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Path Of the Sensei

Monday, December 03, 2012

Author of “The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence: A Lean Approach to Improving Project Results” and co-Author of “The Lean Handbook: A Guide to the Bronze Certification Body of Knowledge”,  the Texas based, Adil Dalal is a world renown success guide, who has shared the dais with personal motivation greats including Deepak Chopra amongst others of the Hall of fame.  CEO of Pinnacle Process Solutions International, LLC, Chair of Human Development & Leadership division of ASQ, he is a much sought after international speaker, an executive coach and the host of an international radio talk Show “See2B” on the Amazing Men of Power Network. With his leveraged expertise in Business Excellence, Project Leadership and Advanced Flow Technology, this Guru or may we say ‘Sensui’, who is now in India, in an exclusive for the Afternoon, in his own words describes the easy path to success…

“You are more than you can ever imagine” is my personal motto and belief.  I truly believe that within any entity, including an individual, a team, a corporation or even a nation, exists a latent potential which is waiting to be discovered. A human brain has approximately 100 billion neurons and trillions of connections making it one of the most complicated structures in the universe. The brain has approximately 100 times more processing power than even a modern super-computer. Apart from our bodies, even the human spirit holds within it an amazing reservoir of highly potent energy which can transform corporations and even nations. Have you ever wondered why are we endowed with such amazing power?  Why has such power been designed into our DNA? I am not sure of the answer yet, but I am quite positive that it is an immoral waste if we allow it to lay dormant within us for most of our lives. Unlocking this latent potential can truly transform this planet.

Why do I believe that it is critical for all of us to aspire to reach the highest potential?  Well, the global and national landscapes today clearly indicate some fundamental flaws in our existing way of life.  As a race, we are facing crisis on several fronts – economic, social, ecological, and above all a crisis of personal responsibility and leadership.  Stress on employees globally is also a growing epidemic. 

But, how can we discover this latent potential within individuals, teams, corporations and nations? That discovery cannot be made with the existing mind-set, but by developing a new mind-set of an unwavering pursuit of excellence in everything we do.   How does one go about developing this new mind-set? There are several ways to do that. One of the easiest ways is be inspired by words of those have experienced it first-hand.   For example, Vinci Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers which won numerous championships, once said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” According to Steve Jobs, “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent.  Because this is our life.” It is also important to understand that excellence is not perfection—perfection is a requirement for robots; humans can only aspire for excellence.

I have been asked many times which of the 12 Pillars are most critical to achieving excellence within an organization.  This is a tough question to answer because just as a parent is proud of all their children, I think all the Pillars are equally important.  However, in order to truly discover and live up to our latent potential, Pillar 1 on leadership, Pillar 11 on making organizations stress-free zones and Pillar 12 on the “appreciating assets”, are the most critical Pillars to understand and apply.
Pillar 1 is absolutely critical to address the leadership crisis in corporations and in nations.  Having a mind-set of a master leader or a Sensei Leader will be absolutely necessary for future leaders.  In the book I provide a formula for transformation from the mind-set of management to that of a Sensei Leader.  The key is that every manager needs to acquire 5 powers which are:

The Power of Delegation
The Power of Dynamic Leadership
The Power of Visualization
The Power of Lean Thinking, and
The Power of Humility

Of the above 5 powers the Power of Visualization is my absolute favorite.  Unleashing the V-Factor, which has its basis in neuroscience, can help transform individuals, organizations and even nations.  The Power of Visualization has been used by many great leaders like Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. to transform corporations and nations. 

It has also been used by several celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey and others to transform their lives.  Sports legends like golfer Jack Nicklaus, Olympic skiing champions like John Claude Tilly, baseball stars like Sean Casey have all used this power to scale to the height of their profession.  Even the US military and the elite forces around the globe are using the power of visualization to be at their absolute best.  However, most leaders and individuals are using this intermittently as they do not know how to consistently use this power for best results.  My upcoming book “The V-factor” will demonstrate how the art of visualization can be converted to a science which can be learned and applied on a consistent basis by leaders and individuals to transform themselves, their organizations and even their nations.

Pillar 11 discusses a topic very seldom openly discussed in organizations – stress on employees. A recently published Harris Interactive survey revealed that 73% of Americans consider themselves to be stressed at work.  In countries like India the numbers may be even higher as just getting to work in the daily chaos called “traffic” is enough to stress out even the most blissful individual. 

Several doctors and neuroscientists have confirmed that stress can cause physiological disorders, lead to diseases and can also lead to permanent damage for some individuals. In the present day of intense global competition and extreme economic pressures, no one seems to want to understand the impact of stress on workplace productivity, student productivity and on long-term effects of a chronically stressed population. No one is immune from the impact of stress - but young executives, managers and even students are most at risk for heart attacks, psychosomatic disorders and even cancer, all resulting from acute stress. The corporations are sometimes their own worst enemies and add to the stress rather than attempt to reduce it. Leaders in the organizations unknowingly perpetuate stress by their lack of direction, unclear requirements, poor planning, lack of understanding of individual stressors, extra-tight deadlines, over allocation or disproportionate responsibilities. This leads to burnout, poor performance, poor quality, increased failure rate, physical and emotional problems, team conflicts and overall inferior results. Thus, stress is not just a personnel problem; it is an organizational dilemma impacting national productivity. It needs immediate attention.

What can one do to reduce stress? Well, the first step towards solving any problem is the awareness of the problem and an acknowledgement that it exists and needs to be solved. The human performance curve consists of five zones which represent the areas of stress levels that every person goes through:
1.    Zone of boredom
2.    Zone of safe work
3.    Zone of fatigue
4.    Zone of exhaustion, and
5.    Zone of injury or breakdown.  

Pillar 11 identifies the 6th zone called the Pinnacle Performance Zone.  The Pinnacle Performance Zone is similar to the zone in which great Olympic athlete’s train– constantly pushing them just beyond the comfort zone for an ultimate breakthrough performance for individuals and for teams. There is also an advanced software developed also called the Pinnacle Performance Zone which allows executives, employees and teams to train within an environment where they can identify their zone of optimal performance. This training when applied to their professions allows employees, managers and leaders to work smarter not harder, rapidly increase their productivity by at least 20% to over 50%. Can organizations afford to train their employees like athletes? Today, with the level of performance and accuracy required in order to be globally competitive; allowing employees to train like Olympic athletes and be in the ‘optimal zone’ is not a luxury but an immediate need not only for corporations, but also for nations.

Pillar 12 talks about “appreciating assets”. I truly believe that, “Things do not appreciate; only people do!  Buildings and equipment can only provide a static structure; but only our employees can help define the dynamic culture needed for retaining and delighting customers in this ultra-competitive global playground.

Tangible assets like buildings, machinery, software, and even products do not appreciate in value over time; rather it is the talent, vision, skills, leadership, knowledge, and creativity of employees that drive a company’s results. People should be considered as the prime appreciating assets in any organization. Some companies use this notion as a slogan, but only a few organizations truly believe it.

In order to build the “roof of excellence” consisting of delighted customers, profitable business, and loyal employees; a strong “foundation” consisting of skills and talents of the employees needs to be in place and constantly strengthened by “appreciating these assets. A chronically stressed workforce puts the entire organizational structure at risk.  What causes chronic stress? Apart from the obvious financial factor, some key non-financial contributors to stress are unclear requirements, poor or inadequate planning and lack of emphasis on understanding an individual’s talents and skills.  Another key contributor of stress among employees is the lack of control on their daily operations and in decision making. Organizations can use simple techniques like involving the employees in creative problem solving and in lean kaizen events where the employees feel that they have been in control and have made decisions impacting the future of the company.

Challenging the employees to use their creativity to solve corporate problems, allows the corporation to save on capital expenditure, which can be invested back in the training and development of the appreciating assets – a win-win situation.  

Organizations which decide to retain their employees during downturn get benefits in excess 200% over those who decide to down-size.  The reason is that people who are highly motivated, tap into the core of their creativity and achieve results beyond their wildest dreams – another win-win situation.  In a vast majority of cases, the success or failure of any initiative will depend on the people who execute it rather than on any equipment, consultant, software, or other tools and techniques. 

People being the key common denominator for success, focusing on the “human assets” and “appreciating these assets” is the most intelligent action any supervisor, manager, leader or executive can take for long-term success of the organization. It is a simple, common sense solution which can help several organizations overcome current economic woes.  But then, sadly, very few leaders believe in simplicity and common sense solutions these days, and the results are quite evident.  For a better future, it is vital for leaders to get back to the basics and focus on strengthening the foundation of the organization by appreciating their human assets.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”.  I hope we, as individuals, as corporations and as nations, make a conscious choice and a diligent effort to be “more than we can ever imagine starting NOW!

In my book, “The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence: A Lean Approach to Improving Project Results”, I have attempted to provide a step-by-formula not only for project excellence but also for individual excellence and for overall business excellence. The12 Pillars are as follows:

1.    Five powers required to transform to a master leader

2.    Creating a balanced project/organizational structure

3.    Delighting the customers using vision statements

4.    Preventing scope creep using a signed charter

5.    Communicating like a leader by diffusing the passion

6.    Utilizing lean thinking to add value to customers

7.    Minimizing death of resource efficiency due to meetings (meeticide)

8.    Taking calculated Risks

9.    Identifying value-added data in the age of too much information

10.    Learning from failures

11. Making projects/organizations less stressful, and

12.    Investing in your “appreciating assets” (people)

Adil Dalal holds several degrees, including  a MSE in Engineering Management, a MSE inMechanical Engineering and a BSE in Automotive Engineering.

Additionally, he holds numerous certifications, including a Certified Project Manager (PMP), Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), Certified Lean Bronze Professional (LBC) and Certified Executive Coach (BCC). Adil Dalal is a registered training provider for Lean Certification classes through SME, ASQ, AME and Shingo Prize. Adil resides in Austin, Texas, and is currently pursuing his PhD in Performance Psychology.

He has leveraged his expertise in Business Excellence, Project Leadership and in Advanced Flow Technology to increase the performance of organizations around the world. His mastery has made him a sought after strategic business partner and executive coach as he continues to drive excellence by implementing strategies for growth and long-term success.

His mission is to focus on enhancing the value of the ‘appreciating assets’ and optimizing the human potential in addition to developing the necessary technical skills for ensuring the long term success of individuals and corporations.

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