Category Archives: Operational Management

Situational Leadership for development of autonomous team

Leaders of developing autonomous teams can use the Situational Leadership theory to help and support the teams in their growth towards autonomy. Autonomous teams – Super7’s, Agile Squads, Scrum Teams, etc., can’t be fully autonomous from day one. So, how does a manager manage an autonomous team or Super7 that is still developing towards true autonomy? The answer: apply Situational Leadership.

Situational Leadership is based on the Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix (see figure).

Hersey Blanchard Leadership Style matrix

leadership styles for autonomous teams

A newly formed not-yet-autonomous team benefits from the directing leadership style. For instance, an Agile Squad in this phase needs to be told how to work the agile way. And the operations team manager of an immature Super7 team may need to tell the team to use their team board for daily planning.

As the autonomous team develops, the required leadership style changes accordingly. From Directing to Coaching, then on to Supporing and finally Delegating.

In practice, however, this can be quite challenging for a team manager. In my experience with Super7 Operations, the most difficult part of the implementation of Super7 is often to apply the right management style at the right time. And, every manager has his or her preferred style: the style that he or she does best. In a traditional operations department where managers steer on input and use strict quantitative controls, directing and coaching are most often needed. In a mature Super7 organization, however, Delegating and Supporting are the most useful styles.

As a result, the managers that are good at Directing and Coaching often make the most progress at the start of the implementation. But in the long run, a Super7 Operations department thrives under managers that are good at Delegating and Supporting. This asks a lot from the managers. It is good to acknowledge this fact. A successful implementation needs to address not only the methodological side of Super7 , but also take into account the ‘warm undercurrent’ of the change on a personal level.

Menno R. van Dijk.


Similarities and differences between Agile Squads and Super7 teams

What are the similarities and differences between Agile Squads and Super7 teams?

Many traditional companies are adopting an Agile way of working, inspired by innovative companies like Spotify, Zappos or Google. In financial services there is also inspiration from within: the transition from classical operational management towards Super7 Operations.

 Similarities Agile Squads and Super7 teams

  • Small team of 5 to 9 members
  • High degree of autonomy
  • Steered on output
  • Team has one mission, one common goal
  • Workload and progress is made visual
  • High degree of flexibility in skills and capacity

Differences Agile Squads and Super7 teams

  • Super7 Operations for ‘customer requests’: operational work, at least in part repetitive
  • Agile Squads for ‘customer missions’: customer services or enablers involving any combination of product development, marketing, product management, data management and IT
  • Super7’s have daily goals (e.g. TITO): daily processing of all customer requests for that day
  • Agile Squads work in weekly sprints, weekly releases of customer-ready solutions or improvements

My conclusion is that both Super7 teams and Agile Squad are manifestations of the same Lean principles. For example, both apply visual management, flexible resources (capacity and skills) and customer centricity.  I expect that the Agile trend delivers the same break-through results in product development and product management as the Super7 trend has delivered in operations.

Menno R. van Dijk

Super7 teams benefit from Lean Operational Management

Super7 teams benefit from having the standard processing times and performance dashboards in place. These elements from Operational Management help a Super7 team in steering itself. When these basic elements from Operational Management are missing, implementation projects tend to take more time. It takes longer before the Super7 teams become autonomous.

Super7 Operations claims to be the next step for Lean in financial services. But how much does it owe to the previous Lean wave in financial Services? Which elements from Lean Operational Management are essential for the success of Super7 Operations?

The Next Step for Lean builds on the previous step

The way I see it, Super7 Operations is the logical next step for Lean in financial services. The first lean waves in financial services were often aimed at introducing standardized work,  standard processing times, and making performance visible in performance dashboards.

Standard processing times make the work plannable. In Lean Operational Management, managers use them to plan the work for their teams. And afterwards, actual production is compared with planned production to calculate performance*. The manager then retains control through performance dashboards.

As I explain in my book, Super7 teams are steered on output. And, in Super7 Operations, the teams get the freedom and responsibility to plan their own work. However, both output steering and planning your own work becomes much easier when standard working times and dashboards are in place.

In Super7 Operations, the customer determines what needs to be done: the workload is based on the actual demand from that day. The manager sets the boundary conditions: that all requests are processed the same day (Today In, Today Out, or TITO). Work is often planned on forecast. But, to make planning decisions, the team needs to be able to match the forecasted workload to their planned capacity. And this can only be done when the forecasted number of customer requests can be translated into hours of work with the help of standard processing times.

Dashboards are equally important in Super7 Operations, but primarily for the teams themselves. They need to be able to see if all their Continuous Improvement efforts are paying off. And dashboards can be used to constantly raise the bar, both by the team itself and by the manager. Too many green lights become a red light, as the saying goes. This means that when the daily targets are met every day, this should lead to a more challenging target. More service in the same time for instance, or doing the same work with less capacity.

When standard processing times and performance dashboards, two basic elements from Lean Operational Management, are missing, implementation projects tend to take more time. It takes longer before the Super7 teams can make the decisions that make them truly autonomous.

Menno R. van Dijk

*Performance in Financial Services is often expressed in Total Team Effectiveness, a derivative of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) which is the standard within manufacturing.


Call center and operations department integrated – how can Super7 Operations make this happen?

For complex customer requests, Call center activities will be more and more integrated with operations activities – and Super7 Operations will enable this.

The classical Financial Services Back-Office work is being replaced with Straight Through Processing for the simple customer request. Super7’s, small autonomous multi-skilled teams with flexible capacity, are taking care of the rest: complex service requests, where human judgment is needed, or requests that are too infrequent to be automated at this time.

At the same time, the classical Call Center is being transformed into a customer service organization, because customers prefer the new Straight Trough Processes offered through internet and mobile apps. What’s left are the more complex requests. There are apparently a lot of similarities with what happened to the classical Back-Office. Does this mean Super7 Operations can make an equally impressive impact in the Call Center?

In my opinion, Super7 Operations will have direct use in those areas where the call center and operations can be integrated. For low volume, high complexity service requests, a call directly to the operations specialist – or a chat session, for that matter – will be more effective than a call to an agent, who fills in a channel form, and forwards this to the same specialist.

In other areas, Super7 Operations is not the answer. A large group of customers still prefers the call channel over internet or mobile applications. Bulk calls, high volume: an efficient call center organization will be able to process these with far less costs per call and with probably a higher chance of cross sales. Super7 Operations wasn’t designed for this type of work, and others have set the benchmarks for these departments.

So, how would that work, Super7 Operations combined with answering a large number inbound calls? The basic principles stay the same, but we need to find solutions to a new set of problems. For instance:

  • How can a Super7 keep the overview of the total workload when calls are routed to individuals?
  • How can Super7 members help or ask for help when everybody is constantly on the phone?
  • How can the manager still offer help when inbound calls make up a large part of the work?

I will address these questions in one or more of my next blog posts. So make sure you check regularly on

Menno R. van Dijk.

The design phase of Super7 implementation

The design phase of a Super7 Operations implementation project focuses on setting ambition, creating teams and assigning work process, and designing the tools and processes with which the team can manage their daily work. Super7 Operations integrates the Lean principles for administrative work, a.k.a. Operational Management, with the concept of autonomous teams. When you want your operations organisation to make this next step in Lean and Operational Management, there are three steps you should take in preparation.

  1. Set an ambitious ambition. Any change needs a clear goal. It has to be clear to everyone why this change is needed, and what it will bring. In modern day Banking, there is a strong focus on costs and automation. In my experience in Super7 Operations implementation projects, cost reduction has been most often the main quantitative goal. We’ve seen that implementation of Super7 Operations can lead to 20-50% increase in efficiency. The organisation has to be prepared to reduce FTE capacity when the efficiency is increased. Of course, you could get additional work done with the same number of people. But in Banking, where digitalization is the key word of today, most often there is no additional work for the operations department.
  2. Create clusters of work processes, that are similar enough so that all team members can learn them. These clusters should be sufficient work for a small team of 7 (of 5 to 9). A team can consist of several sub-groups with their own skills, but only if there is an intention to become multi-skilled. Team members must be able to help each other.
  3. Determine how the team will manage their daily work. What is the output that they will deliver? When has it been a good day? What are the restrictions that the management sets? How does the visual management board look like? In my book on Super7 Operations, I explain the way of working in more detail. But in short: working without queues, Today In, Today Out (TITO), results in the simplest management system. Other daily goals have been tried and tested also: working with large peaks in demand where TITO isn’t possible or even setting quality improvement as one of the daily goals. I will explain this last possibility in one of my next posts.

Menno R. van Dijk.


Free ING master class (in Dutch) on Output Steering by Filip Vandendriessche

ING organizes a free master class (in Dutch) on Output Steering by Filip Vandendriessche. This is a unique opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on!

Out with input-steering, in with output-steering: Dutch bank ING organizes a master class Output Management (in Dutch) on October 28th, 2014. No other than Filip Vandendriessche himself – the Belgian Output-steering guru – will explain the ins and outs of output steering and Invisible Leadership. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who’s interested in ouput steering. I have attended one of his master classes before, and in my experience Mr. Vandendriessche is both an excellent speaker and an inspirational trainer.

As you can read in many of my posts (for example link, link, link or link), I strongly believe in Output Steering. Moreover, it is an essential part of Super7 Operations.

You can enlist on ING’s Dutch recruitment site:

Knipsel big


And you find more information on ING on and

Menno R. van Dijk.

Do’s and don’ts of managing autonomous teams (or Super7’s) – part V

Managing autonomous teams, or Super7 teams, requires a different management style than managing regular teams. Here’s the last part the key do’s and don’ts from my practice as a Lean Super7 consultant. And, in my opinion, this one is the most important.

Perhaps most importantly, Do: Use your own strengths and talents.
Don’t: Put all your efforts on improving your weaknesses.

The best advice I can give any manager is: be the best person that you can be. Use your talents as much as you can. If you only focus on improving your weaknesses, you won’t be able to perform at your best. You will be most effective when you do the things you like to do and use your own unique talents while doing them. When faced with a transition from a more traditional organization towards autonomous teams or Super7’s, you might at first only see those elements that are difficult for you, that you don’t like and where you can’t use your talents. But if you give it a chance, if you start experimenting, you might find that there is a way to use your strengths in the new way of working. In my experience, most managers will find a way that fits them. Of course, managing autonomous teams or Super7’s will not be the perfect job for everybody. It is important for your happiness and for your chances to success that you keep searching for an environment where you can do the things you like and use your talents at the same time. And in some cases, this may mean a change of career. But, there isn’t just one way or one perfect style of managing autonomous teams. Take a chance, experiment, and you might just find the style that works for you and for your teams.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Do’s and don’ts of managing autonomous teams (or Super7’s) – part IV

Managing autonomous teams, or Super7 teams, requires a different management style than managing regular teams. Here’s part four of the key do’s and don’ts from my practice as a Lean Super7 consultant. This week, we’ll look into the competences that an output-manager needs. When your department introduces Super7 Operations, or other forms of autonomous teams, this may help you to adapt to the new situation you’ll face as a manager.
Do: Adapt to the new situation and experiment with the required competences
Don’t: Expect this change to be easy
Other skills and behaviors are asked from a manager when an organization makes the transition from a classical, input steered organization towards autonomous teams or Super7’s.
Typical skills are:
• Facilitating style, focused on output
• Creativity in developing improvement experiments together with the team
• Drive to improve continuously
• Group focus instead of focus on the individuals
• Flexibility, managers should be able to manage each other’s teams
• Working fact-based, using facts and figures for planning and forecasting
• Analytical; being able to interpret data to challenge the teams and to identify improvement opportunities
Typical behaviors are:
• Proactive in finding improvement opportunities and in implementing improvements
• Focused on customers and customer processes
• Inspiring the team to be customer focused and innovative
• Helping teams and team members in their journey towards autonomy

Keep an eye out for the last post in this series: the most important tip will follow shortly


Menno R. van Dijk


Do’s and don’ts of managing autonomous teams (or Super7’s) – part III

Managing autonomous teams, or Super7 teams, requires a different management style than managing regular teams. Here’s part three of the key do’s and don’ts from my practice as a Lean Super7 consultant. This week, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of management metrics and dashboards for autonomous teams. When your department introduces Super7 Operations, or other forms of autonomous teams, this may help you to adapt to the new situation you’ll face as a manager.

Do: Use quantitative metrics on output performance

Don’t: regard output as a Boolean function (i.e. true or false, the output has been delivered or the output has not been delivered)

Many managers in Financial Services Operations are used to manage by spreadsheet. When switching to output steering, they might tend to overcompensate. Instead of managing productivity, Fisrt-Time-Right and throughput time, they just evaluate whether the output has been delivered or not. The outcome is black or white, good or bad: either the team made it, or they didn’t. Managers should use quantitative metrics to measure the output. When the target output hasn’t been met, the team should be able to see by exactly how much the target was missed. This allows learning and evaluation of improvement experiments.

Do: Use the well-known Lean steering metrics to evaluate performance and to give the team insight in where they can improve. (.e.g. Efficiency (productivity, availability), First-Time-Right percentage, throughput time)

Don’t: Use these Lean steering metrics to manage the team on a daily basis.

As said, many managers in Financial Services Operations are used to manage by spreadsheet. These spreadsheets may still be of value for autonomous teams or Super7’s. However, the teams should only be managed on their performance against the daily output target. All other metrics should be used to aid in the team’s continuous improvement efforts. Dashboards and spreadsheets give valuable insight in where the autonomous team or Super7 can improve.

Do’s and don’ts of managing autonomous teams (or Super7’s) – part II

Managing autonomous teams, or Super7 teams, requires a different management style than managing regular teams. Here’s part two of the key do’s and don’ts from my practice as a Lean Super7 consultant. When your department introduces Super7 Operations, or other forms of autonomous teams, this may help you to adapt to the new situation you’ll face as a manager.

This week: protecting the boundaries of the team – with more than one different meaning of the word boundaries.

Do: actively manage the boundary conditions, keep optimizing

A manager can improve on performance by setting and adjusting the boundaries. As a manager, you are responsible for how much resources can be used to finish the task. You set the boundaries, for instance on how much flex-hours can be used this month. But don’t get complacent if everything keeps running smooth: too much green lights is also bad. Green lights tell you that everything is perfect, while there is always room for improvement.

Don’t: overload the system, prevent overburden (or in Japanese Lean-speak: Muri)

In many classical operations departments, managers used rigid controls, like hourly standardized work packages. These confine creativity and hinder team work, but they protect the employees also from over-burden. A Super7, or any autonomous team, won’t have this protective cage. Keeping the workload manageable is your responsibility as a manager. A team with performance that is up to par (i.e. 100% productivity in productive time and less than 20% unavailability) should be able to get the work done within the time they have. If they can’t finish on time day after day, you may have under-capacity. You as a manager should protect your team from overburden.

Do: Offer help by adding flex capacity from within the boundaries of Super7, rather than by adding extracting people from other Super7’s.

A recent study into Super7-effectiveness show that help by asking a team member to come back from home is better that help by asking a team member of another team to step in. Help from within their own team is appreciated more, and increases the team bond. With flexible (min/max) contracts, it is possible to increase available capacity without adding people to the group. An unexpected study result it may be, but it appears that a strong independent Super7 team is better than two Super7’s that work closely together.


Hope you enjoyed this part II – part III will follow shorty.
Menno R. van Dijk.