Wednesday, May 23, 2018

9th Year Blogging - Happy Anniversary!

Nine years ago told I started a journey that has become this blog. Today, marks the 9th anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog. I had no idea then what I was getting into or that I'd still be doing this nine years later.  Frankly, I wasn't sure anyone would read what I wrote never mind find value in it. It truly has been a wonderful experience and full of opportunities.

This labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you. I've been fortunate to meet so many great people from experts to layman (like myself) along the way who've taught me so much.

After 9 years I'd like to think this simple blog has been a success. It has been a valued contribution in the Lean Community with over a million visitors.  Many articles are frequently shared and many key word searches lead to A Lean Journey Blog. Less then 10% of the blogs I read 9 years ago (which got me started) are still publishing articles. The number of returning visitors has increased every year for the last 5 years. I get great feedback from many of you which motivates me to continue.

Some may be asking how do you define success for a blog?  I think like most publications it is basically about audience.  Are you growing followers? Are people reading your posts? So like in previous years we can look at the number visitors, Facebook fan, tweeps on Twitter, and LinkedIn members as an indication of growth.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 1622

Most read post:  The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process with over 29,750 views

followed by DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 28,100 views

and by What Do We Mean By True Northwith over 20,700 views

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  219

Top 3 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 48%
United Kingdom – 8%
India – 5%

Total views:  Over 1,290,113 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 1,009,562

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 2,046

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,573

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,203

Total Tips Shared: Over 1885

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this year and every year.  It has been a successful journey. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful in the future.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Guest Post: The PDCA Cycle and Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is all about continuously improving work processes by identifying and eliminating waste, and the PDCA cycle is one of the most valuable tools in the Lean toolbox. The PDCA cycle, also commonly referred to as the Deming circle, is a four-step system with the same principles as all Lean methodologies: improve work processes and eliminate waste for maximum efficiency. If you’re considering implementing Lean principles or logistics to your facility, this cycle is a great introduction to it.

PDCA is an acronym of the four separate stages: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

Plan: In the first step, you will assess the current state of the process, and look for any possible improvements. Observe the workflow and talk to employees for insight. If a problem is identified, examine it carefully and develop potential solutions. it is important to gather as much information as you can in this step to help you make informed decisions about how to proceed.

Do: It’s time to try out the solutions you brainstormed in the first step. Make sure everyone involved understands the changes. These changes are usually small, a

Check: Follow up with the changes implemented and record relevant data. Analyze the new state of the process and compare it to how things were before. Charting or graphing this information could make it easier to identify trends for the next step.

Act: If you found the changes to be effective, make them the standard! If the changes show no improvement, the process will remain the same. Either way, this is important information to be utilized in future PDCA cycles.

The PDCA cycle is such a valuable system because although it is a specific set of steps, there is still a good deal of flexibility. The cycle can be practiced by virtually anyone in the company, at any level of an organization, and can address a number of problems or changes. Additionally, the PDCA cycle can be tailored to fit the needs of your facility. Your company should establish specific “sub-steps” that will help your unique situation. The more you outline the that need to happen during each part of the cycle, the better things will go.

The specific phases balanced with a great deal of flexibility can understandably lead to some confusion. The following are some FAQs about the PCDA:

Who should be trained on the cycle?
Anyone working within the company should understand what the PCDA cycle is and how it works. Managers, team leaders, and workers on the floor should all have at least a basic understanding of the cycle and be prepared to hit the ground running no matter the step of the process. It will make the implementation of changes smoother and more efficient.

What changes should go through the PDCA cycle?
Making the PDCA cycle mandatory for all changes that occur within the company could be very beneficial for your facility. Workers will have more opportunities to participate in different stages of the cycle and will set a standard and formalized process for future changes made.

When should I use the cycle?
Although you can use the PDCA cycle in nearly any instance of change or improvement, there are specific areas where the cycle is most beneficial. Some key instances include:
·       The beginning of a new project
·       The automation a repetitive process
·       Organizing
·       Eliminating specific wastes

How many times should I use the cycle?
PDCA is continuous with no real end in sight. Once a cycle is completed, you can start looking for further solutions to implement in the future. Continue using it on a specific area until the change has been fully implemented and optimized.

How will I know the effectiveness of the changes?

It’s all about data and accurately measuring results. By documenting results with each change, company leadership and management can clearly see the benefits of this methodology and will help give you the data needed to ensure this process continues long into the future. 

About the Author: Jesse Allred is a blog writer for Creative Safety Supply leaders in visual safety and Lean manufacturing resources. She enjoys sharing information and advice for facilities to achieve efficiency while keeping employees safe.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Lean Quote: 10 Leadership Lessons From Jack Welch

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.

"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." — Jack Welch

If you've ever managed people, chances are you've had your share of sure-fire leadership successes, along with a few tough missteps and "wish I had knowns" — and probably learned a thing or two from all of three.

Leadership is all about growing others. It's about your team and its welfare. It's about your direct reports and their performance.

Jack Welch was head of General Electric over two decades before he retired in 2001. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful industrial leaders of the modern age, having increased the value of GE by some 4000% to several hundred billion during his tenure.

He's a veritable leadership guru. So what does he say is the key to being a successful leader?

Jack Welch shared 10 leadership lessons, in no particular order:
  1. Your company's values and your personal values must be compatible.
  2. Differentiation breeds meritocracy. Sameness breeds mediocrity.
  3. In a performance culture, actions have to have consequences — positive or negative.
  4. Creating an environment of candor and trust is a must.
  5. Attracting, developing and retaining world-class talent is your never-ending job.
  6. You must distinguish between coachable development needs in your people and fatal flaws.
  7. Simple, consistent, focused communications travel faster and are understood better by the organization.
  8. There is nothing more developmental and illuminating than dealing with adversity.
  9. Over time, you have to develop a real generosity gene — and love to see each person on your team earn raises, get promotions and grow personally.
  10. Continuous learning is critical for success — make it a priority.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

9 Team Roles for High Performance Teams

Composing a good team is a complex text. After (40) years of study, Dr. Raymond Meredith Belbin designed a nearly ideal team composition. Belbin suggests that, by understanding your role within a particular team, you can develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses as a team member, and so improve how you contribute to the team.

Belbin’s team roles are based on a study that examined personality traits, intellectual styles and behaviors within teams. The team roles evolved from the clusters or patterns of these that emerged during the study. The 9 team roles are usually further classified into Action oriented, People oriented, and Thought oriented roles. Given below are the 9 roles outlined in the Belbin team roles model and the descriptions that explain the scope of each role:

Action Oriented Role:
Action oriented roles focus on improving team’s performance, putting ideas into action, and meeting deadlines. The three action-oriented roles are:
Implementer – The implementer’s strength lies in translating the team’s decisions and ideas into manageable and practical tasks or actions.
Shaper (Task Leader) – The shaper’s strength lies in being goal directed. The shaper is a dynamic individual who boldly challenges others during discussions, can handle work pressures and has the courage to overcome obstacles.
Completer/Finisher - The completer/finisher’s strength lies in meticulousness, attention to detail and the ability to meet deadlines.

People Skills Oriented Role: 
People oriented roles bring people and ideas together. The three people oriented roles are:
Coordinator - The coordinator’s strength lies in enabling and facilitating interaction and decision making.
Team Worker - The team worker’s strength lies in being a good listener, being collaborative, co-operative, easy going and tactful.
Resource Investigator - The resource investigator’s strength lies in being an extrovert who can develop contacts, communicate well, explore new ideas and opportunities, and bring enthusiasm and drive to the team effort.

Cerebral/Intellectual Role: 
Thought oriented roles analyze options and provide technical expertise. The three cerebral roles are:
Planter - The planter’s strength lies in problem solving and out-of-the-box thinking.
Monitor/Evaluator - The monitor/evaluator’s strength lies in good judgment and good strategic thinking ability.
Specialist – The specialist’s strength lies in being a dedicated and focused individual who likes to learn and constantly build his or her knowledge. The specialist likes to dig deep and is therefore a good resource who can contribute information and knowledge in a team situation.

The team roles identified by Belbin are based on certain patterns of behavior that people exhibit within teams. These patterns of behavior can potentially have an impact on the performance of the team. The basic premise of the Belbin team roles theory is quite simple. When individuals become aware of their own strengths and abilities, and understand the role that he or she is capable of playing within a team, it helps them to deal better with the demands of the team environment.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Leaders Build Teams Not Groups

Any collection of people can form a group – a group of tourists, a group of spectators, a management group. Management groups usually call themselves management teams. Often they are only groups. But it’s a basketball team that wins a medal; a surgical team that performs an operation. You don’t hear of basketball or soccer groups.

A group of unrelated (tourist), uncoordinated (spectators), or under a traditional hierarchical system (management). A team operates with skilled coordination. Its members share common goals and values. They are mutually supportive. They work together and communicate regularly. They actively participate. There is a strong sense of common purpose and consensus-seeking.

No leader has all the skills. The skills a team has complement those of the leader. Combining complementary skills capitalizes on the natural formation of groups, turning them into teams. A successful team is a portrait of diversity: diverse, professional backgrounds, experience, temperament, intelligence, behavior, extroversion, introversion, dominance, emotional stability. People with identical ideas and reactions, “yes-men,” or just clever people won’t make a good team.

By forming his or her team(s), a leader replace individualist, competitive management style with a more trusting and cooperative style. Selection is the most important. Without the right people nothing is possible.

The advantages of a team:
  • Input of many people of diverse skills
  • Getting the best out of each other
  • Diverse experience, knowledge, and judgement
  • Not dependent on any individual (succession planning)
  • Self-regeneration by recruitment
  • Passing experience to new members

A team is made from the right climate and characteristics:
  • Mutual trust and cooperation
  • Openness and reciprocal support
  • Disagreement without conflict
  • Elimination of status differences
  • Leveling of human differences

  • Mixed composition of 6 to 9 people
  • Regular face-to-face meetings with frequent interaction
  • No “us” and “them”
  • Clear purpose, commitment, and identification with each other
  • Structured and divergent, but disciplined
  • Mutual care among team players, with a will to do the job well so others do theirs

It’s like the analogy of a conductor and his orchestra. To harmonize all instruments, the orchestra needs a conductor. Teams also need a conductor – a leader – to coordinate, resolve conflicts, and unite the team to a common purpose. It requires great interpersonal skill. Leading a team is a good experience, a stepping stone to higher leadership.

You can’t make a good soccer team out of the eleven best goalkeepers. You need good players of different skills.

In the next post I’ll discuss the composition and roles of a team and how to use them to be successful.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Lean Quote: Mothers are Wise and Always Right

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." — Washington Irving

Mothers are wise and always right. We all know this from our experience. For, we have all grown up on the wisdoms and advice of our moms. Some of these advices, rather lessons remain with us forever and keep guiding us.

Odds are, you have a few gems from your mother rolling around in your head. (“Chew with your mouth closed.” “Stand up straight!” “Would it kill you to brush your hair?”)

But how can you put into words how much the woman who wiped your dirty bum, tied your shoes, and made you countless PB&Js really means to you?  Here are just some of the pearls of wisdom passed down from generation to generation that you’ll never forget.

Just Be a Good Person

  • If you help someone, don’t expect anything in return, and don’t even make a reference about it.
  • There is always someone taller than you, smarter than you and faster than you. Be your best you.
  • Tomorrow is another day. Everything looks so much better after a good night’s sleep.
  • If you can’t say something nice, think harder.
  • Do something good for someone else every single day, and don’t tell anyone you did it.
  • Smile — no one likes a sourpuss.

Words of Wisdom

  • Always ask yourself, who’s going to remember this 100 years from now?
  • There’s always a difference between need and want.
  • There’s just one word to remember: moderation.
  • Be safe. Be savvy. Be smart. Be shrewd. Be sure.
  • This, too, shall pass.
  • Don’t live in the past; you can’t change it. Focus on the future, and live in the present.
  • Be on your best behavior when you’re out in public because they (whoever observed bad behavior) may not know which “Devlin” you are, but they will know who your parents are.


  • Tell the truth. It’s easier to remember than telling a lie.
  • Everyone’s got something. Don’t prejudge. Everyone has vulnerability. Some just hide it under a lot more covers than others.
  • You’re more powerful than you know.
  • Pick your battles in life. Not everything is worth fighting for.
  • You make your own luck.
  • There is no influence so powerful as that of a mother.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #124 (#1861-1875)

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 #1861 - Remember That Feedback is a Gift.
Employees want feedback. They deserve information that can help them achieve their goals and the organization’s. Giving regular feedback will help create the team engagement you need to increase your organization’s performance. Let them know what they do well so they can keep doing those things with confidence. Suggest course corrections to help them use their time and effort most efficiently.

Lean Tip #1862 - Talk and Listen More.
Communication (especially in today’s email-driven workplace) is often one-way. Conversation, on the other hand, is about dialogue between two or more people. Conversation drives clarity. It is by far the most effective vehicle for providing performance feedback and increasing your team’s engagement levels. It is the only way to efficiently generate new ideas for increasing business results and personal job satisfaction. It helps prevent misunderstandings. It builds trust.

Lean Tip #1863 - Match Projects, Passion, and Proficiency.
Every person comes to work with a different combination of personal values, talents, and goals, which they are looking to satisfy on the job. They don’t necessarily want a lofty title, a higher salary, or your job. If you can help them connect what’s important to them with what’s important to the organization, you can increase their engagement levels and make a positive impact on their job satisfaction, commitment, and contribution.

Lean Tip #1864 - Provide Autonomy
Change affects people and teams differently, but in general, people want to have control over their work environment. Empower managers and employees to incorporate change in the way that makes the most sense for them/their team. Give them permission to find their own solutions to implement the change.

Lean Tip #1865 - Insist on Accountability
Establishing real goals that inspire ownership and commitment can be a strong motivational tactic. It can also help improve employee engagement by as much as 20%. In fact, performance management is the number two driver of employee engagement (after career opportunities), and studies show that people who set motivational goals are up to 75% more fulfilled in their jobs than those who set routine goals (as in, just working through your daily To-Do list). Working together with employees to set short, long-term, and stretch goals—realistic, yet aspirational targets that encourage employees to test their skills and leave their comfort zone without setting them up for failure—can provide outstanding motivation to keep them engaged over the long term.

Lean Tip #1866 - Encourage Transparency
Transparency starts at the top. Management can help improve information sharing in the workplace by encouraging transparency in their own ranks to help it trickle down to employees. Where employees may be reticent to share information in the workplace, once a manager breaks the ice by sharing their own company information, their subordinates are more likely to follow suit. Management should make meaningful steps to take the lead in sharing and disseminating company information.

Lean Tip #1867 - Explain the Why
Often leaders come up with a great idea, plan it, implement it, and may even communicate it, but they may not think to explain why a particular initiative makes sense for any given time.

This requires communicating from the 50,000 foot level and making sure employees understand why something is done and how it supports business goals and organizational strategy.

Lean Tip #1868 - Enable Company-wide Conversations
So many companies are built on top-down communication from management. Employees in this environment feel there is no purpose in taking a stand, since they have no direct channel and don't feel they'll have an impact. As a leader, you may have clear direction and more experience, but that doesn't invalidate feedback and ideas from people on the front lines. Give employees structured ways to make their thoughts, feelings and observations known easily and regularly. Help them understand that their input is valued even if you decide to go a different way. Make sure you acknowledge them for sharing and reward valuable input that helps the company.

Lean Tip #1869 - Put the Numbers Into Perspective – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Most leaders carry lots of information in their brains. Unfortunately, many employees don't get the benefit of all that information, yet they are expected to take action and make good decisions as if they understood every nuance. Great leaders figure out how to extract the important information from their minds and share it in a structured and consistent manner. An employee who clearly understands the core values, purpose and direction of the company can easily make consistent decisions and take appropriate action at any junction. It's on you as the leader to impart your vision. That's how you lead.

Lean Tip #1870 - Be Proactive and Seek Support
Once the results have been shared, request input for action steps to work on areas requiring improvement or outline steps or processes that will be implemented to address shortcomings. Encourage employees to share responsibility for coming up with ideas so they contribute the outcome. Determine what success or improvement looks like in specific and measurable terms.

Lean Tip #1871 - Encourage Safe Failure
Many employees, by their very nature, are risk-adverse.  That's why they are employees and not entrepreneurs. If they work in an environment where the boss is always correcting them before they have a chance to execute, they will constantly look for approval before taking action or, worse, simply avoid any new or dynamic action. Give employees the opportunity to try new things in a way that doesn't put the company in danger. Create milestone checkpoints or set up laboratory environments where people can test new ideas and learn from the failures as well as the successes. Then your employees will gain understanding and feel comfortable innovating.

Lean Tip #1872 - Support Employee Independence
A leader who is constantly looking over the shoulder of employees is little more than a babysitter. Give your employees reasons and opportunity to stretch out on their own and even lead others. They may stumble, but they'll learn a lot and build the respect of their colleagues while preparing to be great empowering leaders themselves someday.

Lean Tip #1873 - Appreciate Employee Efforts
Yes, it's true that people get paid for the job. But the best employees don't work at your company just for the money. Empowered people need a greater level of satisfaction than simply financial stability. They need to feel that leadership appreciates their contribution and values their participation. Don't be shy about finding ways to say "thank you" or celebrating the good things your employees do. If they have to ask how they are doing, you are doing your job poorly as a leader.

Lean Tip #1874 - Help Employees Develop Relationships.
The outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. Not allowing time for this can be a costly mistake. For example, all too often, in the rush to get started on a project, team leaders put people together and tell them to "get to work." You'll get better results if your give your group time (upfront) to get to know one another, to discover each other's strengths and weaknesses, to build personal ties, and to develop a common understanding about the project.

Lean Tip #1875 - Focus on Building Trust.

Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honored. It is also the glue that holds together any group. Leaders demonstrate their trust in employees by the open, candid, and ongoing communication that is the foundation of informed collaboration.

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