Friday, January 18, 2019

Lean Quote: What are You Doing for Others?

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.


"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?"" — Martin Lurther King Jr.

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy includes this challenge to us: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” This quote is the essence of servant leadership.

 A servant leader is one who offers an inclusive vision; listens carefully to others; persuades through reason; and heals divisions while building community.

It is easy to spot servant leaders. In a room where others are jockeying for attention, they are the ones listening to someone others might consider unimportant. When faced with a problem, they look for solutions that benefit everyone. When something goes wrong, they take the blame. When things go well, they share the credit. They tell everyone the same story, even when it is inconvenient or difficult. They know that they don’t have all the answers, so they seek advice from others. They work hard and inspire others to do the same.

Asking “What are you doing for others?” is the key to servant leadership. In these six words that MLK made famous, you can determine and deliver the actions that make a difference to those on your team. You will affect lives far beyond what you can imagine. It really is that persistent, urgent—and powerful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of a servant leader. His life shows the extraordinary power of servant leadership to radically transform a nation. 

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

10 Changes for 2019 That Can Transform Your Culture


It’s that time of year again when many are making personal resolutions for change. But as I said the other day I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. For most managers the beginning of New Year means establishing a new set of objectives. This is a good time to reflect on your progress over the past year and plan how you want improve in the coming year. 

It is our role as leaders to reinforce cultural transformation in the workers perception of their work roles, to create structures for empowered workers to be accountable and successful, to communicate, support, reward and model this culture of engaged workers, helping to identify and resolve defects and eliminate waste. 

As we head into a New Year I wanted to share ten changes that Lean leaders should consider to transform your culture. These changes must have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; a process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation. 

1. Get Energized About Work. 
Getting energized about work usually results from a couple things. Primarily if a work culture is fun to be in, it’s a place you look forward to going because the people (and leadership) are authentic, caring and fun. And teams that are energized with what they are doing get excited by the opportunities that a day may bring. 

2. Planning is the Basic Step for Success. 
You won’t know where you are going unless you know where you want to go. Confusing? Well that’s exactly how your business would be, if you do not keep things simple and organized. Planning is the basic step to succeed in business and planning accurately and developing strategies will lead you to a healthy and growing business. That means reframing the top down objectives in your organization. Don’t just work with only the large goal in mind. Set immediate and short term goals that fire up your team. Celebrate achieving those goals and adjust as the culture and needs change… We live in a very fluid business world where things change fast. Create a team that is able to change along with it. 

3. Strive to Learn Something New Every Single Day.
It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information/technology age. Learn at least one new thing every day. Improve your mind and enhance your skills. Never stop learning. 

4. Work Smarter Not Harder. 
Productivity comes from working smarter, not harder. That is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. You can be effective without being efficient, but, the key to productivity is to do both. Sometimes, those job inefficiencies are not very obvious. However, if you can specifically identify them, then those inefficiencies can be eliminated and staff can become more productive. By distributing the tasks and responsibilities around, you not only become more flexible and able to respond to changes more quickly, but you involve more people in the improvement process. This can increase work satisfaction as well. 

5. Devote Time Each Month to Employee Development. 
 Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. You can make their career. In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee on a monthly basis (or more frequently, if possible) and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement. 

6. Learn More from Reading.  
Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the Web. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt. 

7. Try Something New. 
The world is moving forward, swiftly and consistently. As industry leaders, if you stop taking a breath, you will be left far behind others, competing in the race. Change is inevitable as so is it a scary concept. To overcome this fear, try doing something new. Take risks, explore ways to overcome the disabilities and move ahead. It might sound easy, but it is no less challenging. 

8. Get Out of Your Office.
When you get bogged down, distracted, or even discouraged rediscover the power of going to see. There is no better way to experience the flow of value (or lack thereof) than taking the same journey that an order, new product, patient or other takes through your processes. Spend as much time as possible with employees and customers. Learn the issues first hand. Expand your focus. Many look primarily at the steps in the value stream and ask how to remove the waste. Reflect first on the purpose of the process. You must ask about the support processes to get the right people to the right place in the value stream at the right time with the right knowledge, materials, and equipment. Work to solve problems when and where they occur. Pay special attention to the way people are engaged in the operation and its improvement. 

9. Focus Feedback on the Future. 
You want people to improve. In almost every case, people want to improve and do great work. Yet most workplace feedback is focused on something that can’t be changed -- the past. If you want to be a more effective coach to your team and help them make improvements in their skills and results, give them feedback, and about what they can do next time. 

10. Follow Up and Follow Through. 
The primary criticism of leaders is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a manager follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality leader. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying “out of sight, out of mind”; leaders need to remind employees that their interested in improvement. 

Change can only be successful if it’s truly desired. Change isn’t easy but positive changes are always worth the effort. It can be motivating to add up and consolidate all the gains that have been made so far and to acknowledge how far you have come. Lasting changes require continued commitment. Keeping your commitment isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends. 

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Forget Resolutions, 4 More Effective Steps to HIt Goals


With the hustle of the holidays over we turn to the New Year, where many individuals are honing in on their New Year’s resolution. For many, it may be an opportunity to assess their struggles of the previous year or to wallow in their triumphs. Unfortunately, many fail to keep those resolutions. 

Personally I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. The solution is to have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; A process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation. 

A popular tool for doing just this is the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. This is often referred to as the Deming Cycle or the Deming Wheel after its proponent, W Edwards Deming. A closed loop system, it emphasizes four repetitive steps: 

First, start with an idea and create a PLAN to make it happen. 
Then, DO adhere to the plan, and take corrective action when necessary. Next, analyze and CHECK progress toward your goal and 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. This is the key to seeing your resolution through to the end. 

It is important to remember as you start 2019 you begin with a vision of what you want to accomplish. Whether it is a personal New Year's resolution or a new business objective you need to set a goal or target condition. Lawrence J. Peter said, “If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” 

Resolutions and goal setting may seem similar, but resolutions typically take a let's start something and see what happens approach, while goal setting is about planning a specific path to success. Keeping your resolution isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends. 

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Lean Quote: Four Agreements for Love and Happiness in Your Life

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.


"Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do the exact opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best." — Don Miguel Ruiz

About 20 years ago, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. It explores the modern meaning of the Toltec teachings in order to create love and happiness in your life. Many people have found that committing to these four agreements have changed their lives and made them happier, more loving human beings. Adopting and committing to these agreements is simple. Actually living and keeping these Four Agreements can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. It can also be one of the most life changing things you will ever do.

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

As you practice living these four practices your life will dramatically change. In the beginning these new habits will be challenging and you will lapse countless times. With practice these agreements become integrated into your being and every area of your life and become easy habits to keep.



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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek believes leaders should be more than just authority figures—to earn the trust, respect and cooperation of their teams, leaders should first make selfless sacrifices and put the needs of the people around them ahead of their own.

There’s a difference between good leaders and most leaders. Most leaders make their employees scared. This is usually not on purpose. But it still happens. Sinek’s point is that good leaders make you feel safe.

In his TED Talk, Sinek explains why making employees feel secure in their jobs is a key attribute of a good leader.



Below are three key takeaways from Sinek's talk:

1. “When people feel safe and protected by the leadership in [an] organization, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate."

Employees living in constant fear of losing their jobs are not performing at their best—plain and simple, Sinek says. During an unpleasant encounter at an airport, when an airline agent snapped at a customer who tried to board the plane out of turn, Sinek confronted the agent, only to realize that her behavior was a direct result of her fear of being let go, should she break the rules.

This level of pressure creates a stress-filled, ineffective work environment. To ensure that employees focus on doing their jobs well instead of on just keeping them, make them feel secure in their roles. Empower them, Sinek recommends, by trusting them to make on-the-job choices.

2. “Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people."

Leaders that prioritize the wellbeing of their employees end up with a more loyal workforce, and one that's more invested in company success. When they're valued and respected, workers are more likely to give it their all on the job, Sinek says, which benefits the organization at large.

If you inspire and support them, your employees will too do whatever it takes to see your company's vision become reality, simply because they know their leader would do the same for them.

3. “Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank."

Good leaders worry about others before they worry about themselves, Sinek says. When Barry-Wehmiller, a large manufacturing company in the Midwest, was hit hard by the recession back in 2008, the company had to save 10 million dollars to make up for losses. Instead of considering layoffs, CEO Bob Chapman came up with a plan to require every employee—including leaders—to take furlough time to save money and people's jobs.


Employees understand that the health of a company is unpredictable, but they should always be able to trust their leaders to make the best decisions for everyone when times get tough. Be transparent about difficult calls, and put people before profit. According to Sinek, that's what sets good leaders apart.

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #134 (#2006 - 2020)

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 #2006 - Make “Professional Development” Part of the Culture.
For some organizations, professional development may be evidenced, in part, by a visible commitment to lifelong learning, the tendency towards insatiable curiosity, and a personal determination to constantly evolve, transform, and progress.

For others, professional development may follow a prescriptive, easily measurable track along a well-worn career path. However, in either case, professional development isn’t just about building relevant job skills—it’s about being driven to be better today than you were yesterday and finding new ways to contribute intellect, energy, and creative ideas to the organization’s collective talent pool.

Lean Tip #2007 - Show Your Team Members That You Support Them And Are Committed To Helping Them Realize Their Goals.
The importance of demonstrating to team members that you truly care about them as individuals, that you want to help them improve their professional skills, and that you support them being architects of personally satisfying careers simply cannot be overstated.

Leaders who ask for their employees’ input when constructing development plans will gain commitment, loyalty, and respect from their team members. Leaders who treat their employees as extra bodies, on the other hand, will not manage to retain talented people for very long.

It’s crucial for leaders to listen, and listen well, to what employees really want from their jobs and their perception of how they can contribute to the organization.

Although it seems like a small gesture, leaders who ask employees to be actively involved in the creation of their personal development plans show these employees that their opinions matter and that they are at least partially responsible for ensuring that their careers are challenging and meaningful.

Lean Tip #2008 - Challenge Workers Regularly
Challenging your staff members on a regular basis is another good way to help them become good leaders. After all, those in top positions need to know how to think on their feet, deal with challenging situations and people, and work out how to perform unfamiliar tasks. The sooner employees are tested in this area, the sooner they can grow stronger. In addition, when you test people, you quickly learn where their true capabilities lie, and where they still need some assistance.

Look for ways to assign your workers tasks which will push them past their current level of skill or knowledge. It is important to ensure the assignments you give people have some kind of inherent risk involved, to really up the ante. Be on hand to assist if necessary, but try to take a back-seat approach as much as possible so that employees strive to achieve the desired outcomes, and learn some important lessons along the way.

Lean Tip #2009 - Create Coaching Opportunities.
Great leaders should be good coaches, as well. A large part of coaching is tied to being able to provide effective feedback that is timely, specific, relevant, frequent, and actionable. Providing this type of feedback without micro-managing is a fine line leaders must learn how to walk.

Building positive relationships with team members helps open up opportunities for coaching. People learn better and are more willing to accept criticism from those they trust.

Performance reviews often present opportunities to coach employees. The key to being a great leader is being able to tie performance and development together. This keeps the conversation positive and focused on what is best for both employee and organization.

Leaders should look for opportunities to coach staff as part of their day-to-day work. Good coaches listen, ask open-ended questions, offer support, and encourage employees to push for alternative solutions.

Lean Tip #2010 - Bridge the Gap Between Knowledge and Action
One of the biggest mistakes organizations too often make is failing to bridge the gap between knowledge and action. In other words, they expend generous amounts of time and money on training, but don’t give employees a timely opportunity to transfer the knowledge they’ve acquired into action.

You can increase the odds that your employees will convert knowledge into action by setting them up for success. Always enable employees to debrief before they leave any training session.

Ask questions like “What will you do differently now that you know X?” Host follow-up meetings with your team to see what progress they’re making. Simple things like these can have a significant impact.

Lean Tip #2011 - 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.

Lean Tip #2112 - Coach in the Moment.
Learning is best when things are occurring in the moment. If an employee comes to you with a question about a process or protocol, use this opportunity to teach them something new.

Most people learn best by doing, so coach as you go! If you’re busy at the moment, try to schedule some time for later that day. They will appreciate that you took the time to show them how it’s done, and they can now coach others who have the same question.

Lean Tip #2113 - Reward Improvement
Workplace rewards can sometimes present a tricky problem: you want to let an employee know that you recognize and appreciate their improvement without seeming like you’re patronizing them. Sometimes, leaders think that gifts are the best ways to show appreciation, but often verbal praise, bonuses, or even the promise of career advancement (should the good work continue) are more effective in motivating teammates.

In short: make a clear statement that good work is recognized within the workplace—and not just with a gift card to the coffee shop around the corner.

Lean Tip #2114 - Collaborate and Share on Problem-solving
When employees get the idea that their manager or leader is the one who has to solve all the problems, it takes away from their sense of empowerment, and ultimately is likely to decrease engagement over time. Encourage team members to take responsibility, and work through problems or issues on their own, or collaboratively. It’s not the manager’s job to fix everyone else’s problems.

Lean Tip #2115 - Train and Develop Employees
Reducing training, or cutting it all together, might seem like a good way to save company time and money (learning on the job is said to be an effective way to train, after all). However, this could ultimately backfire. Forcing employees to learn their jobs on the fly can be extremely inefficient. So, instead of having workers haphazardly trying to accomplish a task with zero guidance, take the extra day to teach them the necessary skills to do their job. This way, they can set about accomplishing their tasks on their own, and your time won’t be wasted down the road answering simple questions or correcting errors.

Past their original training, encourage continued employee development. Helping them expand their skillsets will build a much more advanced workforce, which will benefit your company in the long run. There are a number of ways you can support employee development: individual coaching, workshops, courses, seminars, shadowing or mentoring, or even just increasing their responsibilities. Offering these opportunities will give employees additional skills that allow them to improve their efficiency and productivity.

Lean Tip #2116 - Evaluate and Reflect on Your Goals.
The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we’ll get there is to know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. So first, take some time to think through and write down your current situation; then ask this question on each key point: Is that OK?

The purpose of evaluation is twofold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for life. Secondly, it shows you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. Evaluation gives you a baseline to work from.

Take a couple of hours this week to evaluate and reflect. See where you are and write it down so that as the months progress and you continue a regular time of evaluation and reflection, you will see just how much ground you’re gaining—and that will be exciting!

Lean Tip #2117 - Set Goals That Motivate You
When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an "I must do this" attitude. When you don't have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive "I can't do anything or be successful at anything" frame of mind.

Lean Tip #2118 - Believe in Yourself
It’s important that you believe in yourself and in your ability to reach your goals.

Naturally, you can begin to realize that you have already accomplished many goals in your life. You already have amazing qualities that make you a genius, even if you may not believe it, yet.

The only person standing between you and success is yourself.

You do not even necessarily have to know how you will accomplish your goal, much like babies do not have to read books on walking in order to start walking.

They simply do until they succeed.

Lean Tip #2119 - Take Action to Achieve Your Goals
While visualization and affirmations are highly effective in propelling you toward your goals, you also have to take action each and every day.

The more action you take, the faster you will achieve your goals. Just by reading these words, you can become aware of all the steps you can take, right now, to achieve your goals.

You can begin to move toward your dream life. It may seem hard at first, but as you keep going, the fog will clear and you will start to feel better and better.

Lean Tip #2220 – Adapt and Adjust Your Goals
As you work on your daily mini goals and toward the bigger goal, be willing to adapt. Make the mini goals more difficult if they seem too easy. Make them easier if they become too taxing.

The main thing is that if your brain deems the mini goal to be too difficult, you'll quit. If it's too easy, you're running in place. Find the middle so you have advancement each day.


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Friday, January 4, 2019

Lean Quote: Learning is Change. Change is Learning.

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 the end result of all true learning..." — Leo Buscaglia

Isn’t that the truth? Many CEOs attempt to change their companies either through a series of quick fixes or complex business models. History has demonstrated that most of these attempts fail or, at best, the benefits from these attempts are only temporary. All successful business transformations I have witnessed are based on a simple transformation model that focuses on the education and development of people and is tied to the company’s vision. 

During times of change, leaders need to be relentless learners themselves, examining everything from their own professional habits to the methods and processes that their learning teams deploy. Change often requires a forceful response, and whether it's implementing a new model or tool, or seeking to better understand how new learners in the workforce access, retain, and apply learning, you should be investigating and staying abreast of it. Become a student of change management and the concept of change itself. Take the time to learn everything you can about case studies in which others have successfully navigated similar climates of transformation. 

Often we invest our time and money in a learning event only to find that when we return to our daily work, we keep doing the same things. It all sounds so good, and you are so excited to put the new methods and tools you have learned into practice, but when you get back to the workplace, the boss is still asking the same questions and expecting the same results. The processes in your workplace could also be different than those described in the class, causing you to struggle with how to apply what you have learned in your environment.

Learning is not an event – it’s a process. The classroom is important, but the fact is that most learning takes place when we apply the tools and techniques we discovered in the learning event. Learning is a process of alignment, assimilation and application. 

Thirty years ago, Peter Senge introduced the idea of the “learning organization.” Now he says that for big companies to change, we need to stop thinking like mechanics and to start acting like gardeners. I will always remember an old friend and mentor who taught me: “Things are easy to fix, people take time.” Invest in your people, and you will be successful! 



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