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“Shelley worked with a cross-functional team and designed a client team approach with enabled us to integrate client strategies from multiple perspectives. Already we have seen results in the marketplace: one customer said that the team approach was critical and instrumental in their decision to sign an ongoing contract. Another prospect said that the strategic team approach was a differentiator in the market place which set the company apart from its larger competitors.”

Dale Brown
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing


Daily Management - Hard for Heros

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 8.19.59 PMIn the U.S. culture (and many other cultures), we do process improvement through projects; we introduce new products (cars, technology, pharmaceuticals) through projects.  Daily management – or making improvements every day and monitoring data every day for triggers is not our normal way of operating in the BPM space. In a culture of cowboys and heros, it is the exceptional event that gets noticed and praised, not the daily routine items.

Yet, we do have some regular routines that are daily – such as personal cleanliness, weight maintenance, and exercise, so this is not a totally foreign method. 

I heard the term Daily Management when talking with Joan Wellman, a lean expert and President of JWA Consulting.  She pointed me to a book by colleagues in her company, Advanced Lean in Healthcare by Albanese, Aaby, and Platchek, and said that daily management was essential for executives to take Lean seriously. It truly builds a culture of continuous improvement, what the book calls ballet vs. the hockey stick approach.

And then I saw the term in another publication, The Operations Playbook: A Systematic Approach for Achieving and Maintaining Operations Excellence  (from the National Center for the Middle Market, Fisher College of Business) where it said that middle market companies were better at one aspect of  Daily Management than larger companies, namely how to run meetings. 

I find this term daily management a good one – partially because it is clear conceptually what it means, but it is also not a common practice.  Let me elaborate.  Daily management (from a process standpoint) means routines, informal flows, and behaviors and organizational activities.  Below are some specific examples of these routines.

  • Visual controls to display what has been done today and what needs to be done against production goals; different measures such as safety, and defects.  These visual controls need to be visible to workers, supervisors, executives, and visitors, so all can see them – not hidden on desktops.
  • A visual inventory management system to show where supplies are low,  to trigger ordering them, and then replenishing them.
  • Daily stand up tactical meetings  to review current operations, raise problems, confirm or assign resources as needed, and take responsibility for tasks or escalations.
  • Leaders doing daily standard work.  Standard work means which is being out in the field, in the workplace, seeing what is going on, and doing specific tasks.  This work may sound like management by walking around (MBWO), but it is much more structured than that.  In Advanced Lean in Healthcare, the authors spell out specific tasks that leaders do every day, or several times as week, and how long each supervisor, manager, or executive needs to be devoting to this daily management. 

Standard work should be articulated for staff, team leads, managers and supervisors, Directors, Vice Presidents and CEO/COO.  Examples of some of the daily work at each level follow from the book (p. 245):


  • Follow standard work
  • Escalate to team leads if standard work cannot be followed
  • Do daily PDCA activities

 Team Leads

  • Conduct standup meetings
  • Train and develop staff in their standardized work
  • Help with projects on more complex issues
  • Respond to abnormalities in the work place
  • Be out in the workplace 100% of their time

 Managers and Supervisors

  • Conduct standup meetings for team leads
  • Develop team leads in their standardized work
  • Perform problem solving projects to find root cause
  • Resolve problems escalated by team
  • Be out in the workplace 50-75% of their time


  • Develop managers on their standardized work
  • Go out in the workplace to observe problems first hand
  • Actively lead cross departments problem solving projects
  • Monitor daily/weekly/monthly performance
  • Be out in the workplace 25% of their time  

 Vice Presidents and other C-suite

  • Develop managers on their standardized work
  • Go out in the workplace to observe problems first hand
  • Conduct PDCA is areas that are having issues
  • Be out in the workplace 10-20% of  their time  


  • Develop C-suite on their standardized work
  • Go out in the workplace weekly to observe problems first hand
  • Conduct PDCA in areas that are having issues
  • Be out in the workplace 10% of their time

What can be seen from this partial list of responsibilities is that every person and manager has specific tasks, that the tasks are nested, that each person is working with one level above and one level below them, that every role is out in the field looking at real work. Overall, everyone is part of recognizing issues and defects and then  doing PDCA to improve the work. 

Each level person uses data to monitor daily flow, output, and errors sets in place a daily method to ‘go and see’ in the field about the issue, address it today, and determine if it should become part of a larger project.  The daily data and flow leads to immediate review, decisions, and actions. Each role know what to do with different triggers–what can they handle themselves (according to the standardized work), when they need to escalate and ask for help, and when immediate or longer term actions to develop countermeasures should be put in place. 

What I find with companies is the percentage of time in the workplace is ‘hard’ for most leaders.  They just don’t get to it.  Yet, going into the field, enables each leader to demonstrate interest, participate in ‘seeing’ the problem and contributing to the analysis.  It also gets the different roles collaborating with one another on the real work.  This daily management is a systematic way to be both proactive and reactive and build a continuous improvement process.  It allows every level to have a role in seeing problems, or knowing that things are going smoothly.  It is not up to the hero to find an exception and start yelling FIRE!

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6 comments to Daily Management – Hard for Heros

  • Maggie

    As it mentioned in the article, “Daily Management” was not a common practice. It required too much time from staff of all levels. It might not be efficient in terms of productivity.

    • shelley

      It is definitely efficient in the long run, but means that the organization wants to build a process culture enterprise wide – not just do individual projects, which is how companies often start with BPI.

  • Claudia

    Conceptually, daily management seems like it would be more eeffective than BPI projects. Too many variables can contribute to the delay and possibly incompletion of a BPI process. Although, it is somewhat time consuming, daily management looks at real work at all levels and performs PDCA on a daily basis whereas BPI is planned and scheduled and can take months.

  • Claudia

    Conceptually, daily management seems like it would be more effective than BPI projects. Too many variables can contribute to the delay and possible failure of BPI projects. Although, it is somewhat time consuming, daily management looks at real work at all levels and performs daily PDCA on a daily basis and BPI projects require scheduling and can take months to complete.

    • shelley

      Both are important from my perspective. Daily management cannot handle larger projects, so you have to decide where the problem and solution fit.

  • Roelof

    A further side of this is that there is a class of hero in many businesses who have become very good at dealing with the daily fire-fighting, the confused processes and unclear goals. They are the goto people who can make things happen in the disorganized work environment and might work to undermine the process of simplifying, standardizing and improving our processes. How do we handle them? Surely they are not going to give-up their hard won advantage without some form of resistance?

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