Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! Take a Moment to Be Thankful

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

Most of All
Thanksgiving Day brings to mind

the blessings in our lives
that usually go unnoticed:
a home that surrounds us
with comfort and protection;
delicious food, for pleasure
in both eating and sharing;
clothes to snuggle up in,
books and good entertainment
to expand our minds;
and freedom to worship our God.
Most of all we are thankful
for our family and friends,
those treasured people
who make our lives extra special.
You are part of that cherished group.
On Thanksgiving, (and every day)
we appreciate you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Joanna Fuchs

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, may we vow to live not just this day but every day with a grateful heart and to use our blessings to bless others.

I would be remiss if I did not take time to thank all of you for reading, following, and supporting A Lean Journey Blog. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to share my journey in Lean with you. You make sharing my thoughts more rewarding than I would have imagined.   

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Monday, November 24, 2014

No MAS - How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) From Bad Meetings

Every day, we allow our coworkers, who are otherwise very, very nice people, to steal from us. I'm talking about time. Your time. In fact, I believe that we are in the middle of a global epidemic of a terrible new illness known as MAS: Mindless Accept Syndrome. The primary symptom of Mindless Accept Syndrome is just accepting a meeting invitation the minute it pops up in your calendar.

No MAS! — An epidemic of bad, inefficient, overcrowded meetings is plaguing the world’s businesses — and making workers miserable. David Grady has some ideas on how to stop it. 
  1. Don't automatically accept meeting invitations. 
  2. Instead, email the meeting holder and ask to help them create an agenda, etc. 
  3. If enough people do that often enough, respectfully, people might start to be a little bit more thoughtful about the way they put together meeting invitations.
People just might start to change their behavior because you changed yours.

Efficient meetings are the result of careful planning by the meeting planner. Make your meetings more effective with the use of SPACER as a meeting framework

Use SPACER (Safety, Purpose, Agenda, Conduct, Expectations, and Roles & Responsibilities) as a technique to improve team meeting efficiency and effectiveness.

Safety – is always the top priority, discuss safety protocols like evacuation, PPE or safety equipment needed in the facility, bathroom location, etc.

Purpose – "what is the meeting for?", discuss what is in scope and what might not be.

Agenda – no matter what type of meeting or for how long there should be some sort of plan.

Conduct – what are the rules the team participants should adhere to while in the meeting like cell phone us, side discussions, etc.

Expectations – what do we expect to get out of this meeting especially if it is a training session?

Roles – what are the roles of the participants in the meeting, is there a note taker or time keeper for example. 

One of the biggest challenges to meeting effectiveness is we are essentially creatures of habit. We do things this way because we have always done things this way – status quo. 

Take David Grady's advice to change status quo. Don't lose your time. No MAS!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Lean Quote: There is No Secret to Success

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.

"It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.— Ward Beecher

Success is one of those things that just about everybody wants, but not nearly as many people do what it takes to achieve. It’s the reason why so many people search for a “secret to success”; they want it, but they’re afraid of what it might take to get there. They’re looking for an easy path; a magic pill that will solve all their problems along the way and give them what they want with minimal effort.

Well, I’ve got news for you.

There is no magic pill. There is no easy path. There is no secret to success.

You have to work, and you have to work hard.

Lots of people prepare for what they want to do. In my experience, that is usually the easiest part of the job. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

Fewer people will truly work hard. They’ll build strength, endurance, strategy, and all sorts of tricky skills. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

A person, with a bit of basic preparation and a willingness to work, a person who is willing to learn can get a great deal accomplished. By learning from their experiences, failures become stepping stones to success.

If you can stay with it, persevere in face of repeated failures (and learn from each one), there is very little limit to what you can accomplish.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

10 Dimensions of A Creative Climate

A change of culture occurs when people start behaving differently as a result of a change in the climate of the organization. Altering a company’s workplace environment is the most direct way to develop and manage employees’ creativity. Improving the organizational climate for creativity and innovation can effectively promote problem solving in a company and thereby increase its productivity and competitiveness.

Research around creative culture and general climate has led to the identification of key areas on which companies can focus to develop an effective climate in which people are not only creative, but where they are motivated to develop these ideas into value-adding contributions to the success of the whole organization.

Swedish researcher Göran Ekvall identified 10 climate dimensions (nine positively correlated, and one negatively correlated) that affect creativity in organizations.     

To do anything, people must feel motivated, an internal need to act. The climate of the organization thus must provide the cues and forces that lead people into the deep motivation that is required to push through from idea to end product.

Challenge and Involvement
The degree to which people are involved in daily operations and long term goals. The climate has a dynamic, electric and inspiring quality. People find meaning in their work and are intrinsically motivated to invest much energy. The opposite is a feeling of alienation, indifference, apathy and lack of interest.
Most people here strive to do a good job

Playfulness and Humor
Spontaneity and ease displayed in the workplace. Relaxed atmosphere where jokes and laughter occur often. Fun at work. Easy going.

Opposite is seriousness, stiff and gloomy atmosphere. Laughter is improper

People here have a sense of humor.

Once people are motivated to be creative, they need the environment in which they can be creative.

Independence in behavior. Autonomy to define much of work. Taking initiative. Opposite - strict guidelines and roles. Work carried out in prescribed ways with little room to redefine their tasks.

People here make choices about their own work.

Idea Time
Amount of time can use and do use for elaborating ideas. Possibilities exist to discuss and test impulses that are not planned or included in task assignment. Slack.
Opposite - every minute booked. Time pressures make thinking outside instructions and planned routines impossible.

One has the opportunity to stop work here in order to test new ideas

Idea Support
The ways new ideas are treated - attentive, listened to, encouraged. Constructive & positive atmosphere.
Opposite automatic 'no' prevailing, suggestions refuted by counter argument. Fault finding usual style.

People here receive support and encouragement when presenting new ideas.

Alongside a motivated and empowered organization, a harder edge is needed that drives forward towards success.

Getting an idea from first notion to final product can be a long and arduous process. This requires a dynamic environment in which people are energized and constantly pushing forward. You can walk into many workplaces and feel the lack of energy and enthusiasm, whilst others have a definite, almost palpable buzz about them.

Buzz and energy comes from the leaders of the organization. This includes the formal management and informal social leaders. People look to these leaders for cues in how they behave. If the leader is full of energy and enthusiasm, then this emotion will 'infect' others and the motivation will spread through the organization.

Personal & emotional tension. Conflict high. Interpersonal warfare. Plots, traps, power struggles. Slander, gossip.

Opposite is more mature, deal effectively with diversity.

There is a great deal of personal tension here

Discussion of opposing opinions and sharing diversity of perspectives.

Opposite - follow authoritarian patterns without questioning. Groupthink.

Many different points of view are shared here during discussion.

Trust & Openness
Emotional safety in relationships. When a level of trust, individuals can be open and frank with each other.. Can count for personal support. Have respect. Opposite is suspicion, closely guarded, cannot communicate openly.
People here do not steal each others ideas.

Risk Taking Tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity in workplace. Bold new initiatives taken when outcomes unknown. Take a gamble, out on a limb.

Opposite is cautious, hesitant mentality. Sleep on it, safe side. Committees to cover themselves before making a decision.

People here feel as though they can take bold action even if the outcome is unclear.

If a company wants to become more creative, rather than just encouraging people or teaching tools, then perhaps the best way is to develop the organizational climate. Rather than telling the plants to grow, this is about tending to the soil in which they can become what they are capable of becoming.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Every Quality Professional A Leader

This month on ASQ’s blog Bill Troy presents the idea that “Every quality professional a leader.” Like a lot of fundamentally important concepts, this sounds simple and straightforward but needs to be thought out a bit.  In short, we want, need, and expect every one of our members—and indeed, every person in the quality community—to grow and develop as leaders.

When you hear the word “leadership” what comes to mind? There are numerous definitions of leadership. For me leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. Effective leadership comes down to people. It is about the ability to successfully engage and maximize all human resources for the attainment that vision.

Organizations need leaders who know how to serve their people. A servant leader -- one who wants to serve first and lead second -- strives to create a work environment in which people can truly express these deepest of inner drives. Servant leadership entails a deep belief that people are the greatest asset any organization has, and to nurture their individual growth becomes the basis for all organizational development. That growth goes far beyond the limited dimension of financial benefit -- it dives into our core motivations as people.

People want to be engaged and also have some level of control over their environment. A servant leader recognizes that the people doing the work generally have the best ideas about how to improve the processes they participate in. Through tools like rapid improvement events and PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) suggestion systems, servant leaders practice participatory decision-making, empowering employees to be innovators and co-creators in positive change. Such leaders are also enablers; they spend a significant amount of time at the workplace, making direct observations, and then striving to create systemic improvements that add value to the work of their employees.

When you become a manager, supervisor, or team leader, the game changed.  You're now held to a higher level of accountability than before.  In fact, everything you do is exaggerated; you are under a magnifying glass.  And when you're down, they're down.  When you're up, they're up.  You set the tone... you shape the environment in which all can be successful.

A leader must be a good teacher. Leaders must be able to be good teachers to share insights and experiences. Leaders can inspire, motivate, and influence subordinates at various levels through the use of teaching ability. Obviously, one must be a good communicator in order to be an effective teacher. Without the ability to clearly and effectively communicate a message, goal, story, or philosophy, it is impossible to lead.

Leaders are nothing without people. Put another way, people will make or break you as a leader. You’ll either treat them well, earn their trust, respect and loyalty, or you won’t. You’ll either see people as capital to be leveraged or humans to be developed and fulfilled. You’ll either view yourself as superior to your employees, or as one whose job it is to serve them, learn from them, and leave them be better off for being led by you.

The best leaders don’t put people in a box – they free them from boxes. Ultimately, a leader’s job isn’t to create followers, but to strive for ubiquitous leadership. Average leaders spend time scaling processes, systems, and models – great leaders focus on scaling leadership.

Good leadership is not reflected in the leader’s actions, it is reflected in the impact and effect of those actions on the team. A leader should adapt to the environment and what the team needs today without losing sight of what will be needed tomorrow and always preparing for that moment when he or she will no longer be there. Guaranteeing the growth and sustainability of the team and the individuals that comprise it beyond the leader’s time is the ultimate trait of a great leader.

The reality is anyone can lead, but very few lead well. If you want to lead well, you can't forget the human component.

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, November 14, 2014

Lean Quote: Some Want it to Happen, Others Make it Happen

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.

"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.— Michael Jordan

Too often improvement is left to chance and the ingenuity of the willing to eke out small pockets of time — and make magic happen. We all know these people. They see the vision burning brightly before them and are determined to make it happen. Time and again, these people prove — with their own mental, emotional, and physical health — the familiar adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In a sad and important way, these quiet heroes do their companies and the rest of us some bit of harm. When they make magic happen, they unintentionally send the message that improvement time is not needed. Wise, indeed, is the company that sees through this double-think and takes steps to establish an improvement policy nevertheless.

Improvement doesn’t just happen.  It takes time, and in the pressure pot of our day to day activities, there is never enough time to improve our situation. The structure of Lean permits and requires time be set aside for improvement. If managers do not definitively provide time for the task of improvement, then people will know that they are not serious about making improvement a formal part of the work.

Most of us don't set aside time in the day, much less the week, just to improve. It doesn't take much time or skill, mainly just will. We need to be encouraged and reminded that it only takes a few minutes to do kaizen. Without assistance from management, people have no good way to make time for improvement within the workday.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5 Emotional Abilities All Leaders Need

I have found that the best leaders for Lean have high level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. Leaders must be more emotionally intelligent to be more effective and efficient at maximizing outcomes and desired results. The ability to express and control our own emotions is important, but so is our ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.

Lean managers must have effective capability in the following domains to be successful:

The ability to read your own emotions and recognizing when they are negatively affecting performance and when gut instinct can be used to guide decisions.

The ability to control your emotional responses and avoid impulsive behaviors.  Self-regulation allows you to adapt to changing circumstances appropriately.

The ability to sense, understand, and react appropriately to the emotions of others.

Social Skills
The ability to communicate with people, inspire them, influence them, and effectively manage conflict.

The ability to remain outwardly motivated even when under pressure, tired, or faced by complex challenges.

Without emotional intelligence it will be very difficult to implement Lean successfully, because the behavior of leaders will work against its adoption. The more senior a person is, the more important it is that they have mastered and understood emotional intelligence.

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