Friday, December 4, 2020

Lean Quote: Leaders Should Be Learners

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.

"The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.  — Sheryl Sandberg

I agree. To learn is to grow, it is to evolve, it is to master. These are all things leaders should be doing.

Leaders set the tone for an organization. As a leader, you must be agile in your responses to the ever-changing marketplace and business climate. You're charged with growing organizations. Learning is a huge part of this growth process.

This growth-focused learning can take various shapes within an organization. It can be organic, formalized, personalized or on-demand. Whatever the shape, learning needs to be part of a leader's commitment to improving both personally and professionally.

Leaders who value the impact of learning on growth and talent retention drive an organization where learning is part of the organizational DNA. When you set the example in your commitment to learning, you create organizations that are serious about learning. How you are able to use failure to learn can set a good example for others to use these important lessons for improvement. It's about how you view failure is what can either encourage progress or hinder future success.

There's a reason we call it "lifelong learning." Learning should never end. It is an investment in time and money. Many leaders give excuses of why they cannot take time to learn. Learning should be a priority, not an option. Professional development is an investment that successful leaders embrace.

If you want be an incredible leader in your industry, learning is where you should start.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The ABC’S of Effective KPI’s

KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are metrics used to track the performance of a business, a department, or individuals against goals. When designed and implemented properly they can define the direction of a business, provide essential feedback and help organize individuals, teams, projects or entire businesses to optimize performance. The key is to choose the KPIs relevant to your industry and business goals — focusing on the wrong ones is costly to your company.

One of the most effective ways of evaluating effectiveness and appropriateness of a KPI is considering the ABC’s of the KPI:

Aligned to Objectives

The most effective KPIs are closely tied to strategic objectives and help answer critical business questions. Therefore, a good starting point is to identify the questions that the decision makers, managers, or external stakeholders need to have answers to. Start with the basics and understand what your organizational objectives are, how you plan to achieve them, and who within the organization can act on this information for each outlined goal. The key is to define KPIs that effectively track to that business goal and to scrutinize existing KPIs for relevance to objectives.


When selecting KPIs, it is very important to have a clear picture of how the organization is performing, and balancing KPIs will provide a complete overview of organizational performance. Balancing implies selecting KPIs that complement one another. The main balancing approaches refer to ensuring that we measure both:

       ·        Quantity and Quality;

       ·        Subjectivity and Objectivity;

       ·        Efficiency and Effectiveness.


Effective metrics need to be relevant to individual employees. Relevance ensures the right decision makers are responsible for measuring specific KPIs — increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.


The purpose of having KPIs is to drive action that affects results. Many times I find that companies track, measure and report on a boatload of KPIs every week, but there are only a handful that ever cause anyone on the team to take action. This is a big waste of time for those responsible for collecting and reporting the data, and can easily cause a team to overlook the few that really do matter.

Easy to Understand

A KPI should be simple, straightforward and easy to measure. Everyone involved in a goal should be able to recognize their role in enacting a KPI. If a goal is clear, staff can make practical decisions that lead to achieving the desired outcome.

Few in Number

Having too many KPIs can result in what I call KPI overload. So many organizations think that by having 8-10 KPIs per department, they will be better able to assess the performance of the company. WRONG. (K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid!)

Truth is: when you have 100 KPIs, no one has the time or energy to look at every one of them. All of the sudden, those KPIs become redundant to the company.

Gains Momentum

While KPIs will vary, it is especially important to consider the big picture and think about what’s needed to lead your business to success. Measuring that success is particularly important. It helps you determine if your company is gaining momentum and if your hard work and investments will pay off in the long run.

Has Ownership

It’s imperative that you have clear accountability for how your data is acquired, how it’s being reported on, and who can speak to what occurred during that reporting period. This way, your data truly tells a story, and you can understand why the numbers are the way they are.


It’s no use building business KPIs for the sake of it. Managers should want to build business KPIs that positively affect the company. As such, not only should they be easy to understand, but employees should also know how to achieve an effective outcome. Setting unachievable goals can be a big de-motivator for employees. The more realistic the goal of a KPI is, the more likely teams are to reach it. Employees must be able to look at those metrics and see how they influence those things.

There are thousands of KPIs to choose from and most companies find it hard to select the right ones for their business and instead end up measuring and reporting a vast amount of information on everything that is easy to measure. It’s important to determine which measurements in your business are indicators of true performance. Paying close attention to those measurements, your KPIs, can help identify areas of success and areas for improvement.

In today’s challenging and competitive business landscape it is more important than ever that business leaders and senior executives are able to make better informed decisions, improve performance, and seek out new and novel ways to gain the edge over their competition. KPIs, when properly understood and used effectively, provide a powerful tool in achieving just that. Without them, organizations are simply sailing blind.

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Lean Roundup #138 – November 2020

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of November 2020.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Five 5 Why Fallacies to Avoid - Jon Miller shares five fallacies related to 5 why analysis that need to be avoided for more effective problem solving. 

Why should you have a Chief Engineer? - Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the importance of having a Chief Engineer role in you organization

Practical Problem Solving – Proving Cause & Effect - Pascal Dennis explains how to overcome a common failure point in problem solving that can be avoided by proving cause and effect.

(Value Stream) Map Your Way to a Better Post-Covid Future - Dan Makrovitz shows that value stream mapping is the tool that will help you become faster and more nimble post COVID.

“Red / Amber / Green” Charts Are Not State of the Art, Are Not Effective Visual Management - Mark Graban illustrates how bowling charts are problematic and states why process behavior charts are better.

The Value of Building Granularity into Product Development - Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the benefits of additional granularity can have on product development.

Move Over Lean! - Bob Emiliani discussed the impact COVID has had on process improvement previously centered on human technology pushed aside now in favor of machine technologies.

Lean Thinking and the Swiss Cheese Model - Jon Miller discusses how multiple safeguards are better than hoping on a single one when it comes to COVID, quality, Lean and more.

The Deeper Purpose of Problem-Solving - Regis Medina says PDCA is a better way to root out misconceptions and fix the glitches in our thinking. 

Why Lean Is the Strategy We Need For Today's World - Michael Ballé & Dan Jones explains that Lean is an upside down strategy for an upside down world.

Lean WX – An Rx for Making Things Better - Josh Howell explains how standardized work enables a purposefully designed work experience where everybody, every day, is learning and improving through doing value-creating work. 

The Benefits of Kaizen Learning vs. Traditional Problem-Solving - Art Byrne says Lean's emphasis on kaizen offers a fundamentally different approach to problem-solving than most companies practice today. 

Debunking the 'Time Drives Costs' Myth with Lean Financial Thinking - Nick Katko explains why in Lean Accounting, we want to stop allocating costs based on time because it isn’t an accurate way to understand costs. 

Why Value Stream Mapping is Essential to Product and Process Development - John Drogosz describes how product development value stream mapping has been a useful technique to help teams really see how they do their work and how their work fits together.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Lean Quote: Cultivating Gratitude Has Enormous Benefits

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.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  — Cicero

It’s that time of year where many people begin thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. Although it’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving, being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life.

In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.

Research reveals gratitude can have these benefits:

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends. A recent study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

2. Gratitude improves health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. Gratitude improves self-esteem and mental strength. A researcher found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.  Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about.


More Than A Day

As Thanksgiving Day rolls around,
It brings up some facts, quite profound.
We may think that we're poor,
Feel like bums, insecure,
But in truth, our riches astound.

We have friends and family we love;
We have guidance from heaven above.
We have so much more
Than they sell in a store,
We're wealthy, when push comes to shove.

So add up your blessings, I say;
Make Thanksgiving last more than a day.
Enjoy what you've got;
Realize it's a lot,
And you'll make all your cares go away.

By Karl Fuchs


Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

The Importance of Gratitude in the Workplace and 3 Easy Ways to Show It

As the holiday season rolls around again, you may be thinking about all the things you’re thankful for. Have you brought that attitude of appreciation into the office? Gratitude in the workplace is essential, and not just during the holidays. The acknowledgement you give your employees can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to praise your employees for the successes, both big and small.

Here, we discuss 3 easy and effective ways to show gratitude to your employees:

1. Words of Affirmation

Studies have found saying ‘thank you’ to employees boosts their morale, increases their job satisfaction, and creates an overall healthy, positive culture. Whether you want to say it face-to-face, put it down on paper, or send it via email, make sure you regularly thank your employees for all that they do for the company. Employees are so pleased to receive a note or email from their boss thanking them for a job well done.

2. Gift Giving

From points-based incentives to performance-based incentives, employee of the month to suggestions of improvement, giving employees a gift to thank them for their outstanding efforts is a great way to boost motivation, satisfaction, and positivity in the workplace.

The type of gifts employees appreciate include gift cards, opportunities to upskill (training programs or courses), or something that caters to their interests (event tickets like concerts or art exhibitions, restaurant vouchers, a book you had discussed with them, etc.).

3. Quality Time

Managers and employees spend a lot of time together in the workplace – be it in team meetings, over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, at social events, etc. but in most cases, these meetings are just by chance. Communication between managers and employees is important – employees want regular meetings for performance reviews or to be updated on important business matters; communication like this is what makes them feel valued in the workplace.

Regularly schedule ‘quality time’ with your employees. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss their performance and career path, find out if there are any areas in the business they would like to upskill in, and recognize them for their strong contribution towards the company’s goals and objectives.  It’s important that these meetings are done on a frequent basis to keep high levels of productivity and interest in the workplace.

Overall, as with any “culture” initiatives, gratitude in the workplace starts at the top. If your employees see you practicing appreciation, they will follow suit and express thankfulness to their coworkers. Making gratitude a cultural focus will increase productivity across the board and create a much better environment for everyone – including you.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Lean Quote: Leadership is About Empathy

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 about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.  — Oprah Winfrey

When you get into a discussion about leadership, empathy does not normally come high up on the elements for discussion. I think it should. 

I would agree with Oprah Winfrey if you cannot connect with people to inspire them, then you are going to fall short as a leader. If you cannot see into the minds and hearts of your people, then you will not lead them. 

Rhetoric will only take you so far, and for a short period of time. Long term leadership will only be sustained with true empathy. 

Empathy is a skill that you can develop and grow – but it takes effort for those not naturally inclined. Below are three simple ways of doing this. 

1. Listen to Others  

Listen to others very carefully. Don’t just listen for the sake of listening. Listen with an open heart and mind. Only in this way, you can understand the entire message the other party is trying to communicate. Pay attention to their tone of voice and body language. Really try to feel what the other person is saying to you. What is important to them? Step outside for a minute and try to understand their perspectives. This can be very helpful especially if you are discussing a divisive topic. You don’t need to agree on everything the other person says but it is important to see their points. 

2. Be Nice and Smile 

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Be nice to people and smile at them. Don’t forget that good manners and kindness always win in relationships. If you treat others nicely, you will soon notice that they will also treat you the same way. In this way, you can build a healthy relationship with your co-workers. For example, if you are going to give a birthday gift to a co-worker, think about whether the person receiving this gift would actually like it or not. Rather than picking out something you like, try to think about the feelings of the other party and shop accordingly. 

3. Turn the Tables 

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before criticizing them. First, try to understand their actions by turning the tables and then decide. The best example for this is the interview process. When you are interviewing someone, think about the interviewee. Put yourself in his/her shoes and try to remember the last time you went for an interview. Do you remember how excited and nervous you were? Then, it is normal for the person you are interviewing with to have the same feelings. Therefore, in order to calm him/her down, you can start with simple and expected questions like “Tell me about yourself” and then, move onto more difficult and technical ones. 

So, yes, empathy is a key element of leadership, and without practicing it, you will be lesser for it. 

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