Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Be a Frontline H.E.R.O.


Do you know someone who was very good at their job, and as a result was promoted into management without any people training? Maybe you’ve promoted an employee into management assuming they could hack it. Despite our best intentions, truth of the matter is most managers are not equipped to handle the people piece. Dr. Cyndi Laurin, author of Be a Frontline HERO: A Parable to Propel your Job and Life, a new book providing simple and accessible frontline management tools, tells a story we can all relate to that managers can incorporate in the same day and see immediate results.

“Emily” is a conscientious but frustrated server who is on the brink of quitting her job at a local pizzeria when she is suddenly promoted to manager. It will come as no surprise to readers who have been promoted into management that she gets no training and little support in her new role. You will immediately identify with her troubles because they are exactly the kinds of struggles many frontline managers face. Being “one of them” gives Emily complete credibility. That credibility extends to the ideas shared by “Anne”, an expert training leader who befriends and mentors her. 

Anne teaches Emily five, simple tools to start using immediately and quickly sees change in herself and her team. Emily learns how to provide meaningful feedback, how to get her team on the same page in under 10 minutes, and how to prioritize which issues to tackle and which ones to block. By the end of the story, the staff have evolved into self-motivated pros who love their jobs as the pizza joint enjoys great reviews, soaring revenue and very low employee turnover.

Transform yourself from frontline manager to frontline H.E.R.O.:
Huddles – everyday!
Engage in being in a Position to Notice for Keep it Ups and Adjusts!
Remember 3 Keep it Ups for every 1 Adjust.
Only Tackle issues that have a deadline associated with them.

Written as a narrative, the book is a quick and easy yet powerful read, and the content can be implemented immediately. It’s not only a highly effective for new frontline leaders but can serve as a valuable model for experienced leaders as well. It’s an interesting and fun read about a scenario that anyone can relate to.

Be a Frontline H.E.R.O. is a great resource for frontline teams to develop important skills that produce better outcomes for customers and the company. Everybody wins!



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Friday, July 12, 2019

Lean Quote: 5 Qualities of a Great Leader

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 challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." — Jim Rohn

If you want to be a great leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality yourself. Leadership is the ability to attract someone to the gifts, skills and opportunities you offer as an owner, as a manager, as a parent. Leadership is the great challenge of life.

What’s important in leadership is refining your skills. All great leaders keep working on themselves until they become effective. Here’s how:

1. Learn to be strong but not impolite.
It is an extra step you must take to become a powerful, capable leader with a wide range of reach. Some people mistake rudeness for strength. It’s not even a good substitute.

2. Learn to be kind but not weak.
We must not mistake weakness for kindness. Kindness isn’t weak. Kindness is a certain type of strength. We must be kind enough to tell someone the truth. We must be kind enough and considerate enough to lay it on the line. We must be kind enough to tell it like it is and not deal in delusion.

3. Learn to be bold but not a bully.
It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble. Like the farmer, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you have got to be bold and face the weeds and the rain and the bugs straight on. You’ve got to seize the moment.

4. Learn to be humble but not timid.
You can’t get to the high life by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility. But humility is a virtue; timidity is a disease. It’s an affliction. It can be cured, but it is a problem. Humility is almost a God-like word—a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, an awareness of the human soul and spirit, an understanding that there is something unique about the human drama versus the rest of life. Humility is a grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we’re part of the stars.

5. Learn to be proud but not arrogant.
It takes pride to build your ambitions. It takes pride in your community. It takes pride in a cause, in accomplishment. But the key to becoming a good leader is to be proud without being arrogant. Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance from ignorance. It’s intolerable. If someone is smart and arrogant, we can tolerate that. But if someone is ignorant and arrogant, that’s just too much to take.


Life is unique. Leadership is unique. The skills that work well for one leader may not work at all for another. However, the fundamental skills of leadership can be adopted to work well for just about everyone: at work, in the community and at home.


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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #141 (#2326-#2340)

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 #2326 – Invest in Your Employees
Another way to inspire and motivate your employees is by investing in them. Offering things like tuition reimbursement, a mentoring program, one-on-one coaching, and job shadowing with people in higher positions sends a clear message: you care about their career and their future. Some companies, in fact, have periodic meetings with their employees to discuss their career paths and make sure they stay on track.

Aside from improving skills and increasing staff knowledge, this kind of investment in employee career pathing gives them a reason to stay with the company for the long haul rather than be on the lookout for a better offer.

Invest in your employees, and you’ll give them a reason to stick around. When your employees grow and improve, so does the company.

Lean Tip #2327 – Give Employees a Purpose
No matter what your job is, whether it’s packing orders at a distribution warehouse, or managing a Fortune 500 company at the executive level, we all want to know that our jobs matter. Show your employees why they matter to the company, and what the results of their work are, and they’ll feel rewarded and motivated to keep at it. Emphasizing the importance of employee contributions (and giving people credit for good work) bolsters a sense of confidence and achievement, which can motivate people to keep working hard.

Lean Tip #2328 – Show Your Trust
A surefire way to motivate and inspire your employees is to demonstrate that you have faith in their abilities to get the job done. You can do this by assigning them more responsibilities and giving them the chance to rise to the challenge. Doing so shows that you trust them, which has a way of motivating people to keep doing their best.

Micromanaging your employees and hovering over their shoulders at every step is counterproductive because it makes them nervous. If your employees are too afraid to try new things, they won’t be giving you their best. Give them greater autonomy and responsibility and they will rise to the occasion.

Lean Tip #2329 – Be Transparent
Every relationship, including work relationships, is built on trust. Defaulting to transparency is one of the best ways to encourage an atmosphere of trust amongst you and your team, and a team that trusts you will be more motivated and engaged with their work.

Transparency also helps ensure that everyone is working with the same information. That in itself can benefit the team.

Lean Tip #2330 – Cultivate a Fun Workplace
Managers should keep in mind that employees spend quite a lot of time at work, which means that the workplace can't be solemn and somber all the time. While productivity and performance are of utmost importance, people also need to work in a pleasant environment where they sometimes have fun. Look for ways to productively encourage laughter and enjoyment into your organization in ways that are appropriate. Encourage friendly chatter and banter, as well as create shared experiences such as potluck employee lunches, special occasion celebrations and more.

Lean Tip #2331 – Create Regular Thinking Time
Operations and manufacturing managers are time poor. They’re often so involved in the responsive day-to-day that very few create space in their diary to think. They often have KPIs for continuous improvement, but are limited in their capacity to point their curiosity in new and potentially impactful directions.

Make the habit: To allow yourself this ‘space’, book an hour of time a fortnight to read industry news, or analyse your shop floor data in a new way.

Consider different perspectives and possibilities and visualize how you’d do things differently. Then pick up these ideas in your next scheduled slot, and share the well-formed ones with your team or manager,  so they can be actioned or developed further.

Lean Tip #2332 – Connect to the Customer
The production cycle is a continuous loop with no end: meeting KPIs; solving production issues; managing staff; maintaining plant equipment. There’s rarely time for internal collaboration, let alone consulting with the customer.

Connecting with the customer will help you understand their pain points, desires, new focus areas, future plans, and company updates. This information can be used to improve production.

For example, if new traceability regulations are top-of-mind for your downstream customers you’ll be able to re-focus your efforts in quality checks, training for staff, or product and materials tracking technologies and even suggest new business initiatives. 

Make the habit: Attend industry forums, organize informal client lunches, and talk to customer-facing employees in your organization. Aim to do at least one of these per week. Understand customer pain points so you can prioritize improvement activities around these.

Lean Tip #2333 – Create Opportunities to Maximize Efforts
In any task, project or strategy, it’s possible to hit multiple outcomes with a deliberate approach. It's more time efficient and effective. Rather than just following the structure of a done-to-death process, look at it and ask, ‘what multiple objectives can we achieve if we tackle them together?’ 

For example, implementing a continuous improvement process like 5S might aim to achieve ‘less waste in production’, but if you deliberately aim to achieve ‘greater engagement with the team’ and ‘staff training and empowerment’ as outcomes you might go about it differently.
You might create a goal, and delegate key staff to take ownership of the program, do some lean improvement training or take turns in reviewing its success. This would also increase the chances of program success through staff engagement.

Make the habit: Whenever you begin a new initiative, think about how you can use it to achieve more than one objective. Involve your team in strategy sessions for better collaboration and to gain support for new initiatives.

Lean Tip #2334 – Create Opportunities for Everyone to Contribute
Getting bogged down in urgent tasks can stop the important things like incremental improvements, from being addressed. That's where your staff can come in.

Many of the best ideas come from employees, and higher levels of staff involvement will get the greatest buy-in for change. What’s more, it can also boost company performance.

But how do their ideas get through?

Make the habit: Make it easy for improvement suggestions to be fed back into the system through an improvement suggestion program:

·        Use the intranet, a social forum or a suggestions box
·        Recognize all suggestions publicly via official written communication or at monthly catch ups
·        Verbally encourage ideas from all staff levels
·        Provide a framework: outline how improvement ideas should be tied to businesses goals
·        Publicly reward any actioned suggestions, provide rewards for the best idea
·        Ensure the business is actively assessing and implementing suggestions, to keep staff motivated to contribute
·        Showcase or demonstrate ideas that were successfully implemented and executed.
·        Importantly, make work a safe place to contribute by regularly encouraging suggestions, giving feedback and admitting your own mistakes.

Lean Tip #2335 – Empower Staff to be Innovators
Employee’s performance and enthusiasm for change will determine the company’s success. And, as the baby boomers start to retire, manufacturers face a key challenge in educating and developing the next generation of skilled workers in digital manufacturing.

Spend some time developing your production staff to offload some of the day-to-day burden and save the business time and money. Empowered staff are more proactive, make the right decisions independently, problem-solve and champion change programs.

Make the habit: Some actionable ways to empower employees are to allow paths to promotion, provide relevant training, facilitate peer-to-peer training, involve employees’ in decision-making and strategy, and design job roles for autonomy and play.

Lean Tip #2336 – Your Arrival at Work Sets the Tone for the Day
Picture Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy. He arrives at work with a frown on his face. His body language telegraphs overworked and unhappy. He moves slowly and treats the first person who approaches him abruptly. It takes only a few minutes for the entire workplace to get the word. Stay away from Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy if you know what's good for you this morning.

Your arrival and the first moments you spend with staff each day have an immeasurable impact on positive employee motivation and morale. Start the day right. Smile. Walk tall and confidently. Walk around your workplace and greet people. Share the goals and expectations for the day. Let the staff know that today is going to be a great day.

Lean Tip #2337 – Make Time for People for Employee Motivation
Spend time daily with each person you supervise. Managers might aim for an hour a week with each of their direct reports. Many studies indicate that a key employee work motivation factor is spending positive interaction time with the supervisor.

Schedule quarterly performance development meetings on a public calendar so people can see when they can expect some quality time and attention from you. You can make their year, not just their day.

Lean Tip #2338 – Focus on the Development of People for Employee Motivation
Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. No matter their reason: a promotion, different work, a new position or a leadership role, employees appreciate your help. Talk about changes they want to make in their jobs to better serve their customers.

Encourage experimentation and taking a reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. Make a performance development plan with each person and make sure you help them carry out the plan. The quarterly performance development meeting is your opportunity to formalize plans for people. You can make their career.

Lean Tip #2339 – Share the Goals and the Context: Communicate for Employee Motivation
People expect you to know the goals and share the direction in which your workgroup is heading. The more you can tell them about why an event is happening, the better.

Prepare staff in advance if visitors or customers will come to your workplace. Hold regular meetings to share information, gain ideas for improvement, and train new policies. Hold focus groups to gather input before implementing policies that affect employees. Promote problem-solving and process improvement teams.

Lean Tip #2340 – Say Thank You to Your Staff Regularly
Motivating staff doesn't have to be complicated, and isn't much harder than saying thank you to staff and encouraging your managers to do the same. Yes, a Mckinsey study showed that praise from the immediate manager was deemed to be the most effective staff motivator, (cited by 67% of respondents). So, start from the top by thanking and praising your direct reports and encouraging them to pay-it-forward by praising and thanking their subordinates regularly. Staff motivation should soar as a result.



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Monday, July 8, 2019

Real Leaders: Chobani’s CEO Boosts Employee Happiness

In an appeal to corporate leaders worldwide, Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya calls for an end to the business playbook of the past — and shares his vision for a new, “anti-CEO playbook” that prioritizes people over profits. “This is the difference between profit and true wealth,” he says.



Given that there is no such thing as work-life balance, because work and life are inextricably intertwined, it makes sense that companies are starting to pay closer attention to their employees’ happiness and well-being. 

This means more than offering an array of snacks and drinks in the shared kitchen of a workspace — it means fostering happiness among a staff who feels truly seen and heard by a company’s leadership. This is something that Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO of Chobani, understands well. “For me, the success of a company, the number one sign is the happiness of employees,” he explains in a recent TED video.

But how exactly does that happen? What can managers and employees at all levels do to boost the success and happiness of the staff and in turn, the company? Here are three ideas from Ulukaya:

Don’t lead from a distance

Arguably, one of the greatest benefits of social media is that it has acted in some ways as an equalizer — giving the average person access (at least in theory) to some of the most powerful people in the world. This includes CEOs of companies, who now are visible public figures. But according to Ulukaya, company heads shouldn’t lead from a distance: they should get in the trenches in order to truly understand their employees, and what helps them thrive.  

“Being shoulder-to-shoulder and seeing people, working with them, understanding their conditions, and understanding how they feel about the company, how they feel about the work, how the communities react to it is also very much tied to the success of the business,” he says

Invest in your employees

In a recent TED talk, Ulukaya, who is Kurdish and originally from Turkey, urged companies to adopt the “anti-CEO playbook,” starting with practicing gratitude, noting that “business should take care of their employees first.” And he’s not talking about lip-service, ceremonial gratitude in which a leader makes empty statements about being thankful for his or her employees — he’s referring to implementing actual policies that demonstrate the employee’s value. For example, in 2016, Chobani offered employees shares in the company, not only to make them official stakeholders (and shareholders), but also to ensure that they profit when the company does. 

“This notion of doing things by your employees — and making sure they have the conditions for themselves and for their families and for their communities — it’s not an expense. It’s an investment in your own company, in your own people, in your own dream. Every time you invest in your people, the return is 100 times greater than the expenses,” he said.

Include the community
Yes, fostering a sense of community among employees is a crucial part of happiness at work, but beyond doing that, Ulukaya also sees the importance of incorporating the local community. In his TED talk, he espouses a JFK-inspired relationship between corporations and communities, where successful corporations don’t ask communities what they can do for the company, but rather what the company can do for the community. Ulukaya says that businesses should approach struggling communities and ask about their needs and how they can help. For example, before opening a Chobani plant in Idaho, Ulukaya met with the local community, learned what would benefit them, and then created training and educational opportunities at the plant.


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Friday, June 28, 2019

Lean Quote: You Manage Things; You Lead People

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.


"You manage things; you lead people." — Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

While a leader can be a manager, not every manager is a leader. The distinction between being a manager and being a leader may seem small, but it means the world to the people who work for you.

A leader coach’s employees, depends on goodwill, generates enthusiasm, says “we”, fixes the breakdown, shows how it is done, develops people, gives credit, asks questions, and says “let’s go”.

A manager drives employees, depends on authority, inspires fear (the beatings will continue until morale improves…), says “I”, places blame for any breakdown, knows how it is done, uses people, takes credit, commands and says “go”.

The definition of leadership is “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” That is why it is my belief that if you are a good leader for your organization, then you really don’t need to worry about being The Manager. You will gain more influence and have more positive impact on your organization if your team feels valued and respected and has an understanding of where you expect them to be headed.

Great leaders don’t subscribe to a “Do-It-For-You” methodology of talent management, rather they lead, mentor, coach and develop team members by getting them to buy-into a “Do-It-Yourself” work ethic. Great leaders view each interaction, question or even conflict as a coaching opportunity. Don’t answer questions or solve problems just because you can, rather teach your employees how to do it for themselves. If you make it a habit of solving problems for people, you simply teach them to come to you for solutions at the first sign of a challenge.

Nobody wants a manager, but everybody wants a leader.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lean Roundup #121 – June 2019



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of June, 2019.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

The Worst Lean Advice - Bob Emiliani explains from experience typical poor advice to starting a Lean journey.

How to Choose a Continuous Improvement Approach – Jon Miller provides a brief summary of TQM, BPM, Lean and Six Sigma methods of continuous improvement.

What is Courage & How does it relate to True North? – Pascal Dennis says achieving True North requires all the cardinal virtues and none more than courage.

Back to Basics – Customer Value – Al Norval explains Lean as engagement of all people in driving continuous improvement through the elimination of waste to improve Customer Value.

Observe with Purpose – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains why direct observation at the gemba needs to be purposeful.

Why Checklists are Important – Anthony Manos explains the importance of using a simple tool like a checklist to avoid factory machine breakdowns, not just for productivity purposes, but also safety reasons.

Creating Continuous Improvement with Lean Metrics - Leyna O'Quinn shares Lean metrics that are instrumental in helping teams deliver continuous improvement.

3 Tips for Overcoming Confirmation Bias – Ron Pereira says an excellent way to counter the need to seek out confirmation bias is to stop worrying about what you, or others, think and run your own experiments in order to see what can be learned.

Lean: A Combination of “Why?” and “Why Not?” – Mark Graban says while we can ask “why?” we can also ask, “Why not?” in a way that triggers and encourages improvement, innovation, and a break from “the way we've always done it.”

Cost Saving is Tired--Value Creation is Hot! – Jean Cunningham says Lean affects financial outcomes, don’t fixate on cost reduction or product cost, look at the real numbers.

Go and See: Where The Magic Is - Nicolas Chartier explains why the magic happens at the gemba where you will discover unexpected opportunities for growth.

Ask Art: How Can I Engage All Our Leaders to Learn and Teach Lean? – Art Byrne says that  kaizen will get you  a lot of “learn by doing” gains among the people who you need to drive lean forward and will not only build great teamwork but start to build the learning environment necessary to become a lean enterprise.


Lean Graft Incompatibility – Bob Emiliani shares a practical way to understand how Lean management usually fails to take hold in brownfield organizations that have for years been governed by classical management thinking and practice.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

7 Benefits of Kaizen


Kaizen is a Lean manufacturing tool that improves quality, productivity, safety, and workplace culture. Kaizen focuses on applying small, daily changes that result in major improvements over time. Although improvements under Kaizen are small and incremental, the process brings about dramatic results over time.

Beyond the obvious benefit of improving processes, holding a Kaizen event can foster problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills and allow employees to demonstrate leadership. Engaging team members to identify problems and suggest improvements in their work areas encourages a sense of ownership over their work, which can improve overall motivation, morale, and productivity. Finally, holding a Kaizen event is one way to reinforce a robust culture of continuous improvement within your organization, after all, the best way to sustain the principles that you want to guide your company is to put them into practice.

If you are considering implementing Kaizen methodologies, you are undoubtedly curious about what the Kaizen benefits may be. The following are some of the most significant benefits that you will see using Kaizen in your facility:

Kaizen simplifies the job. By having employees, management, and other important stakeholders constantly suggesting improvements, it simplifies everyone’s jobs – improvements should streamline all processes.

Kaizen changes things up. Do you like doing the same old same old every day? If not, Kaizen is a great way to keep you on your toes and remove the boring tasks from the radar.

Kaizen keeps things from being a total pain in your rear. If something’s not working, why continue to do it? Instead, it is far better to suggest improvements to solve problems before costly defects occur. Kaizen keeps your work from becoming a huge burden.

Kaizen improves job safety records. By constantly improving processes, you will be abreast of important new safety standards, the latest in advances in equipment and technology, and the safest way to do things.

Kaizen improves everyone’s productivity. If you eliminate wasteful tasks, then you save time. For example, is it necessary to create a report of reports every month? Are there less wasteful ways to do things? Is everyone making the best use of their time? Look into the answers to these questions to meet this Kaizen process goal.

Kaizen improves the quality of your products. By following the Kaizen process steps, you can improve product quality. It is important to have quality products because this will increase your customer base, and ultimately, it will increase your bottom line.

Kaizen saves you money and it saves you valuable time. By having high quality products, few accidents, few burdons, and highly productive employees, you will save time. When you save time, you save money. It’s a win-win situation, all around.

As you can see, there are many great Kaizen benefits that you will enjoy when implementing Kaizen in your facility. One of the biggest perks of Kaizen, however, is that the benefits never really end. Kaizen by its very nature is an ongoing strategy that is always looking for ways to improve your facility.


The initial benefits that are implemented will lead to further improvement opportunities down the road. When done properly, Kaizen just keeps going through the cycle of identifying improvement opportunities, coming up with solutions to those opportunities, implementing the solutions and finally testing them. If the solutions are positive, the cycle starts over with new improvement opportunities. This will continue forever, leading to an optimized facility that is never satisfied with the status quo.

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