Friday, August 17, 2018

Lean Quote: Every Person Needs to Take One Day Away

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.


"Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us." — Maya Angelou

Despite our best intentions to live balanced lives, the modern world demands that we are almost always connected and productive, and this can drain us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. With our hectic lifestyle, we often underestimate the power of relaxation. Most of us have a massive to-do list each day, and we feel we can't afford to slow our pace or we'll quickly fall behind. However, we fail to acknowledge the ways that relaxation can increase our stamina, clear our thoughts, and allow us to get much more accomplished with less effort.

Rest and relaxation is the cessation of work, exertion, or activity which could result into peace, ease, relief from disturbance, mental & emotional tranquility and healing.

So I’m taking my own advice. Beginning today, I’ll be on vacation. That means no blogging, email, or social media. I’ll have virtually no access to a phone or computer. In short, I’m dropping off the blogosphere for two whole weeks. But don’t worry, I’m not leaving you in the dark. I have prepared several posts until I return. I hope you will enjoy these posts while I spend some time recharging.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Guest Post: How to Nail Your Morning Routine to Have a Good Day



Some mornings just feel right. You wake up without any alarm. The sunlight entering your room feels pleasant and soothing. You come back from your morning jog all energized and looking forward to the day.

And sometimes you have the complete opposite days. You don’t wake up in your best mood. You don’t feel like working out and deep inside your heart, you know that today isn’t going to be a great day.

Aren’t these everyday scenarios for most of us?

To have delightful mornings, it’s important to have a solid morning routine in place. Successful individuals such as Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama are known to have kickass morning routines and they are nailing it every day.

To create a morning schedule, just add some good habits to your current lifestyle - it will dramatically improve your life. To get you started, below is a list of little things you can add to your morning routine to have a good day.

Let’s take a look at them:

1. Resist the snooze
Time required: A few seconds (and a lot of willpower)

It could be tempting to hit the snooze button and get those ten minutes of extra sleep. Mind you, it’s going to do more harm than good. Ideally, the human body needs 7-8 hours of sleep to be at its optimum best. So, make the tough call to wake up as soon as your alarm starts ringing.

Benefits of waking up early:
     Sense of accomplishment
     More time for other activities
     Relaxed start of the body

2. Drink a glass of water
Time required: One minute or less

It’s a good practice to drink water as the first thing in the morning. As you’ve had a sound sleep for about 6-8 hours, your body gets dehydrated. Add lemon, cucumber, ice cubes or just drink it straight up. It starts your metabolism on the right note and keeps your digestive processes running smoothly. 

Benefits of drinking water:
     Replenishes water levels
     Refreshes body and mind
     Better metabolism

3. Be grateful
Time required: Five minutes

It’s always a great idea to start your day on a positive note and what better way than practicing gratitude. Life becomes a blessing when you start treating it like one. Being grateful increases your long-term well-being by more than 10percent which is the same as doubling your income. Successful people like that of Tony Robbins and Arianna Huffington always take out time to be grateful from their hectic schedules.

Benefits of practicing gratitude:
     Makes you happier and optimistic
     Strengthens your emotions
     Makes you more likable

4. Complete a 7-minute workout
Time required: 7-10 minutes (including warm-up)

It could be hard to find time to exercise when you are spending more than 10 hours at work. However, if you could just spare 7 minutes to break a sweat in morning, you’re going to have a super-productive day at work. You can easily find several seven-minute workout apps for your Android phones and iPhones.

Benefits of exercising:
     Strengthens muscles and bones
     Increases energy levels
     Reduces risk of chronic diseases

5. Choose your 3 MITs for the day
Time required: 5-7 minutes

As a part of your morning routine, develop a habit of making to-do lists and planning your day. The most effective way to go about it is to choose your three most important tasks (MIT) for the day. It will help you stay focused on things that actually matter so that you can plan your day keeping your priorities straight. You can use tools like ProofHub and Evernote to plan, prioritize, and manage daily tasks.

Benefits of making to-do lists:
     Creates order and structure
     Lets you coordinate similar tasks
     Makes you more accountable

6. Read a book
Time required: 15-30 minutes

If you think that gone are those days when you could find time to leisurely read your favorite book or novel, you are wrong. By carving out 15-30 minutes every morning, you can read whatever you want and expand your knowledge. Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs are one of those people who read multiple newspapers and books to stay updated and relevant.

Benefits of reading in morning:
     More likely to grasp information faster
     Improves concentration levels
     Fewer distractions and disturbances

7. Keep your phone away
Time required: A few seconds (with constant reminders)

Phones have become an inevitable part of our lives. So much so that people start searching for it before they even open their eyes. Checking social media accounts and replying to emails isn’t a great thing to do as the first thing in the morning. Keep a fixed time for phone usage and use morning time for something constructive.

Benefits of less phone usage:
     More time for other things
     Keeps your brain relaxed

8. Eat a real breakfast
Time required: 5-10 minutes

Eating healthy and nutritious food is essential for your well-being. Make it a priority to have a power breakfast every morning. It will provide required nutrients to the body to enable it to be productive and efficient all day long. Include everything to have a wholesome meal. Try incorporating fruits, veggies, salads, lentils to not miss out on essential minerals and vitamins.

Benefits of power breakfast
     Promotes healthy eating habits
     Keeps weight and body mass index in check
     Better skin

9. Watch an Inspiring video
Time required: 5-10 minutes

The best way to start your day is by watching kickass motivational videos or listening to some foot-tapping numbers. It fills you with much-needed energy and empowers you to tap into your potential.

Benefits of watching motivational content:
     Uplifts mood
     Fills you with motivation
     Inspires to take action

Summing it up
The way you handle your morning routine could remarkably change your life for all the good reasons. I’ve only included things that are less time-consuming and doable.


Feel free to share your morning routine rituals in the comments below.

About the Author:
Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2017. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

An Approach to Becoming Agile in a Dynamic World


Mike Rother wrote an article this summer in AME's Target magazine. The article, “An Approach to Becoming Agile in a Dynamic World,” focuses on helping employees develop scientific thinking that helps them to better solve problems and make decisions.

What he proposes is that developing a scientific way of thinking among the members of a team may be a prerequisite for effectively increasing their empowerment and leading to a more Agile organization. These are skills that prepare teams for more independent but strategically-aligned decision making, and prepare managers to function more as coaches. 



Scientific thinking is not difficult. The barrier is that it does not come naturally to us. The default way we think about problems and goals involves the unconscious part of our brain taking bits of surface information, quickly jumping to conclusions and giving us a false sense of confidence. He feels certain, and that’s when we start making mistakes. 

A key strength of Toyota is that its management process develops scientific- thinking skill and mindset in its people. At this point you have probably heard of “Toyota Kata.” Based on Mike’s research on Toyota’s management system, Toyota Kata is a way of developing scientific-thinking skill and mindset in any team or organization, through practicing something called “Starter Kata.” Toyota Kata doesn’t teach problem solving, but rather a scientific mindset that makes us more effective at problem solving.

To learn more read Mike's complete article on AME's website.



Sometime the best way to learn is first hand. AME is offering a unique opportunity to participate in hands-on Kata training to gain a deep understanding of how you can experiment your way forward instead of having to decide your way forward. Researcher and author Mike Rother will run a hands-on exercise that introduces the scientific-thinking pattern of the Improvement Kata. After this session, you will be able to run and use the exercise yourself.


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Friday, August 10, 2018

Lean Quote: Don’t Forget About People Improvement Not Just Process Improvement

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.


"Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not have to sweat?  The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity.  People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work’ they go there to ‘think." — Taiichi Ohno

In most companies, Lean Thinking quickly becomes focused on process improvement. This type of improvement is easier, more obvious, measurable, and seemingly more profitable and transferable than people improvement. That’s why most places make the mistake of reporting only process improvement metrics.

People get taken for granted.

This occurs because (so called) Lean experts don’t know how to effectively include respect for people as they apply Lean tools.

The solution is simple. Measure respect for people improvement as much as you measure continuous process improvement.

For example:
Is every employee trained sufficiently to do the job successfully?
How often do workgroups suggest an improvement?
Can every employee access the boss when needed?
How many employees solve problems and implement solutions?
Are employees learning new skills?
Do employees end most days satisfied?
Is every employee part of a team?
Is the turnover rate low?
What’s the percentage of internal promotion?

And anything and everything else that leaders and employees think are important.

As a leader, if you prepare the people, respect the people, and grow the people, you’ll be improving the people side of Lean Thinking.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #128 (1916-1930)

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 #1916 - A little Humility Goes a Long Way.
There’s a difference between a leader and a boss. While both are in charge, a leader shares the spotlight and is comfortable crediting others. While it might seem counterintuitive, being humble takes more confidence than basking in glory. Your employees will appreciate it, and your clients will, too.

Lean Tip #1917 - Communicate Effectively.
Effective communication is imperative, both in the office and in life. Great leaders make sure they are heard and understood, but they also know the importance of listening. Communication is a two-way street, and making the most of it will have your company zooming forward instead of pumping the breaks.

Lean Tip #1918 - Never Stop Improving.
Great leaders -- indeed, great people -- are constantly learning and always trying to improve themselves. There’s always something that you can work on or a new skill to master. Be sure to keep your mind open to new ideas and possibilities.

Lean Tip #1919 - Leverage Your Own Experiences.
A great way to approach management is to think about your own experiences. Which previous bosses, teachers, or leaders have you respected, learned from, and enjoyed working with? What did they do to make you feel this way? It’s also helpful to think back to your not-so-great experiences with former managers. What did they do that drove you nuts (or made you quit)? Make sure to avoid the things you hated and do the things you appreciated.

Lean Tip #1920 - Remove Roadblocks.
It’s important to set your staff up to succeed — and that includes removing roadblocks whenever possible. Regularly ask people what they need to do their jobs better or more efficiently. Maybe it’s adjusting priorities or allocating more resources. Removing roadblocks tells your employees that you care about making their work experience the best it can be.

Lean Tip #1921 -  VSM: Use a Team to Create the Maps and a Plan
Having one person create the map means you used only one brain and two hands. The information gathered may be biased or, even worse, incorrect. Decisions need to be made for what is best for the entire value stream, and that’s hard to do with only one person. Make sure you use a good cross-functional team to walk the shop floor, analyze part flow, gather the information, and then draw the map.

Ideally, someone with experience in VSM should lead the initial meetings. A person who has drawn several maps can help determine the process families with the team, teach the team the correct way to collect data and information, show how to draw the maps, coach toward a better future state, and facilitate a successful event.

Lean Tip #1922 – VSM: Start With Basic Building Blocks
If you’re trying to create a manufacturing cell when basic concepts such as 5S, standard work, or teamwork are not even present in an organization, good luck. I’m not saying that you can’t jump to a more complex technique or practice right away, but you will have a higher probability for success if you have a start on the basic concepts. This also goes for lean concepts like pull systems and kanban as well as total productive maintenance. Start with some of the basic principles and tools first before you try to implement something more complex.

Lean Tip #1923 – VSM: Draw It by Hand First
Some VSM software programs help you draw maps and perform many data manipulations. In my opinion, you should learn to draw it by hand first, because it will help you better understand the methodology. By putting pencil to paper, you emerge yourself in the mapping process, and that’s how it becomes real. Yes, it may seem like a struggle at first, but with practice it becomes easier. The day you can grab a piece of paper, start discussing a problem with a colleague, and draw a map is the day you really start to understand the power of VSM.

Also, maps should be temporary. Once you reach your future state, that becomes the current state and you repeat the process of continuous improvement. Paper and pencil allow you to update maps easily, with no overprocessing waste.

Lean Tip #1924 - Limit the Number of Process Boxes
When you create your process family matrix, try to keep it at the appropriate level or scope. Limit the VSM to between 10 and 15 steps. Detailing more than 15 steps may make it too complicated.

VSM is scalable, so one process of your door-to-door map (showing everything from the initial order through shipping and receiving payment for that order) still should have only 10 to 15 steps. One of those steps may be “fabricating.” This can be broken up into another departmental-level map that also may have10 to 15 steps: laser cutting, bending, hardware, welding, and so forth. If a map has more than 15 steps, you might want to consider combining steps and renaming the process.

Lean Tip #1925 - Don’t Expect Everything to Show up on the Map
Even though the maps will give you great information and insights for improvement, they typically do not have other enterprise wide initiatives that an organization should undertake during its lean journey, such as 5S workplace organization and standardization. A company needs to have 5S everywhere, and VSMs may show only an area or process that needs 5S, not the entire facility. Also, other important functions like communication and training do not usually show up as an action item on a VSM, but these functions are extremely important while implementing lean concepts.

Lean Tip #1926 – VSM: Eliminate Waste, Don’t Create It
When it comes to VSM, people often become so enamored with their own bureaucracy or analysis that they are just wasting valuable resources, especially time. I’m talking about the people who spend too much time making fancy graphs from the data that was collected, or the ones that want to get the data down to the one-hundredth decimal point. Remember what you are trying to do here: eliminate waste, not create more.

Lean Tip #1927 – VSM: Post Maps Where People Will See Them
Don’t hide your maps. A key benefit of displaying your value stream maps is to communicate what is going to happen at your organization over the next few months or during the next year. Many people resist change because they fear the unknown. Posting the maps with the plan removes or eliminates this fear. It’s also a way to start discussions and obtain buy-in and ideas for improvement. Don’t hide your maps; be proud of them!

Lean Tip #1928 - Be Clear About Scope--And Don’t Creep!
We all want to end world hunger and achieve world peace—but without focus, we won’t achieve anything. Most high-level value streams are really more like value rivers. Sorting out which are the major contributing streams and identifying those that need to be improved to impact organizational performance increases the value of your mapping and improvement efforts. And determining up front where the value stream starts and stops and what is in scope and out of scope for people doing the improvement work prevents a lot of wandering in the wilderness. Address these and other issues before you start a mapping exercise if possible, in the form of a Value Proposition or Team Charter.

Lean Tip #1929 – VSM: Walk the Process.
Conduct a formal “Waste” or Process Walk prior to building the “as is” map. Engaging in short, structured interviews with process participants becomes a rich source of data, flow and process issues. It also increases external interest in process improvement since people appreciate being asked for their input.

Lean Tip #1930 – VSM: Map What the Process Really Is.

People often relate what they “think” the process is – so when mapping the “as is” process you have to push past the SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, to find out all the shortcuts, rework loops, cheat sheets and workarounds – nobody thinks of those on the first pass. And keep the steps at the same “elevation level”, meaning don’t combine general tasks such as “generate the invoice” with details like “turn the page.”

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Monday, August 6, 2018

6 Steps to Becoming a Coach vs a Boss


We tend to treat people as we wish to be treated, and good leaders take it a step further and treat others as they want to be treated. I think a fundamental difference between boss and leader is that a boss makes decisions and treats others from the point of view of the boss – meaning what’s best for them, the company, etc. A leader looks at the situation from the employees’ point-of-view, treats them the way they want to be treated, and takes all factors into consideration when making decisions. There is no manual for being a leader, but if you’ve had a good boss, you’ve seen good leadership.

Would you rather work for a boss or a coach? Which do you think your employees would prefer? If you answered “coach,” you are on the right track. Here are some helpful ideas of how to become a better manager by being a coach. 

1. Listen more than you talk. 

2. Before you jump in with all the answers, ask what your employees think. 

3. Find out how people learn best. Some people need hands-on supervision; some people like to learn by watching first and then doing. Some people like to jump right in, make mistakes and then come to you when they have a question. Some people like to read about things and like to be referred to courses or manuals, etc. Some people won’t learn by reading at all. Everyone learns differently, and as a manager, you are the one primarily responsible to see that people learn how to do their jobs with excellence. It’s not the job of the training department, which is there to support you, not do all the teaching for you. Most managers mistakenly assume, without ever realizing it, that everyone learns the same way they themselves do. Very few managers ask people how they learn best, and so most people, when asked, don’t know quite know how to respond at first – they have to think about it. Go ahead and ask anyway, and make them think! Just by asking, you’ll help them take more responsibility for their own learning while also getting a sense of how best to manage them and guide their growth in the job. 

4. Praise in public, but correct in private. No one likes to be embarrassed in front of others. A manager who corrects an employee in front of others doesn’t just make one enemy, he makes a whole roomful. 

5. Don’t try to be everyone’s friend. Be friendly and pleasant, but keep your friendships out of the workplace.

6. Don’t manage by email. Email is good for conveying basic information, clarifying simple inquiries, scheduling things, etc. But email is a blunt communication instrument, and not very good when it comes to anything that can involve or incite emotion. Stay away from it for matters of coaching or any conflict. It will only make things worse. Talk on the phone or, better yet, in person for anything of importance. Let them ask questions, see your eyes and hear your tone of voice whenever you can.

Good leaders hold themselves and others accountable, listen well, mentor, consider multiple opinions before making decisions, and keep the goal in sight. They “lead” others there with them, they don’t “boss” them around to make it happen. No one wants to be bossed around, but few object to being led.


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