Tag Archives: Book on Super7

Replace operations team managers with Super7 Coaches

As Super7 teams get more mature, it may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers.

More and more organizations are succesfully applying small, autonomous Lean teams – Super7 teams – within their operational departments. More autonomy, more employee engagement, better results. In this transition towards Super7 Operations, the role of the operational team manager has changed enormously.

Within the Netherlands, ING has been working with Super7 teams for almost 5 years now. As more experience is gained, new questions are raised. One in particular (thanks Ingrid and Jacqueline!) really made me think: should ING assign Super7 coaches, in parallel with the Agile coaches that are widely applied in Agile organizations?

The parallels between Super7 Operations and Agile are eminent. After all, both are based on very similar principles, derived from the same classical Lean production principles. So why not learn from the ‘management’ roles that Agile appies.

As you may know, Agile doesn’t use managers. Part of the of the old manager’s responibility is delegated towards the autonomous teams. The people/skills development part is now the responsibiltiy of the Chapter Lead. And Agile coaches are responsible for helping the team to become mature in autonomy and agility.

It may be wise to assign Super7 Coaches and scale down even further on opertions managers. Our experiency with Super7 teams shows that it is hard to maintain the momentum in team development. Some teams do fly, some teams reach a certain level and then developments seems to slow down or stop altogether. In theory, the team manager should help the Super7’s with their development towards maturity. But is this the best solution? Super7 coaches may be better equipped for this job.

But what would that mean for the oprations team managers? As with Agile, part of the old manager’s responisibility – planning, senior process knowledge, scheduling – has already been delegated to the Super7 teams. When Super7 coaches take over the responisibilty of coaching the team towards maturity, the role of the team manager becomes smaller again.

The team manager would still be responsible for the development and appraisal of individuale. And, he or she would still be the one that set the output targets for the teams, translated from the departmental goals.

To keep work load large enough, we would however need less managers – more direct reports per manager. This would mean that some of the team managers would lose their job, and I do understand that can be a dificult situation. However, a trend towards less management does seem fitting for an organization that works with autonomous team, don’t you think?

Menno R. van Dijk.




Improvement kata to implement change

The principles of the Improvement Kata can be a powerful and effective way to implement any change, including the implementation of Super7 Operations.

The Toyota Improvement Kata, or Lean Kata, is a powerful and proven method for solving problems and driving continuous improvement. And, it can also be applied to implement the change from classical operations to an agile way of working. Recently, I’ve applied the improvement kata for implementing Super7 Operations in an operational back-office.

The Toyota Improvement Kata, or Lean Kata, starts with having a vision. Some companies use the term “Our definition of awesome” for this. Others use policy deployment or Hoshin Kanri to translate the companies purpose, mission and vision to yearly goals. When you implement a different way of working, e.g. autonomous lean teams or Super7 Operations, your vision could for instance be to have your teams achieve full autonomy.

The next step is then to implement the basics. For Super7 Operations, the teams need to learn how they can plan and organize their work. The 7 principles of Super7 Operation need to be introduced. You don’t have to explain everything, learning by doing is very powerful in the first phase. This is in line with the Shu phase of the ShuHaRi approach (see my earlier post on www.cooperationalexcellence.nl).

Then, we don’t plan the transition in the classical way. No milestones. Instead, define the next target condition. For Super7 Operation, this translates to the next level of maturity, on all seven principles of Super7 Operations. For this, we’ve developed a high-over description of each of the 5 levels of maturity, for each principle of Super7 Operations. Next to this, the level of autonomy is also taken into account.

Finally, the team managers and implementation consultants decide on what experiments may help the team to reach the target condition. The actual action will depend strongly on the level of autonomy of the team. Immature teams benefit from instructions, mature teams will come into action when the right coaching questions are asked.

As you can see, this weekly cycle is based on the Improvement Kata. The results so far are very promising indeed. I will certainly continue experimenting with it myself.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Agile risk management – from portfolio to scrum

Agile risk management could mean that risks specialist let go of their own account portfolio and start working as a scrum team. This is how this could work:

When a traditional bank transforms into an agile organization, its risk management department need to become agile as well. Risk management is often organized as a team of individualistic specialist, each with their own portfolio of accounts or cases.

Agile organizations are flexible in adjusting priorities and reassigning capacity. Teamwork is often the quickest way to introduce this flexibility. A team of specialists can set priorities across all of their portfolios. When one portfolio requires more capacity than its owner can deliver, the team can reassign capacity.

Cooperational ExcellenceOne way to organize this is to create risk management Scrum teams.

There is a downside to this approach – the reason that Scrum isn’t widely used in risk management today. It takes time to get to know the details of a complex case, and it would be a waste of time when a running case is transferred from one specialist to another. However, the benefits could very well be greater:

Scrum teams will work in weekly sprints, delivering ‘fully functional’ deliverables in each sprint. This is the first benefit of this way of working: transparency on what will be delivered each week. In the old way of working, throughput times could get quite long from time to time. And the weekly rhythm gives the organization the agility to adapt to changes. What exactly ‘fully functional’ would mean will depend strongly on the type of risk management.

Second benefit: optimal priorities. The sprint deliverables are made up from the priorities (must haves and nice-to-haves) of all individual risk managers for that week. However, after this first round of collecting priorities, a ‘product owner’ will decide which of these individual priorities are most important. Priorities can be given to where the highest impact can be made on reducing risk. In the old situation, focus would always be on the highest risks within one portfolio. Scrum would give priority to a nr 2 or 3 priority from one portfolio when the related risk is higher than the nr 1 from another portfolio.

Third benefit: the power of teamwork. A team of professionals knows more and can make better decisions than individuals. Our experience with Super7 Operations shows this, also in highly specialist organizations like arrears management.

It’s going to be interesting how a truly agile bank will organize its risk management. I’m looking forward to learning what works. 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.


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 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.

Super7 Operations seminar for Lean and Operational Excellence professionals – a report

To present for an audience of Lean and Operational Excellence professionals: quite a daunting task! Last week, I was invited to discuss Super7 Operations with the experts of one of the leading Dutch consulting firms. Consultants, managers and directors: You would expect them to ask challenging questions – and they did. I really enjoyed the discussion with such sharp and experienced professionals. And, I regard it a great compliment that they were impressed with the results we achieved with Super7 Operations. And that they will be reading my book as a result.

As an author, I regularly get request to speak about my book on Super7 Operations. In most cases, I’m asked as an expert, and the audience is interested in how it works. This session was much more a dialogue, where the consultants shared their own experiences with Lean and Operational Excellence.

Key learnings from this expert seminar:

  • The small autonomous teams of Super7 Operations could be used outside financial services: for instance, energy companies have similar back-office operations, as do some telecom providers. And perhaps even healthcare? However, for logistics and production will benefit more from the original Lean approach from the Toyota Production System.
  • It is important to involve the Works Council in the pilots. There may be concerns about the flexibility in hours that is needed to work TITO. Also, changing individual performance reviews into team performance reviews may raise questions. On the other hand, in our experience at a leading Dutch retail bank, we have found that the Works Council is enthusiastic about the increased responsibility and autonomy for the employees.
  • Other Dutch retail banks and insurance companies may be interested in Super7 Operations and consultants could play a crucial role in spreading the idea of Super7 Operations across the Financial Services sector.

I’m looking forward to the next seminar for Lean and Operational Excellence professionals.

Menno R. van Dijk

40% flexibility in capacity to cope with fluctuation: Super7 Operations

Just how flexible is an Operation that is organized in Super7 teams?  40%. Super7 Operations can cope with a difference of 40% between a quiet day and a busy day.

From the many examples in day-to-day operations, we know that Super7 Operations increases the flexibility of a back-office. Impressive results have been achieved with this over the past few years, in many operational departments of large financial service providers.  Examples of this can be found in my book: Super7 Operations – the Next Step for Lean in Financial Services.  

Recently, one of my clients asked me to calculate just how flexible a team will become. How much can the daily demand fluctuate when working with no customer queue when the team works as a Super7?  An alternative could be replacing a part of the employees with flexible contractors: so called min-max-contractors, who work between 20 and 40 hours per week depending on demand. Could the same flexibility be achieved with Super7 Operations?

From experience, we know that a Super7 team is able to work one hour longer on busy days. The end time of the working day is flexible, and the members of a Super7 team make arrangements among themselves when one of their team has obligations preventing him/her to stay longer that day. Next to that, we’ve measured 5 to 15% higher productivity as well when the pressure is on. And, these extra hours are compensated by leaving early on quiet days, which means no extra hours to pay. This results in the following graph, showing the 40% flexibility:


Super7: flexibility to cope with fluctuation

Super7: flexibility to cope with fluctuation

Next to this, our analysis showed that Super7 Operations delivers greater flexibility than replacing 20% of your people with min-max contractors.

Naturally, things like team meetings and training are done on quiet days, and when they are planed on busy days they are rescheduled. This results in up to 20% lower ‘availability for productive work’ on quiet days – but this can be achieved without Super7 as well (we’ll call this scenario 1).

20% min-max contractors give you the flexibility to ask 20% of your workforce to stay longer or leave earlier, as long as you stay within the 20 to 40 hours per week range.  (This is scenario 2)

Super7 Operations is our Scenario 3

To be complete, we added a fourth scenario: Super7 Operations and replacing 20% of the employees with min-max contracts. 

The graph below shows these four scenario’s next to each other.

 Flexible capacity in 4 scenarios 

Surprising results, don’t you think?

Menno R. van Dijk.



A new book on Super7 Operations!

Super7 Operations –  a book by Menno van Dijk 

(tip: clik the link above ↑ to buy the book at amazon.com)



“Why did you decide to write this book on Super7 Operations?”

–          “To me, Super7 Operations is the logical next step for LEAN in financial services. I’m proud that we developed this innovation within ING. I’m so enthousiastic about it, it would be fantastic if this innovation would spread across the financial world. So much more can be achieved with LEAN than cost reduction alone. LEAN can become the culture within which people truly work together to improve every day.  That’s the foundation of Super7.  We believe in the abilities of our people, we trust them and give them responisibilities, and we steer on output. This improves the service to our customers. And, LEAN becomes FUN again! I had to write a book about Super7 Operations, to give as much people as possible the chance to learn about it.

“What were the reactions so far?”

–          “Very positive indeed! That started already with the publiser: the book was selected as “Editors Choice”,  something that I’m very proud of. And the feedback that I have received from readers has been great too.”

“Are you planning to write more in the future?”

–          “Well, we have been working on developing Super7 Operations further within ING. The method has been introduced in much more teams, some with totally different type of work than where Super7 Operations first was developed. For instance, what do you do when TITO (today-in-today-out) isn’t possible, when the nature of the work is such that it takes more than one day to complete it? This requires a different way of setting daily goals.  These developments may make a  great addition to the existing book, maybe for the second edition?”