Friday, June 22, 2018

Lean Quote: Build a Better Team of Leaders

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 single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them." — John Maxwell

Leadership is not an exclusive club reserved for those who were “born with it.” The traits comprising the raw materials of leadership can be acquired. Link them up with desire and nothing can keep you from becoming a leader.

Some people have a more intuitive grasp of how to lead than others. These “natural-born leaders” will always emerge, but their influence hinges upon their ability to supplement inborn talent with learned skills. Ultimately, leadership is developed, not discovered.

The Three E’s of Leadership Development

1) Environment
People accustom themselves to their environment and take cues from their surroundings. In the 1980s, social scientists came up with the broken-windows theory which indicated that the physical appearance of a community affects its crime rate. Run-down properties, widespread graffiti, and trash strewn about in a neighborhood invite crime by signaling that no one is watching and that no one cares what happens. Oppositely, a clean and well-kept neighborhood gives the impression that people are monitoring their community and willing to take action to ensure its safety.

Every organization is permeated by an invisible culture which communicates an unspoken message that shapes its people. As has often been said, “leadership is more caught than taught.” Be attentive to the influence of the following five elements of your organizational environment: habits of social interaction, physical design and decoration, morale / emotional tone, level of intellectual stimulation, and spiritual well being.

2) Equipping
Equipping begins with expectations. Namely, that leadership is influence, that leadership can be learned, and that leaders can multiply their influence by equipping others.

Equipping succeeds with training. Telling is not teaching, and listening is not learning.
We learn to do by doing; training must be interactive.

Equipping continues with teaching. The reward of a teacher is a changed life. Success comes through achievement, but significance results from helping others to grow.

Practically speaking, the equipping process can be broken down into five steps.
Say it: explain the task.
Show it: demonstrate how to perform the task.
Assign it: let the other person attempt the task.
Study it: observe how the person performed the task.
Assess it: offer feedback based on the person’s performance.

3) Exposure
A little exposure trumps a lot of theory. To develop leaders, expose your people to expert practitioners. These real-world educators model how to lead; they set a living example which serves as a source of inspiration. Whereas equipping delivers job-specific training, exposure provides a vision or picture of what successful leadership looks like.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Making Better Decisions

Indecisiveness is a productivity killer. Decision making is an essential part of business in all organizations. In traditional companies this power is typically held by few managers at the top of the organizational ladder. Lean companies however strive to empower their employees to make decisions at all levels through access to data, knowledge of evaluation methods, and defined standard processes. Nevertheless, decisions are necessary in all organizations and the following these guidelines can be beneficial.

Timing. Neither making snap decisions nor always having to “sleep on it” is the best approach to the time factor involved in making decisions. Make your decisions based upon the circumstance and the time available. Within the realm of practicality, give yourself enough time to take the following decision-making steps.

Define the problem. Be careful not to confuse symptoms of the problem with the real problem.

Identify the options. Try to get at least four alternatives. Since you may be too close to the situation, seek others’ input.

Gather the facts. In order to evaluate your options, you must gather the facts about the ramifications of choosing each option. List both the pros and cons of each option.

Evaluate the options. Usually this will include a comparison of costs, time required to implement and the expected end result of each option.

Choose and put into effect. Key, and often neglected, aspects of implementing decisions are to communicate the decision to the affected parties, outline why the decision was made, why the particular option was picked, what actions are required on their part and what beneficial results are expected.

Without the right information, decision-making, and therefore, progress, doesn’t happen. Here are five common pitfalls to decision-making -- and how leaders can avoid them.

Deciding alone. There are many benefits to consulting with others on a decision: gaining different perspectives, more resources to draw upon and more commitment to the decision by those consulted.

Every decision a major decision? Not every decision requires a lengthy decision-making process. Don’t get bogged down with minor problems. If they’re minor, make a reasonable decision and move on.

“The last time I was wrong was when I thought I made a mistake.” No one is always right. If you’ve made a bad decision, admit it and get started on fixing it. Remember – it’s impossible to force a bad decision into being a good one.

“Boy! I sure wish I hadn’t.” Just the opposite to the pitfall above. Because no one can be right all the time, don’t waste your energy regretting bad decisions. Get on to current issues.

Failing to use past precedent. Maybe the same problem has come up before and been effectively solved. Perhaps, if it has come up enough, there is a company policy that covers it.

Not every decision will be right but if you avoid these pitfalls and follow these six guidelines you will find you have many more right decisions than wrong decisions. Remember, the only thing worse than a wrong decision is no decision.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #126 (1891-1905)

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 #1891 – Provide Ongoing Coaching and Training
Some people in your organization will proactively seek mentors and training, while others will need it to come directly from their manager. Offer an optional weekly coaching session to discuss strategies and tactics that can help each member of the department improve in their role, and make them fun!

Lean Tip #1892 – Show Employees How their Job Advances the Company’s Vision
Your company has undoubtedly recorded its vision and goals for the year. Why not show employees exactly how their jobs advance the vision? This will boost each employee’s investment in the success of the company instead of just feeling like a cog in the wheel.

Lean Tip #1893 – Have Problem-Solving Meetings
Everyone takes a different approach to problem-solving. Schedule meetings where you reveal a big problem facing the company with complete transparency. Let employees take a crack at explaining how they would solve it. Employees will feel more engaged in company outcomes and they might just solve a few problems while they’re at it.

Lean Tip #1894 – Get Employees Involved in Long-Term Projects
Organize employees from different departments into teams to tackle long-term projects that involve responsibilities outside of their typical scope of work. Not only will they get to know people they don’t work with on a day-to-day basis, they’ll pick up skills from one another as they work on important projects.

Lean Tip #1895 – Praise Your Coworkers
It shouldn’t only be left to managers to praise good work. When you hear about someone’s achievement, go over and personally congratulate them. It’ll mean a lot to that person and they’ll likely do the same for you when your big wins come through.

Lean Tip #1896 – Understand The Fundamental Issue
The first major step of any root-cause analysis is to identify exactly what problem or issue your agency is facing. If you don’t pinpoint the fundamental problem, you aren’t able to complete a root-cause analysis. You must understand the issue, and you must have a consensus on exactly how it manifests before you’re able to move forward in your analysis.

Lean Tip #1897 – Ask Questions, Keep Digging Till Root Cause.
The five whys technique is helpful in digging for answers. Start with the problem and work backwards to sequence all of the contributing events. Ask why the issue happened. Take that answer and ask why again, drilling down until you reach a cause that can’t be broken down any further. Explore all potential causes initially, and narrow down the list to the most likely culprits. You’ll end up with a cause-and-effect diagram that will lead you to the source of the problem. When you believe you’ve reached the root cause and not another contributing factor, check your work by asking:

a) Would the event have occurred if this cause was not present?

b) Will the problem happen again if this cause is corrected or eliminated?

If the answer is no to both questions, there is a good chance you have uncovered the underlying cause. If not, keep digging. Note that there may be multiple root causes, each of which must be addressed to prevent similar issues in the future.

Lean Tip #1898 – Breakdown the Problem into Smaller Pieces.
Completing a task or solving a problem can seem overwhelming and impossible if you take it all in at once. To decrease anxiety and think more clearly try to break the problem down. Try to identify the different things and people it consists of. Then figure out one practical solution you can take for each of those pieces. Try those solutions. They may not solve the whole problem immediately. But they might solve a few pieces of it. And then you can keep trying other solutions for the rest of the pieces until there are none left.

Lean Tip #1899 – Enlist Open-minded People When Problem Solving.
When tackling a big problem many people just grab anyone available with two hands and a brain. Unfortunately, closed-minded team members can not only delay the solution, they may instigate a bigger problem than the one you are trying to solve. Great problem solvers know the best results come from groups of open-minded people. Your problem-solving team must be willing to get outside of the box and uncomfortable. Ultimately this approach will surface creative new solutions and processes.

Lean Tip #1900 – Find the Lesson or Opportunity Within the Problem.
There is almost always a good side of a problem. Perhaps it alerts us to a great way to improve our business. 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 and you may even start to see the situation as a great opportunity for you. When you are faced with a problem ask yourself: How can I use this? What is the good thing about this? What can I learn from this? What hidden opportunity can I find within this problem?

Lean Tip #1901 - Be Clear about Tasks So Everyone’s Knows Their Responsibility
No one can effectively complete an assignment if they are unsure what tasks they are responsible for. Make sure that the entire team knows the scope of the project and that each team member is clear about exactly what is expected of them. Getting the team together regularly to check progress, ask questions, and address any issues is another good way to keep everyone on track and assure that all team members are aware of their responsibilities in the project.

Lean Tip #1902 - Be Open and Honest With Your Team Members
Possibly the single most effective way to improve interpersonal communication in the workplace is to instill a sense of trust among your team members. Transparency is key here; if team members feel like secrets are being kept from them, any trust you have built goes right out the window. Of course, sensitive information should be handled as such, but team members have a right to know when they are not privy to such information. Be open and honest with your team members, and reassure them that they can do the same with you. Mutual trust is important in any relationship, including a professional one.

Lean Tip #1903 - Take Ownership For Mistakes
The best managers are the managers that can relate to their employees. That includes owning up to the decisions (and errors) that you make and admitting when you could have done something differently. Everyone makes mistakes, so by confessing your flaws, you are showing your employees that you are just as human as they are.

Lean Tip #1904 - Have An Open-Door Policy. It Builds Trust.
An open-door policy in place sets the precedent that anyone can ask questions, voice concerns, and pitch ideas at any time. This is an important part of building trust within your team. Making management inaccessible sends the message to lower-level employees that they are not as valuable. Keeping the doors of communication open is crucial.

While you’re opening figurative doors, open literal ones as well. Removing physical obstacles between employees creates a sense of mutual trust and encourages the open exchange of ideas. Problems can be presented and resolved as they arise instead of waiting for the weekly company meeting.

Lean Tip #1905 - Build a Desire for Cohesion

It’s often easier for managers to make quick decisions based on their experiences. But being collaborative means setting the quick trigger aside from time to time and involving all team members in some of the bigger, impactful decisions during your huddles and team meetings. This keeps everyone on the same page and allows them to refocus their time and energy where needed.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Lean Quote: Nothing is Impossible; The Word Itself Says, “I’m Possible”

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.

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says "I'm possible"!" — Audrey Hepburn

Almost every technological advancement was believed, at one point, to be impossible.

But impossibility exists only when we believe it does. There are limitations on some things. Mortality is a limitation. And, that’s why we have finite time to do the things that are unimaginable.

But, sometimes we think of things as impossible only because we’re underestimating our cognitive or physical abilities. We create our own impossibilities.

We may not be aware of the necessary steps or sacrifices required to make the changes that will lead us to success, but we feel we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

While there may not be a limit on what you can accomplish, there’s a limit on how much you can do in a day, a week, a month or a year.

Also, your body and mind can take only so much. In other words, don’t think you can build Rome in a day.

More importantly, don’t get caught believing that anything worth accomplishing is easy or pleasant.

Change is an unpleasant experience for the most part — not so much once the change occurs, but during the process itself.

Some changes happen more seamlessly than others. But you’ll really only appreciate the ones that required significant effort.

Pursuing your dreams requires sacrifice. We have limited time and energy. We can do only so much.

Every goal requires a minimum number of steps. Some things are more easily accomplished than others. Some things require more focus than others.

Life is just a big empty canvas. You create your own art. And, then you decide how to turn it into a masterpiece.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Six Dimension of Servant Leadership

In today’s world, leaders are being called upon to provide a new kind of leadership: servant leadership. Gone are the days when a simple “command-and-control” pattern worked. The old military style of the “kick-in-the-rear” has outlived its time. It no longer fits contemporary social values, and it is no longer very effective.

An effective leader is one who is highly effective in six major dimensions of accomplishment in working with others:

Vision and Values
To be a good visionary you have to be able to see the big picture, understand what’s happening, and decide where your team needs to go. You must have a clearly defined vision for your team’s success.  You know what they want to accomplish and each team member’s role.  You must keep up to date on current events in their field.  You’re also knowledgeable and informed, so you’re able to make timely decisions.  You need to foresee problems and plan for them.  Service leaders are role models for the values that they represent.

If you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there. – Anon 

Your job as a leader is to help people get things done. People work more productively when they have clearly defined goals to achieve. You make the strategic vision into a reality. A leader sets the overall direction for the team. This means choosing what’s most important for the team to accomplish, setting goals to accomplish it, setting priorities that keep everyone’s mind on the goals on a day-to-day basis, and helping everyone understand the plan.

A leader’s job is to turn great thoughts into crude deeds. – Peter Drucker

It’s not enough to have a clear vision and a sense of direction, although those are critical elements of effective leadership. You must also be able to get others to see, understand, and believe in the vision. When the whole team believes in the leader’s vision, they are more likely to commit to achieving that vision.  Leaders convey self-confidence in themselves and in their abilities.  They are able to communicate effectively with their team to ensure that each member is clear on the team’s direction and priorities.  They frequently remind the team of the goals and mission in order to keep them on target.  Leaders are good listeners.  They allow others to communicate their ideas and create an atmosphere where they are comfortable doing so.  Leaders follow through on their decisions and see them through to completion.

Being an effective leader means knowing how to “enroll” others in your vision. – Warren Bennis

You are there to help when people need you. You help them keep their minds focused on the real priorities, and maintain a positive frame of mind about their work. Leaders ensure that everyone functions well as a team and provides the team with the tools and resources required to achieve the desired outcome.  You need to have the skills to think logically and analytically. You need a good command of essential facts and figures. And you must be able to approach problems systematically. They encourage creativity and provide guidance to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings. – Anon.

You must help people develop their capabilities and express their potential, both individually and collectively. People don’t thrive as individuals when they’re stuck in dead-end jobs, doing the same old things over and over. Everyone needs to be challenged at times, to take on new things, and to learn new skills. An effective leader is one who sees to it that people have a chance to grow.

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

One of the deepest human needs is the need for appreciation.  Servant leaders give respect and recognition where it is due.  They show team members that they care by showing respect and appreciation for their efforts.  A good leader can inspire people and help them feel good about what they’re doing. It could be as simple as communicating their gratitude.  In return, these leaders receive loyalty, dedication and higher productivity.  Leaders encourage team members to contribute ideas and they value these ideas.

The deepest craving in all human beings is the need to be appreciated. – William James

Leaders at all levels of the organization need to be comfortable with all six of these dimensions. Of course, each of the six will come into play in a particular form, depending on the level involved. At the senior manager level, Vision and Values tend to be critically important. So are Direction and Persuasion. The other dimensions are also important, of course, but in different ways. At middle levels, interpreting the Vision and Values and the Direction become important. At the frontline level, tactical leaders usually have to focus much more closely on getting the actual work done. The dimensions of Support, Development, and Appreciation become critically important. The six dimensions of servant leadership apply equally well in situations where the leader or would-be leader has no formal managerial authority. 

These six dimensions represent the traits or skills necessary to become an effective Servant Leader.  By evaluating your current skills and comparing them against the items listed above, you will be able to get an idea of the skills you need to develop.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Five Guidelines on Effective 5 Why Analysis

Asking why 5 times: “the 5 Whys”, is a simple but powerful tool to use with any problem solving activity. It’s a technique to help you get past the symptoms of a problem, and to find its root causes. Simply ask the question “why” up to five times. 

Sakichi Toyoda, one of the fathers of the Japanese industrial revolution, developed the technique in the 1930s. He was an industrialist, inventor and founder of Toyota Industries. His method became popular in the 1970s, and Toyota still uses it to solve problems today.

Taiichi Ohno gave this example about a machine that stopped working (Ohno 1988, p. 17):

1. Why did the machine stop?
There was an overload and the fuse blew.

2. Why was there an overload?
The bearing was not sufficiently lubricated.

3. Why was it not lubricated?
The lubrication pump vs not pumping sufficiently.

4. Why was it not pumping sufficiently?
The shaft of the pump was worn and rattling.

5. Why was the shaft worn out?
There was no strainer attached and metal scarps got in.

Without repeatedly asking why, we would likely replace the fuse or pump and the failure would recur. Keep asking why until the root cause is reached and eliminated.

Here are some guidelines to doing a 5 Why analysis correctly:

Five is not a set in stone number. It’s not the guaranteed magic number.  It does usually force you to push deeper than most feel comfortable, in most cases.   Think about it like this.  It might be something that takes asking why seven or eight times or maybe three is adequate.  The key point is to not just accept the first answer to the question: Why did XX happen, because it’s probably a symptom of a deeper cause, so you have to keep asking why until you get out of the symptom level and into the root cause level.

Take time to do it right. Don’t think you need to gather everyone to have one meeting and finish it by the end of the meeting.  All possibilities in the brainstorming activity should be investigated and validated as true or not.  This quite possibly will require team members to seek out more information and report back.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  I’d advise to not let this turn into an excessive break in the problem solving process, especially in more urgent matters.

Brainstorm with a group. Unless you’re a one person business, take advantage of the different points of views of the team.  Always include the person that is the closest to the problem, this is usually an employee from the floor.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a group of managers or engineers argue about a theoretical cause while ignoring the fact that the person that was physically present during the problem probably knows exactly what happened.

Don’t punish employees for telling the truth. Many times they will have information, but with-hold it in fear of getting in trouble for not doing or saying something earlier.  This is why Lean can only truly exist if a “blame free environment” is created.

Look at things from different perspectives. Examine every detail.  Don’t assume that something is happening correctly, verify that it is.  Think about the cause of the problem form outside of the proverbial box.   After all, the solution is unknown at this point, so the cause could be absolutely anywhere, even in the most likely of places.

Bonus Tip:
Get out of the office. The Japanese term Genchi Genbutsu means to go to the place where the work is done.  Ask questions.  Observe the work for a while.  Look at data that is relevant to tracking down clues.  You may have to ask for some additional data to temporarily be collected if needed.  
5-Why analysis is more than just an iterative process or a simple question asking activity. The purpose behind a 5-why analysis is to get the right people in the room discussing all of the possible root causes of a given defect in a process.

Many times teams will stop once a reason for a defect has been identified. These conclusions often do not get to the root cause. A disciplined 5-why approach will push teams to think outside the box and reach a root cause where the team can actually make a postive difference in the problem, instead of treating symptoms.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Lean Quote: Importance of Inspirational Leadership

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.

"Leadership is not just about giving energy ... it's unleashing other people's energy." — Paul Polman

There are a host of reasons why inspiration is so important in the leadership process. An inspiring leaders can:

Enhance self-esteem. People perform at their best when they feel confident. Inspiring behavior from a leader directly enhances people’s feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy.

Give new meaning to work. The inspiring leader is able to inject a higher meaning to work. There is a classic story about a bystander who asks two workers, “What are you doing?” One worker replies, “I’m cutting stones”; the second worker says, “I’m building a cathedral.” Then the bystander watches the care and the quality of work done by each of them and quickly artisanship and the first did not.

Increase cooperation. Inspiring leaders create a culture of cooperation rather than of competition and rivalry.

Encourage higher goals. Inspirational leadership encourages people to set their sights at a much higher level.

Heighten creativity. Inspirational leadership can foster a greater willingness in people to attempt new behaviors and to seek ingenious new ways to accomplish tasks.

Increase risk taking and exploration. Inspirational leadership frees people to take greater risks, to explore different ways of accomplishing a task.

Create higher productivity.  An inspiring leader elevates the standard of productivity, how hard people work, the hours they put in, and their willingness to overcome any obstacles.

Provide stronger identification with the organization. The leader’s emotional connection with the team members creates a stronger bond between the organization and its people.

Inspirational leadership behavior provides a powerful “glue” between the leader and the group. The culture of the organization is fundamentally transformed and people are motivated to work longer, harder, and with greater focus than before.

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