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Friday, November 29, 2013

Lean Quote: Gratitude is the Greatest Virtue

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.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.— Roman Philosopher Cicero

I think he is absolutely right.  An ungrateful person focuses on what they don’t have and is unhappy, discontent, impatient, unkind, proud (thinks he deserves better), and reluctant to help others.  But a grateful person is happy and content. From that gratitude flows patience, kindness, humility, generosity, and love.

Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for reading, following, and supporting A Lean Journey Blog. You make sharing my thoughts more rewarding than I would have imagined.

Thankfulness is something we have to practice. It is like learning how to play the piano. Just as anyone who wishes to play piano well has to practice scales over and over again, thanksgiving must be practiced continually.

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, may we vow to live not just this day but every day with a grateful heart and to use our blessings to bless others.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm Thankful for You

I'm Thankful for You
Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
Starting now,
let's be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving,
I'm thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

By Joanna Fuchs

Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by federal legislation in 1941, has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 and by state legislation since the Founding Fathers of the United States. Historically, Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year.  

Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about. 

I am thankful for you, the readers of A Lean Journey Blog. You make sharing my thoughts rewarding in so many ways. I wanted to take this time to resound my appreciation for your interest, dialogue, and support of me and A Lean Journey Blog. 

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Putting the Thanks in Thanksgiving

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

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

Consider these three ways to thank and celebrate your employees:

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

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

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

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

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Lean Quote: You Cannot Create Experience, You Must Undergo It

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.

"You Cannot Create Experience, You Must Undergo It.— Albert Camus

One way to enhance learning is by doing. If you want to learn how to drive, you have to drive. Humans are natural learners. They learn from everything they do. When they watch television, they learn about the day's events. When they take a trip, they learn about how to get where they are going and what it is like to be there. This constant learning also takes place as one works.

If you do something often enough, you get better at it -- simple and obvious. When people really care about what they are doing, they may even learn how to do their jobs better than anyone had hoped. They themselves wonder how to improve their own performance. They innovate.

Since mistakes are often quite jarring to someone who cares about what they are doing, people naturally work hard to avoid them. No one likes to fail. It is basic to human nature to try to do better and this means attempting to explain one's failures well enough so that they can be remedied. This self-correcting behavior can only take place when one has been made aware of one's mistakes and when one cares enough to improve. If an employee understands and believes that an error has been made, he will work hard to correct it, and will want to be trained to do better, if proper rewards are in place for a job well done.

Human beings can definitely learn by hearing, reading, watching, seeing, and analyzing…but when it comes to getting results you simply cannot learn better than to learn by DOING. The best way to learn about continuous improvement is to simply try to make things better and learn from our mistakes.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Daily Lean Tips Edition #56

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 #826 - Connect Business Objectives And Individual Metrics
Performance metrics should have one goal – to help an organization contribute to overall company success. But too often at the working level, metrics are random and disconnected from strategic imperatives.

Lean Tip #827 - Implement Discipline And A Meaningful Quality Program
Develop a quality program that promotes organizational and individual accountability to drive improvements. Reliable metrics will take out the guesswork and allow for management based on facts – not assumptions. Use the program to establish reward systems and corrective actions to proactively address issues, fine tune training and ensure that the customer remains number one.

Lean Tip #828 – Make Metrics More Actionable
Metrics at the lowest layer of an initiative or organization have the highest actionability. A focus on the most actionable metrics is essential for ‘moving the needle’ of big-picture metrics.

Lean Tip #829 – Too Many Metrics Leads To Too Little Action
It may seem a little obvious, but a large number of companies go to the trouble of designing metrics and buying expensive tools, and then do not actually do very much with the results. Usually it is because too many metrics have been set. So keep it manageable – it is better to have five meaningful metrics that the organization will use than 50 that it won’t.

Lean Tip #830 - Do Not Forget The “Continual” Part Of Improvement
When implementing metrics, don’t forget that the organization will need to revise its metrics from time to time. The process is needed because businesses evolve and changes will surface as time goes by. Make sure the metrics still measure what they intended to measure. After all, if the metrics are out of date, then what is the purpose of retaining them?

The aim of a setting metrics is to improve the business, so set targets that challenge the company. It will provide more value than focusing on something that is easily achievable or is already being achieved and remember, what you can’t measure, you can’t control.

Lean Tip #831 - Point Employees in the Right Direction.
Help your employees understand how their roles play into the company’s ability to succeed. Remind workers that—like members of a football team, for example—each player must focus on doing their best on the on activities within their reach that effectively push the ball closer to the end zone. Again, ensure that workers know where to focus so that they are always contributing effectively on corporate strategies.

Lean Tip # 832 - Don’t Forget to Course-Correct.
Everyone can relate to times when coworkers were heads down on a project that had no real purpose. But in rough economic times, no organization can afford to squander resources on busywork. Every effort expended by your workforce should be purposeful and tied to corporate goals. Prioritize only those activities that are strategically pertinent, and ensure that non-strategic activities don’t creep into the picture. If employees do become sidetracked, refer to cascading goals to pinpoint the problem, and refocus efforts toward tasks that are higher in priority.

Lean Tip #833 - Keep Goals on Track.
No strategy is set in stone, which makes the goal setting process a dynamic endeavor. Consider yourself a coach on the sidelines, continuously referring to playbooks and constantly re-evaluating strategies and players or making adjustments at halftime. Set goals, and execute on them—but be sure to evaluate those goals year-round, not solely during performance reviews. The more you monitor individual objectives, the greater the likelihood that they will be on target and fulfilled.

Lean Tip #834 - Focus Action-Planning on Daily Activities.
Increasingly heard at major corporations is the need to "just show them what to do". Remember that simplicity can quickly alleviate confusion surrounding what employees are now expected to do. There are powerful best practices already in place inside the company—sharing them broadly in employees' own words will go far.

Lean Tip #835 - Communicate Clearly and Collaborate on Goals and Objectives
In too many cases, goals and objectives are finalized by executives without speaking to anyone working in the trenches.  Opening the lines of communication between the c-suite and the ground floor will help to highlight issues and concerns.  It will also give employees a better understanding of the company’s overall strategy and how they fit in.

Lean Tip #836 – The First Step To Improvement Is To Recognize The Problem
Continuous Improvement is the ongoing effort of engaged employees and improvement teams to improve information, materials, products, services or processes.
The first step in establishing a continuous improvement mind set is to recognize the problem. That is, recognize the fact that your organization does not have or could do quite better exhibiting a continuous improvement mind set.

Lean Tip #837 – Establish An Enduring Culture
Adaptability and an action oriented leadership team are inherent components of a continuous improvement culture. Resistance to change exists in all organizations to a degree and it must be recognized for what it is, an impediment to improvement.

Lean Tip #838 – Think Kaizen and Cross the Chasm
Many people advocate Kaizen oriented thinking and behavior where continual small, incremental improvements provide tremendous benefits in performance and end results achieved over time. Others advocate a Crossing the Chasm mind set where drastic change is introduced completely replacing inefficient execution rather than slightly improving upon it. In a continuous improvement culture, there is room for both approaches.

Lean Tip #839 – Facilitate Process-Centric Thinking
Process-centric thinking does not have to be overly complex. Sometimes, all it takes is a thoughtful examination to uncover significant areas for improvement. Rather than tolerating mistakes and repeat errors, facilitate process-centric thinking to continually improve, correct, and overcome execution difficulties.

Lean Tip #840 - Educate The Workplace
Expect and overcome resistance to change with ongoing training, reinforcement of expected behaviors, and recognition of those who are learning and doing.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

4th Annual World Quality Month - Get Involved, Share Your Story

Join the Global Quality Community in celebrating World Quality Month in November 2013! Now in its fourth year, World Quality Month provides a platform for acknowledging the efforts and accomplishments of the Global Quality Community. This is a time to celebrate—a time to showcase the advancements and valuable quality contributions in businesses, communities, and institutions.

World Quality Month is an annual celebration of quality and its impact in the world. Through the joint efforts of ASQ, its many World Partner organizations, leaders and stakeholders in the Global Quality Community, the inaugural World Quality Month began in November 2010. World Quality Month was established both to reignite attention once generated in the 1980s by National Quality Month in the U.S. and to create a united, global forum for the organizations that have celebrated World Quality Days in November to come together and raise their voices for quality. 


The purpose of World Quality Month is to promote the use of quality tools in businesses and communities. Quality tools, such as flowcharts and checklists, reduce mistakes and help produce superior products. Quality principles could reduce headline-making errors, like food safety, toy recalls, and financial disruptions. World Quality Month calls on people who use quality tools to share their knowledge by submitting their stories to illustrate the value of quality principles.

  • Chartered Quality Institute celebrates World Quality Day each year in November with activities and events to promote quality around the world.
  • Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) has been celebrating World Quality Month in Japan since 1960 by organizing events in collaboration with Japanese Standards Association (JSA), Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), The Japanese Society for Quality Control (JSQC), The Japan Productivity Center (JPC), JCA, Quality Engineering Society (QES), QC, Keidanren.
  • Many organizations in Europe have marked "Quality Week" for 20 years, including European Organization for Quality (EOQ), World Alliance for Quality (WAQ), Vlaams Centrum voor Kwaliteitszorg (VCK).
  • In the 1980s and 1990s ASQ played a leadership role in establishing and conducting National Quality Month in the USA.


In Japan, November has been designated "Quality Month" since 1960. Quality Month activities have been organized to foster greater quality awareness and wider dissemination of quality control activities. (Japanese Standards Association)

In China, Quality Month started in 1978. September is designated "Quality Month." (Baidu Baike & China Quality Month)

In the USA and Canada, Quality Month (October) started in 1988. National Quality Month (NQM) is a public awareness campaign that encourages business, industry, government, and academia to focus on the strategic importance of quality and continuous improvement.


The purpose of "World Quality Day" is to promote awareness of quality around the world and to encourage individuals' development and organizations' prosperity.

First promulgated by the United Nations in 1990, World Quality Day aims to raise international awareness of the important role quality plays in ensuring nations' prosperity. Now it is celebrated annually on the second Thursday of November.

In the UK, Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) will celebrate World Quality Day with events from November 11-15. The South African Quality Institute also celebrates National Quality Week annually.


Organized by the European Organization for Quality (EOQ), The European Quality Week is an annual focus for campaigns of public awareness, promotion and demonstration of the advantages and importance of quality to competitiveness across Europe. It takes place in November during the week that includes the second Thursday of the month - World Quality Day.

In 2008, the Czech Society for Quality launched "The Quality Manager of the Year" competition in connection with the international "European Quality Leader" competition proclaimed by the European Organization for Quality (EOQ). Results are announced annually in November within the framework of the Quality Month and European Quality Week in the Czech Republic.


So this November get involved. Raise your voice for quality. Make a point of it. I bet you’ll enjoy it. And when December 1 rolls around, you don’t have to stop. Speaking up for the importance of quality is our daily responsibility. The biggest barrier quality faces is making people understand that excellence just doesn't happen. Excellence isn't good intent. Through quality, excellence is available to everyone.

Together—through our collective passion for the community—we will raise the voice of quality worldwide.

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, November 15, 2013

Lean Quote: Tell People What You Want, Not How To Do It

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"If you want people to think, give them intent, not instruction.— David Marquet

Tell people what you want, not how to do it. Telling them how to do their work is marginalizing, rather than maximizing, your people, which goes directly to your bottom line. You will find people more responsive and less defensive if you can give them guidance not instructions. You will also see more initiative, more innovation, and more of an ownership attitude from them develop over time.

When you give people instruction, you put them on autopilot. They just run through a task list until it ends and don't bother to think more than necessary. If you provide an intention you create an end goal to strive towards and encourage people to think about the best way to get there. If you find that you don't have the proper motivation to finish a task, you can always ask your boss or manager for that intent. It might help you do better work and feel a little less like a task robot.

If there's well-grounded concern about whether they will come up with a good solution, then you need either provide greater support, or reconsider the person for their role. If it's not, then delegating the "what" you want done, then having them figure out on their own the "how" best to do it makes them add maximum value to your enterprise, not to mention freeing you up for a greater contribution.

Leaders define what matters. Don’t just give orders; give the reasoning behind your requests. If you want them to do something, tell them why in a way that lets them know the importance of the task to the company.

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