Friday, January 30, 2015

Lean Quote: A Positive Attitude Can Make All The Difference

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.

"Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference.— Mac Anderson

We are often not in control of the issues we face at work or home. Problems just present themselves. And chances are the issues you're facing aren't so cut and dry. The solution to the problem might just be your attitude. 

You can find at least two ways to look at virtually everything. A pessimist looks for difficulty in the opportunity, whereas an optimist looks for opportunity in the difficulty. Unfortunately, many people look only at the problem and not at the opportunity that lies within the problem.

Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure. A positive attitude can motivate other people to change their negative thinking and come over to your side. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.


The attitude of the leader has a huge impact on the culture, environment, and mood of the department or organization. The leader’s attitude tends to spread and affect others dramatically. A good leader has the attitude of serving his employees at all times, often at the expense of his own morale or personal needs. A good leader truly cares about the morale of the team, pushes and motivates his team with respect, a relentlessly positive attitude and with a genuine heart.


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lean Lessons - Historic Blizzard 2015 Edition


In the northeastern part of the US we have faced historic snowfall from blizzard conditions from storm Juno. This has me recalling a post I did several years ago about the Lean lessons you can learn from winter storms.

  1. Forecasts are inaccurate.  You can only count on actual demand.  We have all experienced school cancellations based on high forecasts which result in only a few inches. You can't rely on forecasts to plan your business either.
  2. Overproduction is the biggest waste.  A snowstorm with 24 inches is much harder to manage than one with a few inches.  As in snowstorms overproduction leads to other wastes in business.
  3. Waiting is inefficient.  Snowstorms often leave you stranded at home.  This means going to work and school is difficult.  Businesses can't afford this waste of valuable time.
  4. Excess processing is not productive.  Large snowstorms usually result in multiple clean-ups.  This extra trip outside to remove snow is wasteful.  Extra processing and steps in business result in lost productivity.
  5. Excess motion is dangerous.  Removing snow manually with a shovel is physical exhausting.  Excessive motion in your business can be physically and emotionally exhausting for your workers.  This overburden is referred to as Muri in Lean.
  6. Inconsistency creates difficulties. The variation in type and amount of snow fall makes snow removal and road treatment more difficult.  The methods and effort to deal with sleet (freezing rain) and heavy wet snow is quite different. In Lean we call this inconsistency in demand Mura.  Businesses would prefer predictable level demand since it is easier to manage.
  7. Preventative maintenance is essential.  If you want to be able to clean up from a storm your snow blower needs to be maintained and ready to operate.  If you want to deliver on-time to your customers then your equipment needs to be ready to produce.  Total preventative maintenance (TPM) is the program to help you do this.
  8. Inventory is necessary.  During a storm you find many people stock up on supplies because of the unpredictable nature of weather.  They want to be prepared until they can resume their normal delivery routes.  This is necessary in business as well.  Lean is about having the right amount at the right time.
Lessons in Lean thinking are all around us.  Many of us are unaware of them but if you are willing look you can learn a great deal.  Jeff Hajek and I have highlighted various Lean concepts with everyday examples like making coffeebuying milk, and driving.  Keep learning and applying Lean to make work easier.


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Monday, January 26, 2015

6 Ways to Motivate Change


Anyone who has worked in or led an organization's transformation understands change is not easy. People commonly resist change for a variety of reasons.  Although you intend for the change to result in a positive outcome, change is often viewed as negative. For your plan to be accepted, you must anticipate and overcome any negativity, anxiety and/or resistance.

As author Liz Keever explains, leaving some kind of option—even if the overall shift is still mandatory—can make people more willing to give your changes a chance. It also helps them feel like they're part of the process of making the change happen, rather than having it thrust upon them:

Change cannot happen to people. It needs to happen with people. Change must be co-created. Everyone should have some say in how the change is implemented. It is their job and their life. Let them have an element of control. If you keep lines of communication open for suggestions, you will hear lots of good ideas from the people who need to make the change happen. Use those ideas because it will build more engagement in the process. Create the change together.

Here are a few suggestions that come to mind to reduce resistance to change:

Suggestion 1: Empower employees to become part of the change.  There are several reasons people resist change, one of which is fear.  Many people play "Gee, what if" scenarios over and over when a new idea is proposed.  When you begin to implement your plan of action, it's essential that you invite those around you to identify how the change will influence them, benefit them, and improve their present situations.

Suggestion 2: Keep your employees informed.  Communicate as much as you know about what is happening as a result of the change.  One of the major reasons people resist change is fear of the unknown.  If you communicate with employees and keep them informed, you put this fear to rest.

Suggestion 3: Break the change down into digestible chunks.  If it makes it easier for employees, introduce the change gradually.  You can give employees encouragement and help them focus on small steps they can take to move toward the future.  Celebrate their small successes.

Suggestion 4: Answer the "What's in it for Me?" question.  This suggestion is similar to Suggestion 1.  Generally people will accept change when they see a personal benefit.  Employees who are involved in determining the benefits of change are less likely to resist it.  Assist employees in identifying what the change will do for them.

Suggestion 5: Give employees some control over change.  As employees begin to focus on the benefits of the desired change, provide them with the opportunity to control the steps to the change.  Participants in change workshops have revealed that having control reduces the anxiety and stress associated with the change implementation and increases their motivation to make the change.

Suggestion 6: Help employees assimilate the change.  Once employees begin to experience change, help them assimilate it by reinforcing the personal benefits they're gaining.


Change should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organization. As employees begin to demonstrate a willingness to assimilate change into their daily routine, they develop a commitment to the change, a willingness to stick to the plan of action.  The change actually becomes integrated into the work environment, and employees begin to feel a sense of satisfaction in accomplishment.  They readily see the payoffs associated with the change.  They enjoy, and may even take credit for, their participation in the process.  Employees can view their efforts to bring about change with personal respect and pride. The change becomes a part of their routine, and any lingering concerns vanish.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Lean Quote: Martin Luther King Jr - Making a Change Requires a Leap of Faith

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.

"Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.— Martin Lurther King Jr.

This week we celebrate and recognize the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK as they say was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. His quote above has always struck me as paramount to change.

I am often asked when the best time to start your Lean Journey is. Well, the short answer is now.  There is never a convenient or inconvenient time for change.

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.

Sometime, I hear “we are not ready for lean”. This is a rather circular argument, because effectively what the management is saying is that business processes are too bad and therefore it can’t implement improvement. Of course this means that the business will never improve! I have never seen a business where the processes where too bad to start improving.

Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

Many organizations are waiting for the optimum time to change.  Unfortunately, tomorrow never comes.  If you allow it you will always find another distraction.  There is never a better time to start than now.  We really must invest everyday in our future since you can't get back lost time.

Don’t spend your time trying to wait till things are perfect. Perfection is elusive. It is more important to get started. And it's better to get something done imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Daily Lean Tips Edition #73 (1096-1110)

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 #1096 - Actively promote organizational effectiveness, reputation, values and ethics
Actively promote organizational effectiveness, reputation, values and ethics – Employees want to feel good about their leaders, where they work, the products they sell and the reputation of their company.

Lean Tip #1097 - 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 #1098 - Taking Risks is Critical to a Culture of Innovation
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. 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.

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.

Lean Tip #1099 - Give Employees a Voice
Encourage your employees to make comments and suggestions. You might even consider placing a comment box in the break room. By doing so, employees will realize that their thoughts and feeling matter. If there is a personal comment or suggestion that needs to be addressed, do so immediately. Otherwise, consider trying any feasible ideas that are suggested.

Lean Tip #1100 - Remove Blame Culture – Make Failure Acceptable
Innovation is one of the key ingredients in business success and if you want to create an innovative organization you'll need to motivate your staff to show initiative, think creatively and even take some risks. But, they won't do this in a blame culture environment where employees are castigated for failure and for trying something new; they will become afraid to think creatively and won't be motivated to innovate. Companies with a blame culture are disadvantaged in relation to creativity, learning, innovation and productive risk-taking. Replace a blame culture with one of learning from mistakes. Encourage workers to own up to mistakes but with a focus on what has been learned from it. Senior managers should lead the way by owning up to mistakes to show that it is OK to fail.

Lean Tip #1101 – Goals: Specific, realistic goals work best. 
When it comes to making a change, the people who succeed are those who set realistic, specific goals. "I'm going to recycle all my plastic bottles, soda cans, and magazines" is a much more doable goal than "I'm going to do more for the environment." And that makes it easier to stick with.

Lean Tip #1102 – Goals: It takes time for a change to become an established habit. 
It will probably take a couple of months before any changes — like getting up half an hour early to exercise — become a routine part of your life. That's because your brain needs time to get used to the idea that this new thing you're doing is part of your regular routine.

Lean Tip #1103 – Goals: Repeating a goal makes it stick. 
Say your goal out loud each morning to remind yourself of what you want and what you're working for. (Writing it down works too.) Every time you remind yourself of your goal, you're training your brain to make it happen.

Lean Tip #1104 – Goals: Pleasing other people doesn't work. 
The key to making any change is to find the desire within yourself — you have to do it because you want it, not because a girlfriend, boyfriend, coach, parent, or someone else wants you to. It will be harder to stay on track and motivated if you're doing something out of obligation to another person.

Lean Tip #1105 – Goals: Roadblocks don't mean failure. 
Slip-ups are actually part of the learning process as you retrain your brain into a new way of thinking. It may take a few tries to reach a goal. But that's OK — it's normal to mess up or give up a few times when trying to make a change. So remember that everyone slips up and don't beat yourself up about it. Just remind yourself to get back on track.

Lean Tip #1106 – Create New Habit: Commit to Thirty Days
Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a good block of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.

Lean Tip #1107 – Create New Habit: Start Simple
Don’t try to completely change everything in one day. It is easy to get over-motivated and take on too much. For example, If you wanted to study two hours a day, first make the habit to go for thirty minutes and build on that.

Lean Tip #1108 – Create New Habit: Make it Daily
Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits.

Lean Tip #1109 – Create New Habit: Run it as an Experiment
Withhold judgment until after a month has past and use it as an experiment in behavior. Experiments can’t fail, they just have different results so it will give you a different perspective on changing your habit.

Lean Tip #1110 – Create New Habit: Be Imperfect
Don’t expect all your attempts to change habits to be successful immediately. It took me four independent tries before I started exercising regularly. Now I love it. Try your best, but expect a few bumps along the way.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Post: Lean Out Your Equipment


Lean manufacturing often focuses on the processes and employees. True lean manufacturing takes the entire facility into consideration. You cannot achieve your goal without looking at the equipment you are using. Here are some tips for optimizing your plant and leaning out your store of equipment.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)

The principle behind SMED, developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo, is eliminating all wasteful procedures when changing equipment over from one process to another. Without a quick-change ability, manufacturers would run all batches of one unit before changing tooling over to the next stage of the production process. While this does save time, it can create an inventory excess that detracts from lean operation.

With SMED, the external and internal tooling processes are separated into two sections. While many tooling changes, the ones included in the internal category, can only be performed while the equipment is idle, external changes can be ready and waiting. Everything needed for a changeover will be ready and in place.

Implementation may involve having a second employee ready the tools while the operator is finishing the batch in process. Having additional sets of tooling, that account for a size or tolerance difference, will improve the changeover speed. Standardizing both the equipment and the tooling improves the ability to simply remove and replace components as the work procedure changes.

Maintenance procedures to limit failures

Regular maintenance is critical to keep equipment operational. How you go about the maintenance will depend on your production choices, but the work must be performed. Some facilities will schedule set out-of-service times; others will shut down production for up to a week every few months.

In addition to following your set maintenance schedule, have all equipment inspected on a daily or shift basis. At the first sign of a problem, take the equipment out of service and have it repaired. Continuing to operate a piece of machinery showing signs of failure can lead to more damage and higher repair costs. You may also sacrifice the quality of your product, leading to a higher cost in waste.

Purchasing the right equipment

When you purchase equipment and replacement products, take the time to make sure that you are buying the quality you need. For example, replace worn wires and cables with ones designed to withstand harsh operating conditions.

If you can expect a 50 percent longer life span from a cable designed with a high-flex life and superior resistance to abrasion and chemicals, you are not only saving on the cost of the cable, but also on the labor involved in replacement.

Simply put, any breakdown of your equipment is costly. Consider the cost of the labor needed for repairs, the cost of the parts and the loss of production. When you look at it this way, the equipment you are using becomes a larger part of your lean manufacturing goal.

About the author:

Scott McNeill is the Director of Operations at TPC Wire & Cable Corp. in Macedonia, OH. TPC Wire & Cable is a leading supplier of wire, cable and connectors used in manufacturing. TPC’s products are designed and engineered to withstand harsh conditions including extreme temperatures, constant flexing and abrasion.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Lean Quote: Leader Patience

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

"A leader teaches with patience. A manager without patience is no leader.— Rafael Aguayo

Patience is a quality often lacking among today’s leaders. Society expects those in charge to take action quickly and decisively. True leaders recognize that patience enables them to take stock of the situation, to understand what is required, and wait while they build the capacity to take appropriate and effective action. Patience requires composure and character. Societal pressures for action may cause others to criticize and condemn a leader’s perceived inaction or lack of speed. People will first demand action. Then they will demand results. The greater the crisis, the greater the impatience.

By demonstrating patience, leaders reinforce the importance of focusing on the long-term outcomes. Patience doesn’t mean ignoring the interim milestones or short-term deliverable. It does mean keeping them in context.

Many tasks associated with leadership require patience (e.g., strategic planning, negotiations, people development, program management, etc.). The bigger the issue and the longer the planning horizon, the greater the patience required to remain committed. Strategic plans, for example, typically have a long-term time horizon and address big issues that affect an organization. It is easy for a leader to see the desired end-state and want to jump ahead without exercising the patience needed to succeed. Leadership means understanding that patience may require sacrificing short-term glory for long-term results.


Striving for excellence is an ongoing process; it requires a persistent attitude of excellence demonstrated by a continual focus on both the large and small things in our endeavor. Without tenacity, success is just but a far away dream. It is the force originating from within you that seeks to bring out the potential in you and drive you to your destiny.

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