Monday, May 20, 2019

10 Years Blogging! Happy Anniversary A Lean Journey Blog


I can't even believe it, but May 19th marked ten years I've been blogging. TEN YEARS! That is crazy. I had no idea then what I was getting into or that I'd still be doing this 10 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.

So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years is that blogging is about connections. The thing is, it didn’t really take me 10 years to grasp this. In fact, I blogged about that from the beginning. 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.

If you’re not blogging to connect with people, you’re not doing it right.

After 10 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 10 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: 1773

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:  226

Top 5 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 48%
United Kingdom – 7%
Canada – 5%
India – 5%
Australia – 3%


Total views:  Over 1,478,361 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 1,172,050

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 2,230

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,634

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,213

Total Tips Shared: Over 2,310


Top 5 posts this past year:


Five Guidelines on Effective 5 Why Analysis

10 Tips for Being a Better Leader

Think and Lead Like a Coach Not a Boss

Top 10 Lean Leadership Quotes From 2018

5 Ways to Improve Your Kaizens

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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Friday, May 17, 2019

Lean Quote: If You Want Passion, Commitment, Dedication, and Motivation, You Go First

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.


"One of the most important actions, things a leader can do, is to lead by example. If you want everyone else to be passionate, committed, dedicated, and motivated, you go first!" — Marshall Goldsmith

Many people define leadership in different ways. I believe that leadership is simply influence. Through your actions, which are aligned with what you say, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of effective leadership. Good leaders must lead by example. Here are 10 ways to lead by example:

Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps people on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.

Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.

Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.

Acknowledge failure. Failure is part of the process of becoming extraordinary. When you acknowledge that you have failures from time to time, it becomes OK for others.

Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define you.

Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your for more ideas.

Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.

Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths.

Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. Mental and spiritual balance grows success. Model it, encourage it, support it!


Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Formula for Successful Change


For virtually everyone change means hard work, risk, and the need to learn new ways for unproven benefits. Change is one of the most difficult things for humans to readily accept. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change” which holds true for culture change.

Fortunately, there is a formula that provides insight into how to successfully facilitate change:

L x V x K x AP x A > R = Change

Where:

L = Lever: Find a sense of urgency by identifying a crisis in which action is the only choice. It is necessary to overcome inertia.

V = Vision: How you would like things to be in the future, this is the “True North” thinking.

K = Knowledge: Learn the skills necessary to facilitate the change. Find a change agent. Understand and disseminate the lean knowledge.

AP = Action Plan: Actions and strategies needed to move the organization toward the vision. It is important to begin as soon as possible with visible activity. Often, a great start is to identify and map your value streams.

A = Alignment: Communicate the why and how of the vision to inspire people to want to try to achieve it. As you gain momentum you need to expand your scope. Apply strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) to facilitate horizontal and vertical alignment.

R = Resistance: People tend to naturally resist change. Reduce resistance by making the change known, easy, beneficial, and popular. 

All these elements are needed for a successful change. If an element is missing you won’t get change but rather something short of that as shown below:

Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Change
               Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Status Quo
Lever x                 Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Confusion
Lever x Vision x                          Action Plan x Alignment = Frustration
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x                          Alignment = False Starts
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan                        = Resistance


To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership ideas, best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.

There is no quick solution for creating a lean culture. Successful initial implementation and ongoing maintenance of process improvements, among other things, requires overcoming the resistance to change. 

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Watch The Baton Not the Runners


Lean as a way of thinking and acting in business operations has been around for over 40 years. At its very core, the goal of lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. For me Lean is a thinking methodology for running your business.  The of goal of which is to grow the business by adding value to the customer, being efficient by eliminating waste, and engaging all employees in this process.  Lean is about learning to seeing opportunities and continually improving them. 

A metaphor we use to convey a key thinking mistake–and opportunity–is the sport of relay racing.

Consider a relay race. The racers are standing around waiting for the baton from their colleague. The accountant in the finance department, looking aghast at this terrible under-utilization ‘waste,’ would probably mandate a policy goal of “95% utilization of resources” to ensure all the racers are busy and “productive.” Maybe—he would suggest—the runners could run three races at the same time to increase “resource utilization,” or they could run up a mountain while waiting for the baton.

Funny… But this kind of thinking lies behind much of traditional management and product development processes. In contrast, here is a central idea in lean thinking: Watch the baton, not the runners.

In business, the runners are your workforce, and the baton is the unique value you offer to your customers. Business flow describes how well the work — i.e., the baton — is moving through your business system. It’s not about effective resource utilization (how busy people are); it’s about how much value is actually being produced, and how often.

Does your organization measure “productivity” or “efficiency” in terms of how busy people are, or how much time is spent watching the runners? Or does it measure “productivity” in terms of fast delivery of value to the real customer, thereby “watching the baton”? What is the value-to-waste ratio in your work? What are the impediments to the flow of value and how can people feel inspired to continuously strive to improve that flow? Lean thinking addresses these questions.

As an executive, watching the baton is your top priority. The baton is the value. This helps you stay focused on keeping the work moving, not on keeping the workers busy.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Lean Quote: Waste of Skills, Talent, and Abilities

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.


"The greatest waste … is failure to use the abilities of people…to learn about their frustrations and about the contributions that they are eager to make." — W. Edwards Deming

The waste of skills, talent, creativity or your people is an addition to the seven wastes of lean manufacturing (Muda), it is the failure to make good use of your employees; all of them. Your employees are your most valuable resources when it comes to ensuring that the business runs smoothly and continuously improves.

When companies fail to recognize or utilize people’s talents, skills or special knowledge, not only are they missing the benefit of these resources, the underutilized are likely to become dissatisfied and may begin to perform poorly, or leave. This waste of talent happens when management is not responsive, does not assign tasks appropriately or does not train properly.

Without the involvement and loyalty of all of your employees your company will fail to compete as effectively as it could do with their help. In today’s global marketplace we need every advantage that we can get to maintain and improve our businesses.

Examples of wastes of Talent
Problem solving conducted only by experts, ignoring the input from other employees.

Improvement ideas that are forced upon different sections of the company rather than invented within them.

A workforce that feels that there is no point in making suggestions for improvement.

The main cost of the waste of talent within your organization is in time wasted to make improvements and meet changing customer requirements. You will be far slower at making improvements and solving problems if you rely only on your “experts” to come up with the ideas, whilst your engineers, supervisors and managers may be highly skilled they are small in number compared to your other employees.


This failure to make improvements at a good pace will eventually mean that your competitors will move ahead of you and will lead the way within your industry whilst you lag far behind. They will win the business from you as they are able to offer enhanced service and lower costs.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Stand-Up for Productivity


I’m a huge fan of Stand-Up Meetings because they are an effective way to get everyone up to date and to identify potential roadblocks ahead. Less emails, less unfocused hour-long meetings, less interruptions, more flow time. Usually they take around 15 minutes and are held standing up (surprise!). The idea is to keep the meeting short and to the point.

Therefore, focus the meeting using the following format:
         • Start the meeting early in the day.
         • Should last no more than 15 minutes.
         • The entire team should attend (use a delegate or liaison
            for support).
         • The meeting leader (facilitator) should ask these simple
           questions:
                   o What did I accomplish yesterday?
                   o What will I do today?
                   o What obstacles are impeding my progress?

The frequency of stand-up meetings depends on the criticality of items discussed or the urgency of the project. More critical, more urgent items like customer complaints or high level projects may be daily to twice daily while other activities could meet less often. This doesn’t replace necessary team meeting to accomplish the project milestones.

Stand-up meeting provide a number of powerful benefits for teams:
          • Creates a shared language among team members
          • Allows for real-time reallocation of resources
          • Enables a focus on value-creating activities
          • Established a clear work plan for each day
          • Provides a mechanism for cultural change
          • Builds team identity and emotional commitment

From experience I have learned the following tips can help improve the effectiveness of your stand-up meetings:
         • Consider the use of a kitchen timer to ensure your
           meetings won’t last more 15 minutes.
         • A speaker phone can be used to include team members
           that are off-site.
         • Keep the attendance limited to those team members
           who actually create deliverables and perform actions.
         • Include “extended team” members only when their
           activity level on the project is high.
         • Pass a talking stick around so there is less cross-talk.
           (A strong facilitator is beneficial.)
         • Stand around the story/task board so you can focus and
           keep the board up to date as well.
         • Highlight issues but solve them later, this meeting is not
           for extended conversations.

Stand-ups, like software or machines, are tools. They don’t solve problems by themselves. But they do require careful deployment and close attention to the human element to ensure that you’re creating an environment that’s open and vocal, where teams work together to get the job done.


To sum it up: an effective daily stand-up meetings can help your team to be more productive, more effective, and ultimately, more impactful.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #138 (#2281-2295)

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 #2281 – Invest in Your Team’s Education
Top leaders are typically people who have a commitment to learning and development, and who are continually looking for ways to expand their skills and knowledge. As such, if you want your current workers to become the best leaders possible, it’s wise to invest time and money into their education. While you can leave learning up to them, you’ll find that they develop much more quickly if you aid them in this area, and show you’re willing to invest in them.

Lean Tip #2282 – Challenge Workers Regularly
Challenging your staff members on a regular basis is another good way to help them become good leaders. After all, those in top positions need to know how to think on their feet, deal with challenging situations and people, and work out how to perform unfamiliar tasks. The sooner employees are tested in this area, the sooner they can grow stronger. In addition, when you test people, you quickly learn where their true capabilities lie, and where they still need some assistance.

Lean Tip #2283 – Ignite Managers’ Passion to Coach Their Employees.
Historically, managers passed on knowledge, skills, and insights through coaching and mentoring. But in our more global, complex, and competitive world, the role of the manager has eroded. Managers are now overburdened with responsibilities. They can barely handle what they’re directly measured on, let alone offer coaching and mentoring. Organizations need to support and incentivize managers to perform this work.

Lean Tip #2284 – Ask Good Questions.
Great questions lead to great answers, and great answers lead to great conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and have a positive attitude.

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. Managers must work with employees to build one-on-one relationships that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, and encourage them to share their opinions.

Lean Tip #2285 – Commit to Continuous Learning.
Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments and professional success.

Lean Tip #2286 - Communicate, Every Day, Every Way
Good communication is at the heart of great teamwork. Great teams communicate well and often, their members are happy to share ideas, brainstorm together, ask for feedback, and be contradicted.

This doesn’t mean team members always agree, but they’re able to communicate through their differences to settle on a sound solution and continue moving forwards as a team.

So, how to enable good communication?

Be clear: Set the tone for communication among the team. When is it acceptable to close your office door? Is it okay to contact someone after hours? How often should the whole team get together? This outline will help to keep everyone on the same page and communication flowing.

Listen: Communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Make sure you’re listening to fellow team members and actually considering their thoughts before offering your own solutions and input.

Method: There are so many ways to reach each other in the modern age. Try to use the most suitable tool to communicate for your specific needs, whether that’s email, a chat tool, phone call, or face to face. We’ve got an article that’ll help you decide which communication tool is best for what.

Touch base: Encourage informal meetings, information sharing, and huddles between team members. People shouldn’t have to wait for a weekly catch-up meeting to get together. Collaborative team members are comfortable communicating as and when they need to.

Collaboration tools: These enable workers to connect across the world, or across the office, in a group or one-to-one conversation. They also make progress on group projects at the times that are most convenient for them.

Lean Tip #2287 - Focus on Team’s Strengths
Focusing on the weaknesses of your team members can seriously affect engagement and consequently lower the team’s productivity. According to research, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Everyone is different - we have different strengths, passions, and weaknesses. One of the cornerstones of a good team leader is focusing on individuals’ strengths, and bringing together a team of people that has a combined skillset to get the job done. As long as everyone contributes by bringing a strong skill to the team, their weakness should not be dwelt on. 

Lean Tip #2288 - Inspire Creative Thinking
Just because you have been doing a task one way for your entire career does not mean that’s the best way to accomplish it. There are always problems to be solved and better ways to do things, so use the minds around you and encourage your employees to share creative business solutions.

Putting the challenge in the hands of your employees will not only save you some headache, but it’s also likely that you’ll come out with a better end result. They do say that two heads are better than one.

Lean Tip #2289 – Acknowledge Good Work
Don’t be one of these bosses who only gives feedback when you’ve got something to criticize! By providing your staff with positive feedback it will help to build their confidence and encourage them to get more involved in the future, so it’s vital that you acknowledge their achievements and the effort that they are putting in. Encourage creativity and ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected of them.

Lean Tip #2290 - Set a Good Example
Your staff will look to you for guidance and inspiration, so it’s essential that you set a good example to gain their respect. If you expect them to behave professionally and commit to their work, it’s vital that you do so yourself. Make sure that you are doing your job, continuing to develop your career and support your team in doing so too.

Lean Tip #2291 - Communicate Better and Avoid Mass Training
It’s tempting to bulk your team training, but this isn't a productive option. While sometimes necessary, it's rare that a one-off, one-size-fits-all approach to training will be effective.

Train beyond the basic needs of your employees, and make it personalized. Why? Nobody likes to be lectured about something they already do. That's a waste of time, money and resources.

Instead, invest in individual training. By tailoring your training to individuals, you can help bring the best out of everyone and address clear role expectations, existing problems, the positives and the weakness of your team in a respectful way. This way, your employees will clearly understand their individual strengths (and their weaknesses) and they'll be able to effectively action change.

Lean Tip #2292 - Stress Training as Investment.
The reason training is often considered optional at many companies is because it is thought of as an expense rather than an investment. While it’s true that training can be costly up front, it’s a long-term investment in the growth and development of your human resources.

Lean Tip #2293 - Promote a Culture of Learning.
In today’s fast-paced economy, if a business isn’t learning, it’s going to fall behind. A business learns as its people learn. Communicate your expectations that all employees should take the necessary steps to hone their skills and stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support those efforts by providing the resources needed to accomplish this goal.

Lean Tip #2294 - Clarify Connections to the Training.
Some employees may feel that the training they’re receiving isn’t relevant to their job. It’s important to help them understand the connection early on, so they don’t view the training sessions as a waste of valuable time. Employees should see the training as an important addition to their professional portfolios. Award people with completion certificates at the end of the program.

Lean Tip #2295 - Provide Resources to Employees

Pull together a list of go-to resources for new employees to explore—things like annual reports, the company intranet and website, and any recent marketing materials. While it may sound painful to thumb through old files, reports and presentations from years past are valuable tools to help someone get acclimated before she gets off and running. (Just make sure you’re not providing too much at once, or you may get a deer-in-headlights reaction.)

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