Friday, August 30, 2013

Lean Quote: Stop Training and Start Helping People Learn

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.

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." — Benjamin Franklin, 1750

Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote has since been proven by science; educators now call it “experiential learning.” Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with students in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values. It is also referred to as learning through action, learning by doing, learning through experience, and learning through discovery and exploration.

There's a lot more to training than talking! Studies show that we remember 80-90% of what we see and touch, and only 10-15% of what we hear...so there's one thing for sure — people don't learn by us talking! People need to be involved in the learning process in order to be able to perform what they've learned. By engaging, involving, and enabling your staff, you build buy-in to support the long term benefits and impact of a change.

Change your mindset and you'll involve learners more often – your job is not to train but to create learning, so think of yourself as a Creator of Learning and you'll involve people in the learning process more often because you'll always be focusing on whether they're learning, not whether you're training!

So stop talking and start helping people learn!

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lean Roundup #51 – August, 2013







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

Because Clear Communication is Difficult – Dragan Bosnjak explains why clear communications if so difficult and how to come this in Lean.

3 Ways To Be Agile With Change – Liz Guthridge says to stop managing change but rather provides strategy to make it happen through active leadership, learning and engagement.

The 7 Truths of Projects – Matthew E. May shares 7 truths of projects but says even these must be broken to be successful.

The Leader's Journey – Mark Rosenthal share several stories that illustrate the personal journey leaders must take on their own to become a leader.

Is Lean Management A Slow Idea? – Mark Graban explores ways to increase the speed of adoption for Lean thinking.

Do We Need To Find Management Ideas From Our Industry? – John Hunter explains that ideas don’t have to come from your industry but why it is important to match ideas with the problem.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management – Leancor shares 8 principles essential for creating lean fulfillment streams in logistics and supply chain management.

The ABCs of Organizational Culture – Jon Miller explains the basic elements that make up an organization’s culture.

Middle Managers Between Rocks And Hard Places – Bill Waddell explains the challenge middle managers face with local optimization versus entire value stream that typical senior managers put them in with inadequate goals and metrics.

Putting The Team In Kaizen – Bill Kirkwood describes the keys of effective teams and how that translates to successfully implemented kaizen events.

What Do Effective Leaders Actually Do Every Day? – Tracey Richardson answers the question with an approach she calls GTS4, GTS to the 4th (Go to See --> Grasp the Situation --> Get to Solution --> Get to Standard = GTS4)

Maslow: Still Relevant 70 Years Later – Gregg Stocker explains how leaders can apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in everyday situations to be more effective.

My Standard Work - Part 1 – Evan Durant shares his approach to leader standard work and how he arrived at it.

The Continued Relevance of Lean Manufacturing – Scott Johnson explains that Lean manufacturing is not a management fad but rather a journey of performance improvement.

From Lean Edge: How Can CIOs Contribute to Lean Transformations? – Dragan Bosnjak provides several examples demonstrating how CIOs can support Lean transformation.

Pick The Bone Dry Before Reaching For Another – Bill Waddell explains the need to optimize existing under-utilized equipment before expanding capacity with additional equipment.

Kanban Method in a Nutshell – Hakan Forss explains the Kanban approach to business improvement.

Benchmarking: The Downfall of Western Civilization? – Blair Nickle shares 5 lessons on benchmarking he has learned over the years.

Improvement Requires More Reflection; Less Justification – Gregg Stocker describes the importance of reflection for driving improvement.

TWI Card Hacks - Break Down The Job – Bryan Lynd shares a few tips on how to break down the job correctly.

Leadership by Welch, Immelt ... and Layer – Kevin Meyer analyzes key leadership characteristics from some good, not so good, and great leaders.


Adopt or Adapt? When Modifying Lean Make Sense – Karen Martin explains why adaption makes sense and how it can grow mindsets and change behaviors.


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daily Lean Tips Edition #52

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 #766 - Employees Need Time to Cope With a New Culture.
Miracles can’t happen overnight and habits do not change all of a sudden. The employees must spend some time to understand and adjust to the new culture. One should work with an open mind and willingly accept things. Don’t always crib as it leads to no solution. The employees must try their level best to accept the changes with a smile and work accordingly. One should never be in a rush. The management must also give time to the employees for them to gel with the new culture. Don’t pressurize anyone to accept changes all of a sudden.

Lean Tip #767 – An Employee Must Change His Behavior and Thought Process as Per the Culture.
It is essential to be flexible. Being adaptable at the workplace always pays in the long run. Remember everything happens for the best. One should always try to look at the positive aspects of life rather than cribbing on things which are beyond anyone’s control.

Lean Tip #768 - Model the Culture You Want to Create.
The culture of a company is the behavior of its leaders. If you change their attitudes, their values, their beliefs, their behaviors, you will change your culture. If you don’t, you will fail. This is why you must have alignment with your leadership team. If they are not willing to change their behavior and model what you are trying to create, you must replace them. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. If you don’t, nothing will change in the organization.

Lean Tip #769 - Embrace and Encourage Change.
You can resist change and die; or you can accept it as an integral part of your organizational culture, and move forward with vigor to face the future. The more flexible you are, the more willing to rebound and put that new force dead square where it needs to be in order to alter your company’s course for the better, the more likely you’ll still be there to help make the world a better place for a long time to come.

Lean Tip #770 – Institutionalize Cultural Knowledge Into Every Facet of The Organization
Cultural knowledge should be integrated into every facet of an organization. Staff must be trained and be able to effectively utilize knowledge gained. Policies should be reflective of the organization’s culture. Evaluate the organization's cultural competence on a regular basis.

Lean Tip # 771 - Demonstrate That You Value Your Employees And Their Work.
Provide employees with the opportunity to be heard and demonstrate to them that their opinions are taken on board - employees should feel they are part of the decision-making process. They are also likely to take more pride in the organization’s overall mission and vision if they believe they are contributing meaningfully.

Lean Tip #772 - Communicate Effectively In Order To Develop Trust And Confidence In Your Employees.
An organization’s culture plays a pivotal role in driving motivation and the relationships between employees, managers and their colleagues therefore need to be founded on trust, support and collaboration. A multi channel, planned and opportunistic, communication strategy that promotes openness and transparency will help make this possible.

Lean Tip #773 - Provide Interesting And Challenging Work To Your Employees. 
Employees are increasingly looking for work that is meaningful and stimulating. Despite the difficulty in providing this constantly, the aim is to empower and satisfy your workforce by providing work that requires skills and experience where you can and is challenging for the right reasons.

Lean Tip # 774 - You Can’t Make People Engaged. Engagement Is An Outcome.
People choose to become engaged if they have sufficient opportunity and motivation. Having said that, there are things you can do to help. You can create the conditions so that people to do things because they want to, rather than because they were told to. The following tips offer some ideas for how to create these conditions.

Lean Tip #775 - Be Open: Provide The Tools And Opportunity
Encourage people to offer input to areas they think they could improve. Imagine how frustrating it could be if you hire someone because you value their experience, skills and potential, and then confine their contribution to a defined job role. If someone in Sales could add value to Research & Development, couldn’t the benefit of contributing outside their role be greater (to the organization and individual) than the drawbacks?

Lean Tip #776 - Give People Autonomy
Help people understand the goal you’re working towards, and inspire them about why that’s the goal. Then give them the trust and ownership to determine how they can help you achieve it. You can offer support and advice, and the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and value they can offer.

Lean Tip #777 - Show Employees They Make a Difference
Without your employees, your company simply couldn’t do business. Employees keep the company running and keep your customers happy. You can increase employee engagement by actively acknowledging the wonderful work they do as a team. You can also show employees how they make a difference beyond the company’s core business mission by highlighting the impact of the company’s philanthropy initiatives, corporate volunteer programs, and other charitable giving. Recognizing these causes reminds employees they’re making a difference beyond their place of work.

Lean Tip #778 - Share Information And Numbers With Employees To Create Ownership.
Let them in on what is going on within the company as well as how their jobs contribute to the big picture. When you keep you employees informed they tend to feel a greater sense of worth. Keep communication hopeful and truthful – do not be afraid to share bad news, instead be more strategic about how you deliver it. Improve performance through transparency – By sharing numbers with employees, you can increase employees’ sense of ownership.

Lean Tip #779 - Choose The Right Champions For Initiatives To Get Engagement Early.
To make sure engagement captures both hearts and minds, activate your ‘early adopters’ who are passionate about not only the concept but also about driving change and influencing others to communicate with local business units. Look for and find the ‘right’ people for the job. Both the doers (get it done) and the planners (get it right). So if you are trying to engage a team, make sure you have a good mix of get it right and get it done people.

Lean Tip #780 – Management Must Remove Roadblocks That Hinder Achievement
Most employees want to accomplish the objectives in front of them, but most people run into what they perceive to be a never-ending series of roadblocks. One such roadblock is knowledge where many employees believe that a lack of knowledge or expertise prevents them from accomplishing what they want to accomplish. Another common roadblock is lack of internal communication. Many employees cite poor communication as the number one hindrance to accomplishing a specific task. Companies that empower employees to master the subject of their work and facilitate internal communication are well on their way to improved employee engagement.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Successful Company Begins and Ends With a Quality Culture


Culture is the shared beliefs, values, attitudes, institutions, and behavior patterns that characterize the members of a community or organization. In a healthy business culture, what's good for the company and for customers comes together and becomes the driving force behind what everyone does.

Leaders of business have a powerful influence on the development of the company's culture. You might not be very aware of your culture, or you may just think of it as "the way we do things around here." But your company does have a culture, and it probably reflects your leader’s values for good or bad: People will have adopted the manager’s behaviors and attitudes toward their work.

Quality is not just about implementing a system or working towards a set of standards. It is an attitude, a way of working, that not only improves an organization but also the way the organization works.

Senior managers must create and maintain buy-in for quality improvement at all levels of the organization. Management commitment is vital to overcoming uncertainty, establishing credibility and providing the stability to allow change to gain a foothold in the organization. Leadership must manage the organization’s culture and be a visible advocate for quality--“talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Talk is free, but quality takes work. Senior management must set the organization’s quality policy and strategies. Leaders must create sensitivity to changing and emerging customer requirements/needs throughout the organization.

To create a foundation for success, senior management must demonstrate commitment to change by removing roadblocks, providing necessary resources (training, time, etc.) and inviting contributions from all members of the workforce.

It is not enough to use slogans and posters to promote commitment to the quality journey. Quality requires understanding various tools (such as problem solving, root cause analysis, preventive/corrective action, lessons learned) and implementation of methodology, so that results become more predictable and not a surprise. Management commitment is required to introduce these tools and methodology in the organization – through investment as well as personal participation – and sustain their use throughout the organization.

The story of any successful company begins and ends with quality. Quality improvement places a stronger emphasis on leadership rather than management competencies and attributes. Leadership’s critical task is to integrate, institutionalize and internalize quality.


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Friday, August 23, 2013

Lean Quote: The Best Time is Now

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 best time to take action toward a dream is yesterday; the worst is tomorrow; the best compromise is today." — Alvah Simon, Author of North to the Night

I am often asked when the best time to start your Lean Journey is. Well, the short answer is now.  There is never a convenient or inconvenient time for change.

Sometime, I hear “we are not ready for lean”. This is a rather circular argument, because effectively what the management is saying is that business processes are too bad and therefore it can’t implement improvement. Of course this means that the business will never improve! I have never seen a business where the processes where too bad to start improving.

Many organizations are waiting for the optimum time to change.  Unfortunately, tomorrow never comes.  If you allow it you will always find another distraction.  There is never a better time to start than now.  We really must invest everyday in our future since you can't get back lost time.

Don’t spend your time trying to wait till things are perfect. Perfection is elusive. It is more important to get started. And it's better to get something done imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Poka Yoke: Mistake Proofing to Reduce Errors


Some may say that it’s impossible to eliminate mistakes. And they are right; it is, most of the time. But, to be honest, they are missing the point.

Poka yoke, or mistake proofing, describes any behavior changing constraint that is built into a process to prevent an incorrect operation or act occurring.  The three aims of mistake proofing are:
  • To reduce the risk of mistakes or errors arising.
  • To minimize the effort required to perform activities.
  • To detect errors prior to them impacting on people, materials, or equipment.

Ideally, poka-yoke ensures that proper conditions exist before actually executing a process step, preventing defects from occurring in the first place. Where this is not possible, poka-yoke performs a detective function, eliminating defects in the process as early as possible.

This can be achieved using three rule. Following are three rules of poka yoke

  1. Make it impossible to get it wrong (Occurrence)
  2. Make it impossible to pass the defect onto the customer (Severity)
  3. Make it blatantly obvious that there is a defect (Detection)

In our normal lives we are all familiar with many different mistake-proofing concepts, such as windows that don’t open fully in order to prevent people falling out, self-closing fire doors, lights that turn themselves off when they detect no one is there, and so on. You will also have seen warning instructions and traffic lights, as well as having read work instructions, all of which aim to reduce the risk of error. However, you will also notice that some of these are more effective than others. For example, the windows that don’t open on the 15th floor of a hotel to prevent you falling out are likely to be more effective than leaving the windows able to open fully and providing an instruction pamphlet in one of the drawers that tells you to be safe when opening the windows. This shows there is a hierarchy of mistake proofing concepts, with a decreasing level of effectiveness.

The five levels of the hierarchy of mistake proofing are shown below.

  1. Eliminate – the most effective but also normally the most costly level involves eliminating the source of risk completely. In reality, it is very difficult to completely remove risk.
  2. Redesign – if you can’t eliminate the risk then you might want to try to replace it with a less risky process.
  3. Reduce – when it is not possible to redesign the problem you need to think about reduction techniques.
  4. Detect – here we are no longer trying to prevent mistakes: we are trying to detect  they have occurred.
  5. Mitigate – at this lowest level we are simply trying to reduce the damage caused by the mistake arising.

Some common examples of mistake proofing that most people should be aware of – and the levels they represent in the mistake proofing hierarchy:
  • Hard hats - mitigate
  • Drain hole at the top of a sink to prevent it overflowing - mitigate
  • Fuel low warning lights on cars – detect
  • Blood pressure monitoring equipment - detect
  • Safety glasses – reduce
  • Standard operating instructions – reduce
  • Filing cabinets that won’t allow you to open more than one drawer at a time – redesign
  • Garage door sensors that detect an obstruction – redesign
  • Irons that turn off automatically – redesign

The guiding principles of mistake proofing should be as follows:
  • People are fallible and even the best make mistakes.
  • Errors are inevitable.
  • Errors can be eliminated.
  • Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable!
  • Events can be avoided by understanding the reasons mistakes occur and applying the lessons learned from past events.
  • Defects are preventable and zero defects can be achieved.

There is a perception in some organizations that particular people are “error proof” and that they do not and cannot make mistakes. If you believe that anyone is immune to making mistakes then you will be sorely disappointed in the very near future.


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Restarting Your Lean Journey


Despite the enormous popularity of Lean, the track record for successful implementation of the methodology is spotty at best. Some recent studies say that failure rates for Lean programs range between 50 percent and 95 percent.

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.

Restarting the Lean journey can be difficult. It is critical to have alignment and clearly state the need for improvement from the beginning. There are ten key steps that should be taken when restarting the journey towards a Lean improvement.

1. Establish a need to improve and obtain management commitment
2. Define the improvement objective
3. Identify and acquire necessary resources
4. Collect information and determine current state
5. Uncover the root cause
6. Identify and test countermeasures that will meet the improvement objectives
7. Develop plans for implementing the countermeasures which ensure buy-in
8. Implement the improvement
9. Standardize the improvement
10. Repeat starting a step 1

Lean implementation is not simple or easy. However, results show that, when done properly, Lean lives up to its promises. Lean and its elements work. All of the failure modes presented here can be avoided or overcome.

Lean improvement is about the entire organization and everything it does. Lean Thinking has to be a prime concern of executive management and its success depends upon commitment from them. Their commitment must also be highly visible. It is not enough to demand improvement. If executive management does not demonstrate its commitment by doing what it says it will do they cannot expect others to be committed either.

The adoption of Lean is never a short or simple journey. A Lean transformation takes time. It begins with understanding the core tenets of the Lean philosophy and with focusing on the customer. It continues by incorporating the methodology into the organization and involving every employee in developing a refined work ethic. Overall, Lean is about adopting a lifestyle change—one that requires an ongoing commitment to achieve organizational health and longevity.

If you want Lean to succeed in your organization, management has to become a student of Lean in order to be a successful sponsor. In other words, you have to apply Lean to your management process first in order to understand how to apply it to others.


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