Friday, January 31, 2014

Lean Quote: Make Employees Feel Appreciated

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 deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.— Mark McCormack

Employee recognition is a powerful tool to sustain high performance levels in your employees. It is also a channel through which you communicate to your employees the kind of actions and attitude you like them to execute. Thus, you establish the performance patterns that enhance productivity and render you a competitive edge.

It seems like a simple concept: Make employees feel appreciated, and they will work harder and be more loyal. But there is often a disconnect between the type of appreciation employees want and what their managers think they want.

Most managers only practice recognition after the fact – which is rewarding people for achievements. Rewards are great, however they are only a trade (first you achieve something and then I reward you for it) and they only cause short term motivation (if the rewards stop coming, performance will decrease as well, because the trade is out of balance).

But if you can recognize them before the achievement you can engage them. It makes them feel heard, valued, involved and important. Recognizing how people like to be treated; what training, information or tools they need to do their job; what their ambitions, talents, personality type and motivational drivers are, helps us to respond to them in a way that brings out the best in them. All this assures sustainable motivation.


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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lean Roundup Edition #56 - January, 2014



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of January, 2014.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

The Art Of Replacing Systems: How To Change The World – Matthew E May explains 3 elements of a system that governs change.

The Futility of a Numerical Goal – Tim Higgins describes the downfall of arbitrary numerical goal.

Lean and Management Processes – Michel Baudin explains his approach to management processes and it’s relationship to engineering in manufacturing.

Applied EPEI – Phil Coy explains the application of “every part every interval” and how it drives continuous improvement.

Standardized Work for Kaizen: Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve – Tracey Richardson defines the actual steps needed for Kaizen.

What's Your Company's Bottleneck? – Brent Wahba shares some ideas to experiment with when trying to understand bigger system problems of the entire organization.

4 Keys to Strategic Lean Leadership - Clint McCrystal shares some basic strategies that can be used by new participants in lean leadership.

What Makes a Provider Truly Lean? - Michael Burchett defines a few key lean logistics performance areas to keep in mind when looking for a third party logistics provider.

Leadership is About Language – Al Norval defines “True North” and explains why leaders need to communicate the vision and direction.

It starts with respect for the product – Bill Waddell says any chance at having a culture centered on creating maximum value for the customers begins with hiring the right people, people with more than a passing interest in the product.

What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Can Teach Us About Continuous Improvement – Chad Walters shares lessons from Dr. King, who had the courage to make the world a better place.

Why Does Most Lean Literature Address Only Make to Stock? – George Bohan explains that Lean is not about tools but rather process control.

Still Beating Up Suppliers? – Bob Emiliani explains the downside of beating up on suppliers with some words of wisdom from forgotten pioneers.

Every Company’s Operational Excellence Journey Is Different – Mark Davidson shares the similarities and differences of company’s journey to operational excellence.

Lean and 6-Sigma: Still Not the Same – Gregg Stocker explains the differences in improvement approaches between Lean and 6-sigma from his point of view.
Gaining Clarity through Value Stream Mapping – Karen Martin explains how value stream maps can boost organizational clarity.

Patience – Bruce Hamilton explores patience and it’s place when creating change in an organization.

My Continuous Improvement: Personal Kanban – 4th Revision FAILED! – Matt Wrye discusses an improvement in his kanban system that totally failed and the lesson he learned.

Continuous Flow is the Key to Improving Quality – Michael Balle says the continuous flow creates the opportunity for Kaizen and quality improvement.

Standard Work Instructions are Continually Improved; They are not a Barrier to Improvement – John Hunter explains that standard work is not a barrier but rather a means to lock in improvement.


Situational Leadership: Change Your Style Based on the Need – Jamie Flinchbaugh says different situations require different leadership traits and good leaders know to adapt.


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Monday, January 27, 2014

Steps to the Crucial World Class “No Blame” Environment


People want to do a good job. They really do! And doing a good job today means working in a safe-from-ridicule environment where we can learn from mistakes and look at them as opportunities to learn more about our processes in order to make them more trouble-free. It’s this kind of thinking that gets us into the parts per million defect range and beyond!

Our greatest fear is the fear of being humiliated. So it’s not surprising that folks hide their mistakes and avoid saying and doing unusual things so they won’t be ridiculed. And yet, these unusual things – and what we can learn from our mistakes – may be just what’s needed to solve a problem.

Everyone’s contribution is needed. We can’t tolerate the old thinking of looking for someone to blame. No-blame environments produce decreased problems, fewer defects, increased productivity, higher profits – and – more genuine employee involvement and ownership. In short, work becomes a more fun place as the focus switches to satisfying the customer by achieving results. A no-blame environment does not mean people aren’t accountable – far from it . . . they are more so. And proud of it!

Follow these key points to build and grow a no-blame environment:

  • You build a “no-blame” environment every day – one conversation at a time. Use every conversation as an opportunity to build another’s self-esteem.
  • Managers and workers are partners in the improvement process. They share facts daily through straight talk and generous listening.
  • Mistakes are part of the “facts” in everyone’s work life. Use mistakes as opportunities for improvement – not vehicles for discipline.
  • Emphasize fact finding, not fault finding. Fact-finders observe, listen, ask questions, reserve judgement, analyze and conclude the facts. They replace the words “I think …” with, “Here is what the data tells us …”
  • Point fingers only at processes – not people.
  • Managers are responsible for creating a safe-from-ridicule, no-blame environment of trust & integrity. Their role is to coach & lead by example.
  • Workers are responsible for supporting & reinforcing the positive behaviors of fellow workers & management.
You start the process by beginning to live it. Remember, real change takes place through the conversations we have every day with each other. It is in your own best interest to make every conversation an opportunity to build another person’s self-esteem. This approach can work wonders in your company. 


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Friday, January 24, 2014

Lean Quote: Tenacity is the Strength that Leads to 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.

"Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in tenacity.— Louis Pasteur

Striving for excellence is an ongoing process; it requires a persistent attitude of excellence demonstrated by a continual focus on both the large and small things in our endeavor.

Without tenacity, success is just but a far away dream. It is the force originating from within you that seeks to bring out the potential in you and drive you to your destiny.

It is the desire of many to achieve success but a determined person is never satisfied until he gets what he is after. Determination is what motivates one to strive and work hard towards success; therefore without it one tends to walk blindly and without purpose.

Take up a project or goal only if you are sure that you have the will and the energy to go ahead with your plans, whatever may be the difficulties, obstacles, and complications in your path.

Just how determined are you?

Answer that for yourself and really take a good look at your reasons for starting that idea in the first place. Because if your focus and determination lack drive, the necessary skills or bucket loads of patience you will ultimately fail in your personal quest, whatever that may be.


The commitments you make and the actions you take with enthusiastic tenacity will bring you the success you are now envisioning.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Do We Mean By True North?


"True North" is a key concept in Lean process improvement. It is an idiom that emerged from Toyota twenty years ago, connotes the compass needle for Lean transformation. True North works as a compass proving a guide to take an organization from the current condition to where they want to be. It might be viewed as a mission statement, a reflection of the purpose of the organization, and the foundation of a strategic plan.

In general use of the idiom True North connotes a personal or business destiny that may be different for each of us. But in the context of Lean, True North is a precise, concise and universal set of ideals which, when taken together, provide a compass that transcends any particular organization, strategy, geography or culture.

True North refers to what we should do, not what we can do. It is a term used in the Lean lexicon to describe the ideal or state of perfection that your business should be continually striving towards. Lean is a journey without an absolute destination point, we will never achieve perfection. Opportunities for improvement never end, and it is only when we take the next step that we in fact see possible future steps. However, like a sailor we must be guided towards our shoreline. We look to True North to guide us while knowing that we can never arrive at the True North; it is a concept not a goal. It is the persistent practice of daily improvement by all your employees to advance to True North that makes organizations first class.

In a nutshell, True North is a vision of the ideal condition both from the standpoint of the customer and the provider that is distinguished at once by its simplicity and also by the challenge it presents to status quo thinking. While the ideals themselves can truly fit "in a nutshell", the journey to understanding and practice will last a lifetime.




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Monday, January 20, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #58 (856-870)

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 #856 - Don’t Automatically Blame the Tool
It’s not the hammer’s fault if the person swinging it uses the wrong end. It just won’t work well. Most tools are decent enough, they’re just used incorrectly. Rushing to change a tool because things aren’t working well may be a mistake.

Lean Tip #857 - Make Time to Think Together
Create regularly scheduled time to share observations and ideas without a structured agenda. It could be a semi-annual half-day to reflect on your successes or it could be more frequent and less formal. Start each day with a “daily huddle” to keep the lines of communications open.

Lean Tip #858 - Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks
Encourage an entrepreneurial climate, where risk taking is celebrated. If people know that attempts to innovate are accepted, rather than punished, there’s an increased likelihood of seeing creative problem solving.

Lean Tip #859 - Challenge Your Assumptions
When we don’t know the full story, we tend to fill in the blanks with assumptions, many of which have little grounding in reality. Instead of assuming, take the time to learn the real story. For example, if a team member doesn’t answer your question right away, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s being difficult or passive aggressive. She might just need a little time to think.

Lean Tip #860 - Learn From When Things Work
It’s important to identify challenges, but why stop there? Invite your team members to share stories of how they overcame challenges in the past. Then encourage them to apply those lessons to their current challenges. Connecting to past successes inspires people and leaves them more willing to use discretionary effort. This is where real performance gains happen.

Lean Tip #861 – Engage Employees By Noticing What Gets Done
It is easy, and at times inevitable, for managers to keep their focus on what's not finished and what's broken. But if you want people to care about their work, it's critical to notice and to call attention to what's going well. At every opportunity, and at least once a day, comment on a job well done or a crisis averted. We can't expect people to aim for high goals if we don't give them credit for the small ones.

Lean Tip #862 – Engage Employees By Soliciting Ideas for Improvement
If you do one-on-one meetings with your team, or in informal "stop-by" talks, ask your employees individually for their thoughts on the department's operations. Ask "What should we be focusing on? What could run better in our group?" If the solutions offered seem impractical, don't shoot them down—talk through the obstacles so your colleagues will understand the challenges of implementing what they've suggested. Above all, don't send the message that you're the only one who is qualified to make improvements. We don't keep smart people unless we make them part of our brain trust.

Lean Tip #863 – Engage Employees By Being Transparent
Show employees that you are committed to seeing change by being transparent. It’s one thing to say that you will be transparent but employees can see what you do. Back up your claims with actions like having regular communications about changes in processes important to employees.

Lean Tip #864 – Engage Employees By Removing Systemic Barriers
In a business of largely manufacturing environments, I’ve found key themes that can get in the way of engagement across an entire site or segment no matter how good the frontline supervisor might be at it. Themes such as communication and trust, pay and benefits, office vs. plant culture, and (lack of) change management must be identified by actively listening to your frontline associates and addressed by the senior leadership in addition to direct manager-associate conversations.

Lean Tip #865 – Engage Employees By Celebrating Successes
It’s comes as no surprise that celebrating the good stuff that happens will in-turn also encourage more ideas thus spinning the cycle of innovation and engagement round and round. Not only does celebrating success mean another surge of re-engagement, it also shows employees that you appreciate the work that they’re doing and that you’re taking the time and effort to make things even better for them.

Lean Tip #866 - Focus on the Future
People need to feel confident in their future. They need to trust that their leaders will guide them to their collective goal. Make sure all team members know what the long-term vision is for the company, and how they fit in to the strategic plan. Don’t worry about sounding like a broken record, reminding people of the future vision is at the core of what great leaders do.

Lean Tip #867 - Ask for Ideas and Opinions to Show Appreciation
A great way to make people feel appreciated, is to ask them for their opinion and ideas. You don’t have to accept or implement every idea, but it’s important for people to know that their ideas count. This can be as simple as going around the table at each meeting and asking, “Do you have anything you’d like to add?” or “What do you think about this approach?”

Lean Tip #868 – Design and Hold Informal Learning Opportunities
People are engaged less by formal training courses and more by experiences that enable them to grow. Setup a mentorship program or a formalized job rotation schedule to enable people to gain exposure, experiences and relationships outside their department.

Lean Tip #869 - Leverage “Lunch and Learns”
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to foster ongoing growth is to implement a weekly or monthly lunch-and-learn program. You simply recruit volunteers to lead a one-hour program and buy some pizzas or sandwiches for the conference room. Perhaps someone can share the key findings from a conference they recently attended.

Lean Tip #870 - Get to Know the Reasons Employees Disengage

The most common reasons include: job or workplace did not meet employee’s expectations; mismatch between job and employee; not enough coaching and feedback; too few growth or advancement opportunities; not feeling valued, appreciated, or recognized for contributions; stress, workload, and work-life imbalance; loss of trust and confidence in leaders; perceived unfairness or favoritism; and perceived lack of support by leaders, managers or supervisors on a personal and professional level. Conducting periodic audits or evaluations of how employees perceive these aspects of the organization can be helpful in getting a pulse of how engaged your workforce is.


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Friday, January 17, 2014

Lean Quote: There are No Secrets to 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.

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.— Colin Powell

Success is one of those things that just about everybody wants, but not nearly as many people do what it takes to achieve. It’s the reason why so many people search for a “secret to success”; they want it, but they’re afraid of what it might take to get there. They’re looking for an easy path; a magic pill that will solve all their problems along the way and give them what they want with minimal effort.

Well, I’ve got news for you.

There is no magic pill. There is no easy path. There is no secret to success.

You have to work, and you have to work hard.

Lots of people prepare for what they want to do. In my experience, that is usually the easiest part of the job. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

Fewer people will truly work hard. They’ll build strength, endurance, strategy, and all sorts of tricky skills. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

A person, with a bit of basic preparation and a willingness to work, a person who is willing to learn can get a great deal accomplished. By learning from their experiences, failures become stepping stones to success.


If you can stay with it, persevere in face of repeated failures (and learn from each one), there is very little limit to what you can accomplish.


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