Chuck McKnight

Synchronous Solutions

One of the first steps in our Synchronous Flow implementations is to train the leadership in Synchronous Flow and its principles. In that training we discuss the Five Focusing Steps for Continuous Improvement as developed by Dr. Eli Goldratt and outlined in his seminal book The Goal. We always point out that the Five Focusing Steps are applicable to any system. In this article I want to discuss how to apply the Five Focusing Steps to make you a better Leader/Manager of your small business.

Before I continue, let me define what I mean by Leader and Manager.

  • Leadership is the ability to understand where you are — I call it your “AS-IS” — then envision a future — your “TO-BE” — and make it a reality through planning, execution, measuring progress or lack thereof, and adapting the plan and actions as you learn along the way.

  • Management is the ability to hire talent, develop talent, motivate talent, and continuously improve your processes that support your company’s hiring/developing/motivating talent approach.

The following is  a reminder for those familiar with the Five Focusing Steps and as an introduction to those that are not.

The Synchronous Flow Continuous Improvement Focusing Steps:Prerequisites

  • Define the system and its purpose
  • Decide how to measure the system’s progress in achieving its purpose.

The Five Focusing StepsThe Five Focusing Steps:

1. Identify the System’s Constraint.

2. Decide how to Exploit the System’s Constraint.

3. Subordinate everything else to the above decisions.

4. Elevate the System’s Constraint.

5. When a Constraint is broken, return to step one.

In this discussion on improving as a Leader/Manager, You are the System. Your (the system’s) purpose is “Become the Best Leader/Manager you can be,” so you can realize your ultimate goal of improving your, the company’s and employee’s financial wellbeing and quality of life.

So, how do You measure improving as a Leader/Manager? As with many questions in life, there’s not always a definitive answer, and it depends on who you ask. 

With that said, here are some tangible measures to consider:

  • How much time do you spend reflecting on the long-term future of your company versus participating in day-to-day operations?

  • How much time do you spend reflecting on your organization? Your employees’ capabilities, would they be better suited for another role? Would you hire them again if they applied for the job today? Do you have and act on the answers to the questions?

  • How often does a subordinate bring a day-to-day problem to you and you accept responsibility to resolve versus coaching them to solve it themselves? If you don’t coach them, why not?

  • Do you network with other Leader/Managers inside and/or outside your industry? How often?

  • Do you have mentors? How often do you discuss with your mentors your reflections on the long-term future of the company and on your organization/employees?

  • Do you delegate day to day issues to subordinates? How often? Why? Why not?

  • Do you ask for feedback from your direct reports on your performance as a Leader/Manager? Do you reflect on their feedback? Do you act on your reflections?

Here’s a Tip: Note the measures in a traditional or digital notebook and keep track of how you are doing towards the suggested measures. For example, for the first measure above, you can note the time and frequency you spend weekly on reflecting on the long-term future of the company.

Now that you have defined the System as You, your purpose of continuously improving as a Leader/Manager and how you will measure progress in meeting your purpose, it’s time to move to Step 1 of the Five Focusing Steps. 

What is Constraining you from meeting your purpose? For most Leader/Managers the answer is Time. In other words, if only you had more Time in the day, you could become a better Leader/Manager.

Now that you have determined that Time is your Constraint, it’s time to go to Step 2: Exploit the system’s constraint.

 How can you maximize the Time you have? In other words,  you there’s only 24 hours in a day, but you can certainly take better advantage of the Time you have.

For example:

  • Blocking out a certain amount of Time on your calendar weekly where you cannot be disturbed. Use that Time to address the Leadership/Management questions outlined in the tangible measures.

  • Coaching employees to learn to solve day-to-day problems themselves when they come to You with an issue.

Tip #2:
When an employee comes to you with a problem, ask them how they would solve it, provide them feedback on their solution, let them work the problem and check in later in the day to see how it went.

This brings us to Step 3 of the Five Focusing Steps — Subordinate. In this step, you will identify policies/practices to ensure your Leadership/Management Time on the calendar is respected by both You and your organization. For example, you make the policy that no one disturbs you during this time and communicate this clearly to your organization. You make the policy that when employees come to you with a problem that they have come prepared to present the problem and options to resolve.  If they aren’t prepared, try the Tip above and remind them of the policy.

Now to Step 4 — Elevate the Constraint. To “elevate,” increase the Time you spend on improving yourself as a Leader/Manager. For example: 

  • As you coach employees to solve problems themselves, in time you will notice you have more Time to spend on Leadership/Management tasks.

  • Increase the Leadership/Management Time on your calendar.

  • Consider using Synchronous Flow to reduce the level of chaos, firefighting and crisis, which in turn increases the time to proactively improve your system/company toward its goal of improving the financial wellbeing and quality of life of you, the company, the employees, et cetera.

Step 5 is easy… go back to Step 1. The Five Focusing Steps approach is an ongoing Continuous Improvement Process.

If you move forward with practicing the Five Focusing Steps to Continuous Improvement to become a better Leader/Manager, let us know how it’s working for you. Synchronous Solutions’ mission is to help small business owners/entrepreneurs meet their goal to “Continuously Improve the financial wellbeing and quality of life for all the stakeholders in their business.”

The stakeholders in every business are not only the owners/entrepreneurs but also the employees and their families, suppliers, customers, and the communities they are located. We believe that small businesses are the backbone of the American Economy and provide necessary livelihoods for many Americans. As you become a better Leader/Manager you become more equipped to “continuously Improve the financial wellbeing and quality of life for all the stakeholders in your business.”

For more information, contact Synchronous Solutions at (704) 560-1536. We look forward to hearing about your progress and business.

In 1988, while working as a software engineer at a printed wiring board manufacturing facility for what was at the time the second largest computer manufacturer in the world, Chuck was introduced to Dr. Eli Goldratt’s
The Goal. Inspired by Dr. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, he transferred from the IT department to the Manufacturing department as a Production Supervisor so he could begin to develop his leadership skills and practice the principles behind Synchronous Flow. For 35+ years, Chuck has enjoyed many opportunities working in various industries at all levels of management– from production manager, to VP, to CEO.