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Monday, September 30, 2013

Lean Roundup #52 – September, 2013

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of September, 2013.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Involve to Inform – Liz Guthridge says don’t just inform people involve them so you can act with purpose.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming - "People Work In The System That Management Created" – Al Norval explains a Deming insight regarding the source of many problem being from the way the work is done within the production system which management creates.

How To Build A Learn Organization – Terry Howell provides four fundamentals to build a learning organization.

SKU  Reduction - Reverting to 1913 Thinking – Bill Waddell says that the current thinking of some to reduce SKUs is not Lean but rather poor thinking of Ford.

Cracked – Bruce Hamilton explains why the only acceptable level of quality from the customer standpoint is zero defects using eggs as an example.

Lean: It's Just Like Backpacking – Dan Markovitz has noticed that building a lean organization focused on continuous improvement has many similarities with the backpacking ethos.

How Can A CIO Help A Lean Transformation? – Dan Jones answers this question by looking at the type of transformation and how IT can improve it’s processes.

IT Needs To Turn It's Purpose On It's Head – Michael Balle says that while IT role is critical in Lean transformations it needs to completely change it’s thinking.

The One Skill You Need To Solve Any Problem But Probably Aren't Using – Pete Abilla explains why exercising empathy when solving problems is important.

Technology Isn't The Answer – Dan Markovitz says don’t jump to technology before you have grasped the problem at hand.

Zlonk! More Batman Lessons On Change Management – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains why change has to be personal and how to create an environment of motivation.

The Great A3 Thinking Fallacy – Jon Miller takes a deep dive into A3 thinking to look at its origin, what it really means, and how it supports PDCA.

Rowing II – Bruce Hamilton illustrates the importance of getting everyone heading in the same direction, toward True North.

8 More Lean Concept Clarifications – Jon Miller clarifies 8 common Lea concepts and why it matters or doesn’t matter.

Seven Psychological Principles of Change: Principle Four – Karen Wilhelm explains my sweeping change won’t work but rather why small continuous improvement will.

What is Karakuri Kaizen? – Michel Baudin explains Karakuri Kaizen and it’s principles with an example.

How Do You Handle Complaints? – Dragan Bosnjak says the way a company handles complaints says a lot about their continuous improvement efforts.

The SMED-ing of Football – Joe Wilson looks for another example of SMED other than racing pit crews and finds it in football huddles.

Make The Connection – Bob Emiliani explains that “respect for people” comes from making connections to the process.

The Improvement Strategy "Trinity" – Micahel Kuta shares 3 elements necessary in becoming a Lean company.

Respect The Process – Mark Hamel says respect the process and it will respect you.

The Term "Lean Production" is 25 Years Old My Thoughts on the Original Article – Mark Graban shares his thoughts on John Krafcik’s article from 1998 introducing Lean.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Lean Quote: Teamwork Breeds Success

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.

"Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
— Henry Ford

You need to put a Herculean individual effort to get the same result that a well-knit team could easily achieve. The key to building a successful team is to instill in all the team members a sense of shared responsibility. In addition to sharing the responsibility, a wise team leader will also generously share the credit for success.

A second important element of success is rapport, which the manager or team leader bears much of the burden for creating. When each team member feels that s/he plays a vital role, the outcome will almost certainly be an enthusiastic, productive team. Note that this applies not only to teams but also to organizations in general.

Successful team leadership is therefore a bit of a balancing act. The leader must be able to inspire and motivate the team, which requires a certain amount of charisma, vision, trust, and strength of character. However, if taken too far, these traits may backfire on the leader. For example, the leader may overestimate his/her influence over the rest of the team, or grow arrogant, or push the team too hard. This sort of extremism can easily jeopardize the team’s performance; warning signs might include stress, short tempers, and the inability to meet deadlines.

Organizations that cultivate a culture of teamwork generally outperform their more individualistic competitors. Frequently, this leads to a virtuous cycle of self-improvement, as success breeds enthusiasm, which breeds better teamwork, which breeds yet more success. For this reason, teamwork is important for creating a healthy, prosperous organization.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lean Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Geese

Living in New England you become accustom to seeing the migration of Geese.  As the leaves start turning colors the Geese head south for the winter. But did you know that we can learn a lot about leadership from geese? It’s true! Animals can teach us valuable lessons about life. It is truly amazing how humans can relate to them just by observing their behavior.

Many years ago, I was given a copy of “Lessons from Geese” as part of an organizational leadership program I was enrolled in. To this day, it is still my favorite leadership analogy. The story was written in 1972 by Dr. Robert McNeish, a science teacher from Baltimore, Maryland and has since been used as a study lesson by many leadership institutes, consultants, organizations, and corporations.

We all know how important leadership and teamwork are in today’s organizations.  We can use the five principles presented in the “Lessons from Geese” story as inspiration to practice good leadership and teamwork skills as we implement Lean.

Fact 1: The Importance of Achieving Goals
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: The Importance of Team Work
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: The Importance of Sharing
When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The Importance of Empathy and Understanding
The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: The Importance of Encouragement
When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

"Lessons from Geese" provides a perfect example of the importance of team work and how it can have a profound and powerful effect on any endeavor. When we use these five principles in our personal and business life it will help us to foster and encourage a level of passion and energy in ourselves, as well as those who are our friends, associates, or team members.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Sustaining Excellence Requires Daily Commitment to Experimentation

In Paul Borawski’s monthly ASQ post he asks the bloggers about how to sustain excellence.

Simply, sustainability is about lasting change. Sustainability is discussed often and one of the great issues in management.  We have all seen facts related to the low rates of sustaining change or seen news about a company who lost its way. Unfortunately, we see all too often those companies who finally reach #1 to only lose their way.

Complacency can and will compromise the performance of your organization. Everyone can become complacent in their particular environment, and there are different levels of complacency. At higher management positions, complacency may be more latent. At the line personnel “trigger pullers” level, however, complacency can have catastrophic results.

When it comes to complacency with regard to Lean it is often the result of a “We are Lean” mindset. This leads to a reduction in awareness/focus and leads to a false sense of security. For Lean to work effectively, the organization must be constantly focused on continuous improvement and best practice procedures for providing value. What sets an effective Lean system apart from simply reducing waste is ingraining continuous improvement thinking into daily practice. Lean is not about a destination but rather journey.

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. Sustainable behavior change is not something that occurs as a result of doing a 30 or 90-day program, nor is it something that you master after doing it for a year. Change takes a daily commitment to put in the time and energy, knowing that the return on that investment is great.

Lean (excellence) is a journey that never ends. There will always be a gap between where you are (current state) and where you would like to be (True North). Since there will always be a gap, there will always be an opportunity to improve. Walking the path on a Lean journey can be an overwhelming experience.

Lean grew out of years of practice and experimentation at Toyota. No matter how much better they are than their competition, they continue to find more and more opportunities to improve each and every year. Lean involves the creation and implementation of continuous experiments to improve your strategies over time. This means experimenting with every process every day to get it right. We learn problem solving through hands-on improvement experiments. In Toyota and in lean thinking, the idea is to repeat cycles of improvement experiments forever.

A Lean journey is full of steps not all of which are forward. Failure will occur. Its ok, the purpose is learning, and we learn through experimentation. Trying new approaches, exploring new methods and testing new ideas for improving the various processes is exercise for the mind.

So leaders must create a culture that puts failure in its proper place: a useful tool for learning, and a natural part of iterative experimentation. Management must avoid the temptation to harshly judge unsuccessful ideas. A leader who allows for experimentation sends a clear signal that personnel are encouraged to find better methods and products.

Organizations embarking on a Lean journey should follow a disciplined process of systematic exploration and controlled experimentation. Kaizen is the process which determines whether processes resulted in improvements. It refers to an on-going activity by all people (including managers) to relentlessly and incrementally change and improve practices in small experiments.

The road to continual improvement is a rocky one with many ups and downs. Value the incremental improvement approach to continuous improvement. Through simple, common-sense, and low cost experimentation a great deal of process improvements can be made. Experimentation is the exercise of a healthy Lean journey. Understanding this allows one the opportunity to stay on the path along the journey.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own. 

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Lean Quote: Being Managed Versus Being Led

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.

"People cannot be "managed." They can be led. Products and processes can be managed." — Karen Martin

While the terms "management" and "leadership" overlap a little, they are not the same thing—although you can't have one without the other. Management is tough enough on its own and, frankly, most people never learn to lead.

Why do we use the word manager?  It does not seem to identify well what a person is meant to do when given a team of individuals to work with.  A manager controls, handles and directs.  That sounds pretty hard when what we are referring to being managed is people.  The word “manager” is great when referring to the management of processes, procedures, technique, communications, relationships, etc.  When referring to an individual who is made accountable for a group of people, the word “leader” seems more appropriate.  People do not like to be managed, they would rather be led: given goals to achieve, techniques to learn from and follow, and review to let them know how they are doing.

Leading by example is a great way to start.  Why would anyone follow a procedure if their leader does not?  If you want your team to say something during the ordering process then you too should be saying it every time!  If you want your team to take a specific action while performing a task, then you should be taking that same action every time. You cannot just tell your team what to do if you want them to continue to do it even when you are not watching.  You have to show them that it needs to be done, even if you have to do it yourself.  Your team will take notice and they will respect you for expecting no less from yourself than you expect from them.  They will then have no reason not to do what you are asking, no excuses.

When a person is given the title of manager, they should keep in mind that they have been given the authority to manage processes and procedures.  They have also been given the opportunity to lead a team of people to do something better than they ever did before!

Do you like to be managed or led? You're not alone. Very few people want to work for a manager. Most of us would much rather be led by a leader. To manage is to control, handle, or manipulate. To lead is to guide, influence, or persuade. You manage things — systems, processes, and technology. You lead people. The roots of the rampant morale, energy, and performance problems found in many organizations are technomanagers who treat people as "human resources" to be managed. If you want to manage someone, manage yourself. Once you master that, you'll be a much more effective leader of others. 

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Daily Lean Tips Edition #53

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 #781 - Follow Through– Don’t Stop at the Vision.
Casting the vision is not enough.  Starting out is always the most difficult part, but do not let the vision fall flat.  Revisit, reinvent, and restrategize until the flow becomes natural.  Get advice by networking with other Lean companies, and do not give up.

Lean Tip #782 - Be Flexible, but Committed.
This is absolutely a must.  The very nature of change is enough to generate discord and frustration.  It instantly pushes some people out.  Although those voices are sometimes the loudest, they are almost never the majority.  Be flexible in implementation, but committed to the goal.  Those who remain typically show higher productivity, and a stronger commitment to the company and to the vision.

Lean Tip #783 - Foster Excitement, Motivation, and Engagement Around The Vision By Articulating The WIFM (What’s In It For Me) Factor.
Let your employees know how they will benefit from embracing the vision. Explain and reinforce the financial rewards when the goals of the vision have been achieved, such as bonuses, recognition, and career development. Share the vision frequently through staff meetings, outings, newsletters, emails, posters and employee campaigns. Develop visuals, such as tables, charts and photos, which highlight milestone accomplishments of the vision.
Create and align company goals with the vision, and align individual and team goals with company goals.

Lean Tip #784 - Create A Workplace Culture That Values Real People Relationships.
For many employees, workgroup relationships and relationships between managers and workers drive engagement and loyalty more effectively than foosball machines, logo T-shirts, and Thirsty Thursday gatherings.

Lean Tip #785 - Model The Behaviors You Seek From Employees.
Just as the principle at the high school did, accept your responsibility as a leader and act with engagement, commitment and responsibility. Do this every day.

Each of us possesses skills, strengths, talents and flaws. Each of us seeks to belong, to be engaged, to relate to those around us. Loyalty is built on relationships, shared understanding and trust. Engagement and commitment require loyalty, shared goals and fair treatment. Don’t take loyalty and engagement for granted – create a remarkable culture where there are possible and rewarding outcomes of the workplace.

We are only human after all – Every one of us. Every leader. Every brand. Every workplace. Every person.

Lean Tip #786 – Create A Good Climate For Problem Solving
The success of a company can depend to a large extent on the ability of its staff to solve problems effectively, both in their day-to-day work and through innovation. This applies not only to senior management, but at all levels in an organization.

It's not enough simply to teach effective problem solving techniques. The working environment has a very powerful influence on the individual's ability to solve problems effectively and it needs to be supportive and stimulating.

To be truly effective in your work and to contribute to the success of your organization, you need to be aware of the influence of the working environment on problem solving.

Lean Tip #787 - Effective Problem Solving Requires a Controlled Mixture of Analytical and Creative Thinking.
Problem solving requires two distinct types of mental skill, analytical and creative.

Analytical or logical thinking includes skills such as ordering, comparing, contrasting, evaluating and selecting. It provides a logical framework for problem solving and helps to select the best alternative from those available by narrowing down the range of possibilities (a convergent process).
Creative thinking is a divergent process, using the imagination to create a large range of ideas for solutions. It requires us to look beyond the obvious, creating ideas which may, at first, seem unrealistic or have no logical connection with the problem.

Effective problem solving requires a controlled mixture of analytical and creative thinking.

Lean Tip #788 – The Way or Style of Management Within an Organization Has a Very Big Effect on the Ability of People to Effectively Solve Problems. 
Often managers are not even aware that their actions and behaviors are contributing to the problem. People who have responsibility for and control over the work feel a greater commitment to ensuring that they work efficiently. Staff should be given the freedom to make decisions and to tackle problems without constantly having to get agreement from their manager. Some managers feel that this lessens their control over staff and their work. In fact, because people are more committed to their work, there is less need for control.

Lean Tip #789 - Planning and Preparation is the Key to Successful Implementation.
The more important the problem, or the more complex the actions required to solve it, the more thorough your planning and preparation needs to be to ensure success.

These questions highlight the main features of planning and preparation, which involve:

  • constructing a plan of action
  • the actions required
  • scheduling the actions
  • the resources required
  • measures to counter adverse consequences
  • management of the action
  • reviewing the plan
  • selecting, briefing and training those involved.
Action must be monitored to ensure that it is being carried out effectively and having the desired effects; if not, corrective action must be taken. Once the action is completed, the outcome must be measured to check that it has provided an effective solution; if not, further action may be required.

Lean Tip #790 - Company Policies and Procedures Effect on Problem Solving
Possessing good problem solving skills does not make people automatically use them to the benefit of the organization. They need encouragement, support and guidance in applying them to the organization’s problems. This can be achieved through:
  • Commitment to Innovation
  • Systems and procedures
  • Reward
  • Good communications
The most effective system is where all staff are informed of specific problems which the company faces in reaching its business objectives, and are notified of the results of evaluation of the ideas that have been submitted.

Lean Tip #791 - Make Sure Everyone Understands the Need for Change.
There are no mind readers in the enterprise - make sure you communicate why you need to change. So when you’re responsible for making process improvement happen make sure that before you even begin that you’ve clearly communicated to others about the need for change: what is the situation we’re facing? why is it serious or important? what do we believe we need to do to start addressing the situation?

Finally, don’t forget to listen to others' interpretations – they may be able to see something that you can’t.

Lean Tip #792 - Ensure Your Approach is Suited to the Problem You Face.
Just because you’ve got a hammer, doesn’t mean every problem’s a nail!

We’re often tempted to apply the tools that we know in order to solve the problems that are in front of us. But just because you’ve got a tool doesn’t mean it’s the most appropriate one to use. Always ask, is this the most appropriate method to tackle this problem? Would a more simple “Just Do It” approach be adequate or do we require more robust data analysis in order to get to the heart of the issue? A pragmatic approach is better than one that attempts to pigeon-hole everything into the same approach. 

Lean Tip #793 - Get Your Senior Managers Out of Their Offices.
The more senior you are in an organization, the more that problems - and even customers for that matter - can appear like just a series of numbers on a spreadsheet in a management report. It’s easy to theorize about numbers as they appear abstract.

The Lean management principle of going to where work gets done ("going to the gemba") is critical to ensure that managers really understand what’s going on. Get your senior staff out of their office and to see what's really going on. Even better than “management by walking around” is “management by doing and understanding.” Get your CEO manning the phones in the “customer contact center” for a few hours a couple of times a year or on frontline service. The amount they’ll learn in those few hours will beat any amount of staring at spreadsheets trying to solve the company’s problems.

Lean Tip #794 - The Best Way to Build Commitment is by Involving People.
Outside help is legitimate if you are to build the skills and behaviors you don’t currently have. But outside consultants can never be the change agents. The teams themselves and the leadership must own their own projects, from choosing what to work on, through to implementation, as well as enjoying the credit for outcomes.

The best way to build commitment is by involving people. This way they will have a sense of ownership. By involving your frontline teams in selecting the project that they believe will make a difference, you’ll build ownership, engagement, and have their commitment.

Lean Tip #795 - Communicate 'Why Are We Doing What We Are Doing'

Do not launch an improvement program without a purpose. Bereft of a purpose there is no framework for establishing priorities, aligning efforts or judging success. Many improvement processes fail because the effort is squandered in improving unimportant processes.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

MFG Day Dispels Common Manufacturing Misconceptions

The second annual MFG Day event, is just around the corner.  Scheduled for October 4, 2013, the event aims to address common misconceptions about manufacturing through coordinated open houses across the United States. MFG Day is designed to address the skilled labor shortage and connect with future generations while simultaneously improving the public image of manufacturing.

Recent global surveys reflect the widespread industry challenge. A 2012 McKinsey & Company report revealed that while most of the young people surveyed (70 percent), admitted that they believe vocational schools are more helpful in getting a job than an academic track, two-thirds also said that vocational education is “less valued” in society than other academic paths. And only 30 percent of parents encourage their children to consider manufacturing careers.

MFG Day is an important part of efforts to support the future of manufacturing here in the US. As manufacturers today, we know that negative, untrue stereotypes plague our sector and drive young people away.  We know that we have to overcome the perception that manufacturing jobs are dirty, dangerous dead ends.  We know that we must spread the word that manufacturing has gone high tech, with modern, clean facilities, computers, robot, and automation.  We know that counteracting outdated, negative images with current, positive ones is the best way to fight problems like the skills gap that threaten the American manufacturing sector's recent boom.

And MFG Day is just the way to do what we know we must. MFG Day gives manufacturers around the country the opportunity to open their doors to local school kids, parents, community college students,  job seekers and members of the media so that they can see firsthand the safe, high-tech and innovative work environments that await the best and brightest who pursue careers in manufacturing.

To learn more about how you can get involved, visit the Manufacturing Day website.

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