Friday, March 5, 2021

Lean Quote: Anybody Can Make a Difference, and Sometimes the Smallest Action Makes the Biggest Impact

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 most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.  —  Alice Walker

Since 1987, March has been recognized as Women’s History Month. Originally initiated by Congress in 1981, the first Women’s History Week was celebrated in 1982. But because one week is hardly enough, by the time 1987 rolled around there was a full month to celebrate the women who came before, the women of today, and the generations of women to follow.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any." 

Alice Walker


By seeing themselves as worthless.

By believing the lie that they don’t have the ability to make a change.

But self-deprecation is a form of self-sabatoge.

Negative thoughts breed negative outcomes.

Thinking we are going to mess up, often sets up to do just that.

Luckily the opposite is also true.

A positive outlook gives way to positive results.

When we believe in ourselves, we rise to the occasion. 

When we have faith in our abilities, we grow limitless. 

There is a power in confidence.

A power in knowing you are enough.

In believing you are okay exactly as you are.

You are so much stronger than you know.

Your potential is boundless.

All you have to do is believe.


Anybody can make a difference, and sometimes the smallest action makes the biggest impact.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

7 Effective Communication Strategies That Get Results

It probably comes as no surprise that the most successful businesses are made up of highly engaged employees. These top-performing workforces share a relentless dedication to what’s in the best interest of their employers. They’re committed, determined and consistently instrumental in increasing their companies’ productivity. Engaged employees are committed and driven to make your business a success. When you harness the power of communication through clear and consistent messaging, you empower your entire workforce to do their best work and take your business to the next level.

Here are seven strategies to help you foster employee engagement and impact your business’s success:

1. Keep it real

When delivering your message, be truthful and as complete as possible. Be transparent and let employees know if there are details you simply cannot share due to confidentiality. Even if they don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, they’ll appreciate your honesty and likely be more supportive and, as a result, more engaged.

2. Be timely

Don’t wait until you have all the information to deliver a message. There is never a vacuum in communication. If the message doesn’t come from you directly, people will fill in the information gaps with rumors or assumptions – which can lead to low morale, distrust and a lack of productivity. Communication is a process. Share what you can as often as you can.

3. Focus on consistency

Align your messages with your company’s mission, vision and values. Sharing the “why” behind a decision or change in direction helps your employees understand the reason behind the decision. This builds trust and a strong team mentality. 

4. Tailor your message

Make sure your message is meaningful to your workforce and answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” This creates buy-in from your team and helps empower them to move forward with change more easily. You’ll create a sense of ownership that motivates employees to get on board and do their part for the greater good. Employees who feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves will become your company’s biggest advocates. 

5. Reinforce it

Hearing something once is not enough. Everyone learns and processes information differently, so it’s critical that you communicate using diverse channels. Company meetings and email may be more appropriate for delivering formal messages, while small “town hall” meetings, social media, designated chat rooms and your company’s intranet can provide an informal forum for reinforcing communication. Remember, consistency across all channels is key.

6. Encourage feedback

Just as you use multiple channels to communicate your message to employees, consider using those same channels to encourage feedback from them. It’s important that your employees feel comfortable sharing their questions and concerns, so your organization’s communication flow should be two-way – a dialogue, not a monologue. When you encourage feedback and listen to what employees have to say, you send the message to your employees that their opinions matter.

7. Empower your managers

Keep your middle managers in the loop from the start. They are the voice of your organization, the messengers between upper management and employees. By empowering them with information and effective communication strategies, they will be better equipped to deliver consistent messages to their teams and provide answers to any questions that may come up.

The more effective you can be with your communication the more successful you will be – personally and professionally. Communication can be extremely powerful in helping you or it can hurt you. Apply any or all of the seven steps mentioned above and set goals around enhancing your communication.

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Lean Roundup #141 – February 2021

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of February 2021.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Lean and Learning – Bob Emliani discusses the dilemma that those who preside over institutions devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and truth are led by people who don’t have as much interest or experience in that.

Where Lean Has Gone Wrong & What to Do About It, Part 1 & Part 2 – Pascal Dennis shares a few thoughts where in his opinion Lean has failed.

Pay Attention to the Trenches, Not the Stars – Dan Markovitz reflects on the Super Bowl with a lesson for leaders: Pay attention to the trenches, that’s where the game is won or lost.

“A3” is an Obligation for the Coach - Mark Rosenthal says that what makes the A3 process work is the continuous interaction between the problem solver and the coach.

Conversations About Enterprise Excellence, “Humane Management,” and Mistakes – Mark Graban shares two interviews and discussions – one on “Humane Management” and one on enterprise excellence.

Leadership Tip #2: Do the Right Thing, Even When it Feels Uncomfortable – Johanna Rothman discussed the importance of leaders as much as they can, use your values to do the right thing.

The Continuous Improvement Apple Tree – Jon Miller uses the metaphor of the apple trees to explain the relationship between various continuous improvement methods or tools and types of challenge.

Lean Thinking: A Flashlight, Mirror, and Sandpaper – Ron Pereira shares parallel from a bible podcast where like the bible Lean can act as a flashlight showing you the way forward, it can behave like a mirror allowing you to examine your own life and sever as sandpaper to clean up any rough edges.

Eliminating Waste from Product Development – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the tremendous gains in product development can be achieved if all of those involved in the work have a shared interest in the identification and elimination of waste.

Five Helpful Favorite Phrases for Continuous Improvement Beginners – Jon Miller shares 5 ideas to get you started on your continuous improvement journey.

Ohno’s Theory of Nonproductivity – Bob Emiliani discusses why so many leaders benefit from nonproductivity and why it’s a constraint to progress.

Ask Art: What is the Walk of Shame, and Why Is It Effective? – Art Byrne suggests that you take your team on a walk of shame, ask serious questions about what you are seeing at every stop and if done correctly can change people's opinions.

Why it’s Better to Focus on Value, Not Waste - Katrina Appell says while nobody wants waste in their value stream, it would be better to focus on increasing value.

How Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Teaching Embodies Lean Thinking – Christopher D. Chapman explains lean and the similarities with Dr. King’s leadership and thinking.

The Toyota Way and Toyota Kata: How Do They Fit? – Jeffrey Liker clear up some confusion about the relationship between the Toyota Way and Toyota Kata.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Lean Quote: Do Things That Make a 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.

"What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  —  Elizabeth George

“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain, not a loss – good not evil. Success, not failure, in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.” – Heartsill Wilson

You might think the difference you can make is insignificant. When we think about making a difference we fall for the myth that what we start out doing has to be enormous to have any effect. I’ve learned it doesn’t. The smallest acts of kindness can have a huge impact, maybe more than you can imagine.

Here are 10 ways you can make a difference in the world:

1. Start with yourself

First, make a positive difference in yourself. This will create an outward butterfly effect. Think about the things you would like to change about yourself, and then change them. Create space to bring in more positivity in your life.

2. Be kind to others

In these modern times, where we are often extremely busy, people tend to become quite self-absorbed. But kindness goes a long way. A simple act of kindness can generate so much positivity, even if you’re not always aware of it.

3. Smile

A simple smile can really change someone’s day for the better. Smile to the old lady you pass on the street, to the bus driver, to your co-worker in the break room, to the kid that always wants to pet your cat. Smiling is not only good for your mental and physical health, it has also been shown to be contagious.

4. Start to really listen to the people around you

People crave attention, because it makes them feel loved. Really listening to them, not just hearing them but actually understanding what they are saying, can make a huge difference. Take time to listen to your loved ones, and if the opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to listen to strangers, either.

5. Use your time wisely

There never seems to be enough time for everything you need and want to do. Therefore, the expression work smarter, not harder is definitely one to think about. Find ways to be more productive when doing the things to need to do. This leaves more time for you to chase your dreams.

6. Volunteer

Do something selfless, without expecting anything back. Volunteer at your local animal shelter, retirement home or homeless shelter. If everyone would volunteer every once in a while, the world would be a much better place.

7. Find charities you like and donate

There are many good causes you can donate to. It doesn’t have to be much; you don’t have to be a wealthy philanthropist in order to make a change. Find charities that are close to your heart. Think about wildlife preservation, cancer research, the Salvation Army, children’s hospitals, etc.

8. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind

How would you like people to remember you? For your professional achievements, your selflessness, your kindness? What about your resilience? When you are confronted with unforeseen challenges, don’t let it get you down, don’t start whining. Instead, show your strength and try to find the positive sides of what is happening to you. In the end, it is all about how you deal with setbacks.

9. Be passionate

Be passionate about everything you do! Passion is like a magical ingredient; once you add it to your meal, even the most bland and boring foods suddenly taste amazing. Don’t like your job? Then find one that you do like. Life is too short to spend time doing things you find no pleasure in.

10. Have a positive attitude

Life can be very challenging sometimes, and this can make it difficult to stay positive. However, if you choose to have a positive attitude, you’ll notice that you become a better you. It may sound strange, but daydreaming can help you with this. Visualize what you want, and add feeling to those visualizations. This generates positive energy, which in turn will lead to positive changes.

What will you do today, that you can look back on to tomorrow, knowing you made a difference?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Cultivating an Environment of Healthy Leadership

Image Source: Unsplash (

General George Douglas MacArthur once said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” This is as true today as it was back then, and for a business in any industry to survive, it must have a management team that is in line with this sentiment. Whether your business is growing or you are filling the position of a retiring leader, your company will need others to step up and follow this same mantra.

 This is why you need to cultivate an environment of healthy leadership, so you can have employees in your organization rise to the challenge and help your business thrive. To do so, you will need to not only create a great impression as a current leader but also provide opportunities and training to others so they can follow in your footsteps. Let’s look at how to create this trail to leadership.

Set the Example

Before a leader can even begin to tell others how to become good managers, they need to set expectations for how they act and conduct business regularly. Many attributes make up a great leader. To understand them, you can look at famous leaders of the past. Nelson Mandela embodied courage and strived for change that he knew may not be popular but would transform things for the better. Jane Addams had an amazing sense of empathy as she worked with the poor and homeless. A sense of empathy is as equally important as the need to make tough decisions, and a good leader will balance both.

In addition to making business decisions, good leaders motivate their teams to excel on current tasks and ensure that they have the tools they need to be as effective and happy as possible. Communication is key for a great leader. In addition to motivation, managers should also have an open-door policy that encourages their team to come in if they have issues and speak candidly about struggles they are facing in their position. When they come to you, active listening is just as important as your verbal response. 

While most higher-ups understand that they are required to organize their team and keep operations running smoothly, many also need to understand the difference between being a leader and being a manager. While a manager takes care of the day-to-day duties, a leader looks to innovate and find ways to improve those tasks for the betterment of the business and their staff. On top of that, a servant leader actively works to help the agents under them grow and evolve within the company.

Create a Development Program

So, how can you help the people within your organization evolve into the leaders of tomorrow? You can begin by creating a leadership development program. This training should include direct instruction on routine management tasks such as filling out reports, going through the hiring process, and meeting work quotas, but it should also give candidates a chance to practice less tangible managerial traits like how to show empathy, motivate employees, and find ways to bring out their unused potential.

The best way to do this is to have the candidate sit with current leaders as part of a job rotation where they see what each manager does during the day and how they think outside of the box to help their agents thrive. Once they feel comfortable, the trainee can also fill in for their manager when they are away or manage their own team temporarily during a small project and see how they do and provide positive feedback.

Communication is key when training a future leader. The current manager should speak to the trainee throughout the training and get their feedback on the program, ask them about areas where they feel they are falling short, and provide suggestions for improvement. Treat them as an equal during the program. Have brainstorming sessions where the current manager aims to inspire the candidate to come up with ideas on how to improve the team and their performance. If any of the ideas sound good and will work for the betterment of the business, then have your staff try it out. This will give the candidate an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Provide Guidance on Applying for Leadership Positions

If a manager finds one of their employees to be a perfect fit for a leadership position, they can help them see the best chance of success by coaching and mentoring them on how to obtain that position. Some managers may be afraid of having their employees move onto a different role as it will create more work in hiring their replacement, but the true sign of a leader is someone who takes pride in seeing their employees succeed. 

For starters, you can help the interested agent with their resume, so they have the best chance of getting noticed when new leadership positions become available. When creating a leadership resume, they need to take off all obsolete skills and instead focus on cause and effect. So, if during their time as a non-manager, they recommended a new way of doing things that led to a benefit for the company, you would want to include that. A bullet point could read something like, “Recommended a new electronic system that reduced filing time by an hour per day.” A management resume should also include soft skills, such as that you are an “effective listener” or that you “combine empathy with motivation to increase efficiency on the team.” 

When a candidate is interested in applying for a leadership role, their current manager must remind them of what the title really entails. While it may lead to more money, there are also the less glamorous aspects of the job, such as providing negative performance reviews, giving write-ups for attendance issues, and the fact that you will have the success of the team, or lack thereof, riding on your back. If the employee understands all sides of management and expresses their love of the challenge when speaking to a prospective boss, it will go a long way.

Leadership is not always fun, but when done right, there is nothing more rewarding. When current managers exude confidence, compassion, and honesty while on the job, the team will notice and follow suit.

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #167 (#2716 - 2730)

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 #2716 –Communication is the Key for Any Project

To run a project smoothly, consistent effective communication needs to take place between the stakeholders and clients and new changes should be communicated to the team members to avoid ‘surprise attacks’. Being a project manager, the best thing you can do is to ensure that the communication lines between you and the team members are always open so that anyone can walk up to you without any second thoughts.

Ineffective communication often leads to the failure of the projects. So, make sure everyone has the required information to make decisions and proceed with the project. Project status reports are a good way to keep everyone on the same page by keeping them updated about new developments in a project.

Lean Tip #2717 – Tap Into Team Members Strengths and Weaknesses

The success of a project largely depends on skills of the team members. An effective manager will always make an effort to get to know about his team members inherent strengths and weaknesses so that he can allocate work accordingly. As someone’s strength is someone else’s weakness thus an effective manager will make sure the work is given to the team member who is inherently competent and faster at completing it.

Tapping into the strengths of team members will definitely ensure faster task completion and better time management. With everyone in a team putting their best foot forward and making the most of their strengths, the project will be nothing less than a success.

Lean Tip #2718 – Manage Potential Risks

Risk management being one of the imperative project management practices today is essential for project success. Risks are the potential threats that can creep anytime and can jeopardize the whole progress in a project. To make sure your project is successful, potential risks need to be identified beforehand so that effective measures can be taken if they arise in the need of the hour.

With considerable experience and expertise with similar projects, you will be able to foresee when the risk is imminent and when corrective measures need to be taken. After realizing the importance of risk management, many organizations are now paying special attention to it so that it doesn’t come in the way of the success of a project.

Lean Tip #2719 – Evaluate the Project Afterward

Each project can be a learning tool. An effective manager will always review the project as a whole, as well as analyze various project components. By doing so, he can note down the successes in a project, what went wrong in the project, and what can be improved for future projects.

Evaluating every aspect and the nitty-gritties in a project can be resourceful to ensure success for future projects as well.

Lean Tip #2720 – Stay Ahead of Problems.

A wise project manager once told me, "If 'everything's fine,' keep digging." When people report no problems, you can follow up with, "That's great to hear, but, really, there are no issues at all?" Team members may be hesitant to share problems, especially when they're small and still solvable. A project manager's job is to uncover small problems to help solve them or accommodate them instead of letting them grow into bigger problems.

Lean Tip #2721 – Understand the Right Problem

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

I know it sounds very simple and philosophical but believe me; many problems remain unsolved because there has not been a focused effort to really understand the problem itself. I still remember solving math problems when I was young and every time I couldn’t solve a problem I would ask my Dad for help. He would never provide me a solution straight away, but instead ask me to go and read the question again at least three times. I used to feel frustrated, but invariably, half of the time, reading the question properly would lead me to the conclusion that I had actually been trying to solve the wrong problem. The minute you identify the correct intent of the problem, the right solution will follow. So ask yourself the fundamental questions about the problem and spend some time understanding the real problem with your team in order to solve it.

Lean Tip #2722 – Get Out of the “I Know Everything” Mentality

Try and understand the fundamentals of the process pertaining to the problem area. Confirm how it works or exists in its very basic and current form. Get out of the mind-set that you know everything, because if you did, you would know the problem area, cause and its solution as well. Understand the nuances of the techniques which exist in the process. Ask all the basic questions to really understand the problem and note significant points of the process which would then bring immense clarity to the part of the problem you are attempting to solve.

Lean Tip #2723 – Visualize the Problem

Try and document a picture of the process depending on the problem. This may or may not be relevant, but we all know pictorial representations often help. Draw a simple diagram without worrying about technical conventions, specific constraints etc. A simple picture diagram can help visualize the most complex of problems in any area. Use any simple tool like PowerPoint, white boards, sheets, and papers and never shy away from starting to draw these on the fly if understanding a problem is becoming a challenge.

Lean Tip #2724 – Be Simple But Creative in Your Solution

Building a simple solution does not mean trivializing the problem which you are looking to solve. The majority of the time, complex solutions are devised for a problem if the above points i.e. understanding the right problem, understanding the fundamentals of the problem, articulating the problem and focusing on the root cause, are not considered.

Be creative in your problem solving. This has got nothing to do with how much creative ability you have, it’s basically about thinking of solutions from a different perspective rather than a perspective with which the problem you are looking to solve was built or on how the problem came into existence.

Lean Tip #2725 – Find the Opportunity And/or Lesson Within the Problem.

I have found that there is almost always a positive side to a problem.

Perhaps it alerts us of a great way to improve our business or relationships. Or teaches us how our lives perhaps aren’t as bad as we thought.

Finding this more positive part of the problem reduces its negative emotional impact. You may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you.

When you are faced with a problem ask yourself:

  • What is the good thing about this?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem?

Lean Tip #2726 – Make it Clear Collaboration is Expected

It may seem like a no brainer in today’s workplace, but some team members might need a gentle reminder that collaborating is the default setting for the company. Some people may work faster and do their best work alone, and that’s great for when actual work needs to be done. But there are other parts of work where working together is crucial. Set that expectation and people will get behind it.

Lean Tip #2727 – Don’t Use Meetings for Status Updates

A collaborative manager avoids using meetings for status updates. They use meetings to address issues that apply to all attendees, so no one’s time is wasted. Use strict agendas to keep the conversation on point and the pace quick. Again, structured, time-compressed meetings are the most effective.

Lean Tip #2728 – Over-Communicate

Collaboration, at its core, is effective work communication. To clarify, this doesn’t mean we should interrupt each other whenever we have a thought about something. We should still use communication etiquette and boundaries.

But, as we work, team members and managers can rarely trust that information is shared in an effective and timely manner among team members. This issue is so widespread among enterprises that, according to one survey, 57% of project managers cited poor communication as the leading cause of project failure. The solution is better, frequent communication.

Lean Tip #2729 – Don’t Automate Bad Processes

Not everything should be automated. Examine current manual processes to make sure you’re doing it the right way to begin with. Automating a poorly designed process with a work management platform won’t make it easier to work with others, it will only make it worse. The right kind of automation facilitates collaboration by freeing up time to align and brainstorm about critical work.

Lean Tip #2730 – Measure What Matters

The only way to know if what you’re working on together is working is to focus on the metrics that matter to the efforts you’re all putting in. Avoid focusing on vanity or busy-work metrics. Focus instead on milestones or engagement for example.


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Friday, February 19, 2021

Lean Quote: 99% of Failures Come From People Who Make Excuses

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.

"99% of failures come from people who make excuses.  —  George Washington

Presidents’ Day, celebrated every third Monday in February, was originally intended to remember George Washington’s birthday. It has since become an occasion to celebrate all American presidents. Great lessons can be learned from looking back through history and many leadership principles are timeless.

As mature adults, we all understand how difficult it can be finding success when we keep making excuses.

After reading many studies and articles on the subject, I’ve come up with these conclusions:

1. It’s easier to feel acquitted of our failure, if we can come up with a good enough excuse.

2. It’s psychologically easier to live with our past, if we have justifiable reasons for our failure.

3. It’s easier to get people to overlook failure, if we come up with an acceptable excuse.

4. It’s so much easier to shift the blame to something else, rather than accept it as our own.

It seems to me that the more we make excuses for ourselves, the more we will NOT build a positive self-image. Self-image is not built by success at every turn. Our self-image is empowered by accepting, and then dealing with our own short comings and failures.

Making excuses may make us feel better, but they will not make us become better!

If we want to fail at every turn, then we should go on making excuses for ourselves and those around us. However, if we want to succeed, we must be willing to stop the blame game and personally accept accountability for our own actions. Sometimes we need to squash those excuse ridden thoughts and emotions.

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