Monday, March 2, 2015

“Successful Lean Teams” in Boston

Two of my favorite Lean thinkers and practitioners are coming to my area to do a Lean workshop and I wanted to share this with you. Both have been contributors and subject of many posts on this blog. If you are available this is a wonderful opportunity to meet them and learn a little from their experience. 
Jim Benson and Mark Graban are doing a full-day workshop on Lean for knowledge work settings. It’s going to be held in Boston on March 31 (hopefully, the snow will be gone by then.)
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In the morning, Jim will enthrall you with an interactive workshop on Personal Kanban – he wrote the Shingo Research Award-winning book on this subject. He weaves together some key lessons from W. Edwards Deming on systems thinking, as well.
In the afternoon, Mark will be teaching about Healthcare Kaizen, but it’s really a methodology that can apply in various settings and he’ll be sharing non-healthcare examples of staff-driven continuous improvement. They’ll do a fun simulation and exercise that allows us to practice the basics of Kaizen.
You can save 10% by using code “LEANBLOG” at checkout. Read more and register here.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

Lean Quote: Leadership Starts With A Positive Attitude

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.

"Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference. — Mac Anderson

We are often not in control of the issues we face at work or home. Problems just present themselves. And chances are the issues you're facing aren't so cut and dry. The solution to the problem might just be your attitude. 

You can find at least two ways to look at virtually everything. A pessimist looks for difficulty in the opportunity, whereas an optimist looks for opportunity in the difficulty. Unfortunately, many people look only at the problem and not at the opportunity that lies within the problem.

Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure. A positive attitude can motivate other people to change their negative thinking and come over to your side. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.


The attitude of the leader has a huge impact on the culture, environment, and mood of the department or organization. The leader’s attitude tends to spread and affect others dramatically. A good leader has the attitude of serving his employees at all times, often at the expense of his own morale or personal needs. A good leader truly cares about the morale of the team, pushes and motivates his team with respect, a relentlessly positive attitude and with a genuine heart.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lean Roundup #69 – February, 2015



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of February, 2015.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Knowledge, Personality, and Persuasive Power – John Hunter says these traits provide an understanding how to influence your organization.

The Economic Benefits of Lean – Bob Emiliani explains that Lean is not for cost cutting like many think but rather if done properly can lead to financial success.

LEAN THINKING IN 10 WORDS – Mark Rosenthal shares 3 phrases (10 words) that frame the foundation of improvement.

6 Ways To Help Eliminate Unscheduled Downtime – Brad Poulter shares 6 ways to prevent unscheduled equipment downtime.

One Man’s Lean Journey: Driving Employee Engagment Through Standardized Work Creation – Matt Wrye says standardized work is the foundation of employee engagement.

Kaizen Only Goes So Far - Martin Boersema says Lean is a two-pronged fork. Use kaizen to get immediate results and engage your employees. Use Hoshin Kanri and lean management to get even closer to True North!

What does it take to become Lean? - Vivienne Fagrell shares a story of continuous improvement that illustrates the Lean journey.

Applying Lean Principles to Warehouse Management – Jeff Maree shares 5 tips to apply Lean thinking to your warehouse.

Improving Management Globally – John Hunter discusses the need for global quality improvement however says far too little is being done.

Valuing the small improvement – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains why small improvements matter.

The Lean Coaching Script – Greg Stocker shares 4 key points that can be used to reinforce Lean thinking.

Defining “Respect for People” – Bob Emiliani defines the Lean principle respect for people beyond just employees and continuously evolving over time.

Reprise - What is a Team? – Pascal Dennis defines what a team is and how best they operate.

Just Own It – Kevin Meyer says don’t just do Lean rather to be successful you must own it.

Guest Post: The Kaizen / Kata Nexus – Michael Lombard explains that Kaizen is reinforced by Kata and that Kata is enabled by Kaizen.


Cartoon: The Workplace “Brain Check Station” – Mark Graban says Kaizen is not about checking your brain at the door, it requires the right leadership, the right culture, and the right environment.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Lean Is Like LEGOS: You Build It Brick By Brick


Who doesn't love LEGOS? It's fun, it's practical, and...it's philosophical. Approach Lean like a LEGO project: brick by brick.


"Today I want you to stop worrying about that final plan, and instead focus on just putting the next LEGO brick in the right spot. THAT'S IT." That's pretty much how you build with LEGO. One brick at a time, placed in the right place. Don't worry about the next brick. Just the brick in front of you.”  - Steve Kamb, NerdFitness

You build small, simple pieces that are easy to understand and then you assemble them in a variety of complex ways to accomplish a particular goal. When faced with a challenge that seems overwhelmingly complicated at first break it down until you can understand the pieces, then watch how they fit together - suddenly almost anything seems doable.

Building with Lego bricks is a slow progression that takes patience, especially when you have a large number of loose blocks to sort through while you are building.

Trying to do too much when introducing a new process can be overwhelming. Strive to accomplish small steps over time and build on your successes.

Continuous improvement is about small changes on a daily basis to make your job easier.  Small step-by-step improvements are more effective over time than occasional kaizen bursts, and have a significantly greater impact on the organization culture - creating an environment of involvement and improvement.

Small victories tap into motivation. Achievement is fueled by making small amounts of progress, such as accomplishing a task or solving a problem. Help employees break projects, goals, and work assignments into small victories. Help them jump into an achievement cycle.

Making one small change is both rewarding to the person making the change and if communicated to others can lead to a widespread adoption of the improvement and the possibility that someone will improve on what has already been improved. There's no telling what might occur if this were the everyday habit of all team members.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Lean Quote: Leaders Must Spread Hope To Employees

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.

"I believe the leader’s ultimate job is to spread hope. — Bob Galvin, Motorola

Leaders must guide, motivate, and inspire. Guide your team in the direction you want the group to go by setting a vision, strategy, and goals. Motivate them to bring their best by expressing your passion, communicating with confidence and optimism, and connecting tasks to a greater purpose.  Your work doesn’t stop there; inspire them to act by continuously engaging their talents, re-recruiting their spirit, and celebrating successes.

Always maintain a positive attitude. Positive attitudes have power in more ways than one. As a business leader, you should exude optimism which will help your staff avoid patterns of negativity. When the economic climate is unstable, businesses will face continual challenges. If you are not optimistic about your ways of conducting business, it can negatively affect the mindset and productivity of those who work for you.

The attitude of the leader has a huge impact on the culture, environment, and mood of the department or organization. The leader’s attitude tends to spread and affect others dramatically. A good leader has the attitude of serving his employees at all times, often at the expense of his own morale or personal needs. A good leader truly cares about the morale of the team, pushes and motivates his team with respect, a relentlessly positive attitude and with a genuine heart


Lean leaders are optimists and believe the cup is always half full. They aren’t pie-in-the-sky types, but they see the positive side of an opportunity, and they believe in their ability to achieve their goals. Leaders provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

You Can’t Inspect in Quality


Unfortunately, there are not enough organizations that understand quality. Quality is not additive or final. It must go beyond the product or service. We cannot add it at the end of the line or inspect it into the product. At best that is only a false sense of security. If we want a quality product it must be made with quality processes by quality minded people.

Inspection can be useful to gather data on the process. Using that data to see if a process has gone out of control and a special cause needs to be investigated is useful. Using that data to evaluate the success, or failure, of an attempt to improve (via the PDSA cycle) is useful.

Many traditional companies use a final inspection department to 100% check the product just before it is shipped to make sure that any errors that occurred in-process are caught before the product is shipped.

Inspecting to pull out the failed items from the production before a customer sees them is a path to failure. When companies do this, they are trying to inspect quality into the product.  However, 100% inspection has been shown to be only about 80% to 85% effective. If the process is this bad, the process needs to be improved.

"Inspection does not improve the quality, nor guarantee quality. Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product. As Harold F. Dodge said, “You can not inspect quality into a product." — W. Edwards Deming, Out of Crisis, Page 29

In some organizations, we might as well give the quality folks a uniform, a badge and a gun. They act like they are the Quality Police. Progressive companies realize you cannot inspect quality into a product.  By the time product is inspected, its level of quality has already been established. The primary means of ensuring a quality product is delivered is not by waiting until the product is assembled to test it. Great companies build quality in from the start and maintain that quality throughout the manufacturing process. To improve quality, you have to improve the process that produced it.

Generally the most effective way to achieve quality is to avoid having defects in the first place. It is much less costly to prevent a problem from ever happening than it is to find and correct the problem after it has occurred. Focusing on prevention activities whose purpose is to reduce the number of defects is better. Companies employ many techniques to prevent defects for example statistical process control, quality engineering, training, and a variety of tools from the Lean and Six Sigma tool kit.

Start with the idea of preventing defects, not waiting until they are identified and correcting them. Many companies have an active Zero Defects policy where defect prevention is paramount and quality inspection is almost just a verification of what they already know – that the product is defect free. If we can start with quality and maintain that quality throughout the process we will have a quality product.


Quality is about prevention—you cannot "inspect" quality into a product. It has to happen before the inspection process.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

5 Tips for Implementing 5S


5S is a process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, and high performance workplace.  It enables anyone to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions at a glance.  5S can be the foundation for continuous improvement, zero defects, cost reductions and a more productive work space.  The 5S methodology is a systematic way to improve the workplace, processes and products through employee involvement.

1. Start small
It would be unwise to try to implement 5S throughout your entire organization in one go (unless you have a small company), better to select one area in which to concentrate your efforts and provide a show piece for the rest of the organization. In my mind it would be best to select the worst area in the company so as to show what can be achieved and the differences it can make. Showing success in one area gains the confidence of others and a reason to buy-in.

2. Training
The whole team should be trained in the vision and objectives of the company and given a clear understanding of what the company is trying to achieve through them and their 5S program implementation. They need to have a clear understanding of the seven wastes of lean and an overview of basic lean principles. With this knowledge they will be ready to undertake their 5S implementation.

3. Leadership buy-In and commitment
Your management should understand and practice the ideas of 5S themselves so as to provide an example to your other employees, it would be hard to motivate your employees to keep a tidy workspace if every time they walked past their managers desk they saw piles of untidy clutter. Management needs to be ready to explain and help fix any situations that arise.

4. Don’t make it stand alone
Doing 5S is liberating.  We have all experienced that feeling after cleaning the basement or garage after a year of accumulating stuff.  But 5S is just one tool that enables stability that enables flow.   Well organized and sparkling clean waste is still waste.  Getting bogged down in 5S can be an avoidance pattern - avoiding the hard work of thinking about how to create flow and solve the real root cause problems inhibiting flow.

5. Monitor, review, and improve
Once the team has completed the first activities they’ll need to focus on sustaining. The team should create standard audits to assess and score their area so that they can be monitored on an ongoing basis. In addition, the team should meet to review how things are working and what additional improvements they could make. Photographs should be taken of the improved work area and a 5S story board put up to show the improvements gained. I would also suggest that the team be allowed to make a presentation to the management and the rest of the organization to show off their achievements.


The 5S system is a good starting point for all improvement efforts aiming to drive out waste from the manufacturing process, and ultimately improve a company’s bottom line by improving products and services, and lowering costs. Many companies are seeking to make operations more efficient, and the concept is especially attractive to older manufacturing facilities looking to improve the bottom line by reducing their costs.

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