Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lean Roundup #59 – April, 2014



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

The Big Kata – Michael Lombard discussed the benefit of having one single scalable approach to improvement.

Look Below The Waterline to Understand Lean – Hakan Forss says you need to look past those things that are visible like tools and techniques to truly understand Lean.

Make Meetings Meaty, Mobile and Memorable – Liz Guthridge says there is value in incorporating three elements into as many meetings as possible.

The Road to Lean – Bruce Hamilton says when the road to Lean is paved with the wrong intentions; it is destined to hit a dead end.

More on Toyota's "Respect for Humanity" – Michel Baudin explains Toyota’s “Respect for Humanity” from those who experienced it directly.

How Do You Make Time for Improvement? Here are Nine Takes – Mark Graban summarizes the feedback from 9 experts on making time for improvement.

Ask Art: How Do We Prevent Backsliding? – Art Byrne explains the proactive steps that can be taken to prevent backsliding on improvements.

How Lean Improves Individual Productivity – Dan Markovitz shows how Lean can be used to improve personal productivity.

Respect and Leadership - You Can’t Have One Without The Other - Jacklyn Whitaker shares three tips to improve your leadership skills by respecting your team members.

The Power of Hope in Improvement – Karen Martin says that while need more than hope to get results it is good place to start.

Quality of Lean – Bob Emiliani says the quality of Lean in an organization is driven largely by people being allowed by their leaders to think.

“Be Lean” vs. “Do Lean” – Chad Walters says there is a difference between being Lean and doing Lean as a corrective measures.

Value Stream Mapping: Ferrari or Pinto? – Karen Martin explains 6 common mistakes to avoid when value stream mapping to get the most benefit.

How to Create a Dysfunctional Culture Where Employees & Customers Are Unhappy – Mark Graban takes the what not to do approach to employee culture as a lesson for all.

Sustaining Lean – Bob Emiliani compares the decline of Scientific Management in 1908 to that of Lean Management today and what it takes to avoid it.

Bus Schedules and the Lean Management System – Mark Hamel explains why mature Lean organization maintain a profound and pervasive respect for schedules.

What Is Respect For People? – Chad Walters shares his thoughts on respect for people and what it means for organizations.

Working outside in rather than inside out – Bill Waddell discusses supply chain optimization from customer’ s view or the company’s view.

Productivity Problem Solved – Bill Waddell shares four common productivity measurement traps to avoid.

No Time for Kaizen? Check Your Assumptions – Jon Miller says kaizen is part of the job and the CEO sets the priorities.

This is honestly more about leadership than lean – Art Smalley says that lake of time for improvement is leadership problem.


Lean is the strategy! – Michael Balle says that Lean leaders look for kaizen in the Gemba.


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Monday, April 28, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #62 (931-945)

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 #931 - Silos Can Kill Your Business.
Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Silos are seen as a growing pain for organizations of all sizes. Wherever it’s found, a silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation, and loss of productivity.

Lean Tip #932 - Use Collaboration as an Organizational Change Strategy.
Regardless of how creative, smart and savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t transform an organization, a department or a team without the brain power and commitment of others. Whether the change involves creating new products, services, processes – or a total reinvention of how the organization must look, operate, and position itself for the future – success dictates that the individuals impacted by change be involved in the change from the very beginning.

Lean Tip #933 - Focus on Building Trust.
Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honored. It is also the glue that holds together any group. Leaders demonstrate their trust in employees by the open, candid, and ongoing communication that is the foundation of informed collaboration.

Lean Tip #934 – Help Your Team See the “Big Picture.”
Take time to explain to your team how their work and projects fit into the company’s larger goals and overall objectives. This will help demonstrate that every task they complete can have an impact on the company’s reputation, success, and bottom line.

Lean Tip #935 - Create an Environment of Constant Learning and Development – and Include Yourself in this Process.
Encourage your team to explore new methods for reaching their individual goals and those set by the company. Allow them to make – and learn from – mistakes and be sure to reward new and innovative ideas. Accept that you still have much to learn. Be prepared to learn from others.

Lean Tip #936 - Use a Consistent Approach for Projects.
A consistent and structured approach for project identification and execution will provide the organization with the ability to identify, select, and manage continuous improvement projects. The continuous improvement project process should also provide post-closing process steps to continually refine the improvement project methodology and to act upon the lessons learn from the project effort.

Lean Tip #937 - 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 #938 – Educate Your Employees
Like any business strategy, ongoing education of the workplace is critical in establishing awareness, developing skills, and institutionalizing the needed mindset and behaviors to bring about effective change. It is no different with Continuous Improvement. Expect and overcome resistance to change with ongoing training, reinforcement of expected behaviors, and recognition of those who are learning and doing.

Lean Tip #939 - Establish an Enduring Culture.
For continuous improvement to work, there must be a relentless focus on and commitment to getting things right. 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 #940 - Ensure a Penalty-Free Exchange of Ideas.
In many organizations, expressing one's opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn't take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Lean Tip #941 - Promote a Culture of Learning.
In today’s fast-paced economy, if a business isn’t learning, it’s going to fall behind. A business learns as its people learn. Communicate your expectations that all employees should take the necessary steps to hone their skills and stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support those efforts by providing the resources needed to accomplish this goal.

Lean Tip #942 - Apply Learning Straightaway
If you are planning on training employees in a certain skillset that will not be used until a later date you run the risk of wasting your time and funds. Failing to apply what you have learned in the immediately future could result in the loss of retention of that information. Save those skills training classes until you are ready to implement them.

Lean Tip #943 - Analyze The Skills That You Want Your Employees To Develop.
Cross training employees on any aspect will not work since some disciplines and skills are suitable for specific types of people. Hence, you need to analyze your employees’ core skills and search for any related skills to form groups of compatible training within a range of genres. This way, your employees will be able to apply what they have learned from the training provided to them.

Lean Tip #944 – When Training Employees Focus on Results.
In many companies, the training and development processes aren’t aimed at producing targeted results. A certain training program may seem like a good idea, but without defined expectations, measurable results will be impossible to achieve. Clearly consider and define how you’re going to get a return on your investment by analyzing your company’s needs before starting the training process.

Lean Tip #945 – Find the Right Trainers

There are plenty of adequate trainers out there, but it’s up to you to find one who can help you achieve your specific business goals. A trainer’s resume may seem impressive, but their style of training is much more important than a piece of paper. If they can’t transfer knowledge in a fun, practical manner, they’re probably not a good fit.


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Friday, April 25, 2014

Lean Quote: No End to Lean Improvement

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.

"Once you think you have arrived, you have already started your descent.— Old Adage

There is an old saying that goes “Once you think you have arrived, you have already started your descent.” One must never think they "have arrived." In the West we say "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the spirit of kaizen suggests that there is always something to learn and ways to improve, and that it is also better to prevent problems than to fix them.

So, no matter how good things may seem now, there is still always improvement to be had. The spirit of kaizen does not accept the status quo. Never be willing to settle for less. There is always room for improvement, and looking to improve every day is what Lean is all about.

Continuous improvement (Lean) is the never-ending pursuit of waste elimination by continually creating a better workplace, better products, and greater value to society.  The process is never perfect --  as the name implies, with continuous improvement you are never done; even the improvement can be improved. 

Lean institutionalizes the practice of making many small improvements every day and improves overall efficiency.  Continuous Improvement refers to the idea that a large number of small improvements in processes are easier to implement than major improvements and have a large cumulative effect.


It’s not about how far you have come or how far you have yet to go, it is only about this moment and being open to seeing the lessons around you, and possessing the capacity and willingness to learn and improve. There are many small things you can do to increase your mindfulness and skills over time. Never ever give in to complacency for we may end up losing.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Vital Few - Focus is Everything


Given all of the rapid changes and increasing distractions organizations face today, individuals must be able to focus on those things that offer the greatest advantage to the organization. The clearer the priorities, the easier it will be for people to focus their energies on what really counts.

If I had to take one lesson from my business experience it is without focus you are lost.  Infinity is not available to us in this life.  Time and money are limited and as such we must utilize these limited resources effectively.  I can see no way to achieve our objectives other than to utilize discretion, prioritization and selection.  For after all, some things are simply more critical and more important. 

The most effective leaders are those who can cut through the clutter to focus on what is most important. When individuals and teams are confronted by multiple issues, they often try to take them all on… at once. Because they are overwhelmed, they make progress on none of them. The result: inertia and a lack of change.

The job of management is to steer the focus of their organization towards those few vital priorities that will keep or bring the organization into alignment with the demands of its customers. Once these are identified, employees can then pinpoint the group, division, factory, department, or project gaps that must be closed to stay aligned with the strategic direction of your organization.

From your long list, identify the top three to four and focus all your energy on those. When one is complete, pull another up to the top, but hold no more than four at a time. You will find that you get more done (and at a higher quality) by working on only four priorities at a time than you did when you tried to juggle ten or twelve.

Focus is also about learning to say no. Identify the things to stop doing in order to focus on the vital few. These 'must stops' require leaders to let go of their favorite projects, stop wasting valuable resources, and focus their own time only on the chosen goals.

You can’t do everything. So you have to focus. Since you can’t do everything and if you ever could, your customers wouldn’t believe you anyhow, then you need to focus on something that you do well, that people want.

You get results based on the things you focus on most intently. Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside.

Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of you work that is really important. Don't just "work smart", work smart on the right things.

If everything is important, then nothing is important. Do fewer but better things. Because the person who tries to achieve everything ultimately accomplishes nothing. Focus. Focus. Focus.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

A Guide to Lean Leadership


When you hear the word “leadership” what comes to mind? There are numerous definitions of leadership. For me leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. Effective leadership comes down to people. It is about the ability to successfully engage and maximize all human resources for the attainment that vision.

Lean organizations need leaders who know how to serve their people. A servant leader -- one who wants to serve first and lead second -- strives to create a work environment in which people can truly express these deepest of inner drives. Servant leadership entails a deep belief that people are the greatest asset any organization has, and to nurture their individual growth becomes the basis for all organizational development. That growth goes far beyond the limited dimension of financial benefit -- it dives into our core motivations as people.

People want to be engaged and also have some level of control over their environment. A servant leader recognizes that the people doing the work generally have the best ideas about how to improve the processes they participate in. Through tools like rapid improvement events and PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) suggestion systems, servant leaders practice participatory decision-making, empowering employees to be innovators and co-creators in positive change. Such leaders are also enablers; they spend a significant amount of time at the workplace, making direct observations, and then striving to create systemic improvements that add value to the work of their employees.

Leaders are nothing without people. Put another way, people will make or break you as a leader. You’ll either treat them well, earn their trust, respect and loyalty, or you won’t. You’ll either see people as capital to be leveraged or humans to be developed and fulfilled. You’ll either view yourself as superior to your employees, or as one whose job it is to serve them, learn from them, and leave them be better off for being led by you.

The best leaders don’t put people in a box – they free them from boxes. Ultimately, a leaders job isn’t to create followers, but to strive for ubiquitous leadership. Average leaders spend time scaling processes, systems, and models – great leaders focus on scaling leadership.

A leader must be a good teacher. Leaders must be able to be good teachers to share insights and experiences. Leaders can inspire, motivate, and influence subordinates at various levels through the use of teaching ability. Obviously, one must be a good communicator in order to be an effective teacher. Without the ability to clearly and effectively communicate a message, goal, story, or philosophy, it is impossible to lead.

When you become a manager, supervisor, or team leader, the game changed.  You're now held to a higher level of accountability than before.  In fact, everything you do is exaggerated; you are under a magnifying glass.  And when you're down, they're down.  When you're up, they're up.  You set the tone... you shape the environment in which all can be successful.

Your employees expect you to lead without excuses.  The leadership you display and the decisions that you make contribute more to the success of your employees than all other factors combined.  Everything you do counts.  Make it count.

Good leadership is not reflected in the leader’s actions, it is reflected in the impact and effect of those actions on the team. A leader should adapt to the environment and what the team needs today without losing sight of what will be needed tomorrow and always preparing for that moment when he or she will no longer be there. Guaranteeing the growth and sustainability of the team and the individuals that comprise it beyond the leader’s time is the ultimate trait of a great leader.

While there are people who seem to be naturally endowed with more leadership abilities than others, I believe that people can learn to become leaders by concentrating on improving these leadership skills.

Lean success requires a change in mindset and behavior among leadership, and then gradually throughout the organization. So it follows that success in Lean implies a change in what leaders reinforce—a change in leadership behaviors and practices. Change begins when leaders start acting differently. It’s that simple (but not that easy).

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Lean Quote: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

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.

"A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.— William Shedd

Ships aren't built so they can sit there in a harbor. Ships are built for sailing and adventures in the sea. There may be risks, but hey, that's what the ship was made to do. Much like a person can be safe and comfortable with status quo, but that's not the point of improvement. The point of continuous improvement is to explore and challenge our understanding, not to mindlessly accept what we have always done.

Leaders need to challenge their employees to move out of their comfort zone. You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, give your employees challenging assignments. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.

So when it comes to getting outside your comfort zone, don’t mistake magical outcomes for magical processes. Adaptation takes time, effort, strategy, and determination. But with a solid plan in place and the courage to take it forward, your results can be extraordinary.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma

One of the aspects of being a vocal Lean practitioner I enjoy is the frequent request for editorial/book reviews. I find great value in continuously learning.  I want to share a recent review with you.

Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma: Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement is a valuable and insightful book written by David Shaked.


Most application of Lean Thinking and Six Sigma assume there is a “perfect state” for each. The strength-based approach to process improvement has a different focus. Instead of focusing on what is broken and inefficient, it helps management and staff identify what is already working efficiently and generates value in existing processes and systems. They then define ways to grow and expand those parts and implement good practices everywhere. This focus on the search for and growth of existing efficiency enables new ideas to emerge and supports implementation of process improvements by raising confidence and energy levels.

This book starts with a brief overview of Lean and Six Sigma as well as some historical developments that led to the creation of these two popular approaches. Then they build the connection between the two approaches. He shares some ways to apply this thinking at different levels of the organization and improvement initiatives.

In short this book approaches improvement from the value added side of the equation instead of the waste elimination side. I am not sure you can do one without the other however the positive value added approach is powerful.

He organizes his material within five Parts whose titles correctly suggest an on-going process that begins with "Define," continues with “Discover, Dream, and Design,” and concludes with "Deliver/Destiny."

At 230 pages it is a pretty easy read.  There are a number of case studies to reinforce concepts. Each chapter ends with a summary of learning. The book includes a few graphics to support key learnings.

The author claims this book is for business leaders, improvement champions, trained practitioners and facilitators, and consultants. However, there is an assumption that the reader is already familiar or experienced with these methodologies. Strength-based Lean Six Sigma provides ways to bring them together and expand their practice.





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