Friday, September 21, 2018

Lean Quote: Innovation Distinguishes Between a Leader and a Follower

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.

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." — Steve Jobs

Leaders are accountable to assemble teams and lead them to optimal performance outcomes.  An effective leader recognizes the importance of embracing differences in people and knows how to connect the dots amongst employees to get the best outcomes from the team. This is what cultivates a workplace environment of continuous improvements, innovation and initiative.   Leaders must foster a commitment from the team to embrace an innovation mindset for the success of the organization.

Innovation requires a certain type of person:  they are passionate explorers in pursuit of endless possibilities.   These explorers are courageous enough to take that leap of faith and follow it through all the way to the end.  Opening our minds to innovation is critical to creating a workplace environment that allows people to thrive. 

Innovation and workplace transformation represent two-sides of the same coin. Enable employees to adopt an "entrepreneurial mindset" to showcase their ideas  and ideals and they become the foundation for organizational growth and sustainability. Allowing them to propel innovation  and show initiative is the key  to successful workplace revival and an opportunity to re-energize individual and organic organizational growth.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #129 (1931 - 1945)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #1931 – Ensure Clear Communication
Whether utilizing direct or indirect communication, confirm that everyone is on the same page and does not have any questions. Check to make sure the team received important emails and that each employee fully understands the intended message. Try to use email and indirect communication only when absolutely necessary, as tone and message frequently become muddled when not directly discussed.

Lean Tip #1932 – Don’t Ignore Struggling Employees
If you notice an employee is struggling to keep up or not contributing a fair amount of work to a project, set up a meeting to discuss how to resolve these issues. A team member may not be aware of subpar performance or may face personal issues that indirectly cause work to suffer. If problems persist, consider that the assigned job may not be a good fit for an employee’s talents.

Lean Tip #1933 – Pitch in and Help
The project seems to be falling behind schedule, but every team member is overwhelmed with the workload. If this is happening to your team, discuss how you can help. While you may be there as a manager, your job is to make sure the work gets done. Contributing to the work will help build respect for you as a manager. Conversely, pushing more work onto already full plates fosters anger and resentment at your disconnect from the project.

Lean Tip #1934 – Play to Individual Strengths
Each member brings different skills to the group. The secret to an effective team is discovering how these individual skills work together in the best way possible. Think of team members’ abilities as unique “cogs” in your team “machine”. When these cogs are positioned correctly, the machine runs smoothly. But when they grind together, the machine comes to a halt. As a manager, your goal is to build a well-oiled machine that does not break down. Do not be afraid to adjust individual roles as you go along.

Lean Tip #1935 – Commemorate Achievements Together
Celebrate as a whole when the team meets or exceeds goals and expectations. Be sure to reward good work from individuals and the entire team. Schedule a team party to commemorate a finished project. Showing you appreciate your team’s hard work and the effort put into a project adds an incentive to finish projects on time.

Lean Tip #1936 – Cut Down on Traditional Meetings
Meetings are the bane of productivity. They take everyone involved out of the workflow, and the issues can often be addressed in memos or other more brief communication methods.

Not every meeting results in a necessary dialogue, and meetings can put a stopper on breakthroughs and momentum.

When meetings are absolutely required, standing meetings are preferable. For sedentary workplaces, holding a brief standing meeting can get everyone into a different mindset compared to positioning everyone in seats in a less involved environment. In the end, as long as the same objectives are achieved, it’s best to take the most productive route to the same goal.

Lean Tip #1937 – Stop Trying to Multitask
Multitasking is actually far more counterproductive than you probably realize.

You actually do two or more tasks slower and less effectively than you could do one. While it may seem as if you’re saving yourself time and accomplishing more, trying to multitask has more downsides than positives.

If you focus 100% on one task, and ensure it’s done correctly, you reduce the time you need to spend checking over your work or correcting problems later on down the line. While you may feel that you can do two things at the same time, it’s best to complete one task fully before moving onto the next.

Lean Tip #1938 – Set Your Schedule For The Next Day The Night Before You Leave The Office.
Prioritize which tasks need to be completed. Even if you are interrupted by unexpected assignments or emergencies, you'll know exactly what needs to be done when you return to your desk. Not only will a schedule help keep you organized and focused, you'll get the satisfaction of crossing items off your "to do" list once you complete them.

Lean Tip #1939 – Keep Your Workspace Clean And Clear Of Clutter.
As the old saying goes, "A cluttered desk is a symptom of a cluttered mind." The time you spend looking for misplaced papers each day is extra time you could be using to complete your work. Likewise, there are apps to assist you in categorizing and electronically organizing your email inbox. Imagine the time you could save by no longer searching for hard-to-find emails!

Lean Tip #1940 – Prioritize Tasks To Focus On Important Ones
Work on one task at a time, starting a new one only once the previous one has been completed. Juggling tasks has been scientifically proven to “decrease the performance of workers, raising the chances of low output, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs”.

Having the resolve to stick with one task is actually not that simple, especially when people are pestering you to lend a hand with theirs. You have to know when to say no to colleagues and even your boss.

The Pareto principle (or the 80/20 rule) observes that most things in life aren’t distributed evenly. In business terms, this could mean that 80pc of your revenue comes from 20pc of your customers or that 80pc of your bonus depends on 20pc of your responsibilities.

Decide which tasks are most important to you and then focus the majority of your energy on them.

Lean Tip #1941 – Celebrate Failure
Remember, most employees are trying to do their best, most of the time. Show appreciation for the well-intentioned action, even if it led to a failure. Talk about what the employee did right, then explain the problem. Always focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

During your discussion, go over any processes and procedures necessary to get a procedural task done right the next time. If the failure was more complex, say a sales meeting didn’t go well, try role-playing to help your employee find their footing.

Lean Tip #1942 - Ignore, or Work Around, Minor Mistakes
Perfectionists take heed! Things don’t always have to be exactly, 100 percent perfect. Some people learn by experience and no amount of coaching or manual reading will change that, so be open to letting experiential learners make minor mistakes.

Of course, this advice does not apply when health and safety are at risk, for instance in a hospital setting. No one thinks it’s okay for a nurse to make a minor mistake in giving out medicine.

However, in an office setting, it is unlikely that someone will die if an email doesn’t get sent out by the end of the day. By giving employees room to fail in minor ways you convey that you trust them to get the job done right – eventually. Just don’t let this laissez faire attitude go too far or you will convey that you don’t care about quality.

Lean Tip #1943 - Listen and Empower.
Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. Managers must work with employees to build one-on-one relationships that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, and encourage them to share their opinions.

Lean Tip #1944 - Ask Good Questions.
Great questions lead to great answers, and great answers lead to great conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and have a positive attitude.

Lean Tip #1945 - Commit to Continuous Learning.
Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments and professional success.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Change Management: Advice on Managing Resistance to Change

ASQ's Influential Voices were asked in the recent roundtable topic about change management, specifically:

It’s often said that people don’t resist “change” so much as they resist “being changed.” So, the job of change management is clear: In a nutshell, you must explain why the affected people should want to change, and thereby cultivate readiness instead of resistance.

What are some recommended strategies or tactics to help achieve successful change management?

Lean is in its purest sense a change management initiative, for it involves changing from a current state to a better state. Just as all change attracts resistance, Lean improvements also attract resistance to change, which may manifest as employees ignoring new processes, disagreeing with the benefits, making stringent criticisms, and more. Success depends on how effectively the leadership rises to the occasion and manages resistance to change.

Managing resistance to change is challenging and it’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. Expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. It’s far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in initiating major company changes is to expect that everyone’s reaction will be even remotely like yours.

You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change. You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.

You'll want to consider these seven aspects of leading change if you want success:

Careful Planning
Careful planning saves time and money. Chances for success improve with a well-prepared disclosure and good communication; with careful weighing of potential resistance and its consequences; with a detailed timetable for execution.

Employee resistance is often self-defense, and fear of losing security, power, or status. To offset such fears discuss potential new career paths, the necessity and advantages of different positions, the reason for the change; and show appreciation for loyalty. Some employee lack self-confidence and consider and change a threat. Teaching, training, and full support are good remedies.

Good communication is vital. Reasons for the change must be explained beforehand. Clear communication is the best investment, since resistance id often due to mis-interpretation, half-information, and rumors that precede the change. Easy-to-understand written and verbal communication should reach all levels of the organization.

When employees get seriously involved, the situation becomes easier. It’s not “us” and “them” (management). The sooner people are involved in the plan, the more they become involved. Those on board early are supportive and spread the word. This prevents rumors and the build-up of resistance.

Credibility of management, based on past experience plays a key role. Where trust is lacking, problems multiply. The best remedy is honest information and better communication. These are stepping stones to future trust.

In spite of the best efforts, some resistance may remain. It's far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.

Once everything is prepared and in place, execution should be fast. A D-day must be set to introduce the new organization. Postponement is not recommended, even if there is a last-minute problem.

Regardless of the catalyst for the change, it will be your employees who determine whether it successfully achieves its desired outcome. Organizations don’t change – People do – or they don’t.

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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Friday, September 14, 2018

Lean Quote: Our Understanding is Correlative to Our Perception

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.

"Our understanding is correlative to our perception." — Robert Delaunay

Perception is the awareness of objects or other data through the senses; knowledge, etc. gained by perceiving, insight, and intuition.  Awareness is the foundation of effective communication.  The following principles may help you in understanding others.

1.  No two people see things the same way.
2.  Each person thinks, feels, and sees things based on their own past experience.
3.  A person does not see things the same way at different times.
4.  People learn to see things as they do.
5.  People often see things not as they are, but as they want to see them.
6.  People tend to complete, fill in the gaps, those things they do not understand.
7.  People tend to simplify those things, which they do not understand.
8.  A person's self-image will largerly determine what the person sees.
9.  The way a person perceives another person is determined largerly by what the person expects to see in the other person.
10. People's emotional reation to others and to themselves often is the barriers to effective communication.
11. A person gains new perceptions only through new experiences.
12. Perception accounts for individual differences.
13. One's perception is highly selective and highly subjective.

Perception is a process through which humans attend to, select, organize, interpret, and remember stimulating phenomena. Although all people are constantly involved in perception and aspects of the process are sometimes similar across individuals (especially among closely related members of families or cultural groups), each person perceives the world in unique ways that are open to a number of influences. It is difficult for us to know what and how each other perceives. Making our perceptions clear to others is an important part of effective communication and mutual understanding.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Learning is the Secret of Innovation (and Lean)

A growing number of organizations are embracing lean principles. The lean practitioner is responsible for satisfying demand in ever more productive ways by reducing waste along the value chain. Organizations that succeed with lean realize compelling economic benefits and competitive advantage. Reducing waste equates to reducing costs in ways that allow them to maintain and increase customer satisfaction.

However, lean works to the extent that people in the organization commit to understanding the right problems to solve. Work then becomes an exercise in learning by experimentation, as the community members, including customers, engage with one another to reflect and act on those activities that provide authentic forms of value.

Innovation can be a company’s best strategic advance, especially in today’s competitive and crowded marketplace. However, for the innovation to occur, most companies have to be willing to embrace the risk of potential failure. Employees may be afraid to offer insight and new ways of doing things because the company culture doesn't support them. If you really want to empower employees, you'll need to create a company culture that encourages and rewards innovation. You may start by asking individuals to look for ways to improve efficiency, output, safety, etc. in the tasks they perform every day. Actually, this kind of an approach across the company always has to start with the tone at the top – if employees see their manager taking risks and testing new ideas, they are more likely to follow suit.

Foster innovation by challenging assumptions about what can and cannot be done. When employees come to you with an idea or a solution to a problem they believe is for the betterment of the company, it’s a sign that they care. Supporting new ideas and giving an individual the chance to ‘run with it’ is motivating, whether or not it works out in the end.

React to mistakes and failures in a way that shows that you condone risk-taking. Give your support, provide resources, and remove barriers to change. Approach problems as learning opportunities. Think twice when people agree with you; show you value independent thinking and reward people who challenge you.

As ideas cannot be shared without honest and open communication, encourage your employees to say a thing or two about company’s latest projects. Communication always takes time, so adequate time and place for discussion and meetings must be apportioned into the normal schedule.

Innovation initiatives and Lean complement one another when you consider the fundamentals they share. Progressive organizations that seek ever higher levels of productivity assign a high value to the benefits that come from creating an environment where all the members actively engage in continual reflection on and experimentation to solve problems that get in the way of satisfying demand.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Undo Old Habits and Make New Connections to Embrace Change

Culture can be defined as the sum of individuals' work habits within an organization.  Culture is often invisible to the members within the group because it is "the way we do things around here."  One implication of culture as a collection of habits and practices is that it has incredible inertia and momentum.  Cultural inertia is like a body in motion tending to stay in motion in the same direction unless acted on by an external force.

Conventional habits and practices live on despite changes to layout, material, and information flows.  In traditional settings it is seen as important to be doing something tied directly to production.  In a Lean environment, many practices are related to the disciplined adherence to defined processes. Most of our old habits will not work in our new Lean system. I think Shigeo Shingo said it best, "Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before."

Wouldn't it be simple to just "break" or "kick" these habits?  In reality, many habits bring some level of comfort to us because they are routine.  Instead, we need to learn to undo the old "habits".  

When it comes to habits David Mann tells the story of Smokey the Bear's campfire rules.  Douse the fire with water, stir the coals and turn them over, then douse again.  Not following the rules of Smokey the Bear you risk the fire restarting itself from the live embers that remain.  Cultural habits are very much the same way.

A simple model for improvement could include undo, change, and connect.  Where the 3 steps of the process are defined:

Undo – is the process of learning to change the activities in an organization.  Create a situation whereby change is allowed to occur.
Change – this is where the actual improvement is implemented.
Connect – is about sustaining the new system by making new connections.  Use techniques like standard work, visual control, and visits to the Gemba build new ways of doing things.

Without undoing the old system we leave live embers that can be restarted at the first sign of difficulty.  Change is hard and there will be challenges.  To be successful and ensure the old fire doesn't restart we must learn to improve.  When you face a new problem in your new system don't break the rules or revert back to old thinking.  Use your Lean thinking to solve this new problem and improve your system.  And whatever you do don't run two systems in parallel.  Sometimes in an attempt to be cautious we are really just confusing the situation.  Be brave and embrace the change if you want to improve.

You should not expect the new ways to stick just because people have adhered to them for a day or week.  Old habits are waiting for the right condition to re-emerge.  Remember, nothing worth doing stays done forever without diligence, discipline, and hard work.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Lean Quote: Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

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.

"Everything rises and falls on leadership." — John C. Maxwell

According to John Maxwell, author of over 70 leadership books, everything rises and falls on leadership. John Maxwell’s books on leadership are truly the standard for leaders.  His books such as the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Leadership Gold, Becoming a Person of Influence and many others are filled with strong leadership wisdom and practical advice.

Servant leadership is the key to leadership success in your business, but there are so many other critical points of leadership that you need to master.  Here are a few leadership insights to master as you move forward in this journey.

  • You must learn to be a master communicator and connector.
  • You cannot be a lone ranger leader.  By definition, you are not a leader if you are alone!  If you think you are a leader, but no one is following you, you are just taking a walk.
  • You must become adept at addressing current issues with your organization while also seeing into the future, being a visionary, and charting your course.
  • You must be intentional about attracting the right people for your team and you must build a strong inner circle.
  • Your ability to empower others to lead will make or break your business.
  • As a true leader, you must be passionate about leaving a legacy of leadership.
  • You must be a master manager of your time and set correct and effective priorities.
  • Know that as you grow in your responsibilities, you will diminish in your rights – the true mark of a servant leader.

Charisma, passion and/or intelligence will only get you so far as the leader of your organization.  Leadership is a skill and an art that you must work on purposefully to develop.  There are many options to help you through this development process including outstanding books, tapes, workshops and coaching from certified coaches.  The success of your business will rise and fall on your leadership abilities.

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