Friday, February 24, 2017

Lean Quote: Leadership Is Service, Not Position

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.

"Leadership is service, not position.— Tim Fargo

Lean organizations need leaders who know how to serve their people. A servant leader -- one who wants to serve first and lead second -- strives to create a work environment in which people can truly express these deepest of inner drives. Servant leadership entails a deep belief that people are the greatest asset any organization has, and to nurture their individual growth becomes the basis for all organizational development. That growth goes far beyond the limited dimension of financial benefit -- it dives into our core motivations as people.

A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Leaders are nothing without people. Put another way, people will make or break you as a leader. You’ll either treat them well, earn their trust, respect and loyalty, or you won’t. You’ll either see people as capital to be leveraged or humans to be developed and fulfilled. You’ll either view yourself as superior to your employees, or as one whose job it is to serve them, learn from them, and leave them be better off for being led by you.


Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

30 Ways to Be the Leader You Always Wanted to Be


Every organization needs leaders at every level. Leadership can be defined as one's ability to get others to willingly follow.  

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."— John F. Kennedy
Leadership is a continuous learning process that has to be mastered if one would like to become an effective leader.

The following are some leadership lessons I have learned from others along the way.

Respect for People
  1. Highlight several strengths or skills you see another person has and tell them.
  2. Be transparent and share personal stories.
  3. Provide regular feedback to others about their behaviors and actions.
  4. Spend time communicating with people in private.
  5. Ask about and learn what motivates other people and help them achieve it.
  6. Always give credit to those who work with or work for you.
  7. Show appreciation and say "Thank You" to others.
Personal Character
  1. Do what you say and carry through on your commitments.
  2. Be persistent and consistent.
  3. Practice what you preach.
  4. Be confident in your abilities and decisions so others will as well.
  5. Be willing to take risks.
  6. Take initiative.
  7. Let go of perfectionism for yourself and others
  8. Listen and think more than you talk.
Change Agent
  1. Encourage and promote change.
  2. Don't judge others, offer to help promote change instead.
  3. Be open minded for other people's ideas and opinions.
  4. Let others share their opinions before yours.
  5. Choose to promote someone else's idea over your own.
  6. Be Humble and willing to serve others.
Continuous Learning
  1. Teach a skill you have learned to others.
  2. Read books and articles and share them with others.
  3. Put at least one thing into action from every course, seminar, and book you complete.
  4. Start an informal regular learning time with colleagues on various topics.
Personal Productivity
  1. Keep your actions and decisions aligned with your values and goals.
  2. Say no to unimportant requests.
  3. Reduce and eliminate distractions.
  4. Set time aside for planning and strategy.
  5. Review and reflect on your progress and accomplishments.
My last bit of advice is to keep learning but start now to be the leader you know you can be with these tips above.

What advice would you share with others to be a better leader?


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Monday, February 20, 2017

10 Leadership Lessons On President's Day


Today is President's Day in the US. A federal holiday originally to recognize George Washington, our first President, is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present. In honor of this I want to share some leadership lessons from one of these great leaders.  

President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be a noble and great leader who shaped American history. However, he is not often looked to as an example of how to be an effective leader and business role model. But, there is actually a lot we can learn from one of our most well-known leaders.

Here are 10 leadership principles starting with P that Abe Lincoln exhibited that set an example for the type of leader that managers and executives should exemplify: 

1. Purpose – Answer the question “Why I am doing this?” Without purpose there is not direction. 
2. Probity – Demonstrate complete honesty if you want integrity. This is how leaders get people to follow them. 
3. People – This is the “Respect for People” element. Listen and show we care. The say Lincoln would go beyond just hearing your pain and actually absorb your pain for you. 
4. Preparation – Proper planning saves time. Never stop learning and improving. 
5. Persuasion – Show them how through doing. The use of stories to illustrate your point makes it more personal and memorable. 
6. Persistence – Never give up; keep going, especially when the road is not so clear. 
7. Process Thinking – Put a process in place. It is through this we can improve our current state. 
8. Problem Solving – PDCA, objectively study, build strong problem solving skills, and engage everyone everyday in the process.
9. Performance – Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process and the results will come. 
10. Possibilities – Take the impossible and make it possible. There is no limit to the possibilities if we open our mind.  

In my experience people don’t like to be told what to do. Lead them by asking the right questions. Challenge their thinking and develop them to constantly improve. Lean is a powerful way of thinking. I believe it is this thinking that can truly change the world. Lincoln was able to learn and grow amid great calamity. His story, like no other, demonstrates that leaders do not just make the moment; they meet it and, in the process, are changed by it. Like Abraham Lincoln be the role model for leadership in your organization by practicing these qualities.

Note: The source of the 10 leadership principles from Abe Lincoln comes from Jerry Bussell's book Anatomy of a Lean Leader

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Lean Quote: Goals Give You Something to Aim For

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.

"A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.— Bruce Lee

Some say you should set specific, achievable goals, but actor and martial artist Bruce Lee notes that sometimes, it's okay to not reach that goal. If you've worked hard and made progress, that goal has still served its purpose by giving you something to aim for. It's better to be a little optimistic than overly realistic if you really want to achieve—though if you want those goals to really work, it's best to create multiple milestones along the way to help you out.

Lean Thinking is often described as a “journey, not a destination”. This journey toward dramatically improved business performance shares three characteristics with more traditional travel. Every journey has a starting point, an objective, and a path that connects the two. 

For me the Lean journey is not a stroll down a winding road but rather a climb up a perpetual hill. Reaching the top of the hill is the pinnacle of the journey. So you are either improving (climbing the hill) or you are falling back. The key to keep you moving forward up the hill is to stay customer focused (not competitor focused as that is looking behind you.) Your acceleration up the hill is controlled by the rate of new learning (this changes the speed of improvement). The smarter you work the closer you get to reaching the top.

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. Sustaining the Lean effort and overcoming inertia requires institutionalizing your process (how you’re going to climb the hill). The real benefits of Lean come from a sustained effort over years, not weeks or months.

We have seen countless companies whose goal to be #1 leads to terrible demise once finally achieved. It is not necessarily that this is a bad goal but it is not customer focused. So once achieved they naturally decline. I believe if you are not improving then you are declining. 


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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Use a SIPOC to Scope Your Improvement Event


In process improvement, a SIPOC is a tool that summarizes the inputs and outputs of one or more processes in table form. The acronym SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers which form the columns of the table.

First, a quick review of the elements of a SIPOC:

S (supplier): Entity that provides input(s) to a process
I (input): All that is used (mostly as variables) to produce one or more outputs from a process. It is worthwhile to note that infrastructure may not be considered as inputs to a steady-state process since any variability induced by such elements remains fixed over longer periods of time. 
P (process): Steps or activities carried out to convert inputs to one or more outputs. In a SIPOC, the process steps are shown at a high level.
O (output): One or more outcomes or physical products emerging from a process.
C (customer): Entity that uses the output(s) of a process.

Whenever you are planning to start some process management or improvement activity, it’s important to get a high-level understanding of the scope of the process first.  It has three typical uses depending on the audience:

  • To give people who are unfamiliar with a process a high-level overview
  • To reacquaint people whose familiarity with a process has faded or become out-of-date due to process changes
  • To help people in defining a new process


Several aspects of the SIPOC that may not be readily apparent are:

  • Suppliers and customers may be internal or external to the organization that performs the process.
  • Inputs and outputs may be materials, services, or information.
  • The focus is on capturing the set of inputs and outputs rather than the individual steps in the process.

To construct a SIPOC diagram, begin with a high level process map, usually consisting of four to five steps. Then list outputs of the process, followed by the customers who receive the outputs. Then turn your attention to the front end of the SIPOC, with a listing of the inputs to the process and their suppliers.  

By completing the SIPOC prior to beginning a project, the team prepares for the project by collecting examples of input and output reports, gathering forms used in the process, etc. SIPOC diagrams also help to confirm the scope of the improvement project. Most of the initial project work revolves around understanding the current state process. The SIPOC is a key tool to help the team understand and communicate the current state and the bounds of a given process as well as who might be critical to engage as the project develops.


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Monday, February 13, 2017

8 Wastes in the Lean Office


The manufacturing process is not the only area of a company that incurs waste on a regular basis. Although most of us focus on the factory floor to identify the improvements needed to increase our competitiveness, many companies find abundant opportunities for waste reduction in the office.

In the office environment, the 8 classic waste types of the Lean methodology manifest in different ways than we see on the factory floor. Here is a list of the 8 wastes of Lean, and some ideas about how they manifest in the office environment.

Transportation = movement of the work.  Manifestations include handoffs where the work is transferred from one person to another.  Transportation of electronic files is particularly insidious because it frequently results in multiple, varying copies of the work, which must eventually be reconciled.  It leads to other wastes such as defects, overproduction, and processing. Transportation is also an opportunity for a defect when the work goes to the wrong person or fails to get to the right person.

Inventory = work that is waiting to be processed.  Inventory is a common result of multi-tasking and otherwise un-balanced workloads.  Inventory can be found in e-mail or work order in-boxes, to-do lists, product development pipelines, and resource assignment charts.  If a person has three tasks to complete, it is guaranteed that two of them are waiting (in inventory) while that person performs the third.  If you want to be able to see inventory like you do on the factory floor, you must make the lists, in-boxes, resource assignments, and project pipelines visible in your workspace.

Motion = people moving or working without producing.  Meetings are motion in the sense that they are work without producing, unless a decision is made or information is produced during the meeting.  The motion you see of people moving from conference room to conference room and back to their desks is indeed wasted motion, but it’s probably not the waste to target first.  Motion shows up as people search for files they can’t find, in phone calls to track down information, or from unnecessary button clicks to get to the bottom of a work order to update the to-do list.  Most un-productive work takes place inside the electronic system while the person is sitting at his/her desk or while they are sitting in a meeting. 

Waiting = people waiting for information in order to do work.  This is another common result of multi-tasking, and also the primary cause of multi-tasking.  People work on other things while they wait for one thing to be processed and made ready.  Unfortunately, when the one thing finally becomes ready, we tend to finish what we started before getting back to it.  Because of multi-tasking, waiting is difficult to observe.  You must ask questions to discover it, or identify it yourself when you run into it.  It’s perhaps the most common and wasteful waste of them all in the office.

Overproduction = producing unnecessary work or deliverables.  Overproduction shows up in multiple copies of information, producing reports that aren’t read, writing formal documents or content where only the table is read, reply all, working on deliverables that aren’t important, and delivering the same information in multiple deliverables or formats.  Overproduction frequently shows up when managers ask underlings to do things that make the manager’s life easier.

Over Processing = unnecessary effort to get the work done.  Over Processing shows up in additional signature approvals, data entry or data format changes, frequently revising documents or information, or complex forms or databases that require information to be entered repeatedly.  Over Processing often results from the creation of multiple versions of a piece of work, that now must be reconciled into the true work.  

Defects = any work that did not accomplish its purpose or was not correct the first time.  Defects include late work, incorrect information, conflicting information, instructions that must be clarified, insufficient information, partially complete work or information, miss-named files, lost files or information, and anything that must be reworked.  Rework is the pain that results from defects.  Find the re-work and you will find the Defect waste.

Underutilized Skills, Ideas = capabilities of people that are not used or leveraged.  This happens frequently in large organizations where the skills and backgrounds of everyone are not common knowledge.  This can vary from not capturing ideas that employees might have for new products or innovations, to the six-figure salary executive correcting data entry errors in a financial spreadsheet. The biggest crime in this category is not empowering or enabling the people most intimate with a process to improve the process.

Transferring Lean manufacturing concepts to the office may take some convincing. First, office employees must accept the philosophy as appropriate for their work space.  Individuals may find it hard to imagine implementing concepts originally designed for factories into a working office environment.  While they wade through company policy, orders and emails, the factory folks are already steeped in the language of Lean and comfortable with words like “kaizen” and “kanban.” Once office employees increase their confidence level with the Lean concepts, they’ll want to share improvements and ideas with their shop floor counterparts, bridging the gap between the shop and the office, and increasing loyalty, enthusiasm and pride within your company.


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Friday, February 10, 2017

Lean Quote: Knowledge is Not Power, Only Potential Power, Until We Do

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.

"Knowing Is Not Enough; We Must Apply. Wishing Is Not Enough; We Must Do.— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Most people falsely believe that "knowledge is power." It is nothing of the sort! Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.

You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t do anything with it, it’s useless. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know—and doing it with a sense of urgency—that will enable you to accomplish what sometimes seems unattainable.

“Potential” has as much impact as running shoes that stay in your shoe cabinet. Or the healthy food that is not eaten. Or words of appreciation, respect and love that were never expressed. Or the time that was spent doing something else than that you said is important to you.

It’s always been, and always will be, the implementation of knowledge that empowers any human being. That was true even during the times when only few people had access to knowledge, before the time the Internet and access to it became commodity, and before the printing houses emerged. Already then, it was not the knowledge that gave power. It was the access to knowledge that gave those few individuals power due to their position in the society, as the possessors of something rare and wanted always do.

Knowledge has no value except that which can be gained from its application toward some worthy end. It’s what you do with this acquired knowledge that defines your power. If you don’t convert that knowledge into action, it will remain a source of power – untapped power.

Many in businesses fail not because of knowledge but lack of experience how to make things work. To be a success in business you do not have to know everything. What you have to know is how to get the specialized knowledge to make you successful and create a bias towards action.





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