Monday, October 15, 2018

Lean Tips Editions #130 (1946-1960)

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 #1946 - Help the Employees Identify What's in It for Them to Make the Change.
A good portion of the normal resistance to change disappears when employees are clear about the benefits the change brings to them as individuals.

Benefits to the group, the department, and the organization should be stressed, too. But, nothing is more important to an individual employee than to know the positive impact on their own career or job.

Additionally, employees must feel that the time, energy, commitment, and focus necessary to implement the change are compensated equally by the benefits they will attain from making the change.

Happier customers, increased sales, a pay raise, saved time and steps, positive notoriety, recognition from the boss, more effective, productive employees, and an exciting new role or project are examples of ways in which you can help employees feel compensated for the time, energy, focus, change, and challenge that any change requires.


Lean Tip #1947 - Listen Deeply and Empathetically to Employees.
You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change.

You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.

Lean Tip #1948 - Empower Employees to Contribute.
Control of their own jobs is one of the five key factors in what employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimize resistance to change. Give the employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage.

If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale, the goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your job is to empower the employees to make the change work.

Practice effective delegation and set the critical path points at which you need feedback for the change effort—and get out of their way.

Lean Tip #1949 - Create an Organization-wide Feedback and Improvement Loop.
Do these steps mean that the change that was made is the right or optimal change? Not necessarily. You must maintain an open line of communication throughout your organization to make sure that feedback reaches the ears of the employees leading the charge.

Changing course or details, continuous improvement, and tweaking is a natural and expected, part of any organizational change. Most changes are not poured in concrete but there must be a willingness to examine the improvement (plan, do, study, take additional action).

If you implement your change in an organizational environment that is employee-oriented, with transparent communication and a high level of trust, you have a huge advantage.

Lean Tip #1950 - Listen First, Talk Second
The first strategy to overcome resistance to change is to communicate. Communication is key — you already knew that. However, try letting your employees initiate the conversation. People want to be heard, and giving them a chance to voice their opinions will help alleviate the frustration they feel over the situation.

What’s more, your employees thoughts, concerns and suggestions will prove wildly valuable to steer your change project. At the very least, understanding them will help you pinpoint the root of employee resistance to change.

Lean Tip #1951 – Make Change About Employees
Change is only possible if your human resources are on board, so make sure changes are approached in terms of the employee. If you are implementing a new software system — plan your project through the lens of user adoption rather than focusing on the technology. It’s not about what the technology can do, it is about what the user can do with the help of this new technology.

Lean Tip #1952 - Encourage Camaraderie
Teams work better when they understand one another on a somewhat personal level. To cultivate a strong company culture and foster deeper connections between employees, create opportunities for your staff to socialize that doesn’t involve work. Happy hours, company-sponsored events and group outings and clubs are excellent ways to bring people together, regardless of age or professional title.

Lean Tip #1953 - Identify the Root Cause of Resistance
There are many telltale signs that staff members are resisting change. They may complain more than usual, miss key meetings or bluntly refuse to participate in new initiatives. It’s important to recognize when resistance is becoming an issue, but it’s even more important to understand why your employees are pushing back in the first place. The most common causes of resistance include:

·        Lack of awareness about why changes are being made
·        Fear of how change will impact job roles
·        Failed attempts at change in the past
·        Lack of visible support and commitment from managers
·        Fear of job loss

By identifying why employees are resisting change, you can better decide how to address resistance head-on. If lack of awareness or fear is the problem, greater communication and discussion groups may help. If change has failed in the past, and employees aren’t confident this time will be different, you can discuss specific ways the organization has learned from its mistakes and how it plans to use this insight to successfully implement new initiatives.

Lean Tip #1954 - Involve Executive Leadership
You cannot successfully implement change without support from all levels of business. Your employees take cues from the executive team, and if leadership doesn’t adhere to the plan for change management, it’s very likely your employees won’t either. Encourage company leaders to set an example, and the rest will follow.

Lean Tip #1955 - Do Change Right the First Time
Failed attempts to change aspects of your business process will have a negative effect on how employees view future initiatives. If you’re going to make a change, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure it’s successful and set realistic timelines. Many companies fail to successfully implement change because they overload employees and expect near-immediate gratification. The reality of change management boils down to one fact: It takes time.

Break the initiative down into stages and guide employees through the process to ensure, at each mile marker, adaptations are unfolding correctly to support the next stage of change.

Lean Tip #1956 - Innovation: Trust Yourself Enough to Trust Others
Innovation requires breaking down the old rules of thought and creating new ones.  This means each member of the team must become more transparent than ever before.    As such, each member of the team must trust themselves enough to trust each other.    When you can accomplish this trust, you become more patient, a better listener and over time more grateful for the new experiences and relationships that are being formed.

Then, step back and recognize that – with your ability to co-exist with people in ways that form a family bond – the promise of a new workplace culture can be realized.

Lean Tip #1957 - Innovation: Collaborate and Discover
It’s not until you begin to trust yourself and others that real collaboration takes root.  Collaboration is not just about working closely together, but also about taking leaps of faith together to discover new ways of thinking and create greater outcomes.

You never know which idea will take shape into the new innovation that creates impact and influence in the marketplace – whether a new process, product, packaging, piece of knowledge, etc.

Lean Tip #1958 - Innovation: Communicate to Learn
Without strong communication, teams can’t find their rhythm and they certainly won’t find the things they are looking for to build trust and collaborate.  The manner in which you communicate sets the tone and propels thinking in a variety of directions that leads to new innovations.

A team should view themselves as an innovation lab – constantly challenging each other  to learn from each other’s ideas and ideals  and to plant the seeds  for future innovations.

Lean Tip #1959 - Innovation: Be a Courageous Change Agent
For teams to innovate, leaders must challenge each team member to think more critically and see through a lens of continuous improvement.  Looking through this lens requires the mindset of a “courageous enabler” – one who takes charge and embraces the role of a change agent in support of constructive disruption that ultimately makes things operate better and improves performance.

Every leader must become a change agent or face extinction.  As such, their teams must equally be charged to do the same.  Accepting the role of a change agent means taking on an entrepreneurial attitude, embracing risk as the new normal, and beginning to see opportunity in everything. As you do, innovation becomes second nature.

Lean Tip #1960 – Innovation: Course Correct to Perfect
To find the perfect combination of people on a team, leaders must often course correct along the way.  Yes, perfection is utopia but course correction steers you closer to the promise of the culture you are attempting to create. Course correction also keeps people on their toes and teaches them to adapt to new environments, where they can showcase their abilities and skill-sets to new people and personalities in different situations and circumstances.

To effectively course correct – and create and sustain momentum for growth, innovation  and opportunity – I’ve always  believed that every leader must ask themselves the following three questions:  1) What must I keep doing?, 2) What must I stop doing?, and 3) What must I start doing?  Simple questions that we don’t ask ourselves often enough and must hold ourselves accountable to answer.


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel

Friday, October 12, 2018

Lean Quote: Waste is a Tax on the Whole People

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.


"Waste is a tax on the whole people." — Albert W. Atwood

A simple, profound statement that reminds me of our shared social responsibility.

In recent years many companies have established a fundamental goal to minimize the environmental impact while maintaining high quality and service for all business processes and products. This is commonly referred to as sustainability or green manufacturing. According to the Department of Commerce, “Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.”

When implementing lean within our organizations, equipment reliability is a predominant foundational element that enables lean operational performance. Embracing green manufacturing requires giving more focus to environmental and energy concerns during the implementation of reliability improvement projects. Improvements geared toward improving equipment reliability have distinct linkages to environmental performance. 

As most manufacturers are starting to realize, the quest to become green takes them right back to Lean. Applying ‘Lean Principles’ – a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement - is one of the key ways to enhance environmental performance. By applying the tools, systems thinking, and lessons learned from the process improvement methodology they can effectively operationalize sustainability.

Lean and sustainability are conceptually similar. Both seek to maximize the efficiency of a system. This is accomplished through waste and time minimization. The difference lies in where this system (or process) boundary is drawn and how, and in how waste is defined. Lean sees waste as non-value added to the customer; green sees waste as extraction and consequential disposal of resources at rates or in forms beyond that which nature can absorb.

When companies expand the definition of waste to include not only product and process waste, but also the business consequences of unsustainable practices, Ohno’s list of wastes takes a different form:

Waste of natural resources
Waste of human potential
Waste due to emissions
Waste from byproducts (reuse potential)
Terminal waste, waste from by-products that have not further usefulness
Energy waste
Waste of the unneeded (e.g., packaging)

When the definition of waste is expanded and when it’s understood that the consequences of corporate decisions extend past the company parking lot, Lean can indeed be green. Less waste is good for the environment — and the company’s bottom line — and reducing waste in both products and processes is what Lean is all about. So it makes perfect sense that in order to achieve higher levels of environmental performance, your organization must first adopt the principles and practices of lean manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing practices, which are at the very core of sustainability, save time and money — an absolutely necessity in today’s competitive global marketplace. While the pursuit of Green and Lean is not a destination but a journey it is clear that organizations that stretch themselves to build a culture around the values of Sustainability, Excellence, and Equity will ultimately have a big advantage those who do not. Isn’t the ultimate definition of “sustainable manufacturing” to be able to compete and not only survive, but thrive?


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Five Ways to Find Time for Continuous Improvement


A common question I get on tours of our factory is how do you find time for improvement. My usual response is “we just do” but that is not entirely true.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” – Charles Buxton (Philanthropist and Politician)

It is an age-old battle — production time versus improvement time. Two worthy rivals attempting to occupy the same narrow 24-hour space. The issue is not which is more important. Production is! This is as it should be: a company is in business to sell its products and services. It must first make them. And that takes time. Production time always comes first.

Too often improvement is left to chance and the ingenuity of the willing to eke out small pockets of time — and make magic happen. We all know these people. They see the vision burning brightly before them and are determined to make it happen. Time and again, these people prove — with their own mental, emotional, and physical health — the familiar adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Improvement doesn’t just happen.  It takes time, and in the pressure pot of our day to day activities, there is never enough time to improve our situation. The structure of Lean permits and requires time be set aside for improvement. If managers do not definitively provide time for the task of improvement, then people will know that they are not serious about making improvement a formal part of the work.

One of the most common reasons I hear when improvement activity stops is ‘there is so much going on, we’re too busy to find time for improvement. The predominant culture in many organizations is on of firefighting – implementing temporary fixed to problems. Ultimately, however, fire-fighting organizations fail to solve problems adequately. Firefighting prevents us from getting to the root cause. And if we don’t get to the root of problem we will be right back to firefighting soon.

There are some ways to build continuous improvement into your business:

1. Remove roadblocks.
Management’s job is improvement. They must remove roadblocks that hinder this achievement. If managers do not take the time and make the effort to incorporate improvement in their work they are not serious about the effort. It takes time and effort to make changes in the way we do things, but it takes the time to consider and implement those changes if they are to survive in the long run.

2. Look for quick wins.
Don't start by trying to save a million dollars overnight. This is the type of work that makes people think they have no time for continuous improvement. After all, you can only work on so many of these projects at once before you really do run out of time - or you don’t even have the time to get started on any of them. Small, incremental changes can give you quick wins—without disrupting your operations or demanding a huge amount of effort. 

3. Engage and develop entire team to solve problems.
Sometimes supervisors and managers think they need to implement all of the suggested improvements themselves, as in the old suggestion box model where employees point out problems and the boss fixes them (or ignores them or rejects their ideas). This approach results in the boss becoming a bottleneck. 

In a successful culture of continuous improvement, managers accept that they can’t (or shouldn’t!) implement every little idea that their staff come up with. Instead, they empower the staff to act on their own ideas! Successful managers save time by developing their staff as critical thinkers and problem solvers.

4. Doing is more important than thinking
Improvement never comes to you while you are thinking about it. You are what you do. Knowledge is basically useless without action. Good things don't come to those that wait, they come to those that ask what they can do today to learn and move forward now.

5. Never stop.
It’s called “continuous” improvement for a reason. Once you’ve found your first quick win, start looking for the next one right away. A long-term commitment to continuous improvement will help you respond to growth and change—and keep your competitive edge sharp.

Adopting a culture of continuous improvement can benefit both you, your team and your business. Finding a suitable way to begin your never-ending quest toward it doesn’t need to keep you awake at night. Why don’t you start by implementing these 5 ways in order to set yourself up for all the benefits that come hand in hand with improving continuously!


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, October 8, 2018

Learn to Discover, Discover to Learn


In the US we are celebrating Columbus Day which recognizes Christopher Columbus who discovered America. This is a good time to talk about the importance of discovery to Lean thinking.  Fundamentally, discovery is the act of detecting something new, or something "old" that had been unknown. Discoveries are often made due to questioning.

Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions. To think through or rethink anything, one must ask questions that stimulate our thought.

Questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues. Answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life as such.

Thinking is of no use unless it goes somewhere, and again, the questions we ask determine where our thinking goes. Deep questions drive our thought underneath the surface of things; force us to deal with complexity. Questions of purpose force us to define our task. Questions of information force us to look at our sources of information as well as at the quality of our information.

Encourage a questioning culture.  Urge everyone to question. Ask why several times to try to get to the root cause of problems.  Challenge everyone to think and learn. Because without questioning there can’t be discovery. And without discovery there can’t be improvement.


In the spirit of Columbus Day take some time to discover and learn about your company, your employees, your problems, your processes, and your customers so that you can think Lean improvement.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lean Quote: Journey, Not a Destination

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.


"Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends." — Brian Tracy

Lean Thinking is often described as a “journey, not a destination”. In many regards this is true since the best Lean companies have found that their improvement efforts never end. Each set of improvements result in improved bottom-line results but also exposes more opportunity.

Continuous improvement as the name says, is a journey that never ends. There will always be a gap between where you are (current state) and where you would like to be (True North). Since there will always be a gap, there will always be an opportunity to improve.
The road to continual improvement is a rocky one with many ups and downs. Value the incremental improvement approach to continuous improvement. Through simple, common-sense, and low cost experimentation a great deal of process improvements can be made. Experimentation is the exercise of a healthy Lean journey. Understanding this allows one the opportunity to stay on the path along the journey.

Lean doesn’t end after you reach your first set of goals, and it’s not a finite project with a beginning and end date. Rather it’s a way of business life that everyone needs to pursue continuously.

A Lean journey is full of steps not all of which are forward. Failure will occur. Its ok, the purpose is learning, and we learn through experimentation. Trying new approaches, exploring new methods and testing new ideas for improving the various processes is exercise for the mind.


Sustaining the Lean effort and overcoming inertia requires institutionalizing your process. The real benefits of Lean come from a sustained effort over years, not weeks or months.


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Lean: Doing More to Get More

A common definition of Lean manufacturing I hear often is paraphrased as “doing more with less”. Honestly, it is my least favorite. I don’t like it because labels like this rarely capture the essence of the approach and minimize Lean. It’s origins come from summarizing Toyota’s results where they we able to do more with less resources.
It is too easy to link this phrase with firing people. Unfortunately, there are too many people who launch Lean with the only objective of personnel reduction. Lean manufacturing is not a head-count reduction system; instead Lean manufacturers understand employees on the shop floor know their work best. Lean manufacturers don’t want employees to work harder, or faster – they want employees to work more efficiently. Lean manufacturing focuses on improving employees, providing more value to the workforce, and, overall, establishing a dependable and stable workforce.
Lean is about doing more to get more, knowing that reducing waste is a growth strategy, a way to help the company be more competitive. Lean is about value — a bigger and more inclusive concept than mere waste. Lean is a systematic way to learn to see the inefficiencies in your processes and to solve these opportunities in such a way to grow the business profitably by adding value the customer will pay for. If you want to be a successful company you will learn to empower and engage the entire organization to focus improvement on value-added work from the customer’s perspective.
Lean is a relentless, continuous, never ending focus on waste reduction. Lean is all about finding better ways to do things, so that they require less effort, less time and fewer resources. It is not about cost reduction – penny-pinching, cutting investment, taking out people – it is about finding better ways to get work done. Traditional cost cutting occurs in silos, without regard to who is affected upstream and downstream. These impacts cannot just negate the initial cost reduction from the unilateral approach, but exceed them. Lean examines each process, internal and external, finding and removing the waste, and reducing cost while maintaining the health of all constituents.
Lean manufacturing means creating more value for customers with fewer resources while we deliver what the customer want, with the quality expected and when they need it.  Value is whatever the customers are willing to pay for.  Less resources means:  less time, less human effort, less machinery, less materials, less space.  
Lean is not easy. It's not easy to understand. It's not easy to implement. And it's especially not easy to sustain. But anyone who has embarked on a so-called lean journey already knows this. Lean, in fact, is hard work and it's a challenge to keep it going.
A label like "doing more with less" just doesn't do justice to Lean and all it is.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, October 1, 2018

Lean Roundup #112 – September 2018


A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of September, 2018.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Are You a Good Coach? An Effective Coach? HBR Says You Might Not Be – Mark Graban talks about an HBR article which indicate people often overstate their own leadership abilities but they can learn to improve.

Effective Change Management Strategies and Tactics – John Hunter shares several posts where he has explored the idea of how to create a culture that promotes effective change management.

A Better Way to Visualize Hoshin Plans – Dan Markovitz shares an alternative to the x-matrix which they a relationship chart which is easier to understand.

Midnight at the Gemba – Kevin Meyer shares a story from his early career where he learned to go to the Gemba of 24/7/365 operation by having staff meeting at midnight.

Innovation: Without it, You're Not Doing Lean – Gregg Stocker debunks the common misconception that lean thinking and innovation somehow conflict one another.

Individual Contributor vs. Team Member – Johanna Rothman says we need to rethink out term individual contributor since no one is literally an individual contributor.

Selling Lean to Business Leaders – Bob Emiliani shares thoughts on why senior leaders resist lean and why we need to continue to sell transformation.

Top 10 Differences between Traditional and CI-Infused Problem-solving – Jon Miller explains the top 10 differences between traditional problem solving and problem solving that is infused with the principles and practices of continuous improvement.

Constraints Are Opportunities – Steve Kane explains who constraints can reveal opportunities to improve processes.

Hoshin Kanri Aligns Goals and Unifies Organizations – Pete Abilla talks about how Hoshin Kanri creates flow, closes loops, and ensure focus and clarity.

How to Manage Continuous Improvement without Authority – Jon Miller discusses how management position without traditional authority but traditional goals and expectations like that of the Lean Manager can achieve success.

Avoiding Dashboard Wallpaper – Leslie Barker shares a personal experience where she found a board that wasn’t effective and what you can do to build a system of dashboards that are.

Ask Art: Why Does Boosting Inventory Turns Matter So Much? – Art Byrne explains that inventory turns should be a focus for every company because that is the key to creating flow.

Lean Transformation? Not Buying It – Mike Orzen discusses how can we create a culture of continuous improvement when we appear to understand transformation as a static destination.


TPS, the Thinking People System – Michael Balle answers the question how does one get CEOs to adopt lean by explaining the TPS “house” and it’s meaning.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare