Challenges facing companies today. There's never been a more challenging time to be in business. Competition is fiercer than ever. Because of being part of a global economy, consumers are pickier, we have more choices on where to shop, we have higher expectations, and now we have more of a voice. If we have a good experience or a bad experience, there's lots of places we can give reviews, from Facebook, LinkedIn to review sites, where we definitely love sharing our experiences.

The challenge of good performance, you know, your KPIs of safety, cost, quality and delivery, and these often create conflicting metrics. What I mean by that is if you focus heavily on one, you tend to negatively impact the others. If you focus all on cost, then you're probably going to go to maybe cheaper products, you know, cheaper resources, and that's going to negatively impact quality. If you go for all good quality, well, that's definitely going to impact cost. If you want to focus on delivery, that might mean having more people involved and higher inventories to make sure that that happens on time. So, these tend to wage war against one another. But when you focus on self-directed work teams, we’ll show you how really that conflict doesn't exist. We can improve all of them.

Then the pace of change itself. There's so much happening so quickly, from market conditions to new technologies, that if you can create a work environment where your people handle change as a skill, where something that they're very confident in, then that itself is very, very powerful and definitely something we want.

If we look at a traditional organization, typically, this is what we're going to see. We'll see your frontline workers — and it really doesn't matter if we're talking about construction, manufacturing, farm, large farming operation, hospital, restaurants. You're going to see some form of this, where you got the frontline workers, your direct labor, those that are the tip of the spear, the boots on the ground, those that do the work, and you'll see that throughout the organization, you have fewer people with more and more authority. Now, the problem with this is all the authority is on the top, but all the information’s on the bottom. The people that do the work see issues quickly. They're the ones that know when problems occur.

I don't know how many times I've dug into an organization that, say, had a problem, had to do a recall because the gasket was leaking oil, or this or that. And you get talking to people on the front line and they knew about it months ago. You know, they just weren't able to get it through the layers of the organization to those with the decision-making power. What we want to create is a decentralized command, where we take some of that authority and empower those that actually have the information. Again, if we're trying to get all the information to go through the different filters and layers, it can be very difficult to get, you know, those problems and concerns to those that have the power to actually do something about it.

Another way to look at that is the iceberg principle. And we've all seen this, we all understand the iceberg principle. The idea is that the majority of the iceberg is under the surface, underwater. We’ll find that our problems in any organization are really that same way. For that one big problem that’s sticking out on the surface that everybody sees, there's most likely 10 regular size problems right under the surface. Then for those 10 regular problems, we got 100 smaller ones. For the hundred smaller ones, we got 1,000 issues. There's kind of a 10x principle going here.

Well, who knows about those thousand issues? That's these people on the bottom that do the work. Again, we realize, need to realize, that often, these big problems started as little issues that were able to mature, and, you know, just no one was able to catch them and deal with them. Again, we've got to change it to where those that do the work, that live on that, you know, in the environment where the work is actually happening, where they've got the power to actually act upon the leading indicators that they see.

Okay, so what is a self-directed work team anyway? Before I explain, what one is, let's look at some examples. Probably the best examples I could point to you would be any sports team. So, take your favorite basketball, soccer, football team, those are a great example of self-directed work teams. And the interesting thing is most businesses do not operate like what I'm about to lay out for you. So, I think it's really interesting that we get it right when it comes to sports, but we miss it when it comes to business and how we, you know, run our corporations.

So, you look at, well, we'll go with a basketball team. We've got, you know, the people on the court who are the players — we’ll call them our direct labor — that have total freedom to respond to the leading indicators that they see happening. So, it’d be kind of funny if you had a basketball team that had to operate like a corporation. Maybe a player sees a chance to take a jump shot to go for a three pointer. But, you know, that's a risky move, so he's going to stop and ask for permission first. Or maybe he wants to pass the ball, but you know what, that ball is an asset. So, first, you got to fill out a form because we got to track that asset. You know, you won't see any micromanaging going on the ball court.

Same on a football team. You know, they've got to have the freedom to respond to the leading indicators. This is why you'll see the quarterback change the play often based on the setup of the defense. What's happening on the gridiron, on the football field, those are leading indicators who has control of the ball where they're on the field, the placement of the offense and the defense. What you see on the scoreboard, those are lagging indicators. Now they're still important, but once it goes on the board, it's said and done, again, this lagging. If you want to control the lagging indicators, you got to give people empowerment to deal with the leading indicators.

Another good example would be our Navy Seals and many of our special forces. They live by a mantra of “train, empower and support.” So, they're creating that decentralized command post, where they're training people to take leadership roles. Again, our military gets it, and we get it in sports, but I go into very few businesses that work with this concept.

So, the idea of a self-directed work team: We have a team structure in place, usually with a group of individuals that feel the same pain. They're seeing the same things, the same perspectives. What I mean by that is, let's say we own a really large restaurant. The kitchen would be one team, so your kitchen staff is one team, and your waitstaff, waiters, waitresses would be another team, because they deal with different issues, they deal with different pains. So, we want everyone that, you know, has skin in the game working together. They have a — you want to make sure you that the team has a clear understanding of the goal.

This is another thing that, again, our sports gets right, you know, the common goal of winning the game. But I don't know how many businesses I've walked into where I've asked management, what's your main goal for this year? And they maybe give me this long explanation that, you know, when they're giving a long explanation, a goal that to me, it's not real clear. And if I go out and ask people on the floor, or the construction site or whatever, often they won't give me an answer at all. They’re not sure. Yeah, they're pretty sure that involves profit, but that's pretty much it. So, you need clear goal set up.

Then you need parameters and infrastructure designed to support those teams. That means having standard work in place, having something called RACI, which stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. This was part of that communication flow and making sure everyone understands their job. So, who's responsible for doing what? Who's accountable for making sure that, you know, the work is getting done? When something happens, who do I need to consult? Who do I need to inform?

And so, you would tie that to an escalation metrics, kind of like the end on coordinating at a Toyota factory. What you don't want is to have a problem going on for hours before someone is contacted that maybe can help with it.

So, as humans, we don't like asking for help, so you need to build it into your system, you know, because again, we don't like asking for help, but we know that at this point, I'm supposed to call engineering, so easy to do.

And the MCRS just stands for Management Control and Reporting System. And I'll talk more about that a little bit later. But the point is, we want to create structured teams that have the freedom to self-manage within set parameters. They can make the decisions based on set criteria and leading indicators. Again, it really kind of gets me that we get it right when it comes to a hobby like sports, but our businesses where we're trying to earn our livelihood don't operate this way. We try to micromanage. Rather than engage, we disengage.

Okay. Number three, that why formal teams are the solution you're looking for. Kind of going through these points, I've really been fascinated by our brain. The fact that we got three kinds of meat between our ears that dictates so much of who we become, how we respond.

So, I found through my studies that you know, the human brain and teams really have a lot in common. Secondly, we have a deep need to control our lives. We need control. It very much bugs us and disempowers us when we realize that we don't have control over something. Again, it's innate in us. It's in our DNA to want to control what we do and how we do it. We don't like being told what to do. We'd rather be told this is a problem, what ideas do you have on how we can solve this problem?

And that last bullet. Again, we're social beings designed to work in groups. If you don't have formal teams, you have informal ones; we call them cliques. They're going to happen when we bond together. It's just how we are.

So, let's go back to this brain compared to a team. I said, I've always been fascinated by the brain, so I've, you know, read books such as, you know, First, Break All the Rules, and How Full Is Your Bucket? Books about the brain kind of broken down into concepts that guys like me can understand.

So, when you look at the brain compared to a team, again, they're really the same thing. Our brain is comprised of neurons or brain cells. We have hundreds of billions of neurons and brain cells, but again, just like a team, it's not how many brain cells you have, it's how many actually actively have engaged. So, in the brain we have the neurons; in our team we have people. The purpose of neurons is to store and share information. Well, that's it for our teams. The people are just storing and sharing information.

When two neurons connect regularly, it forms synaptic activity, synapses that electrical bond that happens between the neurons. The more often those two neurons fire between each other, the stronger that communication, the stronger those bonds, to the point where something actually becomes almost automatic.

You know, what people communicate with each other, it starts to become intuitive. We start to understand how someone's going to respond to something. We gain empathy with them, we can kind of articulate better, we have less misunderstandings, we work better as we get better communication with one another.

As neurons start to fire in different parts of the brain, they form something called dendrites. The more neurons you have fired, the more dendrites you'll create, which create this kind of like a root structure looking to connect with other brain cells. For us, this is called relationships. As you become known as someone who's empathetic, compassionate, works well with others, is a good contributor, good colleague, it fosters other relationships. More people want to work with you.

And as if this isn't enough to show you that truly a team, a well-functioning team, is a super brain. It's your brain amped up between the individuals, the team. As if that's not enough, it's kind of fascinating to see that the same hormones, the same drugs that we get, really come out in full screen, so to speak, when we're working as part of a team. We have our individual drugs to kind of drive our individual performance, which are dopamine and adrenaline.

Anytime we do something, say, cross off our to-do list or accomplish something, we get a shot of dopamine. And when we're involved in something that challenges us and excites us, it gives us that shot of adrenaline. Now, oxytocin and serotonin are those social hormones. When we’re working with something we enjoy being with, we see a friend or a colleague that, you know, just makes us feel good or when we're actively engaged in or even see an act of kindness or compassion, we get oxytocin and serotonin.

And the Gallup organization and different groups have really done lots of studies on this, including organizations like Life Vest Inside, where you see that acts of kindness, getting oxytocin, serotonin, give us what's called that Helper’s High that warm glow effect. And it is the best thing in the world for fighting depression and anxiety.

What keeps us from cortisol, which is a drug that really leads to anxiety and hypertension, there are organizations, medical organization, in the US that have pegged the work environment as one of the most dangerous environments for health and well-being. If you work in a negative work environment, this cortisol rich and you don't get these good hormones, or you feel like you don't have, you're not valued, you don't have good control, at least to the hypertension, alcoholism, all these negative ripple effects that happen.

So, again, if you want to put people in an environment that we were really created to be in and get the most out of growth and the most out of engagement from your people, remember, studies show right now that in the US about only 1 out of every 10 employees say they're actively engaged. Well, self-directed work teams are a way to get everyone involve. Like those neurons, we want them firing. Well, we want our people actively engaged. If you have competitors that are using self-directed work teams, and you're not, you should be very concerned.

Now, going back to this, again, just like protecting our individual neurons, it's really important to understand the needs of the individuals that are part of that team. There are two main benefits that team members should see and enjoy, and the number one is protection, and the second one is amplification of effort.

That protection, these are actually the two reasons why we bond together as groups, you know, why our ancestors form tribes. We knew we could protect one another. One person could stay awake and watch out for the saber-toothed tiger while the rest of us got some sleep. Then, also, we can do more as a group. We can accomplish far more by our amplification of effort. Again, if we know that we're protected, so we can throw in our full engagement with the group, we can accomplish quite a bit.

For years, as part of self-directed work teams, I taught a class, an eight-hour class, called Team Problem Solving. And a lot of it was getting, you know, the group to be able to work together as a team. And so, I would create some activities where it would be an individual against the team, and the teams always won. Teams always did better than the individual. So, again, if you have people that are working together, but they're not experiencing these benefits, then they're most likely not a team. They're just a group. You got them together, but they're not organized to function as a team. They're not enjoying the benefits that a team should provide.

Now, from the concept of safety, again, if you have employees that don't feel safe, then you've really wiped out 50% of, you know, the benefits that the team should provide. One of the things that we saw when we went to the self-directed work teams back in 2007, by 2009, we'd reduced accidents, OSHA recorded the accidents by 50%, loss on accidents by 75%. The next year, we did it again another 50%, and just continued to improve. Again, we tend to look out for those on our team and protect one another. So, it is a very powerful tool for driving up not only safety, but every KPI you got.

Okay, so how do you form self-directed work teams? Remember, it comes down to mainly that “train, empower and support” so that creating that decentralized command center. So, if your people are new to this concept, you want to explain it, kind of like what we're doing in this webinar. You know, explain the benefits, why you want to go to it. Usually when you explain this, when I've seen it rolled out to teams, to people, their first thoughts are, “I don't believe it.” You know, they can't believe that management is willing to empower them, to listen to them, and let them kind of call the shots. Once you get over that, so again, you got to really mean it and set up the criterion work with them. You know, you’ll find that buy in happens pretty quick.

Then you got to create that infrastructure. So, again, that training component. Making sure that you create the criteria, you know, put that RACI in place (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). You give them those boundaries, kind of like in that basketball game. You know, what are the rules of the game? But then have clear goals.

Then as your teams mature, they're going to go through four stages. They're going to go through forming, storming, norming and performing. You know, how fast you go through those just really kind of depends on how quickly you can get some wins going on and how good your infrastructure is.

But I've seen this dynamic many times. In that first factory that we put this in, we had 18 self-directed work teams covering several shifts, five different shifts. So, I got to watch 18 teams go through this then help implement it in the other facilities. During this forming, you'll have people that are trying to push their own agenda, kind of trying to take advantage of the change to get up there, to be the leader. But as you have some wins and, as the team starts to gel, you'll see a transformation where they start to work together as a well-oiled business machine. I mean, I would visit some of the shift’s meetings, say one monthly meeting for production line, and I was amazed at the level they'd have an agenda. They’d go through their KPIs, problems they’ve had the last month, control measures to fix it for this month.

Again, it was truly amazing to even creating reports to show management. You want to create early wins. You want to get those teams addicted to winning. So, find that low-hanging fruit. Show them that they can implement changes and celebrate those successes. Then you need to practice that PDCA cycle, that plan, do, check, act and continuous improvement.

This is so important, but remember, everything that we do has a shelf life. Those breakthroughs that you experienced two years ago might be the very thing that holds you back next year. Everything in life is either green and growing, or it’s dry and dying. The default happens to be towards drying and dying. So, take any perspective of your life, health, relationships, whatever. If you're not actively moving it forward, you're most likely going backwards. It’s one of the laws of thermodynamics, entropy.

There are three things that management really needs to supply and be very clear on, and that's the goal, resources needed to achieve the goal, and then recognition to employees’ efforts and celebrate success. Again, that resources, we've got to make sure that our goals are achievable, and they're based on leading indicators that people can actually influence. And then when people contribute, when they're stepping up and doing these things, then they need to receive that validation that hey, we noticed.

One of the things I've always said in that that class that I taught on team problem solving, I've taught that class over 600 people, well over 100 times I've done that. Every time I'd taught that class, I've asked the group, “Raise your hand, and I want you to raise your hand if you've ever been over appreciated at work.” I've never had anyone stick up their hand yet. We are usually not overappreciated. If you ask people, and most of the time they'll tell you, they're underappreciated. So again, we need to celebrate success.

With those self-directed work teams, those 18 teams in that facility that I was working at, we actually encouraged them to celebrate every month. Find something that you can celebrate with your team every month. It doesn't have to be, you know, anything expensive, but it is nice to like supply doughnuts for the break room for a cake or, you know, pizza, something. But the point is, again, we want to get addicted to that dopamine and adrenaline of achieving a goal and doing it often. We want to get addicted to success.

Now, last key point there, that how maturing teams produce leaders and growth. Again, this whole concept kind of goes around, rallies around the idea of growth. Again, if you want to improve your life, look to anything that leads to personal growth, that always learning. You know, anytime you invest in your own health, and building on your own knowledge, relationships, it'll usually spill over into other areas of your life. So, same with our teams. As we invest in our teams, usually what, what I have seen and what I've heard from others who have been involved with self-directed work team, is all their KPIs improved. Safety, quality, yield, with production, staying on a task with, say, construction. Whatever your goals are, you will usually see all of them improve. Remember, with every person you hire, with every two hands, you get a free brain. Unless you're using self-directed work teams, you got a lot of brains there that are not engaged. So, we want to give people the opportunity to engage. We want to get them into this win-win, where…

It is interesting. I've actually seen this many times an interesting phenomenon to me. I’ve met employees that, say, were unhappy with their employer. Maybe something happened with them and a supervisor five years earlier, or something where they’ve kind of held a grudge. But the same people I've seen that are not happy over something come up with fantastic projects and support their team to come up with ideas that save millions of dollars. And I can give you a story after story of that exact thing happening.

I can think of one employee who was very unhappy. If you talk to him, he just seemed like a “glass is half empty” kind of guy. He came up with one idea that actually saved that company over a million dollars a year and preventing a scrap of a certain commodity that they use. So, it's just amazing. If we have the opportunity to step up and take control of something, we’ll usually do it. So again, this will get your employees engaged.

Like I said, if you got competitors that are using self-directed work teams and you're not, this should really concern you. Work culture should be a positive one. And as I showed with comparing the brain to a work team, they're really the same thing. You want to get us, you know, with these positive hormones flowing regularly, so we could control that cortisol. You know, if people go home with a satisfied feeling and ready to reengage that next day, that is so powerful. We need to start looking at our employees with this assumption. People want to succeed at work. They don't need motivation; they need management to stop demotivating them by forcing them to work in a culture that goes against human nature.

When you think about it, we are all self-motivated to succeed at anything we do. If I get hired to work anywhere, I want to succeed so that, you know, I got some bragging rights. I can, you know, feel good about myself. I can have confidence that I'm not going to be demoted or fired because, you know what, I'm a valuable asset. I do really well for them. But what happens is, again, we don't need to motivate employees, but we demotivate them by putting them in environments that really isn't good for just humanity. It doesn't feed our social needs.

I mentioned that MCRS, that we’ll touch on that. MCRS stands for Management Control and Reporting System. And part of that is still having that team board. Just like in that basketball or football game, even though what's happening on the court or the field are leading indicators, they still need that scoreboard. That's the lagging indicators. They really keep that sense of urgency in the game. So, we need team boards that communicate those lagging indicators. We need them close by where the employees are.

So, here's one that actually, from a production area, and you can see they use simple run charts. I believe they showed like downtime, shrinkage and product yield, but at the end of every shift, they do just put a dot, but it showed you the trends, the direction they were going. And usually team boards are set up in three main areas. You'd have for people, performance and projects, here listed is continuous improvement. And again, this just keeps that sense of urgency. We want to create glass wall management. Information in an organization is like the blood in our veins, you know, moving that oxygen. So, we need to create good information avenues, ways to communicate that are built in that are positive.

So, here are four secret weapons to really help drive your teams forward, to make them antifragile. By antifragile, I mean that challenges will really excite them. They'll see the challenge as something that, you know, gets my adrenaline going, and my dopamine. Yeah, I'm ready for this. You know, they'll eat challenges like energy bars. And those are, you know, communication boards. Again, they're lagging indicators, but we need to see how we're doing in the game.

Team meetings, you know, effective meetings where they can work together like that football huddle to make sure that they're communicating their needs, they've got the problems all on site, that they've surfaced everything in terms of problems for that that iceberg we looked at earlier, then have standard work in place. Again, one of the rules of Lean is making sure that all activities are identified, and you've created standards for them. And then that mindset of continuous improvement. We want this to be just how we work. So, you know, you are creating your own. If you're like the Acme restaurant, this is your Acme restaurant way of working. So, this is how we do what we do. And employees can take pride in that.

And next thing is really, you cannot do any of this unless you have good leadership. The idea of empowering people means keeping your ego under control and supporting those that you lead. Remember, leadership is truly about — it's a relationship. You know, only humans are capable of leading. I know animals do it, but I'm going to guess that we don't have any animals listening to us today. So, we'll talk about leading.

You know, I manage my household, I manage my bank account, I manage this, I manage that, but that's not leading. Leading is about relationships. So, respect and protect the individuals that you lead, focus the team’s energy on goals. You know, make sure that those goals are clear, and your mindset is to help your team achieve those goals. You want them to be seen as heroes. You're supporting them. The Greek word for hero means protector. So, you want to protect those that you lead.

Provide support as needed without micromanaging. If you have someone that is a micromanager, I’m going to tell you straight up, they're not a leader. They squelch leadership. We don't like being micromanaged. Again, it goes to that basketball court where if somebody had to stop and ask permission to, you know, take a three pointer or fill out a form to pass the ball. We need control to be able to impact what we deal with through the course of our workday. Then celebrate that success.

I love this quote from Simon Sinek: “Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers.” The best way to influence those numbers is to protect your people, again, grow them.

So, hopefully I gave you a good snapshot. This is one of those topics I could literally talk about all day. And I've talked to a lot of people that have had experiences similarly with self-directed work teams. So, they really had that same mindset. They're kind of excited when they get a chance to talk about it. So, with that, we'll open it up for some of your questions, and thanks for listening.

Tiffany:Yeah, great presentation. Thank you, Bryan. This is a quick reminder to get your questions in as we will now be starting the Q&A section. We'll start off with some questions that came in during the registration process. I have one here from Jennifer. “What type of training do employees need in order to be effective as a self-managed team?”

Bryan:Good question. That's so important because that, you know, we look at those three things, that “train, empower and support.” So, again, I'll kind of use basketball team is an analogy. Just in the same way that you want a basketball player that's trained in the basic skills of the game, dribbling, everything, you want to make sure that your employees are competent in what you're asking them to do, so you have good basic training programs in place. Then you set up those guidelines, those parameters, those rules of the game. So, that means having good standard work in place. And don't — if you don't have these in place now, that's okay. Actually, you can put your team together and have them help create these things, which is better anyway.

So, your training is, you know, it started by training them in the team concept. You know, what is a self-directed or team, which we kind of rolled out for you in this webinar. The make sure they're competent in what you're asking them to do, you know, even if you have to bring in people from other organizations to help train them. And I've seen this before. We actually had departments in our lighting factory where we just weren't real knowledgeable than what we were doing. So, some of our more mature factories, we had some of their experts come and train us, and it made a world of difference.

Again, people want to succeed, so we want to be confident in what we are doing. So, you want to create the that standard work, then like we said, or I like I showed in the webinar, make sure you have that RACI in place: responsible consulted — uh, responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. And just the structure, the support, yeah, which is largely that standard work and having good communication in place.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a question here from Steve, and he asks, “In your experience, have you found that different cultures interpret the idea of self-directed teams differently? I work with clients whose workforce is made up of people from different cultures, and some of the concepts you've discussed can be a counterintuitive to some people. How do you suggest those issues should be addressed?”

Bryan:Man, that is a great question. I'm glad you asked that. So, I really didn't think of what I’m putting into the webinar. And I actually, I got to go help create self-directed teams in some cultures where it was really counterintuitive. One of the factors I can think of where we implemented it was in Mexico, in Monterey. And you know, where this was, was more of a hierarchy of when you walk out on the factory floor, employees won't even look managers in the face, that mindset of, you, you kind of a caste system where if you were here, you acted like this. So, to try and implement the self-directed work team really took some patience and…

But again, it’s interesting watching them over a couple of years, they achieved the same levels we had, and we're enjoying the same benefits. Management did a great job of doing those three things of training, empowering and supporting. And I think the last time I went there, I purposely stepped up close to one of their machines seeing if one of the operators… I was stepping somewhere I knew I wasn't supposed to see, er, wasn't supposed to be. So, I was seeing if the operator felt comfortable having a member of management step back, you know, basically, you know, intervening and telling me what to do. And it was a young lady, and she did. She stepped right up to me. She was very polite, kind of took me by the arm and moved me back a couple of feet outside of the safety line and explained to me that, you know, I wasn't supposed to be that close to the equipment. But they’d embrace that safety mindset.

So, to go back to your question, you really need to look at what the culture is, and work within that culture. You know, again, it's all about communication. So, making sure they understand that you're looking to empower them, and give them the ability to address issues that they already know are there. So, most people, it's in our psyche. We want to engage, we just need to know how, and we need to know that, you know, our boss is going to support what we're going to do. So, having those parameters in place. So hopefully that was a good answer. I know I got kind of long winded on.

Tiffany:No, I think that was great. Thank you, Bryan. We have a question here from Christian asking, “How can middle management go about convincing a manager and a top-down structure to be proactive in implementing a self-directed team and trusting them to do the job?”

Bryan:well, and, and that is, that's kind of the million-dollar question, and I do get asked that a lot because you're right. If you're middle management, you know, so you see the need because middle management kind of are the ones that are talking to the direct labor. So, I don't care if, again, it's a restaurant, a hospital construction site. You talk to the people who are dealing with the issues.

So, again, if you look at that iceberg, these are the ones that see all of those issues that are happening. So, upper management that doesn't know that, you know, that they have that ignorance is bliss kind of thing going on thinking everything's just fine. How do you get them to have that epiphany? And really, probably the best thing I could guide you towards is by showing, you know, a little bit of the psychology in this. And you know, the fact that self-directed work teams truly are — and I challenge anyone on this — the most efficient way of working.

You know, again, I'd point you towards the basketball team. You will find no basketball teams that operate like our corporations, but you will find some smart, good corporate corporations and businesses designed purposely their work groups like those sports teams. So, in other words, they've had the epiphany, so they've now empowered their people to address the leading indicators that they deal with. But again, you're never going to see a sports team that micromanages, you know, their team. It's just inefficient and doesn't work. But we have businesses do it all the time.

So, you've got to get upper management to see that benefit, which you know, when you think about it, that's marketing. That's how we, we market anything is, you know, we're benefits oriented. That WIFM (What's in It for Me) is our favorite radio station. So, you’ve got to show them that, you know, they're really missing out by not embracing these self-directed work teams. And they can look to information from the Gallup organization. I think there's some good TED talks on it on YouTube. So, there's a lot of information backing this up.

Tiffany:Thanks, that sounds great. I have a couple of questions coming in about what is the ideal number of people you should have on a team? And when does it get too big with too many people?

Bryan:A good, another good question, because that really does matter. Some of the teams I'm thinking of that I've worked with — I can think of one team, there's over and had like 55 members, I think, to it, but it was over like five different shifts. So, what we did was, we had each shift act as a team. So, they were all part of the bigger team. So those 55 team members, we’ll call the them the Acme widgets team. So, your part of the Acme widgets team, but we might have team A, B, C and D that are, you know. So, you're chunking it down, again, rather than eat the elephant as one bite.

But remember, this is part of what you want. You want that decentralized command where people can respond to what they deal with working truly together as a team. So, it'd be like the five people on that basketball court. You might — you only have more members on your team, but you want the group that's working together, getting along well together.

So, I would suggest, you know, chunking it down as much as you can, to where, you know, smaller groups are better. I know even if you're looking at an organization, they say, 100 people is about the best we can do in terms of having good relationships. If you go beyond 100, it's very difficult, and they'll tell — I think some of the latest studies I've seen about, say, providing support to a group, you know, they say not to go much more than 10. You know, 10 people, you can actively really provide good support to.

So, you know, whatever type of group you're working with, chunk it down to, you know, by shift or whatever to where they can work together in their meetings to where they've got that good relationship. So, I'd use that 10 as maybe a model, but yeah, if you've got large groups, getting it down to where people can work together is definitely important. Again, I felt like I kind of gave you a muddy answer there. But you're right, and size matters. The bigger it is, the more complicated it’s going to get for you.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a question here from Dana, and he asks, “How can an employer ensure that the use of self-directed teams doesn't supersede absolute compliance requirements?”

Bryan:Ooh, good question. build that into your criteria. Again, just like, you know, that basketball player has got to play with rules in the game, you know, they can't travel and this and that, it's the same way with your teams. We are actually pretty good at following instructions as long as we're very clear on what those instructions are because, again, we want to succeed.

So, having into your criteria, to give you an idea what teams in some of the facilities I've helped with with safety. I made sure that — okay, Kaizen and coming up with projects is very important, good tool for teams to have as a way of dealing with the issue. So, if I see a problem, I can submit a Kaizen or project. Well, I would tell them, say, if it’s a safety project, the safety manager has to look at it and sign off on it. And, you know, that would be mainly to make sure that it's compliant. You know, I wanted to make sure that someone didn't come up with a project that violated OSHA or the EPA, or anything like that.

So now, we were having over a thousand projects at some of our locations, you know, yearly. So, it sounds like it's overwhelming, but it's really not. It would take me probably 5/10 minutes every morning to look at the projects that were turned in the day before, and all I did was basically initial them as yes or no. If it was no, I'd explain why you can't, no, you cannot park. When you're doing your 5S you cannot put this toolbox in front of this electrical panel, and here's why. So, once I understood, you know, the idea of compliance and it’s for their own safety, it's never an issue.

So yeah, build that into your criteria. You've got to be compliant. And you'll find people are okay with this, and it makes sense.

Tiffany:Great, thank you. I have a question here from Tim about, “What are the main points employees need to understand as part of a self-directed work team?”

Bryan:You know, it really comes down to those three main things, that “train, empower and support.” Because especially if you've got it, a work environment where people aren’t used to this, they're used to being told what to do, you'll find that you'll have some people that will immediately buy into it, and you'll have a large share of people that are just kind of wait and see. And then you'll have some detractors, some, you know, negative people that are really honest it isn't going to work.

So, when laying this out, the employers need to be really clear on, again, the why, why we want to do this, and the benefits to the employees. But focus on those three things: train, empower and support. And the cool thing is, once your employees do buy into it, you don't have to worry about, you know, things you've missed because they'll bring it to your attention. Remember, you're fostering leadership, so you're telling them that you want them to be able to respond to issues that they deal with in their work environment.

So, this is where you know you have to have leaders that are very patient, and now they have to kind of switch their mindset from being a boss to being a coach. You want to act like that person that is treating your employees like the football players or the soccer player. You want to create good players that are heroes in their own movie. So, your kind of putting yourself in the shadows and helping make them the hero. And we all love that. So again, focus on that training, empowerment and support, and you'll do fine.

And I will say this is going forward. You know, you Safeopedian, feel free to reach out to me because I love helping and support businesses that want to do this. So, you'll find it happens pretty naturally as soon as your employees buy into that. You know, understand that, hey, this is for real, and they're actually going to empower us.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a slightly related question here from Miguel, and he asks, “How should we manage the fact that some team members want a promotion, but you need them as a part of the team?”

Bryan:You know —and what a really good question. Because this is, this goes beyond soccer teams. This is kind of a problem that I often see, and it's that balance between doing what's right for the company and what's right for the individual. Because we’ll run into those. We have this person that does a really good job in this area to the point to where they've become really instrumental. And you know, we think what's best for the company or for this team is to keep them in this environment, but what's best for the individual is move them on.

I'm going to refer to another one of my webinars. You need to check out my Dragon Slayer webinar. The problem is, we need more than one dragon slayer. We want to foster leadership with everybody. So, I can understand having that employee stay in that position for a while, but at some point, you got to promote them. You got to move them on; oherwise, you're really doing them a disservice and it goes against that whole deal of taking care of your people and, you know, doing what's best for them.

Remember those two benefits to the individual: protection, so you're protecting that person; and amplification of effort. You want them to be able to grow which means being promotable. So yeah, and they most likely understand this dynamic too. But as part of any organization, we've got to be creating other leaders, more dragon slayers, that we can hand off that baton to or the sword to go with that dragon slayer analogy.

And, again, I'd say if you're in that position right now, let that person know hey, you know, we do want to promote you, we want to move you on, but let us help build that infrastructure, you know, get some other people trained our standard work in place to where, you know, we can move you without, you know, you pulling your finger out of the dam and the place flooding.

Tiffany:Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. I have a question here from Jamie, and he asks, “You mentioned having set criteria. Do you have frameworks for self-directed work teams that they should be using?”

Bryan:You know, actually, I do. When we created our first self-directed work team, I actually identified criteria based on our key performance indicators. So, I'll use what I showed you guys on the slides as kind of an example. So, we had safety, cost, quality and delivery. We had criteria for each that we wanted our teams to work towards and part of that was having them put a structure in place like put it all you safety. Okay, we want to show, we want you to show us a team that you're really driving safety. So, we want you to as your meetings go on your first agenda item, we want you to always have safety as your number one agenda item. We want to, we want you to put up maybe posters or glass wall management showing your hazard assessment for that area. What are the main hazards that people are have identified? What are your control metrics for those? What do you do daily to look for hazards like slip trip tools, how to place things along this line?

So, I think our first criteria that we had for the different teams was like 120 points under those, those different categories. And for a team to become certified, we made it where you had to meet these criteria, and then we're going to certify you, certify your team, as a self-directed team.

We had a celebration for them. We gave them a plaque, you know, I had cake. But having that criteria set up help create that idea of the dopamine and the adrenaline of, hey, here's your goal. We want you guys to, you know, get your team to grow to the level of performance where you're meeting these criteria. So yeah, going forward, I can help make some of that information available maybe through Safeopedia for people that do want it.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a question here from Steve asking, “What were some of the biggest ROI metrics that you consider implementing self-directed teams?”

Bryan:You know, for the return on your investment, you really want to look at those KPIs that you're using right now most likely anyway. Again, for a restaurant, it might be, you know, how much time people wait for their food, quality complaints, you know, sitting through the pack, things along this line. And in a hospital would be, you know, beds ready and how quickly you can get the employee or employee the patient diagnosed and things on your slide. So, for manufacturing, it would be product yield scrap raise machine downtime for construction, it would be you know, staying on task and utilization of supplies and tools.

So, picture those KPIs that — and the reason I say it this way is every one of those has $1 amount tied to it, you know. So, use the ones that you already have but come up with ways that, you know, your employees can use, leading indicators to drive and influence those. The main thing with us in terms of motivation is I've got to see how my doing something is going to impact what goes on that scoreboard. So, I showed you the trends on the scoreboard, that communication board, that was used to track downtime and, you know, product yield and scrap rates. You know, you want something like that where it's very visible, but it should have an impact on your, your dollars your savings. You'll find usually almost immediately.

As a matter of fact, I've seen teams who were in production factories where just by putting a run chart on the wall where everyone can see how yield and everything would go, all that stuff improved to the positive. And the same was safety. You know, making sure that everybody knows when there's an accident, a near miss property damage, that you have that as glass wall. I'm not talking about, you know, giving up names or anything like this where, you know, it's disrespectful to the individual. Now you're giving the information up, the lagging indicators.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a question here from Joel who asks, “How do you deal with poorly performing teams or individuals on the team?”

Bryan:Okay, that is a really good question, and that is actually one of the strong points of teams. If you have a team, the team socially will work this out usually. It'd be like if you were to go to a bar with a group of people after work, and you always took turns buying rounds, and one person would never, you know, buy the round. You know, the team would address that individual, and that's what usually happens. This is why it's so important to have those team meetings and stuff.

When the team sees that they're not meeting one of their goals due to low performance, they'll usually address it, you know, together. So, it actually helps the supervisors and lead mechanics or, you know, leaders in the organization because the team will take care of those low performers. Now, if you got a whole team that’s performing low, you know, probably the best leverage I've seen — remember, the point I showed on that slide where we've got to go with the assumption that people want to succeed.

You know, if you've got teams competing against each other, that's a good thing. So, if you've got different crews, say, on a construction site, and one is outperforming, we'll see what they're doing and, you know, share those best practices with the others. Anything that gives you leverage is good, but assume your teams if they can control things to be successful, we want that dopamine and that adrenaline. Yeah, we want the oxytocin and serotonin that comes from helping our teammates to achieve success. So, most likely, there's a reason why they're not doing it as opposed to having to work to and make sure they do do it.

Tiffany:Got it. Thank you. I have a question here from Christian who asks, “How do I apply these concepts in dangerous environments where errors are unforgivable?”

Bryan:Man, another really good, good question. And what that — that's where that training, empowerment and support… You know, part of personal growth is we need to be experts in what we do, especially regarding safety. So, remember, OSHA requires us anyway. So, from the environment that you're talking about, you know, now you've up the scale so to speak, where, okay, rather than me possibly getting a laceration, you know, I could possibly cause an explosion or release poisonous gas, or have a fall, something that's life threatening.

So, again, we, we all want to protect ourselves. Again, no one usually gets hurt on purpose. So, making that part of, you know, that team criteria that professionalism. And I'll tell you as part of RACI, I always explain to employees, remember, you're responsible for your own safety. I'm accountable, but you're responsible. I cannot respond to someone else's safety. You know, if I'm — I might be the safety manager, but they're the ones out there doing the work. I can't watch them 24/7. So, i have to make sure that they're well trained, they understand the hazard and the control measure, that they have the competence to follow the control measure, and that they will really do it, that we're not putting such an emphasis on performance that they feel the need to cheat safety to get the work done. So, again, that's just part of that criteria. You need to really embed in your culture.

And I challenge all cultures to be safety first. I mean, any meeting you have, the first agenda item should be safety because we're performance oriented, so the idea of that being safety, that's got to be ingrained into all that you do. Safety is either proactive or it's inactive. You're either putting your wind in your safety sail, or it's going to go backwards. It's going to drop in their performance and people will act on safely.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you, Bryan. Just one final question here from Steven. “How long does it take to go through the four stages of forming, norming, storming and performing?

Bryan:Another really good question, and that’s an important one for you to understand because, right, it's all about managing those expectations. And it really depends on the size of the team and how quickly you can get them, go some early wins, but you will see a go through those stages. I've seen teams do it in a matter of a few months. I've seen other teams take, you know, over a year to do it. You know, but you know, with my experience, it does seem to go between a few months and a year.

I can remember one team in particular, I went to some of their first meetings, and they were horrible. We literally had people crying. You know, they would argue against each other, and they were all pushing their self-interest, and you had A-type personalities wanting to dominate. But it was interesting after they had a few wins, where and this was a fairly good-sized team, maybe 40 individuals on five different shifts, and the team had several different work areas. Someone came up with an idea — they kept losing tools, so someone had an idea of creating these boards with tape that match the colored tape on the board of the toolbox match tape they put on the tools, and it kept the tools from being lost. And it was a win that everybody took pride in, and that team, I'd say within maybe nine months, turned itself around. And for the, I'd say the next 10 years that I was with that group working with them, they were such a powerful professional team. Just the things they accomplished blew me away. I mean, amazing.

So, it'll happen. You got to navigate through those four things, but it really just kind of depends on your culture and your environment. The important thing is to recognize at what stage you're in, you know, and help them to facilitate, you know, to keep them from killing each other as they work through it.

Tiffany:Great, thank you, Bryan. If you have any last words you'd like to share with the audience.

Bryan:You know, I would encourage everybody, again, if you don't have self-directed work teams to research it more, feel free to reach out to me. I really believe this is the most effective way of working. We have millions of people change jobs in the United States every month, and it's usually when they ask them why it's because of a negative work environment, or they feel a lack of control. So, I would really challenge you to, you know, give us a real thought. And thank you everyone for listening. I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.

Tiffany:Great. Yeah, thank you again, Bryan for hosting. I'd like to thank everyone for attending today's webinar. Just a reminder, we will be sending out a link to the recording and the presentation slides in a few days. Thanks again. Take care and stay safe.