Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lean Roundup #67 – December, 2014



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

Lean, Leadership & Ethics, Part 1 – Pascal Dennis reflects on Lean, leadership, and ethics and how they relate to each other.

Lean tools should eliminate the need for lean tools – Bill Waddell says that when Lean tools eliminate the need for Lean tools then the real magic of lean starts to happen.

3 Things I’ve Learned in 2014 – Ron Pereira shares 3 lessons learned in 2014 that everyone can benefit from.

Skateboarding and A Path To Discovery – Steve Kane elaborates on a post I did last month about Rodney Mullen TED talk on discovery.

Perfect Misunderstanding – Bob Emiliani says there is no such thing as a perfect process in REAL Lean thinking.

One-Piece-Flow Projects Create the Best Conditions for True Creativity – Michael Balle explains why one-piece-flow projects create the best conditions for true creativity.

Are You Training People to Think or to Follow a Checklist? – Erin Urban says continuous improvement requires continuous learning at all levels all the time.

Businessweek Article on Employee Ideas – Mark Graban says we must move past the suggestion box to continuous improvement.

Why we Need a Quality Department – Michel Baudin explains the role of quality within a Lean organization.

Control is overrated…and a myth – Jamie Flinchbaugh expands on why you cannot control everything and how to deal with that.

People aren’t tools – Bill Waddell says: “People and culture are the heart of lean manufacturing. Tools come and go, technology changes and someone more clever than us will conjure up a better kanban formula. But a business driven by empowered, committed people at every level, all pursuing little fixes and little improvements every day is the enduring engine that enables lean companies to thrive and grow year after year after year.”

My Continuous Improvement: Personal Kanban – 5th Revision a Success! – Matt Wrye shares his personal Kanban improvement which demonstrates continuous improvement.

Reflecting on the Intentional Routine – Kevin Meyer reflects on routines and shares his thoughts on the subject.

One of my least favorite questions – Jamie Flinchbaugh discusses why you just can’t copy someone else and expect the same results.

Public Service: Lean's Next Frontier? – John O’Donnell and Lex Schroeder share observations on why Lean has been growing in the field of social impact.

Immediate Detection & Correction: Easier Said Than Done – Connor Shea summarizes the key element of Lean but reminds us about the difficulty.

Mankind is our business – Bill Waddell says a Christmas Carol is a story of lean cultural transformation.

The Value of Not Knowing – Steve Kane says creating a void in expertise with “I don’t know” invites greater expertise.


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Monday, December 29, 2014

8 Practical Tips on Improving Your Goal Setting Process


This is the time of year when people are trying to turn over a new leaf. The beginning of the year marks a point where people make New Year’s Resolutions. Unfortunately, many fail to keep those resolutions. In fact, 81 percent of resolution's fail within two years. The top New Year's resolutions rarely change year to year. The most popular typically revolve around losing weight, managing stress, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and learning a new skill.

Personally I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. Resolutions and goal setting may seem similar, but resolutions typically take a let's start something and see what happens approach, while goal setting is about planning a specific path to success.

Goal setting is a process whereby you decide what you want to achieve and set up a plan to do it.  The very first step of goal setting is to, first, determine what you want at the end of the journey. That is your ultimate destination.  Some people say that goal setting is just a matter of sitting down and deciding what to do.  If you fully intend to achieve your goals, you should perceive goal setting as an extremely powerful process of personal planning.

These practical tips on goal setting can help make it easier to set and reach goals:
  1. Specific, realistic goals work best. When it comes to making a change, the people who succeed are those who set realistic, specific goals. And that makes it easier to stick with.
  2. It takes time for a change to become an established habit. It will probably take a couple of months before any changes — like getting up half an hour early to exercise — become a routine part of your life. That's because your brain needs time to get used to the idea that this new thing you're doing is part of your regular routine.
  3. Repeating a goal makes it stick. Say your goal out loud each morning to remind yourself of what you want and what you're working for. (Writing it down works too.) Every time you remind yourself of your goal, you're training your brain to make it happen.
  4. Involve others. It is always good to involve others in the process of setting and achieving goals. Take advice when necessary. And don’t be rigid. There are people out there who are better at this. Their suggestions are always valuable.
  5. Make an action plan. So you have set goals, written them down and now you are all set to start working towards achieving them. First step – make an action plan. There could be more than one method to achieve a goal. Which one suits you? Decide on it.
  6. Track progress. Extremely important. If you don’t track progress, you don’t get an idea if you are going the right way and if you would ever achieve it in the time frame you had set in your mind. So track your progress everyday. There are various methods and tools to track progress and I’ll discuss them in detail in my next article.
  7. Roadblocks don't mean failure. Slip-ups are actually part of the learning process as you retrain your brain into a new way of thinking. It may take a few tries to reach a goal. But that's OK — it's normal to mess up or give up a few times when trying to make a change. So remember that everyone slips up and don't beat yourself up about it. Just remind yourself to get back on track.
  8. Persist. Don’t give up. As I mentioned, there could be many paths leading to the same destination. Try out different methods. Learn and improve. Be patient. Be persistent.


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.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Merry Christmas to all A Lean Journey Fans! I hope everyone takes the time to spend quality time with your family and enjoy all the things you have to be thankful for. Lean thinking is a gift to us individually and to organizations empowering and inspiring improvement all around us.

“Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving.” ~ J. C. Penney

I just wanted to take this opportunity to not only wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season, but also to thank you for all your support and encouragement throughout the year! I wish you the best for 2015! 

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #72 (1081-1095)

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 #1081 – Raise Your Employee’s Consciousness of the Vision
Consciously try, on every occasion and in every interaction, to raise the level of your employees’ consciousness -- both individually and collectively. Hold up a vision of what they are capable of doing and becoming and what, as a result of their efforts, the company can become. Do it often enough that it becomes a collective vision, not yours alone.

Lean Tip #1082 - Make Sure Employees Can See First Hand the Value of What They are Doing and the Impact it Has.
The CEO of a hotel chain makes it a practice to invite guests who send in strong testimonials to visit again at their expense and meet the housekeeping staff. The manufacturer of a medical equipment company records grateful statements from patients whose lives have been saved by their devices and shares these video presentations at internal company meetings. Use your creativity to come up with your own methodology; be sure that your method demonstrates the very real value and impact of your employees’ contributions.

Lean Tip #1083 - Ask, Ask, Ask!! If You Want To Know What Motivates Your Employees
I bet you have never done this. Ask each employee who reports to you what is one thing you can do to make their life easier. If at all possible, do it. If not, explain why you cannot and ask for another thing. Do this sincerely and see what a transformative effect this one action can have. Repeat in six months.

Lean Tip #1084 - Promote Creativity In Your Workplace.
Procedures have their place in a bureaucracy but they also keep stultify creative impulses. Examine policies that have become entrenched and ask what would happen if you abolished them. Encourage your employees to suggest what should be eliminated and what should be modified. If this is a sincere effort, energy will flow and engagement will rise.

Lean Tip #1085 - Encourage Participation From All Employees.
Few things energize an employee more than by inviting participation, creating a sense that they genuinely have a say in the conditions of a workplace. Democracy is not only a viable form of political organizing; it is also a great way to make companies thrive. If you don’t make it, learn what you have to fix so you succeed the next time around.

Lean Tip #1086 - Support New Ideas.
When employees come to you with an idea or a solution to a problem they believe is for the betterment of the company, it’s a sign that they care. Supporting new ideas and giving an individual the chance to ‘run with it’ is motivating, whether or not it works out in the end.

Lean Tip #1087 - Encourage Friendly Competition.
A competitive environment is a productive environment. Encouraging employees to participate in competitions or challenges is healthy and may actually lead to increased camaraderie.

Lean Tip #1088 - Encourage Learning New Skills.
Times are changing. Ensuring that every willing employee has the opportunity to learn a new skill or brush up on an old skill will benefit everyone involved. I’m always open to new ideas and new methods. Anything new is worth exploration and consideration.

Lean Tip #1089 - Welcome New Methods.
Fighting change is harder than embracing change. The digital age is changing life as we know it. Embracing, rather than avoiding, new methods will ensure your business and employees stay ahead of the competition.

Lean Tip #1090 - Cultivate a Positive Work Environment.
There is no place for negativity if success is to be achieved. A positive work environment is the result of positive leaders. Laughter is contagious, so help spread the joy. A lively work environment promises a good time, but balance is just as important to maintain levels of productivity — and the sanity of coworkers.

Lean Tip #1091 - Encourage Working Smarter, Not Harder.
You have the ability to impart invaluable experience on your employees. If you find yourself regularly uttering something along the lines of, “Let’s work harder,” you may need to re-evaluate your strategy. Give your employees an environment with resources, support, and stimulating challenges – all while emphasizing community and purpose along the way.

Lean Tip #1092 – Build Supportive Teams
Build teams within departments, and throughout the entire company, to allow an open discussion of dreams and obstacles. Remove job descriptions that keep people stuck in a box. Reward employees who help others and contribute to the company as a whole. There are many exercises that can help teams to find their strengths and weaknesses. These exercises can remove barriers and blind spots and move the team forward. The ""we versus they"" attitude must be eliminated in order to make the team work. We don't need to like each other. We do need to respect each other's differences. The most successful teams are the ones with diverse members. They bring in different ideas and a variety of strengths.

Lean Tip #1093 – Empower Employees To Feel Liberated.
Managers and employees need time alone, time to think creatively. Intense and important work requires reflection. Companies that are obsessed with productivity usually have little patience for the quiet time essential for profound creativity. An element of fun lifts morale and increases productivity. Have each employee bring in his or her favorite dessert one day, and listen to the laughter begin. Ask them what they need to do in order to improve morale.

Lean Tip #1094 - Help Employees Feel Comfortable With Change.
Learn how to start over and let go of ideas that may have worked in the past, but are no longer effective today. Remind your team that status quo is the kiss of death. We need to constantly look for new ways of doing business. The minute that someone says how good you are is the minute you need to improve. Companies that fail start believing in their own hype! Confront today's challenges while simultaneously probing new opportunities. Eat change for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Lean Tip #1095 – Insist That Employees Always Keep The Customer In Mind.

You have a lot of competition. Make sure your employees know why customers keep signing your contracts. Realize that curiosity will always lead employees down new paths. Ask employees ""How can we exceed our customers' expectations by knowing their needs, emotions and wants?"" Get employees involved with customers. This way employees feel like part of the team. They will be able to get into the customer's shoes and hear what ""keeps them up at night."" They can take the ideas back to the team and figure out how to go the extra mile to help the customer. An employee with a customer focus will naturally be creative and intuitive.


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #71 (1066-1080)

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 #1066 - Consider Different Perspectives When Solving Problems
It’s good practice to consider the problem from a range of different perspectives, particularly those of the individuals who the problem affects. Depending on the situation, this could include team members, suppliers or customers. Considering the problem from these different angles can help you identify effective solutions that you may not otherwise have thought of.

Lean Tip #1067 – Problem Solving Requires Perseverance
Don’t be disheartened if you’re unable to solve the problem as quickly as you would like to. Taking your time to find the right solution, when you can, is always preferable to jumping to conclusions or rushing into making decisions. Remember to keep those who need to know (e.g. your team members or line manager) updated in terms of your progress, and to manage their expectations throughout the problem-solving process.

Lean Tip #1068 – Keep Calm – Don’t Panic!
It’s important not to panic or rush into making quick decisions when faced with a significant problem. Take some time to think about the problem and the options that are available to you. You might find it helpful to put your initial thoughts down on paper and/or chat through your thinking with a colleague.

Lean Tip #1069 – Problem Solving Requires Creativity
Don’t be afraid to consider new or even unusual solutions to your problem. If you have evidence to suggest that making changes to working practices or technology will prove beneficial, you should put forward a case for this and, if necessary, present it to the relevant individuals (e.g. your line manager or the senior team). If there is a cost attached to your proposed change, you should provide the necessary evidence to highlight what the overall cost saving and/or other benefits would be if your solution were to be implemented.

Lean Tip #1070 - Reflect and Evaluate After Solving a Problem
Once your problem is finally solved, take some time to reflect on which aspects of your approach worked, and what you would do differently next time. You may be able to apply some of these approaches the next time a problem arises.

Lean Tip #1071 – Trust is the Fuel that Powers a Successful Team!
Always let your team know that you are available to help. Make an “open-door” policy a “no-door” policy and remove the barriers that could stand in the way. By making communication between you and your team as frictionless as possible, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of their skills and build that must-needed trust. Trust is the fuel that powers a successful team!

Lean Tip #1072 - Encourage your Team Members to Stand Up and Lead!
Ask them about their concerns and the collective concerns of the team. Often, teams express concerns about drama in the workplace, other team members making personal calls during business hours, and team members bringing personal issues from home to work. Other concerns often involve not enough training on new systems, negativity in the office or people not taking responsibility. As a leader, do what you can to resolve these issues before they become areas of contention or conflict.

Lean Tip #1073 - Ask Your Team Members to Bend Over Backwards for Each Other.
To do this, begin a team meeting session by asking your staff to define the qualities of teamwork that impress them. Ask them to think about someone they’ve known in the past or present that represents a true team player: What are the attributes of this person? Often you’ll hear: Consistency, fairness, general cheerfulness, flexibility, positivity and the willingness to change. How do you rate in these categories?

Lean Tip #1074 - True Teamwork Means Encouraging Individual Leadership Development.
To win in today’s market, you need to step up and take a leadership role and ask the same of your team members. Ask your team members to listen. At your team meetings, encourage respectful listening. Allow others to speak, without interruption. Let their voice be heard. Value your staff. Reassure your team members that their contribution and leadership does have a huge impact on your company’s growth and survival.

Lean Tip #1075 – Sincere Listening Will Increase Your Level of Teamwork!
To do this, ask questions. Instead of giving direct orders, ask questions to guide your team members to think through issues and come up with their own solutions. You will find that ownership and subsequent responsibility for the task increase when the team member develops the solution.

Lean Tip #1076 - Align Tasks to Skills and Motivation
Managers don’t motivate employees: People can only motivate themselves. Combining the right skill sets with motivation is paramount in ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently. If you allow your team members to progress into the areas where they excel and are interested in, you will effectively keep them engaged and free yourself from the risk of having disgruntled and frustrated team members.

Lean Tip #1077 - Give the Credit and Take the Blame
Do not indulge in fault-finding or blame games. Pigeonholing a particular member of the team may spread negative vibes within the team and cost you time and quality. Celebrating every small success and appreciating team members will build a sense of camaraderie between team members.

Be a coach rather than the star player and let people make mistakes — that’s the only way they will learn. Put sustainable processes in place and ensure clarity of role and accountabilities so team members become empowered and don’t drop the ball.

Lean Tip #1078 - Empower Everyone to Make Decisions.
Employees function as a high-performing team when they’re empowered to do their jobs autonomously. This includes having the ability to make decisions that affect the business without having to consult you at every turn.

Lean Tip #1079 - Provide Basic Training for Your Employees
Provide your employees with proper job training to help them excel in their career. Ensuring employees complete tasks accurately helps them achieve goals and provides motivation which leads to higher levels of engagement.
Employees are more engaged when they understand their roles and responsibilities within their position. And, an understanding of job responsibilities results in higher levels of performance and commitment to your organization.

Lean Tip #1080 - Build a Customer Focused Team

Today’s best leaders, managers and employees are customer-focused. They understand and anticipate the needs of both internal and external customers. They meet and exceed customer needs with timely, efficient and economical solutions. Make sure your team understands what customers should receive priority (time and resources).


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Lean Quote: Gift of Inspiration

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.

"Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.— Warren Bennis

The ability to inspire people to reach great heights of performance and success is a skill that leaders need. Passion, purpose, listening and meaning help make a leader inspirational.

So, why must inspiring yourself and others be so high on your agenda as a leader? First, because if you are inspired, you will automatically be more inspiring to others. Second, because an inspired team is an energized team, and an energized team is a more productive team.

If you have managed to capture hearts and minds, excite and engage people, they will in turn feel more motivated and energized to take action. In our fast-moving world where productivity is king and time is endlessly squeezed, focusing on increasing energy levels (your own and your team’s) is a lot smarter than trying to expand time.

To inspire, you must both create resonance and move people with a compelling vision. You must embody what you ask of others, and be able to articulate a shared vision in a way that inspires others to act. You must offer a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting.


So this holiday gift giving season give the gift that lasts a lifetime. Give the gift of inspiration. Inspire them to be confident. Inspire them to greatness.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2014


As 2014 comes to an end and we look toward 2015 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

1. Lean Tip #877 - Turn Employees into Problem Solvers and Improvement Specialists.
The most important aspect of lean is to involve employees in developing lean processes. Many times companies create a culture in which the employees don't make the decisions, management does. Then when problems occur, employees are unable to diagnose or solve problems without involving a supervisor. lean reverses that by revolving around employees and looking to them as the improvement specialists.

2. Lean Tip #902 - Establish and Communicate a Clear Message on Lean
Have a plan to communicate the value of lean throughout your organization. It should not only address the benefits of lean to the company and customers, but also how lean can improve the work life of your employees. A clear vision needs to be repeated regularly to show the company's commitment to lean. We highly recommend that company leaders make lean a part of their everyday pulse checks.

3. Lean Tip #915 - Help Employees Succeed to Motivate Others
People go to work to succeed, not fail.  It is your job to understand your employee’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can put them in the best position to succeed.  If, for example, you find out that an employee is lacking in a certain skill set to succeed during a change then provide the coaching and training to make them and your organization successful.  The best managers minimize or eliminate their employees weaknesses and while building on their strengths.  Remove any and all barriers to success.

4. Lean Tip #929 – Empower Employees to Contribute. 
Control of their own jobs is one of the key factors in what employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimize resistance to change. Give the employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage. If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale, the goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your job is to empower the employees to make the change work. Practice effective delegation and set the critical path points at which you need feedback for the change effort - and get out of the way.

5. 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.

6. Lean Tip #982 – Smart Team Leaders Listen for Problems
Every organization has its share of problems. And the front line teams encounter many of these problems daily, up close, and directly. A smart front line leader wants to foster open and lively conversations about these problems, conversations that become more structured and focused on finding solutions. The leader gets the team together and listens to their descriptions of the problems that are identifying. They guide them into a problem solving process, teaching the steps and the tools at a pace that they can absorb. This listening strategy coaches the team to develop into effective problem solvers.

7. Lean Tip #1010 - Create a Supportive Environment For Collaboration
If your organization focuses on rewarding employees for individual performance as the main driver of success then it will become quite hard to encourage employees to share and communicate with each other.  Why would they want to?

There is nothing wrong with rewarding employees for great performance but it’s also crucial to reward teamwork.  For example, organizations can make a percentage of an employee’s bonus tied to how well they collaborate with their co-workers.  A supportive environment also means having training and education resources available for employees as well as evangelists within the organization.

8. Lean Tip #1020 - Show Employees Why Their Work Matters.
Even employees who are passionate about their jobs can lose sight of the bigger picture if they can’t see how their work impacts the company. To help boost morale, introduce them to some of the customer their work impacts. This will show them the results of their projects and provide a valuable opportunity to receive feedback from the customer. Positive reinforcement from the customer can make employees feel more connected to their work by giving them a sense of pride and ownership. It also provides greater incentive to perform well, boosts confidence in their work, and increases overall job satisfaction.

9. Lean Tip #1024 - Share Knowledge Within Your Company
 If you don’t share knowledge within your company, your customers will suffer. Many managers are unaware that the team that sits right next to theirs is doing some great work that that could help the business deliver a better service to customers, or open the door to a new market. 

Host regular knowledge-sharing sessions – whether virtual or real; keep your knowledge management system updated and make it interactive. Or invite individuals from totally different parts of the business to team meetings and then reciprocate. Start with some of the managers. Proactive knowledge sharing is one of the key ways to remain one step ahead of your competitors – and senior people need to make the time to lead by example.

10. Lean Tip # 1043 - Stop Doing Things That Run Counter to Your Desired Culture
Each day, your existing culture is either moving closer to, or further away from, the type of culture that you want it to be. Cultures are a system in themselves - they have momentum, and they are either spinning in a negative or positive direction. Desired, or undesired, behaviors and work practices are being reinforced on a daily basis by the work systems you have in place right now. Until you recognize this, you won't be motivated to identify and change those systems that are reinforcing those things that you don't really want to reinforce.



These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2015. What advice would you share for the new year?



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