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Monday, January 31, 2011

Lean Lessons from a Snowstorm

In the northeastern part of the US we have received some record snow falls in the last few weeks.  All this snow got me thinking on the way home that there are some lean lessons we can take away from these snowstorms.

  1. Forecasts are inaccurate.  You can only count on actual demand.  We have all experienced school cancellations based on high forecasts which result in only a few inches.  You can't rely on forecasts to plan your business either.
  2. Overproduction is the biggest waste.  A snowstorm with 24 inches is much harder to manage than one with a few inches.  As in snowstorms overproduction leads to other wastes in business.
  3. Waiting is inefficient.  Snowstorms often leave you stranded at home.  This means going to work and school is difficult.  Businesses can't afford this waste of valuable time.
  4. Excess processing is not productive.  Large snowstorms usually result in multiple clean-ups.  This extra trip outside to remove snow is wasteful.  Extra processing and steps in business result in lost productivity.
  5. Excess motion is dangerous.  Removing snow manually with a shovel is physical exhausting.  Excessive motion in your business can be physically and emotionally exhausting for your workers.  This overburden is referred to as Muri in Lean.
  6. Inconsistency creates difficulties. The variation in type and amount of snow fall makes snow removal and road treatment more difficult.  The methods and effort to deal with sleet (freezing rain) and heavy wet snow is quite different. In Lean we call this inconsistency in demand Mura.  Businesses would prefer predictable level demand since it is easier to manage.
  7. Preventative maintenance is essential.  If you want to be able to clean up from a storm your snow blower needs to be maintained and ready to operate.  If you want to deliver on-time to your customers then your equipment needs to be ready to produce.  Total preventative maintenance (TPM) is the program to help you do this.
  8. Inventory is necessary.  During a storm you find many people stock up on supplies because of the unpredictable nature of weather.  They want to be prepared until they can resume their normal delivery routes.  This is necessary in business as well.  Lean is about having the right amount at the right time.

Lessons in Lean thinking are all around us.  Many of us are unaware of them but if you are willing look you can learn a great deal.  Jeff Hajek and I have highlighted various Lean concepts with everyday examples like making coffee, buying milk, and driving.  Keep learning and applying Lean to make work easier.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Lean Quote: Create a Learning Environment

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 leader needs to create an environment in which people can analyze the situation and develop a good response." — Bill Gates

People learn more quickly in the right environment. Consider the following suggestions for creating an environment that is conducive to learning and development:

• Model your commitment to development by sharing your development objectives and asking for regular feedback. In particular, ask others to give you feedback on your coaching efforts.

• Tailor your coaching and support to each person’s individual learning style.

• Be genuine. Let your personality, insights, observations, and self-disclosures add depth and richness to your coaching efforts.

• Emphasize small, reasonable steps. Because people learn in small steps, expecting too much too soon can discourage progress.

• Promote active experimentation. When people try new things in different ways, they solidify their understanding of what really works and prepare themselves to use skills effectively in a variety of circumstances.

• Give people permission to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. Focus on what they learned rather than on how they performed.

• Encourage people to talk to each other about what they learned from their mistakes. Back up your words with willingness to talk openly about our own mistakes.

• Remember that your position as a people manager or team leader may make some people especially sensitive to what you say or do. Avoid offhand remarks and irrelevant criticisms.

What do you do to create a learning environment in your organization?

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poka Yoke - Make Process Easier (Video)

Mistake-proofing is the use of process design features to facilitate correct actions, prevent simple errors, or mitigate the negative impact of errors. Poka-yoke is Japanese slang for mistake-proofing, a term coined by Shigeo Shingo.  Here is a good example of mistake proofing a process by Paul Aker at Fastcap.

For more on Poka Yoke visit Mistake Proofing Help.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: The Toyota Mindset

When I started my journey into Lean Thinking the likes of Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo, the founders of the Toyota Production System, were gone.  I consider myself the next generation of Lean implementers, learning from those who learned from the best.  My own sensei worked for Toyota for 30 years and often told stories of working with Ohno-san and Shingo-san.  As a passionate Lean Thinker I am always interested in learning about the creation and establishment of the Toyota Production System.

Now there is a book that sheds more light into the thinking of Taiichi Ohno.  The Toyota Mindset explains the ten commandments of the famous thinker.  Written by Yoshihito Wakamatsu, an early shop floor worker during Ohno's development of the Toyota Production System, now a manufacturing leader recounts Ohno's teachings. 

The 10 commandments from Taiichi Ohno thinking:

  1. Wastes hide so start by disclosing all of your mistakes.
·    Collecting small parts lets you identify bigger wastes.
·    Don't plan with numbers from the past otherwise the same wastes will be inherited.
·    Measure your performance by productivity, not by how busy you are.
·    Produce only necessary items.
  1. Discover the truth beyond your understanding.
·    Avoid first aid remedies; develop a habit of analyzing thoroughly on the shop floor.
·    Don't just do what you can, do until you can.
·    Don't become conceited by being satisfied with immediate results; avoid being over confident.
  1. Increasing production while limiting the number of workers is the only way to gain true success.
·    Don't select work based on what's possible or not, always decide based on what's necessary or not.
·    Lead them to an answer but don't give it away.
·    Reverse your thinking process.
·    Motivating people requires swaying their emotions, however it comes with many difficulties.
  1. Act on problems right away, don't procrastinate.
·    Do it now; you can solve anything.
·    You can find a better solution today than you can tomorrow.
·    Continuous efforts build a solid foundation.
  1. Don't feel satisfied by saying, "I finished the job." Go beyond that and say, "I can do more."
·    Don't just follow instructions; add your own craftiness to it.
·    Avoid a uniform treatment of suppliers; it only leads to labor enforcement.
·    Don't teach your workers everything; let them realize on their own.
  1. Add "appropriate timing" to "appropriate method" in problem solving.
·    Give your workers care and time so that they start approaching you.
·    Show workers what you can do first.
·    Don't let workers sweat or they will lack ideas.
  1. Believe in "I can" and question "I can't".
·    Everybody has innate intelligence; it is the role of leaders to educe such intelligence.
·    Don't believe what critics say and don't base your judgments on criticism.
·    If you want to improve how work is performed you need to reform the basic mechanism of work.
  1. The key to achieving progress is to never give up.
·    Don't give up because it's destined to become a failure; generate ideas so that it won't fail.
·    If you want to gain strong support from your workers; give out fewer orders.
·    See through the numbers; only the shop can validate the truth.
  1. Don't do work at an average pace; the shortest way is always the easiest.
·    Continuously improve on a pattern of failure.  Do the same for a pattern of success.
·     The starting point can be low as long as your goal is set high.
·     Decisions can be based on profitability, but that shouldn't be the only factor.
  1. Change yourself first if you want to change someone else.
·    Ask workers to do hard things in a gentle manner; ask workers to do easy things repeatedly.
·    An "I can" conviction can be as easy as an "I can't" conviction.
·    Make a great team and continuously improve it.

The author says the most important element is to have faith in human intelligence and potential.  From my experience I tend to agree.  Humans can be empowered by taking full advantage of their innate intelligence.  Remember, anyone can come up with ideas.  It is up to you to nurture and help bring forth tangible results because of those ideas.

The stories and examples recounted in the book provide valuable insight into Ohno's belief, as well as giving a glimpse into the transitional period of Toyota's history that led to them becoming a world leader in manufacturing.  There are not many other books out there that give the reader such and in-depth look at the man who revolutionized the way manufacturing is done.  While Ohno did not necessarily describe the 10 commandments in his work the author does this to explain Ohno's philosophy.

In my opinion this is a must read book for anyone interesting in Lean Thinking.  It provides a deeper understanding into the birth of the TPS.  The knowledge the author presents will better equip you to deal with problems that may arise in your organization.

Note:  A copy of this book was provided by the publisher Enna for review.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Learn Continuously

Go to your bookshelf and pull out one of your old college textbooks.  Is the information still current?  Now think about your industry – has it changed since you began your career?  Think of how quickly your most challenging competitors are moving.  Are you keeping up?  Clearly, learning is a must.

Learning needs to become part of your daily routine.  You are most likely to succeed if you consistently pursue a learning activity each day.  Even five minutes a day can make a tremendous difference.

So how do you make learning continuously part of job?  Here are ten ways to get started today:

  1. Set development priorities.  Focus first on developing skills for your current job; then focus on the future.  Place reminders of your development goals where you will see them each day.
  2. Pursue ways to develop and apply specific skills.  The most effective way to develop your skills it to make it part of your daily routine.  Each day, identify where you can practice new skills and behaviors. Compile a list of people who can support your development.  Observe people who are skilled in the areas you are trying to improve.
  3. Make your learning more efficient.  Training yourself to take advantage of a broad variety of experiences can accelerate your learning and development.
  4. Get the most out of readings and seminars.  When you are reading or are attending a seminar, take notes.  Search for one insight or application in everything you read.  Decide what you will do differently.
  5. View mistakes as learning opportunities. Mistakes are a problem if you repeat them or don't learn from them.  When you make a mistake, ask yourself what you can learn from it.
  6. Involve others in your development efforts.  Effective development rarely happens in isolation.  Instead, successful learning occurs through a continuous process of feedback and support.  Learn from people outside of work and realize that no single person will fill all your needs.
  7. Seek out and learn from others who are different from you.  Getting input and advice from a wide range of people will provide you with new ideas.  Develop a habit of identifying what you can learn from each person you meet.  Realize that to keep learning, you need to put yourself into unfamiliar situations.
  8. Demonstrate willingness to try new things, even at a risk of failure.  Doing new things and taking risks does not come easily for many people because they fear the potential consequences.  When you are concerned about doing something new, find a way to practice. 
  9. Keep up-to-date on technical knowledge and expertise you need.  Gain the expertise you need by finding resources in other areas of the organization or by charting a path for increasing your knowledge.  Network with others to learn needed information.  Use resources available through professional associations, Web sites, blogs, and so forth.
  10. Stay informed about industry practices.  Industry practices and standards change so you need to keep up-to-date on developments.  Visit other companies and talk with their employees.  Attend industry or professional meetings, conferences, seminars, webinars, and other educational events.  Join a group of professionals who get together to discuss issues of common interest.
Everything can contribute to our experience of learning.  But as you may realize, learning is incomplete if we don't listen to the voices of those whose background and experiences are different from our own. Part of our learning continuously is opening our minds and hearts to those who propose a different way.

This post is sponsored: Find out how to earn a business degree in online settings.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Lean Quote - Respect for 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.

"It is disrecpectful to not allow people the opportunity to solve their own problems or use their own thinking.." — David Meier, at Northeast Shingo Prize Conference, 2010

Leaders facilitate the solution of problems by pinpointing responsibility and developing employees. Leaders do not solve other people’s problems. Although sometimes it seems easier to solve the problem yourself, that easy road out often has you encounter the same problem again.

It is not the job of the leader to solve all the problems. The leader’s job is to clarify and help define the problem, find the problem owner and see that the owner takes responsibility for its solution. Similar to the fishing adage, which says don’t feed a person a fish; teach them how to fish, don’t solve the problem, teach them how to solve their own problems.

Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime.

Your role as a leader is to develop talent to the highest levels of independent and autonomous thinking and execution. 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.

Lean thinkers at Toyota believe that showing respect for people means you allow them to think for themselves and solve their own problem.  It is often said that the mission of Toyota is about developing exceptional people who happen to make great cars.  The point is that it is more about people and less about the problem.  The problem is another opportunity to teach them a skill for lifetime.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Daily Lean Tips Edition #8

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 #106 - Question how often to have a meeting?
How often to have a meeting?  Consider these:

•Don't just meet to meet.  Meeting should be Action Driven.
•Needs to be tied to work needs and deadlines.
•Set with frequency to ensure attendance by team members.
•Do not have a meeting when work needs to accomplished alone.
•Meetings should be used when the work needing to be done can not be effectively or efficiently accomplished otherwise.
•Count the cost (salary, benefits).

Lean Tip #107 - The 4 P's of planning a meeting agenda.
The 4 P's of planning an agenda for a meeting:

•What is the PRIORITY of the meeting?
•What is the PURPOSE of the meeting?
•Which PEOPLE should attend?
•How should everyone PREPARE?

Lean Tip #108 - Use the "100 Mile Rule" as a guideline for meeting interruptions.
Don't interrupt the meeting unless the interruption would have occurred even if the meeting was 100 miles away.  Let the team work together to solve problems and make improvement.  Interruptions effect teamwork on any activity since you don't have the full attention of the team members.

Lean Tip #109 - Team members have a role in meetings too.
If you are a team member at a meeting consider these tips to be fully participative:

•Come prepared.
•Listen and concentrate.
•Actively participate.
•Be flexible.
•Leave your ego outside.
•Don't shut down others; stay open.

Lean Tip #110 - There is a good reason to use a process map when ...
There is a good reason to use a process map:

•To identify measurement points in a process
•To identify potential process improvements
•To zero in on the origin of a problem
•To communicate procedures, process flow
•To identify critical interfaces (between Customers and Suppliers)

Lean Tip #111 - Goal setting should not be taken lightly because your journey to success depends on it.
Goal setting is a process whereby you decide what you want to achieve and set up a plan to do it.  The very first step of goal setting is to, first, determine what you want at the end of the journey. That is your ultimate destination.  Some people say that goal setting is just a matter of sitting down and deciding what to do.  If you fully intend to achieve your goals, you should perceive goal setting as an extremely powerful process of personal planning.

Lean Tip #112 - Don't set a lot of goals at the same time.
You should start with one goal and stay focused on this goal at least for 30 days. If after 30 days you feel you're doing well and getting closer to the desired outcome you can start with the second goal.

The simple rule is: Don't set a lot of goals at the same time. You won't achieve any. The key to goal setting is staying focused. And it is impossible to focus at many goals at the same time.  Start with the most important one.

Lean Tip #113 - If you don't believe you can reach your goal you won't.
If there is any doubt in your mind that you can achieve something, you don't give it your all. In fact, you may very well just set it aside. In order to fully achieve anything, you must believe it is possible at a cellular level.

If you believe that you can be successful, that you'll enjoy being successful, then you will be successful.

Lean Tip #114 - Set a deadline for your goal.
Set a realistic date when you plan to accomplish your goal. Don't commit to "as soon as possible"! If you don't have a specific deadline for your goal, you won't have a sense of urgency and you'll start to put things off. What's the hurry, if you don't have a deadline?

Remember that the deadline must be realistic. We all tend to underestimate time it will take us to accomplish tasks. Keep in mind that unplanned obstacles may occur and slow you down.

Lean Tip #115 - Write down you goals, you've probably heard this but it is important.
You've probably heard hundreds of times that it is crucial to write your goal down. But do you know why this step is so important?

When you put pen to paper you turn your thoughts into something tangible. Your goal is no longer just a thought! It becomes something, what motivates us and creates a gut feeling inside.

Writing your goals down is the first step to make the goals more real. Somehow having things in writing really makes them seem more important to most people.

Lean Tip #116 - Leadership is a mix of skills, attitude, will, and motivation.
A leader:

•Makes things happen.
•Is mentor and coach.
•Is respected and followed.
•Has a clear purpose.
•Single-mindedly pursues common goals, regardless of obstacles or temporary setbacks.
•Leads people to accomplish what they thought was impossible.

Lean Tip #117 - A leader overcomes resistance to change.
A leader makes change happen through:

•Leading change
•Making every situation into a learning experience.

Lean Tip #118 - A leader wants other to improve, and guides rather than controls them along that path.
Leaders trust people and know that trust creates more trust and loyalty.

A Leader:

•Builds positive relationships.
•Is frank and critical, but not threatening.
•Is a keen observer.
•Knows how to ask questions and evaluate answers.
•Develops people's potential, instead of judging their performance.

Lean Tip #119 - Creating a motivating environment is among the most important functions of a leader.
Only leaders can set the strongest motivators in motion amongst these three:

 Belonging: being a member of the team.

Achieving: reaching common goals - the more difficult, the greater the satisfaction.

Recognition: praise, promotion, rewards.

Lean Tip #120 - Leaders communicate and lead the change.
Leaders give support, discuss goals, and inspire.  Leaders:

•Are not embarrassed to ask for advice.
•Eliminate the "we-they" barrier between functions and groups.
•Are self-confident and do not need a "common enemy" to achieve unity.
•Encourage creativity and innovation.
•Accept mistakes as opportunities to learn.
•Get things done with or without direct authority.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: 100% Leadership – Guidelines To Be An Effective Leader

There are many roads that can lead to success.  Leadership is about knowing the right road for the right situation.  It takes skilled judgment to apply the right method at the right time, under the right circumstances.

100% Leadership is a practical guide to daily decisions and actions.  This book is written by Gabriel Hevesi a retired management consultant from Brazil with more that 50 years of front-line business experience.  He shares valuable guidance on communicating, team-building, planning, and efficiency.

The author covers an array of topics in context of the company not the leader.  They include:
  1. Common Sense and Sound Judgment
  2. Know Yourself
  3. Managers Lead
  4. Risk Management, Crisis Management, Work Ethics, and Social Responsibility
  5. What Makes a Leader?
  6. Leader Communicate
  7. Results Oriented Behavior
  8. Leaders are Team Builders
  9. Leader Plan
  10. Efficiency Leaders
  11. Change Leaders
  12. Leaders Make Decisions
  13. The Leader and The Stakeholder
  14. Trend Leaders
  15. World Leaders
  16. Levels of Leadership

100% Leadership is an easy, quick ready at about 130 pages.  The format allows for anyone from first time frontline leaders to seasoned executives to be able to read this book.  Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous leader and ends with a checklist to support your thinking of the topic.

The emphasis of this book is on usefulness.  The book presents often opposing systems, theories, and opinions to provoke – to force your thinking to fit variables together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The true test of leadership is how you use your judgment and common sense for selection, timing, and application of ideas.

I enjoyed this book and found it quite valuable.  As the subtitle indicates this is a helpful reference for anyone developing leaders in your organization.  Both those mentoring and being mentored will benefit from 100% Leadership.

Note:  A copy of this book was supplied by the publisher Enna for review.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Ways to Show Respect for People

The power behind Lean is a management's commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  The Toyota Way can be briefly summarized through the two pillars that support it: Continuous Improvement and Respect for People.

Many companies fall short on respecting their people. Not for lack of effort but for misunderstanding what constitutes treating employees with genuine respect, as opposed to being polite and considerate.

Here are ten ways you can respect people in your organization.

Listen harder.  Obviously there are times when you're busy for extended discussions.  But you need to set aside times when you can listen carefully to employee's problems, reactions, concerns, and suggestions.

Look at people when they talk.  Good listening means being willing to stop working computer, close a door, stop reading your email, or only answer emergency calls. Give the speaker your full attention, and let them know they are getting your full attention.

Keep your promise. By keeping your word to someone, you not only establish yourself as a person of integrity, but make the other person feel as though you value them.

Be on time. Another way to demonstrate that you value someone, is by treating their time as though it is valuable. Nothing says this better than being punctual.  Don't waste others time.

Encourage. Sometimes when we hear a silly idea, it's easy to shoot down someone's hopes and dreams, or otherwise make them feel unimportant. Genuinely encouraging someone could be very empowering and liberating.

Take care of your work environment. Your co-workers can see your work space, especially if you are in a cubicle paradise. If you keep your work space and the common areas clean, everyone will be calmer when they are around you.

Let the buck stop with you. This means take responsibility for your own faults and your successes.  Don't claim other people's work as your own, and don't push your failures onto a co-worker.

Create a Learning environment.  Developing your people shows respect for them.  Building explicit (book) and tacit (hands on) knowledge and distributing it is equally important.

Allow mistakes.  The real source of power of Lean lies in its ability to learn from mistakes, and to continuously improve.  Mistakes are seen as opportunities to improve and not as something that needs to be monitored and punished.

Go to the Gemba.  You can't genuinely listen if you aren't there.  Go to where the action is happening and seek the facts.  Lean implementation takes place on the floor, not in the office.

There are many other ways to demonstrate respect for people. These ten constitute a solid foundation of Toyota's pillar, respect for people.  How do you show respect?

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