Tag Archives: Super7

Be succesful and productive – know your values

To be productive and successful within a team, make sure you know what’s important to you – know your values, know what drives you.

In my previous post, I explained how you can become successful as an individual when the organization you for is organized around teams. A simple model is the basis for individual success in teams, consisting of three circles: 1. you and your talent, 2. you and the team you work with, 3. you and the organization you work in

Model by Menno R. van Dijk

In this post, I’ll zoom in on the inner circle. In the center of the model for individual success in teams is you.  With the help of some practical tips and exercises, you can become “The I in Win”.

There are three elements in the center:
1. your values that define success to you (what drives you)
2. your talents that you can use to be successful (what makes you unique)
3. your experience that you have built up in using your talent (what you know and did)


Let’s start with Values. Understanding your values can be very useful in making important decisions in your life. Your values are like an inner GPS-navigation system, that guides you towards the right way. You can choose not to listen – but you will probably not get to where you want to go.

Some of my core values are being creative and making things better. These are the values that helped me in writing my book on Super7 Operations.

There are several simple and effective exercises available to help you to get a clear view on your values. One that I particularly like is this one:

  • Imagine that you get € 50 million. What would you do? Think about this for a minute. Then take your time to write this down, so you can read it back later
  • What makes the things you wrote down so nice, important or valuable? Write this down too
  • After you did the first two steps: it’s not about the money, if you’re honest. What you’ve written down is what’s important to you, and what you want to achieve. This helps you understand your values

Change is needed on how individuals and organizations see and reward success. You as an individuals need to know what defines success for you. You can do this on your own, or with the help of specialized coaching. And organizations need to recognize unique talents within teams, and reward them proportionally.

Menno R. van Dijk

Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7

Kata, Kaizen, DMAIC and Value Stream Re-Design – all Lean improvement methods can be used for Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7 teams. But what is the best? Which method should we use? This is not an easy question. It depends. It depends on the scale of the desired improvement. It depends on the desired speed of improvement. And, some methods require more specific expertise than others.

Super7’s and Agile teams are faced with the question of which improvement method they should use for Continuous Improvement. They are expected to improve autonomously. Therefore, autonomous teams such as Super7 teams and Agile Teams should know these Lean improvement methods, enough to select the right one for the right problem.

A quick overview of the methods for Continuous Improvement for Agile and Super7

Value Stream Re-Design

  • Improvement of the entire value stream – the end-to-end process from demand to supply
  • Re-design based on principles, most often the Lean Principles of Pull and Flow
  • Uses Value Stream Mapping, a standardized way of visualizing how value flows
  • Large improvements, with often quite extensive impact on people, processes and organization
  • Requires expertise on Value Stream Mapping and Lean


  • Lean Six Sigma improvement project approach
  • Standardized phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control
  • Fact based, measurement based problem solving by eliminating root causes
  • Useful when the root cause of a problem is unknown
  • Requires expertise on statistics, analytics and Lean Six Sigma at Blackbelt level


  • Lean method for small step improvement in one or two days
  • Quick analysis based on available data
  • Improvement based on Lean principles
  • Team of experts and operational employees
  • Participants are made free from their regular work during the kaizen
  • Sometimes facilitated by Blackbelts or Greenbelts

Improvement Kata

  • Continuous improvement as a habit
  • Every day, everyone, the way of the learning organization
  • Many small experiments
  • Discovering the way towards improvement as you go
  • Often supported with the use of Coaching Kata
Improvement Kata

Improvement Kata

On earlier posts on this site (www.cooperationalexcellence.nl) you can find more information on this subject. For instance, how Improvement Kata is applied by Super7 Teams.


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.


Improvement Kata for Agile teams, Squads, Scrum and Super7 teams

Improvement Kata for Agile teams, Agile Squads, Scrum teams or Super7 teams: the Improvement Kata is an excellent tool for all forms of autonomous teams.

Agile teams can use Improvement Kata in their start-up phase, to quickly get to the next step of team maturity. They can use the improvement kata to solve issues, impediments and problems.

Improvement Kata is also an excellent method for their support staff: Agile coaches, Scrum masters, Lean coaches and Lean Six Sigma Blackbelts.

Similar to how Agile develops, Kata improves in small steps and doesn’t plan the whole path to the desired improvement. The desired end state or ‘definition of awesome’ is known. But only the first achievable target condition is determined in advance. No further milestones.

Additional to how Agile develops, Kata Improvement put even more emphasis on learning. An experiment may fail, as long as the team has learned from it. Agile does this to some extent, by working on minimal viable products that can be tested in practice. The experiments in the Improvement Kata are even more frequent. Many small experiments ensure continuous learning and continuous improvement.

How does Improvement Kata for Agile work?

Traditional improvement is project based – see figure 1.

figure 1 - the old way of improving

figure 1 – the old way of improving






The Improvement Kata doesn’t plan the whole route: only the next target condition is clearly defined. See figure 2.


Figure 2 - the Improvement Kata

Figure 2 – the Improvement Kata





The Improvement Kata doesn’t tell you how to get to the next target condition, let alone how to get to your desired situation. It doesn’t tell you which steps to take to reach this year’s target. The Improvement Kata lets you discover the route as you go. See figure 3.


Figure 3 - finding the path to improvement

Figure 3 – finding the path to improvement





More theory and examples of Kata coaching can be found on www.lean.org/kata or in books and you-tube posts of Mike Rother.

The improvement Kata shows strong similarities to Agile and Scrum. This makes it the best improvement and problem solving method for Agile teams, Squads, Tribes, Scrum Teams. And it has proven itself for Super7 teams, also. It’s the best way to get to a true learning organization and continuous improvement. This enables you to cope with the ever changing demands of customers and regulators, especially in the current market for Financial Services.

Menno R. van Dijk.

Gamification helps Super7 teams to become successful

Recently, I attended a presentation on how Gamification can help Super7 teams to become successful. A talented graduate student had designed a method where super7 teams manage not their actual performance, but instead manage a virtual company.

First, a Super7 team got to choose their virtual business. For instance, a team would choose to become a virtual coffee bar or tea parlor. Their operational results as a Super7 were translated into virtual sales figures and profits. When quality or timeliness would fall behind slightly, this would show up in customers staying away from their virtual company. Excellent service in their real work would boost their virtual popularity and sales. And, the amount of capacity needed to process their real work would determine the costs side of their business.

I can only imagine the fun the teams must have had with this approach. And, the results where great, from what I heard. I hope to share more about the exciting possibilities of applying gamification for Super7’s in the near future. And, could this be a whole new way of engaging scrum teams or agile squads as well?

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

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)

Managing autonomous teams, or Super7 teams, requires a different management style than managing regular teams. From my practice as a Lean Super7 consultant, I deducted several key do’s and don’ts. 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.

In the following weeks, I’ll share them with you on this site (www.cooperationalexcellence.nl). This week, I give you the first two sets.

Do: Let go, let the team make their own mistakes

Sometimes, the team manager sees problems that the team hasn’t recognized yet. A pro-active team manager might want to go and fix it directly. Fix it for the team, to help them along. However, studies show that teams that are allowed to make their own mistakes are more effective and more successful. You as a manager can warn the team, but the team must be left free to fix it or respond to it.

Don’t: Leave the team alone.

A team manager can let go too much. An autonomous team needs management support. They may not need detailed steering, but they do need coaching, facilitating and help in solving problems beyond their own circle of influence.

Do: Offer help when the team asks for it – ask questions later.

An autonomous team is capable to deliver results. Even more than the sum of what each individual could deliver. But there is a limit. When the team says they can’t do it, the team manager should help. What he can do to help depends on the specifics, but could include: add capacity, move resources from one team to another or approve lower output for that day.

Don’t: Always offer help when the team asks for it, without evaluating afterwards.

For example: a team indicates that they can’t meet today’s target, and the team manager accepts that some of the work is shoved foreword to the next day. The manager is right to offer help, but he should evaluate the average productivity of that day. Should it be less than normal, he/she should evaluate this with the team. And, the next time he can demand that the team steps to at least normal pace when they ask for help.

I will share more do’s and don’t in the next couple of weeks. In the mean time: keep experimenting!

Menno R. van Dijk.

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