Friday, July 31, 2015

Lean Quote: Change is Hard at the Beginning, Messy in the Middle and Gorgeous at the End

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.

"Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. Robin Sharma

Change is one of the most difficult things for humans to readily accept. Anyone who has worked in or led an organization's transformation understands change is not easy. We are so ingrained in the way that we do things that to do it a new way, or to stop doing something causes us to feel uncomfortable. We equate uncomfortable with wrong, instead of different, and there's a tendency to go back to what was comfortable.

However, change is necessary for growth. While it may be very comfortable to stay in a place of familiarity, we will never grow into the person we are created to be if we are unwilling to move beyond what is comfortable.  Many people have become complacent because the common notion is that change is bad. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Change can be very healthy and liberating. How we respond to change is a function of our mindset. Change your mind, change your outlook. And the reality is, change is inevitable. I like to say the only thing that remains the same is change.

The sooner we learn to embrace change and work within it, the easier it will be to begin the next challenge that comes along. We naturally gravitate toward the things that make us feel fulfilled, safe and happy. 

Change takes courage and commitment. Courage means trusting yourself to overcome your fears and doing what you are afraid to do. Courage increases conviction and inspires others to confront their fears. Being committed is about being clear on your objectives and being clear on what it will take to achieve them.

As employees begin to demonstrate a willingness to assimilate change into their daily routine, they develop a commitment to the change, a willingness to stick to the plan of action.  The change actually becomes integrated into the work environment, and employees begin to feel a sense of satisfaction in accomplishment.  They readily see the payoffs associated with the change.  They enjoy, and may even take credit for, their participation in the process.  Employees can view their efforts to bring about change with personal respect and pride. The change becomes a part of their routine, and any lingering concerns vanish.

Therefore as we embrace change more often and see the good in it… the more we will gravitate toward it with enthusiasm!



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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lean Roundup #74 - July, 2015



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

5 Characteristics of a Good Boss – Gregg Stocker shares 5 things that have stuck out to him from good bosses over the years.

What Will I Do This Week That Will Still Be Adding Value in a Year? – John Hunter discusses why it is important to have a long term on goals and improvement.

SDCA versus PDCA- when to use them – Tracey Richardson explains the importance of standardization when problem solving.

No Time for Improvement? – Janet Dozier says it is best to focus on improvement rather than living with a longstanding problem.

Why People Don't Develop – Gregg Stocker explains reasons many organizations are poor at developing people.

The 5 E’s Great, Lean Visuals Have In Common – Victoria Burns shares several common characteristics of good visuals that start with the letter “e”.

Back to Basics - What is Value? – Pascal Dennis explains values and why it is Lean’s guiding principle.

You’re Good When You Think You’re Bad – Kevin Meyer discusses assessments and how the journey of improvement teaches you more the longer the go down the path.

Seddon’s Amazing Discovery– Bob Emiliani counters an article by John Seddon on the failure of Lean by explaining their lack of understanding of Lean.

Is Cost Reduction the Goal of TPS? – Michel Baudin also rebuts John Seddon’s article by saying the goal of Lean is not cost reduction.

Look at All the Data and Be Wary of Unjustified Confidence – John Hunter says that optimism can be helpful or harmful, be careful not to suppress.

Visual Management – What Makes it Tick? – Aaron Fausz explains the core elements of visual management.

What’s This Thing Called Lean? – Steve Kane explains Lean from his own personal introduction into improvement.

Jidoka, Self-awareness and the Value of a Lean Coach – Jon Miller says a Lean coach helps with self-reflection, encourages self-awareness, and guidance on continuous improvement.

Winning Over Business Traditionalists – Bob Emiliani discusses why there is a gap between business traditionalists and Lean advocates and how to close it.



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Monday, July 27, 2015

Change is Necessary, Resistance is Futile


Change is inevitable. Adaptation to change is a necessary and critical component to survival. But mostly, change is a constant in business. And business seems to be where the adaptation to change -- or lack thereof -- seems to have some of the most significant impact.

Former US president John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”.

In business, we must continually change, evolution is not an option. If we stand still in our businesses we go backwards. The day that we think we have our business model perfected is not the day to stop changing. The issue comes about when we try to make changes. With the evidence in existence related to the necessity of change in business, you would think every business would constantly be revising their model. But that is not the case.

Before you can overcome the resistance it is wise to be aware of why the resistance exists. Usually it is a result of one of the following causes…
  • People not agreeing with or understanding the value / benefits of the innovation.
  • Fear of the unknown.
  • People have had no opportunity to provide input in the planning or implementation of the change.
  • Little or no reward / benefits to the people impacted by the idea.
  • Increased effort from people required as a result of implementing the idea.
  • Fear that the change will result in job cuts.
  • Personality clashes between the people affected by the idea and the ideas inventor.
  • No trust of the people who have been mandated to implement the change
  • Belief that the change is unnecessary or will make the situation worse
  • A belief that the idea is inferior to another idea.
  • A feeling that the change will result in a loss of security, status, money or friends.
  • Bad experiences from similar changes that had been or been attempted to be implemented in the past.

Being aware of the causes mentioned above and being able to specifically identify which ones may be relevant to our particular business greatly increases your chances of overcoming the resistance to change.

Being a leader today we must to be more adaptable to change than ever before. Technology alone will challenge us to learn new things and adapt almost on a daily basis! Change is absolutely unavoidable and successful people recognize this fact and learn how to play the “Change Game”.

Let go of the feelings you have associated with the “old way” of doing things. While some strategies are tried and true… change WILL find a way… and when it does, bringing emotional attachment into the fray can spell disaster. Comfort does not equal rationality.

Change is most often a difficult thing. The sooner we learn to embrace it and work within it, the easier it will be to begin the next challenge that comes along. We naturally gravitate toward the things that make us feel fulfilled, safe and happy. Therefore as we embrace change more often and see the good in it… the more we will gravitate toward it with enthusiasm!

If we accept change is inevitable, you will need a means to continually drive change throughout your business. You should have a change management process that involves every single employee in an organization. Change should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organization.

Change is necessary, resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Lean Quote: No One is Perfect...That's Why Pencils Have Erasers

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.

"No one is perfect... that's why pencils have erasers. Wolfgang Riebe

Perfection is futile.  To be sure, perfection is the goal but it can not be achieved in one single initiative.

If we all waited for perfection, we'd still be reading by candlelight and riding horses to work. The problem in the real world is that nothing is perfect. It sounds obvious, but it is not quite as obvious.

If you try to achieve perfection you may well be at the kaizen a very long time.  Perfection is elusive.  If you can accomplish 80% of what you set out to and meet the goals of the charter then call it complete.  You will be back to improve from this new state again.

A paper and pencil is an indispensable asset to any lean practitioner. You can take notes on observations from the Gemba, document a process flow, record data, create standard work, and more. I would never leave home without it. You can’t remember everything so it is better to write it down.

Some software programs help you draw maps and perform many data manipulations. In my opinion, you should learn to draw it by hand first, because it will help you better understand the methodology. By putting pencil to paper, you emerge yourself in the mapping process, and that’s how it becomes real. Yes, it may seem like a struggle at first, but with practice it becomes easier. The day you can grab a piece of paper, start discussing a problem with a colleague, and draw a map is the day you really start to understand the power of mapping.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Guidelines for Leading Culture Change


Building a Lean culture is not an easy task. A Lean culture starts with managers who understand and believe the implications of the systems view and know the necessity of serving customers in order to succeed. The result of that understanding is a culture where a positive internal environment and the creation of delighted customers go together. It is a culture that naturally emphasizes continuous improvement of processes, one that results in a healthy workplace, satisfied customers, and a growing, profitable company.

The best leaders understand the present is nothing more than a platform for the envisioning of, and positioning for, the future. If you want to lead more effectively, shorten the distance between the future and present. Inspiring innovation and leading change call for more than process– they require the adoption of a cultural mindset.

Implementing Lean Thinking is a cultural change that requires leadership…because in the end it’s all about people. Here are 10 guidelines your leader can do right now to change the culture:

  1. Challenge People to Think
If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.

  1. Lead by Example
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

  1. Take Lots of Leaps of Faith
Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

  1. Create an Environment Where it is Ok to Fail
Failure should be encouraged! That’s right. If you don’t try, you can’t grow; and if growth is what you seek, failing is inevitable. There must be encouragement to try and it’s ok if you try and it doesn’t work. An environment where you can’t fail creates fear.

  1. Eliminate Concrete Heads
“Concrete Heads” is the Japanese term for someone who does not accept that the organization must be focused on the elimination of waste. People feel threatened by the changes brought about by lean. As waste and bureaucracy are eliminated, some will find that little of what they have been doing is adding value. The anxiety they feel is normal and expected. To counteract this, it is critical that people are shown how the concept of work needs to change.

  1. Be a Great Teacher
Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance. They never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves.

  1. Show Respect to Everyone
Everyone desires respect. Everyone. Regardless of your position or power, ensure you show everyone respect. Everyone wants to be treated fairly.

  1. Motivate Your Followers
Transformational leaders provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action. Of course, being inspirational isn't always easy. Some ideas for leadership inspiration include being genuinely passionate about ideas or goals, helping followers feel included in the process and offering recognition, praise and rewards for people's accomplishments.

  1. Develop a True Team Environment
Create an environment where working as a team is valued and encouraged; where individuals work together to solve problems and help move the organization forward. Individuals who will challenge each other and support each other make teams more successful.

  1. Encourage People to Make Contributions
Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members has shown to lead to greater commitment, more creative problem-solving and improved productivity.

Constant change is a business reality and organizations must continually adapt to their environments to stay competitive or risk losing relevance and becoming obsolete. For each change, leaders must define it, create a vision of the post-change world, and mobilize their teams to make it.

Fundamentally, a change of culture occurs when people start behaving differently as a result of a change in the climate of the organization. There are many different models of how an organizational culture is shaped by the prevailing climate and how it can be assessed.

Leaders who protect the status quo through control must surrender to change in order to secure the future for their organization. Don’t be the leader who rewards herd mentality, and me too thinking. Don’t be the leader who encourages people not to fail or not to take risks. Be the leader who both models and gives permission to do the exact opposite of the aforementioned – be a leader who leads.


The culture of an organization is learnt over time. It can be taught to new employees through formal training programs but is more generally absorbed through stories, myths, rituals, and shared behaviors within teams. Organizational culture will impact positively or negatively on everything you try to do whether you want it to or not.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Success Starts with Effective Problem Solving


Murphy’s law is an adage that broadly states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." It is therefore inevitable that businesses must solve problems. The success of a company can depend to a large extent on the ability of its staff to solve problems effectively, both in their day-to-day work and through innovation. This applies not only to senior management, but at all levels in an organization.

It's not enough simply to teach effective problem solving techniques. The working environment has a very powerful influence on the individual's ability to solve problems effectively and it needs to be supportive and stimulating.

Possessing good problem solving skills does not make people automatically use them to the benefit of the organization. They need encouragement, support and guidance in applying them to the organization’s problems. This can be achieved through:
  • Commitment to Innovation
  • Systems and procedures
  • Reward
  • Good communications

The most effective system is where all staff is informed of specific problems which the company faces in reaching its business objectives, and are notified of the results of evaluation of the ideas that have been submitted.

Just because you’ve got a hammer, doesn’t mean every problem’s a nail! We’re often tempted to apply the tools that we know in order to solve the problems that are in front of us. But just because you’ve got a tool doesn’t mean it’s the most appropriate one to use. Always ask, is this the most appropriate method to tackle this problem? Would a more simple “Just Do It” approach be adequate or do we require more robust data analysis in order to get to the heart of the issue? A pragmatic approach is better than one that attempts to pigeon-hole everything into the same approach.

Identifying the right root causes is necessary, but unless you then implement a solution, you still have a problem. Double-check to be sure your solution plan really will eliminate the causes you’ve identified, and then execute the plan. It’s easy to get distracted by other projects once you get to the implementation phase and never finish.

Problem solving requires two distinct types of mental skill, analytical and creative.

Analytical or logical thinking includes skills such as ordering, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting. It provides a logical framework for problem solving and helps to select the best alternative from those available by narrowing down the range of possibilities (a convergent process).
          
Creative thinking is a divergent process, using the imagination to create a large range of ideas for solutions. It requires us to look beyond the obvious, creating ideas which may, at first, seem unrealistic or have no logical connection with the problem. Don’t be afraid to consider new or even unusual solutions to your problem.

Effective problem solving requires a controlled mixture of analytical and creative thinking.

Although it’s generally understood that it costs more to deal with crises than to prevent them, many companies do not recognize and reward those who push past the symptoms to the root causes, preventing future occurrences. If you want to focus on prevention, be sure to reward those who do it successfully.

Don’t be disheartened if you’re unable to solve the problem as quickly as you would like to. Taking your time to find the right solution, when you can, is always preferable to jumping to conclusions or rushing into making decisions. Remember to keep those who need to know (e.g. your team members or line manager) updated in terms of your progress, and to manage their expectations throughout the problem-solving process.

Once your problem is finally solved, take some time to reflect on which aspects of your approach worked, and what you would do differently next time. When you are faced with a problem ask yourself: How can I use this? What is the good thing about this? What can I learn from this? What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem? You may be able to apply some of these approaches the next time a problem arises.

We are all faced with problems to solve in our workday. 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. Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure.

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. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward.


Success in your business and for that of your company is a matter of effective problem solving. If you do one thing well this is paramount.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Lean Quote: Understand Your Customer’s Needs and Expectation

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.

"People do not just buy things; they also buy expectations. Albrecht and Zemke

For any business the customer is the lifeblood. Every process and every action internal or external should ultimately result in the value addition to the customer and the customer’s delight. Therefore it is essential that the customer needs, wants and expectations are identified before you embark on a quality building program.

Since the customer is the only reason you have a job, if you are not willing to satisfy the customer…then you might as well go home; you are not needed. Remember that perception is reality with customer service. If your customers don’t see your organization as one that engages in customer-focused behavior, then you are not providing exceptional customer service. Treating your customers as valued individuals is often more important than price.

Customer focus and service excellence is everyone’s responsibility, not just those that have direct contact with them. Organizations that are recognized as exceptional providers of customer service are the ones that have incorporated these customer-focused behaviors into their daily operations.

Customer “satisfaction” does not simply happen; it is an effect. Quality is one important cause of the customer satisfaction effect, along with price, convenience, service, and a host of other variables. The more our daily actions and long term plans are driven by meeting customer expectations, and the more we evaluate our work based upon these expectations, the more we improve customer loyalty and advocacy. This relentless focus on the customer is the path to sustained growth and profitability.


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