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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lean Roundup #7

Selected highlights from the Lean Blog Community from the month of December, 2009.

Psychology of Lean – Jeff Hajek explains some of psychological concepts and how they affect workplace behaviors in a Lean company.

How Much Time in the Gemba - Lee Fried shares some thoughts on the balance of time senior leadership needs for strategic thinking and time spent in the Gemba.

The Advantages of A1 Thinking OverA3 Thinking – Jon Miller talks about using a white board instead of paper for your PDCA problem solving.

Lean as a Way to Save Manufacturing – Mark Graban shares a video from CNN on a company that is using Lean to save manufacturing jobs in the US.

Six Principles of Influence – Paul Cary explains six methodologies to influence people in an effective way.

P is the first S and O is the last S in 5S - Alex Maldonado says you need to "Cultivate a plan that will set in order ownership in your 5S program that will shine throughout the workplace".

Habits – John Hunter explains the importance of creating habits in culture change and shares two ways you know things are becoming habit.

Quit Groveling and Get Lean – Bill Waddell says business need to use lean to generate cash instead of relying on others to do it for them.

Being Lean: Not Just for Fat People – Ankit Patel relates being Lean in a company to that of being lean physically and draws a number of similarities.

The Positive Tension Between SMART and Stretch Goals – Jon Miller explains the importance and relationship between SMART goals and STRETCH goals.

Thank You God for Giving Me Problems - Mike Wroblewski shares a prayer from the book "Play to Win, The Make a Difference Gameplan" by Tom Karbowski called "Thank You God for Giving Me Problems".

Can't Get No Dissatisfaction - Rob Worth talks about the need for some dissatisfaction to implement change to avoid content or acceptance of the current situation.

4 Steps for Small Daily Investments – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains 4 steps to start making improvements with small daily action.

The Lean Ratio – Bill Waddell shares a Lean measure of value added expenses to total expenses which was followed by a post Value Or Not To Value That Is The Question where the discussion of what is value added came up.

The Be Cause and Other Inhibitors to Good Problem Solving – Bob explains the other causes that can prevent us from getting to the root cause of a problem so they can be avoided.

 US Companies Competing With China Using Lean – Mark Graban reviews an article about companies using Lean as a strategy for competing against cheap labor in China.

Idea kaizen, PDCA-B6, mini-PDCA – JC Gatlin shares several problems solving tools and explains how to use them.

Communication Tips For Lean Leaders – Liz Guthridge shares communication tips from a recent leadership communications study of employee communication professionals.

Kaizen: It's Good for What Ails You – Dan Markovitz reviews an upcoming HBR article on the benefits of improvement on the company and individuals.

Joy, Hope, and Lean – Karen Wilhelm reminds us to remember the joy of past lean practices as we get ready to renew hopes along the lean journey.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sustainability: Ten Factors for Making Culture Change Stick

Previously, I discussed creating a Lean culture and characteristics of effective change management and I am going to talk about sustaining this change.  Simply, sustainability is about lasting change. Sustainability is discussed often and one of the great issues in management, never mind Lean.  We have all seen facts related to the low rates of sustaining change or seen news about a company who lost its way.


Charles Darwin said "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change" which holds true for culture change.


Below are ten factors that will help any organization make the change they make lasting.


Capability – Management must employ the time and resources necessary for change.


Intention – Determination and drive for the cause is required.  You must insist we make the change and be determined to keep it up.


Success – People feel happier and perform better when there is a feeling of success and vice versa.  Attitude drives performance so managers must project confidence.


Hard Work – It is hard to keep it going.  This is entropy.  Without it, the system runs down.


Emphasis on the team not the individual – In the US we love heroes, but actually teams are more fundamental for long-term survival.  Teams need to be mentored and developed.


Many small wins, rather than the occasional big win – Small wins keep up the enthusiasm, and certainly add up.  Management needs to continually recognize small wins.


Attitude toward failure – Everyone fails from time to time, but what is crucial is the attitude toward failure: do you punish or do you treat it as part of learning?


Motivation – Sustainability requires interest and involvement of all employees.  Ask "What gets rewarded around here?  Build a culture to support improvement.


Discipline – Make it a habit.  Without good disciple the system will not be maintained.  Management must teach discipline and correct lapses with respect for people as they occur.


Performance measures – It is true you get what you measure, drive good behavior.  Performance measures need to be aligned with what you want to achieve.  Think long term.


There is no such thing as self-sustainability, it requires ongoing effort. To quote Jack Welch, 'People always ask, 'Is the change over, can we stop now?' You've got to tell them, 'No, it's just begun!''

Friday, December 25, 2009

Quote of the Day December 25, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

"Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business and to provide jobs." - Deming

Reivew this post on on Adam Zak's Six Strategies for Change Leaders as we refocus efforts on improvement again in the new calendar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Post: Happy Employees = Happy Share Holders

This is a guest blog post by Ankit Patel, CEO of The Lean Way Consulting. You can follow Ankit's thoughts on his blog or find him on Twitter @AnkitTheLeanWay.

Only 1 in 5 employees is willing to go the extra mile for the company. Many times we look at lean from the P&L aspect and forget the most important part about lean, the people. It is commonly known that if you do a lean implementation correctly you will have great financial results. The thing that doesn't get publicized is the fact that part (I would argue all) of the success comes from having a happier and more engaged work force. But why are people happier? Are you paying them more? Are you giving them more rewards?

I'm a big fan of continuous improvement on everything including my own life. I have listened and practiced to Tony Robbins materials and the way he models human satisfaction and happiness is by the six human needs:

1) Certainty
2) Variety
3) Significance
4) Connection
5) Growth
6) Contribution

In other words if you have all six then you will be a pretty happy individual.

We like to have a certain amount of stability to what we do. With lean we measure to certain outcomes so stability and certainty are a major part.

Ironically we don't like too much certainty. We need some spice by adding in variety. Continuous improvement is a way of life with lean so if you aren't constantly changing and trying to get better you are not practicing lean. Lean also encourages cross training so you may not work in the same area all the time.

Everyone wants recognition and the feeling of importance. Lean turns the work area over to the people who run the work area. They have control and feel like they have ownership of the area and the responsibility to take care and improve their area. Their roles become 100x more significant once they have those responsibilities.

We want a connection with others; we are after all social creatures. With lean we have a more team oriented approach that tends to bond team members together. People have to communicate more with each other and once the system is viewed as the problem then it stops the finger pointing and helps with bringing people closer together.

We want to grow and develop from our current state. Most companies that implement lean implement cross training that gives people growth opportunities. People also grow by learning new skill sets that come with a lean environment.

We like to give back and throw in our two cents. In a lean environment this is an expectation of everyone. Contribution is rewarded even if it isn't fruitful.

You can see why lean is so great for employee satisfaction. You notice pay isn't on the list and in fact if you look at other lists money is never the #1 factor. If you want to improve your bottom line look to make your workforce happier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Characteristics of Effective Change Management

The other day I posted about the steps necessary to Create a Lean Culture and mentioned the important role leaders have in this process. Changing the culture of an organization requires effective management. Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management thinkers of the past century, said ‘management is about human beings’ and advocated leadership by effective management.

"Management Effectiveness" means having the perspective and judgment to do the right things. It is about leveraging the power of people and their creativity in doing so throughout the repeating cycle of vision, execution, and outcome. Far from blind execution of orders, effectiveness requires synthesizing information and stepping up to challenge conventional wisdom. Effectiveness is the wholeness of the decisions - it's synthesizing and balancing multiple, often competing, objectives in a manner that enhances individuals and society with no negative impact. Effectiveness also means the ability to make mistakes and learn from them.

With this backdrop from Peter Drucker I propose that there are six C’s for effective change management:

Commitment – Empathy and support from the top levels with the ability to persevere through the inevitable resistance to change. The willingness to assign good personal and the time and money required for the improvement effort.

Communication – The skill to communicate to the entire workforce on how, when and why change is going to occur, combined with the ability to gain their input, ownership and buy-in. Clear and frequent communication is the key to dissipate uncertainty and fear.

Consensus – An agreement on the best path to take forward for success. Involvement of the people concerned to create ownership and alignment of vision. The greater the connection to the change the greater the willingness to change will be.

Consistency – People need to understand that this is not just a fad that will pass, but that you are serious about sticking to it. Repeated desirable thinking, behaviors, and practices form the basis of an organization’s culture.

Cultivation – Encourage and foster learning and teaching at all levels in the organization. Refine the culture of the organization as needs and opportunities change. Make the change relevant to everyone within the organization

Constantly – Regular uninterrupted activity is required for all people in the organization for all the C’s above. Always looking to improve all aspects of what we do to add value and eliminate waste.

The effectiveness of change (E) is the product of the quality of change (Q), time the acceptance of change (A) : E = Q x A. Excelling in either quality or acceptance is not all it takes; both factors complement each other.

There is no quick solution for changing the culture of an organization. With effective management to focus on the quality of change and the six C’s to aid in the acceptance of change you will be well on your way to transforming your organization.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quote of the Day December 18, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem – Theodore Rubin”

Check out this post on how to Stop Fighting Fires and learn how to create a problem solving culture.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do Your Holiday Shopping At LEI (Get Special Discount)

The Lean Enterprise Institute is giving a Christmas present to everyone in the Lean Community this year by offering a special discount on purchases at their Bookstore.

To receive the special discount just go to the Lean Enterprise Institute’s Online Store and enter THANKYOU09 in the discount code field at checkout. The discount code is worth $10 off your purcahse, limit one per customer.  The offer is good through Jan 31, 2010.

This is a good time to start a Lean library or supplement your library with new materials to help get you moving forward again in the new year.  Check out Jamie Flinchbaugh's post "Start A Lean Library" or Jon Miller's Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management  if you are looking for book ideas.  Continue learning along your Lean Journey. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Really Motivates Employees

Zig Ziglar, the popular American motivational speaker and self help author, said “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.”

In a recent article several employee motivational myths are debunked:

  1. Many think money motivates but studies show that motivating with money is not effective because it is short lived. Receiving money is periodic in nature and therefore does not continuously motivate individuals.

  2. Keeping employees happy with perks at break time is also not effective since employees want a break. However, enjoyment at breaks does not support to improved performance.

  3. Some try to avoid conflict but this doesn't help anyone. It can result in dissatisfaction and discipline.

  4. There are those that believe some employees can never be motivated. This simply is not true. The reasons people are motivated do vary and the challenge for managers are to find what works for all employees

  5. Some believe that your achievers; those workers who quickly learn, adapt, and produce; don’t need motivation. All employees need motivation. If you don’t motivate those individuals than they will get bored.

It is recognition, not money, which is the real motivator in a down economy. The author David Javitch offers 10 quick ways to motivate your employees. All of which are easy to do and cost nothing. What is missing and probably most important is the frequency with which we motivate people as the quote above highlights.

All you have to do to understand your company’s culture is to ask “What gets rewarded around here?” Because what get’s rewarded gets done. It is important for leaders to ensure their employees are not only working on the right things but that they do so productively. When motivating employees consider what you reward and how you reward it because employees want to be recognized for doing a good job.

If you enjoy this post and want to continue learning you can subscribe to A Lean Journey, join the discussion on LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter with links on the right hand side of this page.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Creating a Lean Culture

Culture can be defined as the day-to-day experience of the ordinary worker.  Many think culture creates successful results but the contrary is true.  Performance drives culture.  If there is success, people tend to exhibit enthusiasm for change, great support, great teamwork, and great management.

Although Lean often involves revolutionary change, culture change is evolutionary, day by day.  A "Lean" culture is characterized by two learning elements: Humility and Respect.

Learning begins with humility.  The more you strive for Lean, the more you realize how little you know, and how much there is yet to learn.  A sure sign of impending failure is a manager who claims to "know it all" or says "we have tried that…"

Respect is to make every effort to understand others, accept responsibility, and build mutual trust.  Respect for people is the second pillar of the House of Toyota and means recognizing the value of your people through developing them. 

Leaders need to be mindful of their role in creating culture change.  Here are seven ways to initiate this evolution and learn respect and humility, day by day:

  1. Really Listen.  Look at people when they talk.  Give them your undivided attention. Ask follow-on questions during the conversation.

  2. Don't waste time.  If you keep employees or customers waiting you are saying to them "your time is not as important as mine"

  3. Go to the Gemba.  Go see for yourself at the place the work is done.  If you allow a worker to use a machine that produces defects, you are in effect telling the worker their work does not matter.

  4. Develop people.  Encourage learning, teamwork and continuous improvement.  Build knowledge in problem solving thinking and countermeasures.

  5. Acknowledge the accomplishments of others. If things go well, give away the credit. If things go poorly, take the fall. This humble approach will ensure your team rallies behind you.

  6. Temper authority. Don't use authority just because you have it. Encourage your people to make decisions, set their own goals, and take responsibility as often as possible.

  7. Promote others often. Grooming talent is good for your organization and for you as a leader. Promote people around you, giving them opportunities to match or even surpass your success.

Achieving a Lean culture with humility and respect requires constant demonstration over a long period of time.  Remember the shop floor is a reflection of management.  You can't listen and learn if you don't go to the Gemba.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the Day December 11, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

"Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well - that's work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about." - Bruce Hamilton
If you like this quote then check out an earlier post about Bruce's video "Toast Kaizen" and learn how making toast can teach you about lean.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Simple Visual Poka Yoke at a Hotel

While staying at a hotel recently I noticed a simple visual poka yoke. Poka yoke is the Japanese term for mistake proofing. In this case a two cable phone jack is color coded and labeled to indicate the phone line and the modem line.

This picture is a little hard to see but the phone line is colored black and the modem line is colored red. Below you can see the red line or modem line connecting into a desktop port.

This visual prevents mistakes of plugging the phone or a computer into the wrong line. The simplicity of this poka yoke illustrates that solutions don't need to be costly or complicated.  I am impressed to see the hotel management embrace problem solving in a way that allows their employees to get involved.  Now any employee can reconnect the lines should they become disconnected. 

Many of us have lines at our home or office that we could use a technique like this to prevent plugging devices into the wrong lines.  What type of poka yoke solutions do you use in your work and living spaces?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Coping with the Resistance to Change

Conditions within and outside organizations are constantly changing.    It follows, therefore, that the way work is organized and accomplished must change periodically to cope with changing conditions. The only constant is "change" itself and successful organizations by definition do this better than anyone else.

Anyone who has worked in or led an organization's transformation understands change is not easy.  People tend to resist change naturally.  This is especially true with organizational and infrastructure type changes.  To cope with resistance one needs to understand why it occurs and how it can be overcome.

Here are the most common reasons why people resist change:

  1. Self- Interest – People fear that change will cause them to lose something they once had.  For example, when a corporate president decided to create a new vice presidency for product development, the existing vice presidents for manufacturing and marketing resisted because they feared losing their right to approve or veto new product decisions.

  2. Misunderstanding and Lack of Trust – A change starts as a vision in the mind of its sponsor.   If people don't trust that individual, they will suspect that she or he has hidden and harmful motives for proposing the change.  For example, a union opposed a company's proposal of flexible scheduling (flextime) because they didn't trust the personnel manager who suggested it.

  3. Different Assessments – When people view a problem from different perspectives, they will perceive different causes and cures for it.   Therefore, they may see a change as tackling the wrong cause and proposing a fruitless solution.  For example, sanitation department employees felt their pick-up delays were due to equipment breakdowns so they resented the city replacing their supervisor – they felt the planned change was inappropriate.

  4. Low Tolerance For Change – People sometimes resist change because they fear they will be unable to handle the new conditions competently. They also may resist breaking up comfortable social relations with co-workers.  For example, individuals have turned down transfers and promotions because they weren't sure they could handle being supervisors and they didn't want to give up the friendships with co-workers that had developed over the years.

There are five major ways this resistance to change can be dealt with.  Each is especially appropriate when certain conditions exist as shown in the table below: 

When this occurs:
Use This Method:
Employees poorly understand or have little or inaccurate information about the problem.
Provide, in advance, as much information as possible about the change and your reasons for it.
You don't have all the information needed to design the change and where others have considerable power to resist.
Allow the people who will be affected by the change to participate in deciding what needs to be done and how to implement the changes to be made.
People are resisting because they feel put out and inconvenienced by having to change from familiar to new circumstances.
Help people adjust to the new conditions by making the change as comfortable as possible.
Someone (or a group) clearly will lose out in a change and they have considerable power to resist.
Negotiate with them so they feel somewhat compensated for what is to be lost due to change.
Speed is essential and you have considerable power to enforce your will.
Announce and enforce the change with certainty and firmness.

These methods usually are used in combination and they are successful when employed with realistic awareness of the situation in which change is to occur. 

The infrastructure of an organization often changes in a lean transformation.  When trying to empower employees in a flow environment it is necessary to break down traditional organizational silos and hierarchical structures.  If you understand people's resistance to these changes you will be better equipped to prevent their resistance to change.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quote of the Day 12/4/09

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

“There are three kinds of leaders. Those that tell you what to do. Those that allow you to do what you want. And Lean leaders that come down to the work and help you figure it out.” – John Shook

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Take Xtreme Lean's 5S Quiz Then Try the Videos to Learn More

I recently came across a great little 5S quiz to test your knowledge on 5S. You can even get a certificate of your accomplishment. How well do you know the 5 S’s?

This quiz was created by Jeff Hofstetter. Jeff is the President of Xtreme Lean Consulting with over 24 years' experience in Lean and Six Sigma Consulting. On their website you will find valuable information about Lean Business practices, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma Quality, and how to implement solutions to improve your business

While checking out the Xtreme Lean Consulting webpage I came across a number of engaging and simply illustrated videos that everyone can comprehend. The animated videos cover a wide range of topics including 5S visual workplace, six sigma tools, and lean business.

Check out Jeff’s newest video on water spiders. Water spiders is a lean manufacturing techniques used to keep value added tasks functioning in an efficient and effective way.