Monday, September 15, 2014

A Call For Shorter Meetings

No one likes long meetings or too many meetings for that matter.  Meeting efficiency is a frequent topic on this and many other sites. Recently in an article on LinkedIn Fast Company explored the 18 minute meeting.
It doesn't take a scientist to know that you cannot inspire people if you put them to sleep. But scientists are beginning to identify how long most people can pay attention before they tune out. The range seems to be in the area of 10 to 18 minutes. TED organizers reached the conclusion that 18 minutes works best. 
TED curator Chris Anderson explained the organization’s thinking this way:
It [18 minutes] is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.

Efficient meetings are the result of careful planning by the meeting planner. Make your meetings more effective with the use of SPACER as a meeting framework

Use SPACER (Safety, Purpose, Agenda, Conduct, Expectations, and Roles & Responsibilities) as a technique to improve team meeting efficiency and effectiveness.

Safety – is always the top priority, discuss safety protocols like evacuation, PPE or safety equipment needed in the facility, bathroom location, etc.

Purpose – "what is the meeting for?", discuss what is in scope and what might not be.

Agenda – no matter what type of meeting or for how long there should be some sort of plan.

Conduct – what are the rules the team participants should adhere to while in the meeting like cell phone us, side discussions, etc.

Expectations – what do we expect to get out of this meeting especially if it is a training session?

Roles – what are the roles of the participants in the meeting, is there a note taker or time keeper for example. 

One of the biggest challenges to meeting effectiveness is we are essentially creatures of habit. We do things this way because we have always done things this way – status quo. Perhaps the easiest change is break away from the Outlook meeting defaults of 30 minute blocks. What do you think? How do you make your meetings effective.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Lean Quote: Combine Passion and a System to be Unstoppable

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Just as passion without a system will fail, so will a system without passion fail. We must have a system with passion.— Thomas Berry

Passion is the driving force that enables people to attain far more than they ever imagined. Commitment means you will go all the way for what you believe in. Passion and commitment go hand in hand. Remember to have a positive attitude because of the saying “Good attitude, good results; bad attitude, bad results.”

Passion is everything. Without passion there is no drive to succeed. It is the fuel of the will, and everything you do as a leader must express your passion. Passion is contagious and is easily shared. Passion will bridge moments of weakness, and will drive you past your failures while reaching for your goals. Passion radiates from you and is easily detected by others.

Having passion makes sense, and has proven to be a key factor for many successful businesses and endeavors, but passion alone is not enough to be successful. The key to is to set up a system. A system lets you focus with strategic tunnel vision on what you need to be focused on right now. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.

Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything. Forget about predicting the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

Passion can put you on the path to starting a successful endeavor, but once you combine your passion in a system, you can truly become an unstoppable force.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If you ever wondered if you're paid to talk about doing things rather than actually do them, you're not alone. Many businesses suffer from the same ailment – stifling innovation by running good ideas through the ringer. Hours of meetings about the same topics and endless email chains can kill good ideas before they ever get off the ground.

Actions speak louder than words! An expression where doing what you say you will do is a greater determinant of behavior and character. People can say anything, but when what they say and do are contrary, it’s easier to judge by what is done instead of by what is said.

For leaders, action is one of the most important traits they can embody.  Taking action means getting things done.  It means seizing the initiative.  It conveys momentum, and energy, and creating something new, something that didn’t exist before.  And this excites followers and others who understand that going towards something is always better than sitting around staring at the wall.

People will usually listen to what you say, but they really pay attention to what you do. You can't say one thing and do another if you want to be effective as a leader. What you say is important. However if your actions are different than your words people will assume the actions are what is true.

It’s easy for leaders to exhibit a disconnect between what they say we stand for and what they really do stand for without even realizing it. When this happens, it has an unmistakable effect on the effectiveness of teams and individual team members. If your words aren’t consistent with your actions, you’re not only confusing the listener, you may also be causing irreparable damage to your own credibility.

When you “walk the talk,” your behavior becomes a catalyst for people’s trust and faith in you. And it also emphasizes what you stand for. Leading by example shows people exactly what you expect and gives them living proof that it can be done. On a deeper level, leading by example and being as good as your words builds trust. It’s a sign that you take what you say seriously so they can, too.

In the end, taking action is simple.  You do or you don’t.  The hard part comes when we introduce doubt, fear, concern about what others will say (or not say) and the outcome being failure.  If you have a great idea, why not take action?  What will happen if you fail?  You’ll learn from the failure and perhaps, have even more great ideas.  You’ll also be taking action and not just merely talking about it.

“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.”  Benjamin Franklin

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Celebrating 300 Single Point Lessons!

My friends at Fuss & O'Neil are celebrating a milestone, their 300th Single Point Lesson.  John Kravontka and team have been sharing an accumulation of best practices learned by other manufacturers over the course of many years. I am happy that they are letting me share this with you.  Below is an excerpt from John Kravontka on SPLs:

An idea is a treasure. It can be killed very quickly by a negative comment, or it can be enhanced by a positive one.  To get ideas to begin to flow is a very difficult process. Working in teams seems to help idea generation. If someone comes up with a good idea in a small facility it is easy to spread it to another part of the facility or to a similar piece of equipment. If you have a large facility and/or multiple facilities it can be very difficult to spread a good idea, or a best practice. If you cannot spread them, everyone has to re-invent the wheel over and over again, and this can take a lot of time.  If we can capture an idea in words and pictures we can then spread it quickly from one place to another. If we categorize the ideas we can then search/find them more easily. We can take these good ideas or best practices and teach concepts with them.

This is what we (Fuss & O’Neill Manufacturing Solutions) do every day, teach safety, maintenance and reliability concepts with hands-on training/ideas. We put the best ones out there for everyone to look at, and hopefully utilize to make their company better… While we teach and train, we get our clients results, at the same time. In many instances the ROI for our work is measured in weeks and months..

As the TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) process hit the USA in the early 70’s a Single Point Lesson (SPL) or One Point Lesson (OPL) was a way to train an Operator to perform an Operator based task on a piece of equipment to help maintain that equipment, or to keep it from deteriorating. It focused on a “Single Point” or idea and by using many pictures (visuals) it quickly got the point across about what the Operator needed to accomplish. It also created Standard Work around that task. At that time a major thrust of TPM was to have the Operator perform simple maintenance tasks (transfer from Maintenance) so that the Maintenance Technician could then do more work or different work. As the TPM process matured here in the USA, the SPL’s also began to change. They started to become more of a way to document a great idea, normally a Maintenance idea that would help improve the Safety of the equipment or keep a piece of equipment clean (documenting a Countermeasure), or improve the access to the equipment (make it easier to maintain), etc.

You can use these SPL’s or OPL’s in many ways:

       As a tool box meeting for Maintenance Technicians, starting off each day, or weekly to talk about safety, new ideas, thoughts and the sharing of best practices
       As a weekly bulletin board of best practice ideas
       As an intranet site to hold and categorize best practices
       To categorize them for use during; TPM events, SMED events, RCM and 5’S events, to begin to generate and stimulate some team ideas
       From a corporate viewpoint, as a way to spread Maintenance and safety best practices across multiple facilities in the USA and across the world. Why should each facility have to re-invent their own wheel over and over when they can plug into other “wheels”
       Run contests for the most, the best, the cheapest idea
       As a way to promote Maintenance and the “status” of Maintenance in a facility
       As a way to train operators on ideas for Daily Operator PM’s for equipment and visuals that they can add. Help operators to “see” the invisible, so they can begin to see minor defects, etc. on their own equipment that they run each day
       As a way to elevate the function of Maintenance across the country
       As a way to capture the “Intellectual Capital” of your employees and to spread to future employees
       As a way to help change a culture or mindset in an facility
       As a way to train new employees
       As a way to create standard work

You can see more SPLs at

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Lean Quote: Make Work Fun

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"You can’t accomplish anything unless you have some fun.— Charles Knight, Emerson Electric

Don't let the pressures of business bring down your employees. If your employees aren't having fun, they're probably not performing at their highest level. It's time to inject fun back into your company's culture.

Getting energized about work usually results from a couple things. Primarily if a work culture is fun to be in, it’s a place you look forward to going because the people (and leadership) are authentic, caring and fun. And teams that are energized with what they are doing get excited by the opportunities that a day may bring.

It is time managers learned how to create an atmosphere that is challenging, creative and fun for employees as well as for themselves. A good manager knows how to have a good balance between being professional at work and having fun in the process.

Remember that employees create fun in the workplace, not managers. It’s a manager’s job to orchestrate fun activities (and not get in the way of them).

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #67 (1006-1020)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #1006 - Be Honest About Mistakes.
A manager sets the tone for her team. If she admits mistakes and expects her team members to call her out when she violates team norms, then she will set a powerful example for accountability.

Lean Tip #1007 - Empower Your Employees to Make the Right or Wrong Choices.
If all companies operated on this principle, I personally think that people would be a whole lot happier at work! There should be no penalty for making a mistake and precisely for that reason, each and everyone on the team thinks about our decisions and its impact. Even if we make a mistake, management should never makes us feel bad about it – ever!

Lean Tip #1008 - Listen to and Value Your Employees
Don’t focus on the overall corporate value and benefit when communicating collaboration to employees.  Employees care about how this will impact them on an individual basis.  How will this make their jobs and lives easier?

We are always so adamant about listening to the voice of the customer, yet we should also consider the voice of the employee. When going down the collaboration road within your enterprise it’s important to make employees a part of the decision making process from step one.  Listen to their ideas, their needs, and their suggestions and integrate their feedback in your technology and strategy.

Lean Tip #1009 – Collaboration Means You Must Adapt and Evolve
It’s important to remember that collaboration is perpetual.  It’s a never ending evolution as new tools and strategies for the workplace continue to emerge.  This means that it’s important for your organization to be able to adapt and evolve as things change.  Keep a pulse on what’s going on in the industry and inside of your organization.  This will allow you to innovate and anticipate.

Lean Tip #1010 - Create a Supportive Environment For Collaboration
If your organization focuses on rewarding employees for individual performance as the main driver of success then it will become quite hard to encourage employees to share and communicate with each other.  Why would they want to?

There is nothing wrong with rewarding employees for great performance but it’s also crucial to reward teamwork.  For example, organizations can make a percentage of an employee’s bonus tied to how well they collaborate with their co-workers.  A supportive environment also means having training and education resources available for employees as well as evangelists within the organization.

Lean Tip #1011 - Focus on the Positive.
Regardless of what we are doing, there are usually some positive aspects to it. If the results are the most positive aspect of your task at hand, then focus on results. If someone’s life will be better because of your efforts, focus on that. You will get a lot more enjoyment out of your work when you choose to focus on the positive aspects of everything you do.

Lean Tip #1012 - Don’t Over Think Things.
If we spend too much time dwelling on something rather than just doing it, we can easily make a big deal out of nothing. Taking action has a way of smoothing out bumps in the road, but procrastination tends to make them worse. The sooner we get moving, the less time we will have for over thinking every little detail.

Lean Tip #1013 - Always Do Your Best.
Work can easily become a chore when you don’t care enough to do your best. There is a certain sense of satisfaction that only comes from a job well done. If you just show up and do as little as possible, you will never really enjoy your work because there won’t be any sense of satisfaction attached to it. Avoidance makes work feel less enjoyable, not more!

Lean Tip #1014 - Set High Standards for Yourself.
You should live and work by the highest possible standards. Don’t give in to the temptation to lower your standards to match the lazy goof offs who think they are getting away with something. The work you do is a reflection of your character and sense of self-worth. Living and working in a way that supports your highest standards will give you sound reasons to feel really good about yourself.

Lean Tip #1015 - Focus on What Matters.
Because our minds are constantly pulling us in different directions, it is easy to lose sight of what really matters. The only way to get the truly important things done is to be ruthless at removing and ignoring distractions. There is no shortage of valueless busy work that can easily rob us of our time and energy. Don’t let that happen to you. Work is much more enjoyable when we focus on the things that really matter.

Lean Tip #1016 - Be a Leader, Not Only a Manager
Motivating a team is worthless unless you provide direction; unless you turn that motivation toward a goal and lead the team to it. It is the ability to lead others that truly sets a manager apart from their peers. Remember that leaders are found at all levels of the organization, so be one.

Lean Tip #1017 - Be a Motivator to Get the Most From People
Human beings do things because we want to. Sometimes we want to because the consequences of not wanting to do something are unpleasant. However, most of the time we want to do things because of what we get out of it.

It's no different at work, people do good work for the pay, or the prestige, or the recognition. They do bad work because they want to take it easy and still get paid. They work really hard because they want to impress someone. To motivate your people better, figure out what they want and how you can give that to them for doing what you want them to do.

Lean Tip #1018 - Start Each Day Reviewing Recent Successes, Critical Goals, and Possible Roadblocks as a Team.
Have quick daily huddle meetings to review recent projects, celebrate successes, review upcoming goals, and uncover possible issues. These meetings should last no longer than a few minutes and should focus on the most tactical, pressing issues of the day.

Lean Tip #1019 - Lead Your Workforce From the Gemba.
In order to build trust, leaders must connect with their workforce. That means getting out of the offices and conference rooms and walking the floor. Stop by employees’ cubicles, take a seat, and see what they’re working on. Go to the Gemba (place) where the work is done.

Lean Tip #1020 - Show Employees Why Their Work Matters.

Even employees who are passionate about their jobs can lose sight of the bigger picture if they can’t see how their work impacts the company. To help boost morale, introduce them to some of the customer their work impacts. This will show them the results of their projects and provide a valuable opportunity to receive feedback from the customer. Positive reinforcement from the customer can make employees feel more connected to their work by giving them a sense of pride and ownership. It also provides greater incentive to perform well, boosts confidence in their work, and increases overall job satisfaction.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day Worker!

For a lot of people, Labor Day means two things: a day off and the end of summer. However, Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States and Canada since 1894.

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. 

Labor Day celebrations have come a long way since the turn of the century. It’s not so much an honoring of the workers anymore. It’s just an opportunity to get off work, and celebrate the end of summer (if that’s something to celebrate). Many people see the Labor Day weekend as merely an opportunity for a last summer fling. And whether they celebrate it playing golf, going camping or fishing, having a backyard steak barbeque, or attending a picnic in the park or at the beach, the true original meaning of Labor Day seems, for the most part, to have become lost in the enjoyment of the moment.

It’s a good thing to enjoy your last summer holiday. But it’s also a good thing to respect and honor those who didn’t have the favorable working conditions we have now. It’s a good thing to remember those who fought very hard for workers’ rights. The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the social and economic achievements of America’s workers. Labor Day celebrates us all — our achievements and contributions to the strength, prosperity, and safety of our nation.

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