Friday, December 19, 2014

Lean Quote: Gift of Inspiration

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.

"Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.— Warren Bennis

The ability to inspire people to reach great heights of performance and success is a skill that leaders need. Passion, purpose, listening and meaning help make a leader inspirational.

So, why must inspiring yourself and others be so high on your agenda as a leader? First, because if you are inspired, you will automatically be more inspiring to others. Second, because an inspired team is an energized team, and an energized team is a more productive team.

If you have managed to capture hearts and minds, excite and engage people, they will in turn feel more motivated and energized to take action. In our fast-moving world where productivity is king and time is endlessly squeezed, focusing on increasing energy levels (your own and your team’s) is a lot smarter than trying to expand time.

To inspire, you must both create resonance and move people with a compelling vision. You must embody what you ask of others, and be able to articulate a shared vision in a way that inspires others to act. You must offer a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting.


So this holiday gift giving season give the gift that lasts a lifetime. Give the gift of inspiration. Inspire them to be confident. Inspire them to greatness.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2014


As 2014 comes to an end and we look toward 2015 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

1. Lean Tip #877 - Turn Employees into Problem Solvers and Improvement Specialists.
The most important aspect of lean is to involve employees in developing lean processes. Many times companies create a culture in which the employees don't make the decisions, management does. Then when problems occur, employees are unable to diagnose or solve problems without involving a supervisor. lean reverses that by revolving around employees and looking to them as the improvement specialists.

2. Lean Tip #902 - Establish and Communicate a Clear Message on Lean
Have a plan to communicate the value of lean throughout your organization. It should not only address the benefits of lean to the company and customers, but also how lean can improve the work life of your employees. A clear vision needs to be repeated regularly to show the company's commitment to lean. We highly recommend that company leaders make lean a part of their everyday pulse checks.

3. Lean Tip #915 - Help Employees Succeed to Motivate Others
People go to work to succeed, not fail.  It is your job to understand your employee’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can put them in the best position to succeed.  If, for example, you find out that an employee is lacking in a certain skill set to succeed during a change then provide the coaching and training to make them and your organization successful.  The best managers minimize or eliminate their employees weaknesses and while building on their strengths.  Remove any and all barriers to success.

4. Lean Tip #929 – Empower Employees to Contribute. 
Control of their own jobs is one of the 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 the way.

5. Lean Tip #940 - Ensure a Penalty-Free Exchange of Ideas. 
In many organizations, expressing one's opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn't take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

6. Lean Tip #982 – Smart Team Leaders Listen for Problems
Every organization has its share of problems. And the front line teams encounter many of these problems daily, up close, and directly. A smart front line leader wants to foster open and lively conversations about these problems, conversations that become more structured and focused on finding solutions. The leader gets the team together and listens to their descriptions of the problems that are identifying. They guide them into a problem solving process, teaching the steps and the tools at a pace that they can absorb. This listening strategy coaches the team to develop into effective problem solvers.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Lean Tip #1024 - Share Knowledge Within Your Company
 If you don’t share knowledge within your company, your customers will suffer. Many managers are unaware that the team that sits right next to theirs is doing some great work that that could help the business deliver a better service to customers, or open the door to a new market. 

Host regular knowledge-sharing sessions – whether virtual or real; keep your knowledge management system updated and make it interactive. Or invite individuals from totally different parts of the business to team meetings and then reciprocate. Start with some of the managers. Proactive knowledge sharing is one of the key ways to remain one step ahead of your competitors – and senior people need to make the time to lead by example.

10. Lean Tip # 1043 - Stop Doing Things That Run Counter to Your Desired Culture
Each day, your existing culture is either moving closer to, or further away from, the type of culture that you want it to be. Cultures are a system in themselves - they have momentum, and they are either spinning in a negative or positive direction. Desired, or undesired, behaviors and work practices are being reinforced on a daily basis by the work systems you have in place right now. Until you recognize this, you won't be motivated to identify and change those systems that are reinforcing those things that you don't really want to reinforce.



These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2015. What advice would you share for the new year?



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Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 10 Lean Posts of 2014


It’s that time of year again – time for a round up of our top Lean blog posts for the year. 

The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flicked back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

1. What Do We Mean By True North? - In a nutshell, True North is a vision of the ideal condition both from the standpoint of the customer and the provider that is distinguished at once by its simplicity and also by the challenge it presents to status quo thinking. 
2. What Lean is Not - 10 Things That Are Not Lean - Despite Lean Thinking being around for three decades there are still surprising many misconceptions about Lean. 

3. Lean and Inventory: Misunderstood -Lean doesn’t mean ZERO inventory. It means the right inventory at the right time at the right quantities and in the right place. 

 4. 8 Principles of Quality Management - These principles have been identified to facilitate the achievement of quality objectives and form the foundation for effective quality management.

5. Keep Calm and Let the Quality Manager Handle It - Quality is not something we can rely on a single person or group to perform. Quality is everyone’s job. 
6. Five Simple Ways to Make Your VSM A Valuable Improvement Tool - Value stream mapping is a tremendously valuable tool for improving a process.These tips will help you develop accurate value stream maps that you can use to drive continuous improvement.

7. ASQ: Improve Your Strategy Through Hoshin Kanri - Hoshin kanri is not a strategic planning tool, it is an execution tool. It is a system to deploy an existing strategic plan throughout the organization. In other words, hoshin management is an idea handler, not an idea generator.

8. Ten Lean Lessons That Building Legos Has Taught Me - Time has taught me that you can learn valuable lessons from almost any experience. Legos are more than building blocks, they teach essential leadership skills. 

9. The 3 A’s of Respect for People - There are 3 essential elements of Respect for People that start with “A” which managers need for a sustainable Lean culture: Alignment, Autonomy, and Accountability.

10. Overcoming Employee Resistance to Change Is All About The 4 C's - Change doesn't just happen. It needs to be driven with purpose and intent. Change management requires planning for acceptance. Here are four more factors—the four C’s—to promoting acceptance of change: Caring, Control, Choice, Competence.


What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2014? Any predictions for next year?

Thanks for your continued readership in 2014. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success for your business in 2015.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Lean Quote: Plans are One Thing, Action is Another

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.

"Plans are one thing, action is another.— Murgatroyd and Morgan

Often managers spot a chance to do something valuable for their company, but for some reason, they cannot get started. Even if they begin the project, they give up when they see the first big hurdle. The inability to take purposeful action seems to be pervasive across companies. Managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with crucial issues which require reflection, systematic planning, creative thinking, and above all, time.

If you do nothing, nothing changes. Things at rest have a tendency to remain at rest. Be aware of items that stall your action. It's better to have a 50-percent improvement right away than it is to take no action and hope for a 100-percent improvement sometime in the future.

The only cure for inactivity is action. That’s why the first step in creating a successful culture of execution is creating a bias toward action. People who make things happen need to be praised and rewarded. People who don’t should be coached to change, or weeded out. Failure cannot be unduly punished. Unless people feel free to make mistakes, they will not feel free to take bold actions.


A key to creating a bias for action is to encourage relentless experimentation. Rather than analyze a new product or service to death, look for ways to test it at relatively low cost. Learn from your tries.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Going Beyond Quality


This month, ASQ’s CEO, Bill Troy asks if quality is ambitious enough?
We have all gone through some kind of conversion.  We know in our hearts we can help make this world work better.  We don’t need to be over-the-top, but we should have the confidence to tell our story, understand our own value, and inspire others. How do we encourage those who work in quality to understand their own value? How do we spread the message of quality in a marketplace overflowing with ideas about how to boost profitability and ever-changing management trends?
The job of a quality professional is not easy. You have to want to make a difference because there are those who will put up a fight. Quality assurance can be a thankless job, if everything goes right, the project managers get the credit, if something goes wrong, quality management gets the blame, after all they touched it last. 

Quality assurance is all about character, courage, activism and passion representing the moral qualities, ethical standards and principles to fight for quality. Quality professionals must be able to challenge the current norms and take on executives that balk at change. Those in quality understand the need and role of quality in the organization yet the further you are from the customer the more likely this understanding is lost. 

Quality should be part of the culture of the company. Employing quality methods and practices in everything you do provides a firm foundation for your business and can be a determining factor in your success.

Quality must go beyond our 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. A focus on quality must be intrinsic to the company culture and practices for the customer to take notice.

Quality is not something we can rely on a single person or group to perform. The responsibility of delivering quality products and services to customers lies on the shoulders of every single individual who is even remotely associated with the organization. It is not only the management but also employees irrespective of their designation, suppliers, clients, customers who need to come up with improvement ideas to make foolproof systems and processes to deliver quality products which meet and exceed the expectations of end- users.

A quality organization understands that the realization of quality must be continually energized and regenerated. Successful implementation of a quality focused organization requires ambition, commitment, and patience.

Ambition is the driving force for change. Ambition can be developed in an organization, but it must be held first by senior executives in the enterprise. And, if the organization is to be more than a collection of ambitious individuals, its leaders must be able to articulate a shared, compelling purpose and must engage others in its pursuit. In sharing their dreams, leaders encourage others to dream, and to perform.

Ambition is wanting to move to the next step. Sometimes opportunity is staring us in the face but we may not recognize it. Ambitious people look at the status quo and see ways to do things differently. Ambition may be the driver that challenges assumptions. Part of a leader’s responsibility is to identify the need for positive change and to usher in that change. Looking to do things differently can be a force for the good. 

In my opinion successful businesses are those that not only sell quality to their employees but make it part of the culture or what they do daily. The organization must make quality a top priority for everyone in the company, from top managers to the workers building product.

Excellence in quality improves customer loyalty, elevates brand position, reduces cost, attracts new customers, and draws the best and brightest talent. A strong orientation for quality helps to achieve business goals. Achieving excellence in quality provides significant momentum for the business and is a source of pride for all employees. A comprehensive quality management system is a key attribute to the longevity and success of an organization.

Unfortunately, there are not enough organization that understand that going beyond quality is the means to bring value to customers. Too many waste their resources on things the customer doesn't want. Too many look at their competition instead of listening to their customers. Too many can't sustain their initiatives for even several years. As quality professionals and the like it is our responsibility to continuously improve how we bring value to the customer. Going beyond quality brings true, lasting value. 


I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Fail Forward Faster


Fear of failure is one of the greatest fears people have. It is a genuinely scary thing for many people, and often the reason that individuals do not attempt the things they would like to accomplish. But the only true failure is failure to make the attempt. If you don't try, you gain nothing, and life is too short a thing to waste.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not improving. Henry Ford said, “Failure is merely an opportunity to begin again knowledgeably.” Failure can be an inevitable stepping-stone to great achievement.

Nobody likes to make mistakes. However, the simple reality of life is that at some point, all of us are going to be wrong. That’s just life. We are going to make mistakes. A colleague of mine always says, “Learn to fail quickly.” Essentially, if you are going to fail you need to learn to do it quickly in order to get the data (results) that you can use to gradually improve. The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can find a solution that truly adds value.

Although we all make mistakes, fear of failure doesn’t have to cripple you. Take these steps to overcome your fear of failure and move yourself forward to getting the result you desire:

Step One: Take action. Bold, decisive action. Do something scary. Fear of failure immobilizes you. To overcome this fear, you must act. When you act, act boldly.
Action gives you the power to change the circumstances or the situation. You must overcome the inertia by doing something. Be brave and just do it. If it doesn’t work out the way you want, then do something else. But do something now.

Step Two: Persist. Successful people just don’t give up. They keep trying different approaches to achieving their outcomes until they finally get the results they want. Unsuccessful people try one thing that doesn’t work and then give up. Often people give up when they are on the threshold of succeeding.

Step Three: Don’t take failure personally. Failure is about behavior, outcomes, and results. Failure is not a personality characteristic. Although what you do may not give you the result you wanted, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. Because you made a mistake, doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

Step Four: Do things differently. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something else. There is an old saying, "if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got." If you’re not getting the results you want, then you must do something different. Most people stop doing anything at all, and this guarantees they won’t be successful.

Step Five: Treat the experience as an opportunity to learn. Think of failure as a learning experience. What did you learn from the experience that will help you in the future? How can you use the experience to improve yourself or your situation? Ask yourself these questions:
(1) What was the mistake?
(2) Why did it happen?
(3) How could it have been prevented?
(4) How can I do better next time?
Then use what you learned from the experience to do things differently so you get different results next time. Learn from the experience or ignore it.


In today’s business world, companies must fail forward fast. We learn by making mistakes. So if we want to learn at a faster pace, we must make mistakes at a faster pace. The key is that you must learn from the mistakes so you make so you don’t repeat them.

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