Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lean Quote: True Homage Comes From The Heart As Well As From The Lips

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.

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.— Theodore Roosevelt

People basically work for rewards. There are numerous forms of rewards and not everyone enjoys the same rewards.

When it comes to rewards in the workplace public employee recognition is one most powerful in terms of cultural transformation. It is especially important to engage in good employee recognition practices when you want to develop a productive workplace. Unfortunately, many either don’t do this or don’t do this well.

The best formula I have found for recognizing employees for their efforts is:

1) Thank them by name.

2) Specifically state what they did that is being recognized. It is vital to be specific because it identifies and reinforces the desired behavior.

3) Explain how the behavior or activity made you feel (assuming you felt some pride or respect for their accomplishment!).

4) Point out the value created by the behavior or activity to the team or organization.

5) Thank the people again by name for their contribution.

Every time you make life at work more satisfying for your employees, you are increasing the rewards they reap from doing their jobs well – and you make them want to continue to do so.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Three Simple Ways Thank And Celebrate Your Employees

As many Americans will be celebrating the century old tradition that is ‘Thanksgiving’ this week, it provides the perfect opportunity for employers to reflect on how often they offer thanks and praise to their employees. Your employees work hard for you all year, and what better season to show your appreciation and gratitude than now, as we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Whilst Thanksgiving may have evolved into a turkey eating, football supporting, Macy’s parade watching event, the original tradition stems from when the Pilgrims and Indians joined over a feast to give thanks to each other and god for getting through a difficult harvest. The gratitude shown to each other is something which many employers forget to embrace in the workplace, yet a little recognition and praise can have a significant impact on employee engagement and productivity.

Consider these three ways to thank and celebrate your employees:

1. Take the time to talk to, and get to know, your employees. The most significant way to thank your employees is to get to know them. Take them to lunch or schedule time to ask about their values, hobbies, and interests. Understand your employees. Use what you now know about them to build a customized skills-improvement performance plan. Spend time with, and become interested in, each of your employees. 

2. Ask employees what they think. The best way to feel appreciated is to be included – to feel that your perspectives matter. In a Lean environment, we need input from all of our employees to be successful. Including employees in company issues, challenges, and opportunities empowers them, engages them, and connects them to strategy and vision of the company.

3. Say thank you, and mean it. Most managers actually do thank employees who do great work. Employees work for more than money. They work for the praise and acknowledgement of their managers. A sincere thank you, said at the time of a specific event that warrants the applause, is one of the most effective ways to appreciate employees. Remember the phrase, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Start to say “thank you” or “I appreciate what you do” when it is deserved and it will inspire the behaviors to continue. Make it personal and sincere. Catch employees doing great things and respond. It empowers them, appreciates them, and celebrates their performance.

Regardless of your style and how you do it, connecting with employees and taking the opportunity to thank them, when ever you can, pays dividends for everyone. Appreciating and thanking your employees isn’t hard or costly. So take the time to make a difference in your employee’s life. You will be pleasantly rewarded by them making a difference in yours.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Employee Appreciation – Remember to Say Thank You

If you want your employees to be happy and productive, you need to give them recognition for a job well done and let them know their work is appreciated and important. In a workplace committed to creating an attitude of gratitude and employee recognition on a daily basis, every day should be Thanksgiving Day.

Research has shown that recognition and appreciation is the top driver of employee engagement. Perhaps it seems elementary, but if you want employees who are fully engaged, you need to ensure they are recognized when they do great work and that they know you appreciate their contributions to the organization. Motivated employees do a better job of serving customers well. Happy customers buy more products and are committed to using your services. More customers buying more products and services increases your company's profitability and success.

Thank you may be among the first words our parents teach us, but as we get older we seem to forget how to say them. Many managers usually recognize the major achievements--they celebrate the completion of a successful project, they honor an employee of the month. But how often do managers recognize the little steps their employees complete along the way?
Employees need to be thanked…a lot. So says “guru of thank you” Bob Nelson, author of the bestselling 1001 Ways to Reward Employees—and he should know. Bob said, “The number one reason people leave their jobs today is that they don’t feel recognized for the job they’re doing.” We have all heard the adage “you get what you reward.” So if what you want is more outstanding work from an employee, say thank you the very next time that employee performs an iota of outstanding work.

The best recognition is thoughtful, happens daily, and has a personal touch. Even better, it's usually free.  Demonstrate appreciation!  Write a note, take them to lunch, acknowledge the work in a staff meeting…whatever seems right.  Just remember to say thank you.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Lean Quote: Learn by Doing

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 we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.— Tom Groark

There is really only one way to learn how to do something and that is to do it. If you want to learn to throw a football, drive a car, build a mousetrap, design a building, cook a stir-fry, or be a management consultant, you must have a go at doing it. Throughout history, youths have been apprenticed to masters in order to learn a trade. We understand that learning a skill means eventually trying your hand at the skill. When there is no real harm in simply trying we allow novices to "give it a shot."

One of the places where real life learning takes place is in the workplace, "on the job." The reason for this seems simple enough. Humans are natural learners. They learn from everything they do. When they watch television, they learn about the day's events. When they take a trip, they learn about how to get where they are going and what it is like to be there. This constant learning also takes place as one works. If you want an employee to learn his job, then, it stands to reason that the best way is to simply let him do his job. Motivation is not a problem in such situations since employees know that if they don't learn to do their job well, they won't keep it for long.

Most employees are interested in learning to their jobs better. One reason for this is, of course, potential monetary rewards. But the real reason is much deeper than that. If you do something often enough, you get better at it -- simple and obvious. When people really care about what they are doing, they may even learn how to do their jobs better than anyone had hoped. They themselves wonder how to improve their own performance. They innovate. Since mistakes are often quite jarring to someone who cares about what they are doing, people naturally work hard to avoid them. No one likes to fail. It is basic to human nature to try to do better and this means attempting to explain one's failures well enough so that they can be remedied. This self-correcting behavior can only take place when one has been made aware of one's mistakes and when one cares enough to improve. If an employee understands and believes that an error has been made, he will work hard to correct it, and will want to be trained to do better, if proper rewards are in place for a job well done.

We must, as best as we can, teach employees to do things, rather than having them be told about what others have done. Learning is the accumulation and indexing of experience and thinking is the finding and consideration of an old experience to use for decision-making about a new situation. Critical to all this is the process of expectation failure and explanation. To make thinking beings, we must encourage explanation, exploration, generalization, and knowledge accumulation.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Daily Lean Tips Edition #87 (1306-1320)

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 #1306 – Learn From Your Past Changes
Unless your organization is brand new, it’s unlikely it has not rolled out a change (big or small) before.  You should use the lessons learned from rolling out these changes to form and inform your new change management approach.  This is the easiest and probably most valuable piece of information to shape your tactics and build an even stronger approach.

Key questions to ask about the previous change are:  what worked and what didn’t work?  Why or why not?  If you can get more details, ask for more!  Find out which communication mechanisms had the most impact, which champions were the strongest and which resources were the most helpful.

Lean Tip #1307 – Avoid the Rumor Mill
People talk.  Given a chance and an inkling of change approaching, people will fill in the blanks if you don’t.  Get ahead of the rumor mill by preparing your communications before rumors leak to the media and throughout your organization.

Your change management approach does not have to be fully pulled together to announce change is coming.  Key elements of the initial communications would be the why, when and how.  Be sure to note that feedback will be solicited, FAQs will be coming and many more resources to learn more.

Lean Tip #1308 – Get Buy-in for Your Change
So, it’s not just the resistors.  Everyone likes to be involved.  Soliciting feedback early in your change management process is key to understanding what could go wrong, tweaking it and correcting it.  If it’s a new system, this buy-in should involve employee input, pilot testing and demos.

Lean Tip #1309 – Select the Right Change Agent and Strategy
One of the most common mistakes we see is an insufficient number of Change Agents—coupled with Change Agents who lack the interpersonal skills or credibility to be successful. Subject matter expertise and availability are not the primary characteristics of a good Change Agent. The key role mapping process can help identify where you will need Change Agents (and Sponsors). You must invest in building capacity at the local level to get the change.

Lean Tip #1310 – Invest Time Up-front to Ensure There is a Common Definition of the Change and Alignment
We are continually amazed at organizations’ willingness to invest large sums of money and resources for changes that are not clearly defined. Without a clear definition, Change Agents and Sponsors are likely to head off in whatever direction suits their own frames of reference. You may get change, but not the change that was intended!

Lean Tip #1311 – Avoid Self Imposed Inflexibility, Especially For Job Shops
Job shops, make-to-order shops and engineer-to-order operations need to maintain a level of flexibility that OEM's (Original Equipment Manufacturer) like Toyota seldom have to deal with. Being able to turn on a dime, make a product from scratch, prototype or fabricate an item never to be made again takes a special attitude, a unique set of skills and a nimble and flexible manufacturing system. One-Piece-Flow through hardwired machines is not a viable an option for Job Shops. Does this rule out 'Lean' for Job Shops? No! Many 'Make-to-Order' shops have applied tools from the 'Toyota Production System' Toolbox to dramatically improve their performance while still maintaining flexibility.

Lean Tip #1312 – Don’t Ignore Lean Fundamentals When Improving.
Arranging machines together before they are capable and reliable is one of the most common mistakes. Moving the furniture is not the first thing you do, in fact it may be one of the last steps. Departmentalization can hide problems for years. Yet two wrongs do not make a right. Make sure that you are not increasing your chances for downtime and excessive set-up time by welding machines together in a premature effort to achieve one-piece-flow. It is tempting and very romantic to show your customer a cellular manufacturing arrangement, but if you are in a breakdown or set-up mode 47% of the time as in one of the examples we use in our workshop, you will cripple your ability to meet your customer needs. Focus on the fundamentals: Set-up reduction, 5-S, use of Takt Time, standard work, line balancing, TPM, and cross training.

Lean Tip #1313 – Stop Trying to Change Things Rather Than Focusing on Behavior.
Dupont's famous safety program known as the STOP system teaches us that 96% of all accidents are behavior related. Having Lean initiatives come "undone" can similarly be tracked back to behaviors. Many companies fail to apply enough effort to changing the standard-work or behavior when implementing change. Modification of the work process is necessary so that it is hard to go back to the old way of doing things. The new process then has a chance to become a habit. If on the other hand, you only change "things", then the "things" will get lost or broken or replaced when no one is looking. In no time you'll be back to the old condition.

Lean Tip #1314  - Better to go an Inch Deep Instead of a Mile wide
Some teams take a "shot-gun" approach to Leaning-out their organization. The result? Slow progress. Getting the "low-hanging-fruit" is fine, especially if there is financial "bleeding" going on somewhere in the organization. However, teams need to realize that running from one end of the shop to the other with Kamikaze Kaizen tools can actually add to the time necessary to transform a company. It has been said that you cannot Kaizen your way to lean. Kaizen is a tool much like any other tool in the World-Class Manufacturers toolbox. Of course the techniques of Kaizen should be used where appropriate, but this is not a one-size-fits-all tool. A better approach is to drill to the bedrock, preferably within a model-line (selected as a major value stream within the organization). Apply as many of the tools as possible in a controlled atmosphere. Then you will have a meaningful model upon which you can build, while training other teams within your organization.

Lean Tip #1315 – Don’t Accept Set-up Times as a “Fixed” Number  
Toyota focuses on SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) and they have taught us by example to never accept our set-up times as a 'fixed' number. However, in a job shop it could be very expensive to try to match Toyota's level of success in set-up reduction. How about cutting all your set-ups in half as a first year goal. SDED (Single Digit Exchange of Die) is not too lofty a goal for the second year. Having all machine set-ups average 10 minutes or less, is a goal many Job Shops have set for themselves. Pretending to be a small lot manufacturer while spending more than 10% of the day in a set-up mode can eat-your-lunch (financially speaking).

Lean Tip #1316 – Avoid Backsliding By Monitoring and Rewarding the Right Behavior
Backsliding is an age-old condition that can often apply to many aspects of life. It would be presumptuous of us to hope to offer a cure for one of mankind's oldest maladies in a two-page newsletter. Suffice it to say that we tend to improve only that to which we pay attention and measure. If a management team rewards the wrong behavior (old behavior), then that's what you can expect to get.

Lean Tip #1317 - Focus on “Flow” Rather Than Machine Optimization.
Way back in 1926, Henry Ford acknowledged that the longer a product was in the manufacturing cycle, the more it cost. Keeping the material flowing is the most important message that we try to transmit at our workshops. Ford fledged, and Toyota mastered the principles of FLOW. Flow might look different in a Make-to-Order shop because the flow might take the form of one-unit-flow, or one-pallet-flow, or one-truckload-flow instead of a perfectionist idea of One-Piece-Flow. Nothing wrong with perfection you understand, we just need to recognize that there is no reason to wait for absolute perfection before we get started. Make the problem visible to everybody. Tie a red ribbon to any pallet of material that sets still for more than ½ hour. Make sure that everyone knows that the goal is not to have a machine operate just to keep it busy or making noise. The goal is to do whatever helps keep parts moving through the shop.

Lean Tip #1318 - Think Outside the Box.
Job shops are often owned by entrepreneurs. Free thinkers who started their business in a garage or rented warehouse. Once becoming successful these same free thinkers often become their own enemy. They are so good at what they do that they ignore the fact that others may have discovered a better approach. Just like Tiger Woods might hire a golf-pro to help him improve his short game, recognizing a need for coaching does not diminish or call into question a person's ability. On the contrary, it shows intuitiveness and wisdom. It can help move your company to the next level of performance.

Lean Tip #1319 – Teams Need Training and A Coach
Providing teams a clear vision of where the company is going is all-important. Of equal import is educating teams in the use of skills they'll need to get the job done. No amount of cheerleading will improve a football team's skill set or chances of winning. They need a coach to teach them the fundamentals. They also need a playbook that can help transform their individual efforts into a winning team result; the same can be said for work teams. They need structured and experienced coaching from someone who knows the game. While it's nice to have the cheerleaders on the sidelines, they would be a poor replacement for a skillful coach.

Lean Tip #1320 - Change Requires Constant Support and Attention.

To get better every day takes knowledge, diligence, effort, focus and resources. It will not work to simply give a team a book about Lean Manufacturing, turn on your heels and walk away, ordering them to implement the process. The result will be 'short-term-improvement' and 'long-term-frustration'. Company leadership must take an active role in steering the efforts of the team. Direction and discipline to keep working on the Model-Line must come from the top. Otherwise sub-optimization and shot gunning will occur. The short-term needs of the manufacturing managers and the finance team will overshadow the long term needs to establish something more than a brittle veneer.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Lean Leader’s Foster Passion for Change

Passion is the driving force that enables people to attain far more than they ever imagined. Without passion there is no drive to succeed. It is the fuel of the will, and everything you do as a leader must express your passion. Passion is contagious and is easily shared. Passion will bridge moments of weakness, and will drive you past your failures while reaching for your goals. Passion radiates from you and is easily detected by others.

Passion is not style. There are a lot of different styles -- charismatic, quiet, confident. But it all comes down to this motivating sense of commitment to what you do. Vince Lombardi said “the difference between success and failure is energy … fired with enthusiasm.”

Enthusiasm; intensity about a subject; willingness to engage others on their terms with respect to the threats and possibilities; deep knowledge about the subject; examples from one's own experience - all of these are marks of passion.  These are attributes that can be studied, learned, and acquired over time.  They grow from believing that there must be a better way for your organization to survive and prosper in a competitive world.

Passion is literally the fuel that propels you toward success. Passion allows you to think, feel, focus, act, attract and create the events conditions and circumstances that you most desire to see you through difficult times. Passion is what propels you to begin taking the necessary action steps that will allow you to begin changing your current situation.

Lean leaders harness the passion of their team to bring about change. Even if this passion is against the leader’s change, it is still valuable since a leader knows that resistance to change is far better than apathy. The stronger the resistance, the stronger the energy that’s available. So leaders dig deeper to understand the source of the resistance and either rethink the change based on the wisdom they uncover, or they harness and realign the energy of that resistance.

A leader without passion isn’t a leader. He’s a paper pusher. Or a taskmaster. Passion drives a lot, and you can inspire so much in others through your own passion and enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly cheery, it means you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and what your company is doing.

Strong leaders engage people’s hearts. They build ever-deeper passion and commitment. The key leadership word is “care.” When we care about our work, we will often be harder on ourselves than anyone else would dare to be. When we really care about the customers we serve, we’ll go out of our way to ensure that each “moment of truth” (contact with customers) is as positive as we can make it. When we care about making our organization successful, we’ll go above and beyond our job to do whatever it takes to be part of a winning team. When we care about our products or services, we’ll do whatever it takes to continue feeling proud of what we do.

Passion isn’t something you can expect or mandate. You can, however, create the conditions for passion to be unleashed. Because leaders value passion, it is only natural that they expect passion in the workplace.

Great leaders take vision and passion to the next step by investing their time and energy to create environments in which employees are engaged in meaningful work and eager to contribute. When this is realized, the result is competitive advantage.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Lean Quote: Want to Be a Better Leader? Show Employees You Care.

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.

"If management thinks people don’t care, it’s likely that people won’t care.— Tom Groark

Rallying a team of people can be challenging. You'll be required to work with people with different personalities, each bringing to work different drivers and motivations. To fully engage the members of your team, recognize their individuality -- what stimulates them and keeps them striving to do their best -- while maintaining a collaborative environment where everyone is working toward the same end goal. 

Show employees that you care about them personally so that you and the team can tackle shared goals. The following three steps can help you achieve this:

1) Listen.
One of the most important traits in leadership and managing employees is the ability to listen. Take the time to sit down with employees and listen to their thoughts, suggestions, comments and concerns. Giving members of your team a voice, individually and as a collective group, will boost morale and thus business growth.

Listening is not just about receiving your employees’ ideas but also acting on them when it makes business sense. Prove that you're willing to trust the input of your employees. It will pay dividends in the long run.    

2) Get to know your employees.
Gone are the days when people expect leaders to sit behind a closed office door and dictate from on high. In modern business, the best leaders and entrepreneurs get to know their employees on a personal level as well as professionally.

Ask employees about members of their family, what they enjoy doing outside the office and the parts of their role that they like or dislike the most. Demonstrating an interest in your employees as people, rather than as cogs in a machine, will ensure that they feel valued.  

3) Be approachable.
A manager's display of willingness to be consulted by staffers is crucial for business growth and success. A strong leader gives staffers an opportunity to be heard and lets people feel comfortable doing so. This type of leader makes time for employees and listens to their ideas, at a meeting, during a private conversation or in the corridor. 

Being approachable will not only results in your building stronger relationships with members of your team. It will give you an opportunity to hear new ideas and demonstrate to staffers that they are valued members of the business.

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