Friday, March 29, 2013

Lean Quote: Respect for People Consists of Understanding, Mutual Trust, and Teamwork

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.

"Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it. No destructive lies. No ridiculous fears. No debilitating anger." — Bill Bradley

The power behind Lean is 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 focus on improvement and 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. We must practice the equally important Toyota principle “Respect for People”.

The “Respect for People” principle consists of two parts: “Respect” and “Teamwork,” and is as follows:
“RESPECT: We respect others, make every effort to understand each other, take responsibility and do our best to build mutual trust.
TEAMWORK: We stimulate personal and professional growth, share the opportunities of development and maximize individual and team performance.”

Most of us already know the importance of respecting each other. Yet it’s also true that we all, at some time or another, may have been less than respectful to people with whom we work. Most often, these expressions are not intentional. Even so, it’s important that we all be able to recognize these kinds of situations so that we can take steps to avoid them whenever possible and to respond to them in an appropriate manner when they occur.

We are all unique individuals, with our own gifts, skills, concerns, and perspectives. This uniqueness is part of what makes us who we are as a person, although, in the workplace it can also be what set us apart from our co-workers. So the question becomes how we can find common ground given all our unique gifts, skills, concerns, and perspectives. At the core, respect has to do with establishing and maintaining effective working relationships.

In the end Lean is all about people.  The power behind Lean is a management's commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  Establishing good working conditions to promote teamwork is a key component of respect for people.


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lean Roundup #46 - March, 2013






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

Who is the Customer for a Commodity? – Gregg Stocker says Lean professionals must understand the company and its processes before attempting to teach or coach people about continual improvement.

What Does Respect for People Actually Mean? – John Hunter explains that “respect for people” does not mean making anyone feel uncomfortable but rather the contrary.

Lean Product Development – Dan Jones shares 5 key lessons when implementing Lean in product development.

Organizing to Achieve the Strategy – Bill Waddell answers the debate about organizing value streams around products or customers by saying it is important to first understand your strategy.

Eliminating Key Points – Mark Rosenthal talks about breaking down the work with TWI job instructions advocating that key points are mistake proofing opportunities.

Solving the "Sustainment Problem" – Jim Vataralo explains that for improvement to take hold there must be a balanced approach like that of a 3 legged stool.

The Three Rules for Rules – Jon Miller shares 3 rules that serve as a guideline for creating rules that are the foundation of Lean and continuous improvement.

Lucy and the Football - Do Your Actions Match Your Words – Jamie Wilson talks about the importance of leaders “talking the talk” and “walking the walk”.

Where There is Fear You Do Not Get Honest Figures – John Hunter discussed the issues that occur when you lead with fear and how you can combat that.

Don't Let Metrics Trump Culture – Bill Waddell shares a good story that illustrates the importance of empowering employees to make decisions to help customers.

Reflection - The Breakfast of Champions – Pascal Dennis reminds us that reflection is key to continuous improvement as an aspect of plan-do-check-adjust.

Working With People – Matt Wrye provides several ways to deal with people since different people need to be handled in different situations.

Standardized Work: How My White Board Keeps Me On Track - Pete Abilla shares his white board that he uses to be productive and accountable and his associated standard work.

Policy Deployment And The Coaching Chain  - Mark Rosenthal captures the important points on policy deployment and their link to coaching from a recent LEI talk.

In Business Improvement, The Small Stuff = BIG DEAL – Antonio Ferraro writes about the impact that small improvements have when eliminating waste and improving customer value.

Systems vs Tools: A Lean Lesson From The Big Bang Theory – Jeff Hajek talks about the need of both systems and tools but advocates to focus on the basics.

Train To The What, How, Why Model Then... – Tracey Richardson explains how to change standards by training to the what-how-why model when you make changes then there is more time to spend on proactive problem solving than reactive.

We Do Not Think About The Way Toyota Does Standards – Mike Rother explains a standard as an ideal target condition you want to achieve rather than a current best practice.

Managers Must Be Teachers... – Michael Balle says lean managers must be teachers of which training is a key responsibility and operators standards and standardized work are training tools.

From The Lean Edge: How Do I Change The Standard? – Dragan Bosnjak answers the question by explaining the rate of change is based on capacity of training.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guest Post: Combat Project Overload with Prioritization

Today I am pleased to present a guest post by Antonio Ferraro of Creative Safety Supply (one of our sponsors). Antonio talks about managing multiple projects and provides some tips on prioritization. This a subject we can all relate to and perhaps use some help improving.
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In the work environment, it is not uncommon to have multiple projects going on at once; in fact many organizations have numerous improvement projects going on in every department every day. Many of the projects underway tend to focus on saving time, money, and resources. However, is there ever a time when it is appropriate to say too many projects is just too much? If a company is constantly pulling its top employees in all directions to work on several projects, those people will typically under-perform on each project assigned. They will be overworked and overloaded and not able to dedicate the creativity and ingenuity needed to really help make a project successful. The key to business projects is prioritization. Prioritization is a simple term that means to put things in order based on importance. This sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if it was so simple businesses would never struggle with project overload and that is simply not the case. There has to be some sort of happy medium where the projects being worked on are prioritized so the most important projects are tackled first and the subsequent less immediate projects are worked on after the more important projects have been accomplished.

Example of Project Overload
A business specializing in tool making is constantly looking for ways to improve sales and business processes, so top managers put together a series of projects aimed at increasing sales and production as well as some thoughts for new projects. Each department is given a list of projects that must be completed by a specified date. Some departments have nearly ten different projects that they must complete in varying sizes from small to huge undertakings such as redesigning current production line arrangements. The employees who are eager to keep their jobs start trying to implement the projects and changes immediately. Managers in each department frantically try to brainstorm how the changes should be set-up, and start new processes and practices daily. Needless to say, everyone is stressed and the projects being implemented are not as nearly as effective as they looked on paper. This is a disaster! This is project overload. It usually doesn't ever end up being beneficial for meeting the business objectives and it really takes a toll on the staff as well.

Tips to Help Make Projects Successful
As mentioned above prioritization is crucial when choosing to implement projects within a business. It’s never a good decision to take on too many projects as most will fail and prove ineffective while others will just never get finished. When deciding on what and how many projects to tackle, certain criteria should be taken into consideration. One important step is to create a functional leadership team that will be dedicated towards a specific project from start to finish. Another tip is to identify the most important areas in need of improvement and to list them in order of priority as well as what resources may be needed to assist in project implementation. Furthermore, the use of an acceptable timeline should also be involved. If projects are significant, it doesn't make sense to spend only a week in project development and then start implementing changes immediately thereafter. Adequate time should be allocated depending on the project’s size and level of importance.

In a nutshell, projects are usually a good thing; however, project overload is not. It is not a good idea to dilute valuable resources by trying to implement too many projects all at once. Time needs to be taken to focus on the most important projects first so you are not setting yourself up to fail before even starting.



About Author: Antonio Ferraro - On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Lean Quality Improvements in Government Demonstrate a Willingness to Be Better

ASQ's CEO is asking for examples of Lean and Quality applied in GovernmentGovernment agencies have found that Lean methods enable them to better understand how their processes work, to quickly identify and implement improvements, and to build a culture of continuous improvement.

Numerous government agencies, ranging from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the States of Iowa and Minnesota, are using Lean to improve the quality, transparency, and speed of government processes. Lean government proponents generally believe that the government should cut out "waste" and "inefficiency" from government organizations, which will result in overall better services and more value for tax-supported programs and services. Proponents also generally see Lean government as a means to expand the capacity of government to provide more services per unit of investment.

I'd like to share an example from my neck of the woods. The Connecticut DEEP is using Lean and Green techniques to become more efficient. Here is a video describing their improvement in their own words:  



I like this video because of the application of Lean in government and the fact that it's in the state I work in. Also, the sensei in the video, Fred Shamburg, was one of my sensei's along my journey. In fact, Fred was my first introduction to combining Lean and Green for mutual benefit so it was great to see him in action.

It is wonderful to think that the positive thinking of Lean and Quality improvements that have proven so effective in manufacturing and service industries is now making en roads into the healthcare and government and military sectors.  They are in need of so much help and I couldn't think of a better means to do so.  I am looking forward to hearing other stories of Quality improvement in government.

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, March 22, 2013

Lean Quote: Listening is a Vital Skill for Managers

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 most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." — Ralph Nichols

It is important to be able to communicate clearly, to be able to convey information to others. As managers, we have to do this throughout the day. However, it is equally important to be able to receive information - from your employees as well as your superiors.

Here are 8 listening tips
  •  Take notes – They aid retention.
  •  Listen now, report later – Plan to tell someone what you heard.
  •  Learn to want to listen – You must have desire, interest, self-discipline, and concentration to be a quality listener.
  •  Be present – Watch the tendency to daydream.
  •  Become a “whole-body” listener – Listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart, your intuition and your mind.
  •  Build rapport – By pacing the speaker. Approximate the speaker’s gestures, expressions and voice patterns to create comfortable communication.
  •  Control your emotional “hot-buttons” – Knowing what makes you react emotionally is your key to preventive maintenance.
  •  Control distractions – Controlling internal and external distractions helps you manage your working environment more effectively.
Listen with your full attention directed toward understanding what your coworker or staff member needs from you. Many managers, especially, are so used to helping people solve problems that their first course of action is to begin brainstorming solutions and giving advice. Maybe the employee just needs a listening ear. Your best approach is to listen deeply, ask questions for clarification to make sure you understand the situation and then, only then, ask the person what they would like from you. Trust me. They usually know, and often, they breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Thanks for listening.”


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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment


Empowerment may not be a new concept to you, but many organizations experience problems because they don’t know how to ‘live it’. Empowerment is often described as “having the power to make decisions”.  However, this empowerment/decision making power is something that must be earned, not given, through a set of fundamental principles cultivated as follows:
  • Empowerment
  • Responsibility
  • Ownership
  • Accountability
  • Information
  • Trust
Think of empowerment as the process of an individual enabling himself to take action and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. Empowerment comes from the individual. An empowered employee exhibits the following:
  • Taking responsibility for our job
  • Flawless execution, doing the right things right, timely follow-up’s, etc.
  • Taking ownership of problems
  • Tending to problems; not ignoring them, do the necessary follow-up’s
  • Holding oneself and others accountable
  • Making and meeting commitments
  • Being adequately informed and trained
Implementing principles of empowerment can be challenging because it involves a radical shift from our traditional way of operating. The following principles include the most important elements for creating an empowered organization:

1. Demonstrate That You Value People
Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person's unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on his or her current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.

2. Share Leadership Vision
Help people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job. Do this by making sure they know and have access to the organization's overall mission, vision, and strategic plans.

3. Share Goals and Direction
Share the most important goals and direction for your group. Where possible, either make progress on goals measurable and observable, or ascertain that you have shared your picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.

4. Trust People
Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while maybe not exactly what you would decide, still work.

5. Provide Information for Decision Making
Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.

6. Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities, not Just More Work
Don't just delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too. You know, delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice.

7. Provide Frequent Feedback
Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition as well as improvement coaching.

8. Solve Problems: Don't Pinpoint Problem People
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people.

9. Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance
Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do.
When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?"

10. Help Employees Feel Rewarded and Recognized for Empowered Behavior
When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment. The basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to give you their discretionary energy.

Empowerment is the practice of cultivating the core principles of trust, accountability, responsibility, ownership and information with employees so that they can take the initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance to customers.



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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Improvement in Unexpected Places is A Lesson for All

In this month's ASQ post Paul Borawski asks the Quality community to share stories of improvement  in unexpected areas. I am reminded a recent trip to my eldest son's classroom which is full of lessons. Many of those we seem to forget or even think odd when we get to the corporate world. What seems so simple we tend to push aside as ineffective. 

I am not sure how many of you have elementary age kids but I have 3 lovely kids that age. Every time I visit their classrooms I notice all the visuals. They use visuals throughout their learning process. Whether it is learning the alphabet, weather, time, dates, reading or whatever else the topic it is visual. Elementary classrooms are run very much like or Lean factories with regard to visuals and organization. The use of labels help the kids learn new words but also keep the classroom organized. Everything in a classroom has a home and everything is in its place. All the children know this very well.


On this recent trip I was reminded  of the importance of establishing standard work. If you want people to behave in a certain way or do something in a particular manner than you need to use standard work. Here is an example of standard work at my son’s 2nd grade class.


It is mounted on their desk in the top right corner clearly visible. The kids don’t have to remember all the steps in the morning routine because it is right in front of them. It gets the kids organized and ready to start learning without wasting any time.

Standard work is highly effective at establishing a means to do something that everyone can follow. It also makes it easy to identify when someone is not following the process. 
 Standardized work is one of the most powerful but least used lean tools.

I can't but think if a school teacher can use this technique to establish a morning routine for their students why so many managers feel weird doing so for their employees. Perhaps we have forgotten what we learned.  This is why I feel this example of quality improvement in an unexpected classroom is worth sharing.


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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