Tag Archives: operational management

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.




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.


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: http://www.ing.jobs/Nederland/Over-ING/Ontmoet-ons/Kalender/Evenement/Masterclass-Onzichtbaar-leiderschap.htm

Knipsel big


And you find more information on ING on www.ing.nl and http://www.ing.jobs/Nederland/Home.htm

Menno R. van Dijk.

Less management through Super7 – autonomy reduces the need for management

Can you run a bank with less management? If you would remove one layer of management from a large financial service organization – let’s say a bank  – would that organization be less effective? And with two layers of management removed: would a bank need to be rescued with taxpayer’s money?  My recent experience with customer focused, autonomous Lean teams at a Dutch retail bank have taught me:  Super7 Operations (see my book: Super7 Operation – the Next Step for Lean in Financial Services) requires Less Management, More Delegating.  It may be too much to claim that two layers of management can be removed, perhaps not even one entire layer, but the span of control of one manager can dramatically be increased. And yes, that means a lot less managers. So why is that, what type of management tasks are eliminated by using small autonomous lean teams?

Less Capacity Planning

“Is it okay to take a day off next Tuesday?”.  In the old days, managers spent a lot of time planning the capacity of the team. Especially in preparation of the holiday season or in the summer period. An autonomous Lean team will take care of this planning themselves. And they make sure that they have sufficient capacity to get the forecasted amount of work done.

Less Management of Inventory

Prior to Super7, work needed to be booked in an inventory management system, and the age of the inventory (when did we receive the customer request?) needed to be monitored and compared to the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Then, if the system says ‘Orange light, i.e. ‘we’ve got only one day left within SLA’, priorities needed to be reshuffled urgently to prevent ‘Red Light’ the next day.

Less Management of Assigning Work

Because there is a lot of work in inventory, team managers attempted to get the ‘best work streams’ assigned to their team. The norms for each work stream differed; moreover, not all norms were set as accurate.

Less Management of skills

In the past, a Daily Production Meeting was held, in which the team managers, all together, determined which team would be doing which work streams the next day. In Super7’s, this whole circus isn’t needed. Each Super7 knows what work they will be doing: the same work every day, and all work that came in that day.

Less Management of Work In Progress

Before Super7, a manager needed to check the inventory system: is the work still waiting, or is it work-in-progress? A manager also needed to look in the report of the Daily Production meeting: where was the work assigned to? Finally, a request had to be distributed to the individual employees.

Let’s remove management layers!

Menno R. van Dijk.

Super7 Operations - The Next Step for Lean in Financial Services

The 7 principles of Super7 Operations – what does good look like?

Successful implementation of Super 7 Operations – the next step for lean in financial services – depends on the introduction of all 7 principles of Super7 Operations: 1. Customer central, 2. Felxibility in skills and capacity, 3. Output steering and supportive management, 4. Daily rhythm and quick response management, 5. Autonomy in work distribution and process improvement, 6. Continous improvement of planning and forecast, 7. Visual management – open and transparent operations. 

The 7 principles of Super7 Operations

Principles of Super7 Operations

Naturally, the introduction of the principles of Super 7 Operations is best done step-wise. However, it’s good to start with the end in mind:  what does good look like in Super 7 Operations?







  1.  The Super7 team has a goal that is relevant for the customer. The Super 7 team can help each other in achieving this goal. The goal is translated daily to a goal for that day. The Super7 team is committed to achieving the daily goal. When problems arise during the day and the daily goal can’t be met, the Super 7 team responses by doing what they can to come as close as possible to the goal. When that isn’t enough to reach the goal, they ask for help from their team manager. The request for help is quantitative and specific. For instance: we come 6 hours short, we solve 4 hours ourselves and ask for 2 hours help from another team.
  2. All Super 7 team members have the skills for all types of work. The Super7 Skills-Matrix shows who can do what, and at what skill level. The Super 7 team members are sufficiently flexible in working hours to be able to meet customer demand on busy days. 
  3. Team manager steers on output. Manager stimulates the Super 7 team to  come up with solutions. Manager is available and helpful when the Super7 asks for help. 
  4. The daily rhythm is adjusted to the rhythm of the customer requests. There is a fixed schedule for Super 7 team stand-up meetings, focused on achieving the daily goal. When incidents happen, the department responses quickly in constructive and effective dialogue between Super7 team and their manager, and subsequently between the team managers and the department head.
  5. Super 7 team is autonomous in work distribution and who does what. There is a standard way of working. The team can deviate from this standard, as part of an improvement experiment. The duration of this experiment is known beforehand (optimally 1 week). Evaluation is based on facts and figures. Most important outcome, however, is what the Super7 team has learned from the experiment.
  6. The Super 7 team is stimulated to continuously make the daily goals more challenging. Standard norm times are improved and planning is made tighter. Work is planned based on forecast. The organization continuously strives towards improved forecast accuracy and improved performance. Performance is discussed on all level of the organization. 
  7. The Super 7 team board is neat and easy to read. Daily goal and progress towards this is visible on the Super7 team board. Performance of last period is visible, as is the trend. Running and planned experiments and improvements are visible on the Super7 team board. Fixed lines are made with tape, fixed headers are printed.                                                                  

 More on Super7 principles? My book on Super7 Operation – the Next Step for Lean in Financial Services – is available in bookstores!