If you haven't read last month's article, please do so or this article will seem a bit foreign. The topic is about communicating information across your entire organization in a way that ensures that your intention is clearly understood and that subordinate leaders are unified in their approach to executing that intent.

The tool used to ensure success won't be found in any of the mainstream reference books in your lean library. However, my partner and I are working on a new book that will cover this subject in great detail. I'll keep you posted on its availability. Meanwhile, don't hesitate to contact me with questions regarding the Tactical Planning Tool, or TPT.

The Tactical Planning Tool is a five-paragraph document that lays out the project sponsor's objective in a clear, concise manner without dictating to each subordinate leader how he or she should execute the plan. It's likely that each area charged with the objective will have entirely different issues to consider when developing their executable plan so the project sponsor needs to ensure each subordinate leader understands what needs to be accomplished and the resources that are provided.

In the coach mode

It is critical that the project sponsor allow his or her subordinates the opportunity to develop and execute how they will accomplish the task. As the manager, this is your time to coordinate the resources and shift into the "coach" mode. I want to share with you how one supervisor developed his plan to execute the plant manager's 5S directive using the same TPT format.

1. Situation:

As a part of the company's workplace organization objective, the finish department has been directed to complete the first three Ss (Sort, Set in Order and Shine) of our workplace organization standards by a specific date. We must do this while maintaining our current operations.

2. Mission:

The finish department will accomplish the first three Ss by a specific date in accordance with the company workplace organization standards while maintaining our current production levels.

Intent: My intent is to guide the finish department to the successful accomplishment of this mission. I expect all department personnel to use teamwork and to communicate problems and lessons learned openly to me and other department members.

3. Implementation:

Concept of the plan is: I will present the plan to the team on (date); Execute as outlined below; Evaluate progress and adjust as necessary to achieve success.

A. Sort:

1. Phase One

  • Implement between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • Team: John Doe (facilitator), Jane Smith, Alice Jones, Joe Blow and Andy Hardy.
  • Separate all necessary items from unnecessary items.
  • Conduct the auction between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

2. Phase Two

  • Implement . . . between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • Implementation team members will be:

Team One: Joe and John (lab area), with Jim facilitating.

Team Two: Bob, Bill, Jean and Rose (first sealer booth east), with Julie facilitating.

Team Three: Andy, Mary, Jack and Jill (second sealer booth west to the boundary of finish) with Sherry facilitating.

Team Four: Ted, Tom, Jerry and Dave (curtain coater area), with Terry facilitating.

  • Separate all necessary items from unnecessary items
  • Conduct the auction . . . between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

B. Set in Order:

Each team member will be allowed up to two hours for the initial Set in Order stage immediately following the auctions. Everyone will set the necessary items in place and prepare to begin production while thinking of storage or staging devices that might be required in order for them to adequately store these items (shadow boards, cabinets, etc.). All devices will meet the company workplace organization standard.

C. Shine:

On the scheduled date, the entire team will be given three hours to complete this step. We will also begin to document processes for future use in developing standard work procedures. Shine will be completed in accordance with the company workplace organization standard.

4. Support and resources available:

You may find it necessary to relocate booths, move or add air lines, fabricate shadow boards or storage cabinets, or other items that require support beyond your team's capability. Submit those requirements to me for coordination with maintenance staff. Also submit your recommendations for organizing the pump house to eliminate unnecessary storage drums. Paint and tools for painting the walls will be provided to each team.

5. Communication and leadership:

Plan to attend a debriefing at the conclusion of each phase to discuss and document lessons learned.

As with the original mission from the plant manager, the supervisor has prepared an executable plan that can easily be communicated to his staff. The plan includes all pertinent information to get the project off to a good start. However, continuous coordination and feedback throughout the execution will be needed.

An important tool

Why is this tool so important? The primary reason is the five-paragraph format provides all the key information in a systematic process that allows those responsible to implement the plan and gives them everything needed for success. Based on their situation, they will develop a plan to accomplish the mission in the timetable that best fits their schedule and resources.

In addition to a process of identifying key information, the TPT establishes a process of communicating the plan verbally to subordinates. Subordinates and plan executors will need to talk to you and to each other about the plan to ensure that there's no misunderstanding. Also, have subordinates brief you and each other on their plans. This allows for continuous coordination and clarification.

Possibly the most important element of the tool is that it ensures every resource is included in the planning and execution stages. It also provides any person in the responsibility chain with information needed to pick up the mantle and carry on in the absence of the sponsor.

The Tactical Planning Tool is user-friendly and applicable to any situation that requires coordination of resources to accomplish a task. In the cases cited in this and the previous article, the sponsors had no prior experience using the tool, yet they were able to articulate a plan that was readily understood by all participants.

The planning process may take a little more time than you currently devote to mandating a task to subordinates, but I'm sure you will agree that managing the task will be far less time consuming and stressful when it is properly planned and everyone is actively engaged in sharing the responsibility for success.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.