Friday, August 1, 2014

Lean Quote: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

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.

"Get comfortable being uncomfortable.— U.S. Navy SEALs

The U.S. Navy SEALs have a saying: "Get comfortable being uncomfortable." If you can be comfortable being uncomfortable, you'll be prepared to handle whatever situation comes along.

There have been many times as a Lean leader that I have been in uncomfortable situations. Change is not easy. Discomfort comes in many forms. But the more you embrace that as a reality, the wider your comfort zone becomes. This boosts confidence and provides the tools for facing even larger challenges down the road.

Leaders need to challenge their employees to move out of their comfort zone. You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, give your employees challenging assignments. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.


So when it comes to getting outside your comfort zone, don’t mistake magical outcomes for magical processes. Adaptation takes time, effort, strategy, and determination. But with a solid plan in place and the courage to take it forward, your results can be extraordinary.


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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lean Roundup #62 - July, 2014



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of July, 2014.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

5 Words That Have a Totally Different Meaning to Practitioners of Lean Manufacturing – Pete Abilla shares some common words that have a different meaning to us Lean Thinkers.

Keepin' 'em in the Loop – Bill Waddell shares a story that highlights the importance of communication and sharing information with employees.

Where is the Frontline? – Bruce Hamilton shares a personal story that reminds us of all those employees that can be missed on the frontline when you just look at the shop.

Don't Confuse Posters With Action – Dan Markovitz says if you want to improve then you need more than pictures, you must lead by example.

Making Learning Habit – Gregg Stocker discusses the importance of learning and how to make it a habit for life.

CEO's journey with Lean- How to get everyone on board? – Tracey Richardson answers the question about how to get everyone on board with a Lean transformation.

Put Your Strategy on a Diet – Pascal Dennis talks about the importance of focusing on the vital few versus trying to do everything without success.

A CEO might be a good at lean but poor at leading change – Jeffery Liker says if a leader is having trouble with Lean conversion they may be the problem with leading the change.

Motivating Leaders to Embrace Lean – Bob Emiliani discusses the challenged with getting leaders to embrace Lean and how to strengthen intrinsic motivation.

Leadership – John Smith explains the elements of leadership found in influencing people like purpose, direction, and motivation.

Do Lean with people rather than to people – David Meier says you can do Lean to people you must do it with them.

Coaching – John Shook discusses coaching to develop individual and organizational capability.

3 Operations Habits of Highly Successful Manufacturing Companies – Brian Wilkins describes 3 traits of successful companies with real examples from manufacturing companies.

Look Inward for Root Causes – Bill Waddell shares a story that illustrates the struggle between shipments (revenue) and quality and where this mentality comes from.

11 Common Continuous Improvement Mistakes You Are Probably Making – Jeff Hajek describes 11 common mistakes people make in continuous improvement implementation.

Effort Without the Right Knowledge and Strategy is Often Wasted – John Hunter shares a Deming quote that explains managements role is to ensure that people right knowledge and tools and head in the right direction.

Picking on the Pick Chart – Mark Graban explains that Lean is a means to move ideas from kill column to the can implement column.

Thinking Required – Not Just a Recipe to Follow – John Hunter says management needs to learn to think, experiment, think, improve, think, etc.

Doing Lean Versus Becoming Lean – Jim Luckman defines Lean by describing the difference between fake Lean and real Lean.


Standardization is a Countermeasure, Never the Goal – Mark Graban explains why problem solving is more important than haphazardly implementing standard work.


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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Clarity of Vision Sets the Compass Needle to True North


This month on A View From The Q Bill Troy has been talking a lot about focus as ASQ goes through their strategic planning process. Do you have the right focus? Do you have a clear vision?

Given all of the rapid changes and increasing distractions organizations face today, individuals must be able to focus on those things that offer the greatest advantage to the organization. The clearer the priorities, the easier it will be for people to focus their energies on what really counts.

You can’t do everything. So you have to focus. Since you can’t do everything and if you ever could, your customers wouldn't believe you anyhow, then you need to focus on something that you do well, that people want.

The job of management is to steer the focus of their organization towards those few vital priorities that will keep or bring the organization into alignment with the demands of its customers. Once these are identified, employees can then pinpoint the group, division, factory, department, or project gaps that must be closed to stay aligned with the strategic direction of your organization.

Leadership must articulate a vision and goals describing what they believe want to accomplish. They must provide a clear charge to all layers of management and process improvement team members to work towards this vision, making sure that everyone understands the vision. Leaders work with others to set specific goals and a manageable scope for each action. Focus on defining the attributes needed for success and empower the team to develop efficient and effective approaches to accomplish them.

Casting the vision is not enough.  Starting out is always the most difficult part, but do not let the vision fall flat.  Revisit, reinvent, and restrategize until the flow becomes natural. Create and align company goals with the vision, and align individual and team goals with company goals.

Let your employees know how they will benefit from embracing the vision. Explain and reinforce the financial rewards when the goals of the vision have been achieved, such as bonuses, recognition, and career development. Share the vision frequently through staff meetings, outings, newsletters, emails, posters and employee campaigns. Develop visuals, such as tables, charts and photos, which highlight milestone accomplishments of the vision.

Traditional planning methodologies focus on steering an organization in the direction desired by top management. Often referred to as management by objective (MBO) since top management establish the objectives, targets, evaluate whether employees meet these targets. Unfortunately, as we know, you can’t achieve the desired results by just dictating individual targets.

In Lean Thinking “Hoshin Kanri” is the process to select those annual objectives that will give the organization the greatest possible advantage. The word hoshin is formed from two Chinese characters: ho stands for “method,” shin means “shiny metal showing direction.” Kanri stands for “planning.” Together, hoshin kanri is used to communicate a “methodology for setting strategic direction,” in other words, a management “compass.”

The Hoshin kanri process identifies and concentrates resources on the vital few stretch achievements that support the vision. It separates those performance issues that require dramatic improvement from the many incremental improvements that can achieved at the local level. All the changes that the leadership believes to be incremental are skimmed out of the strategic plan and addressed through quality in daily work. The remaining category of contribution – the vital few breakthrough achievements – becomes the core of the hoshin kanri process.

At the heart of hoshin kanri is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. Promoted by w. Edwards Deming, this management cycle (sometimes called the PDCA cycle) is an iterative process. A closed loop system, it emphasizes four repetitive steps:

First, start with an idea and create a PLAN to test it.
Then, DO adhere to the plan, and take corrective action when necessary.
Next, analyze and STUDY discrepancies to identify the root causes of obstacles.
Finally, take appropriate ACTion. If the outcome matches expectations, then standardize the process to maintain the gains. If the results were disappointing, then modify the process to eliminate the root cause of remaining problems. In either case, repeat the process starting again with PLAN.

While these steps appear in a linear sequence, when implemented the phases are best thought of as concurrent processes that can continually be improved.

Hoshin kanri is the system for setting management’s compass toward True North. It is a tool to align people, activities, and performance metrics with strategic priorities. It can be used to communicate direction, coordinate activity, and monitor progress. It enables members of the organization to work together in the most creative way to define and achieve the strategic intent.

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.

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lean Quote: Lean Requires Patience

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 trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.— Moliere

It’s no secret that many Lean deployments fail to achieve intended results. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of patience in the time and effort required for transformation.  Success with Lean requires a long term commitment to learning, consistent focus, and patience.

Striving for excellence is an ongoing process; it requires a persistent attitude of excellence demonstrated by a continual focus on both the large and small things in our endeavor.

Improvement rarely happens when an implementation is left to itself. There is a substantial requirement of energy and stamina to drive lasting improvement. We must ensure that ourselves and those we work with are able and willing to work with enough pace and strength to make the right things happen.

Lean is not a single wave, cycles of improvement are required. Efforts must be made to repeat, reinforce, retrain, and review what is taught and implemented. Lean requires doing the hard thing over and over again. It will be resisted often strongly, but sometimes in a quiet but subservient way. We need to overcome setbacks and disappointments and provide a steady course to follow.


Successfully implementing Lean process improvement strategies in your organization requires patience and an unrelenting commitment to overhauling your current business operations. Lean practices need to be incorporated as part of the culture of your business, to successfully reduce waste in your operations, and increase value in your products.


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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Take Pride in Continuous Improvement


Do you take pride in continuous improvement?

Employee pride offers a powerful force for continuous improvement. There is a power lying at the beating heart of every facility, field office or location– a power waiting to be called forth, and yet one that remains woefully untapped, under-estimated, and even unintentionally undermined. That power is Pride.

Leaders can improve motivation within their organizations by following this process:

Promote Process Improvement - Continuous Improvement: small incremental, ongoing changes that combine to deliver significant gains in quality and efficiency. The stream of continuous improvements creates a powerful and constant force, promoting high performance throughout a facility and producing tremendous employee pride.

Reward Results - When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment. The basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to give you their discretionary energy.

Involve Employees – Provide them with opportunities to share what they need to be successful at their jobs. Encourage employees to share and implement ideas for improvement

Deliver Excellence - Striving for excellence is an ongoing process; it requires a persistent attitude of excellence demonstrated by a continual focus on both the large and small things in our daily work. Lean excellence is about is about eliminating waste and making the work easier.

Educate - Provide a means for employees to get whatever training is necessary to their optimal performance so that they can truly master their job responsibilities. Not only does this provide for employee empowerment, but it is a great way to gain employee loyalty and improve employee performance.

A motivating environment is one that gives workers a sense of pride in what they do.

People and teams who believe they have control of their situation work harder and perform better. They take pride in their efforts. Pride gives meaning to their work and their lives.

Lean leadership is about enabling and empowering people. Lean leadership is about helping people grow professionally and personally, allowing to take pride in their work.

Leaders who sincerely and deliberately instill a sense of pride in their employees encourage them to give their discretionary energy– to go the extra mile– to drive operational performance and bottom-line results.

Employees who take pride in, and appreciate their vital contribution to improving the value is the embodiment of Lean.   



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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Essentials of Effective Collaboration


Collaboration is important to the success of an organization, but as the saying goes: “it’s like getting rich or falling in love, you cannot simply will it to happen.” Collaboration takes practice. Collaboration is an outcome. And collaboration leverages the individual skills of every team member.

To create effective collaboration across your organization, you need to break down any departmental barriers to collaboration so that you can draw on the best people. You need to set clear objectives and define working relationships so that members can work as a cohesive team, and you must provide tools that support efficient collaboration.

Collaboration and team work create an environment that allows the collective knowledge, resources and skills of each team member to flourish. When people work together they can complete tasks faster by dividing the work to people of different abilities and knowledge. Collaboration can lead to better decisions, products, or services.

In my experience there are five essentials for effective collaboration:

1. Respect for People - Showing respect in the workplace is all about the relationship we develop with other people and how we value them.

2. Communication - Regular communication fosters collaborative interactions among leaders, stakeholders, and practitioners at all levels.

3. Consensus - Consensus means “general agreement” and having that as a goal encourages and focuses the participants. It also creates equity and ownership in whatever decision is made.

4. Responsibility and Accountability - Accountability is an agreement to be held to account for some result. Responsibility is a feeling of ownership. You can assign accountability between yourself and others, but responsibility can only be self-generated.

5. Trust - Trust people to do their best and trust them to do it right. Allow them to make mistakes without retribution.

Collaboration is a principle-based process of working together, which produces trust, integrity, and breakthrough results by building true consensus, ownership, and alignment in all aspects of the organization. Put another way, collaboration is the way people naturally want to work. It is a way of life that enables us to meet our fundamental needs for self-esteem and mutual respect in the workplace. This principle provides the basis for significant and permanent change – for people as well as for organizations.


Put simply, collaboration is the missing ingredient to transforming the way we work.


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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lean Quote: Disrespect the Impossible

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.

"Develop a healthy disrespect for the impossible.— Gene Hoffman, Supervalu

Impossible is a state of mind; what is impossible today may not be so tomorrow. What is impossible for us may not be so for others. It is not impossible simply because a human mind cannot come up with anything that does not already exist. This means that nothing is impossible if we put our mind to it. To think otherwise will prevent us from finding a solution.

It's easier to say something is impossible, or at least extremely unlikely. Everyone has periods of doubts. Everyone considers giving up sometimes, but then you just have to remember why you tried so hard in the first place.

Never give up. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. The right attitude makes the impossible possible. Attitudes drive behavior. If you want to succeed at anything you need to have the right mindset.

Nothing is impossible. If you never tried it then you would never know if it worked. Every failure teaches you something if you are willing to learn from your mistakes. Those saying it can not be done should not interrupt those trying it. Artificial roadblocks are wasteful and counterproductive. Keep trying. Keep learning. 


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