Monday, June 29, 2015

Lean Roundup #73 – June, 2015



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of June, 2015.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Which Matters More? Process or Results? – Gregg Stocker explains the relationship between process improvements and results.

P-D Ratios – Bruce Hamilton discusses P-D Ratio, Shingo’s comparison of the time required to Produce a product to the time given by the customer to Deliver the product.

What your Dad can teach you about effective supply chain – Andrew Fernandez shared a list of the top 10 lessons your dad can teach you about supply chain.

All That People Need to Know is Why Their Work is Important – John Hunter discusses extrinsic motivation versus fixing the management system for nurturing performance.

Trust, Accountability, and Where Does the Time Go? – Johanna Rothman explains the need for managers to control less and trust more in agile (empowered) environments.

Why Your Lean and Six Sigma Improvement Efforts Aren’t Driving Better Results | IndustryWeek | John Dyer – Michael Baudin discusses the lack of results from implementing what I would call fake Lean.

Using Lean Tools to Tackle a Strategic Problem - Dave Krebs says linking the Lean effort to a significant strategic goal provides a real and tangible platform for change.

The Need for Training Within Industry [Lessons from the Road] – Jamie Flinchbaugh addresses some of the needs and challenges of Training Within Industry.

What’s Not To Like About Lean? – Bob Emiliani describes how Lean management works for any business and industry.

Doing More with Less: Now is the Time for a Center of Excellence – Eric Green discusses the benefits are to creating a center of excellence to concentrate efforts.

Case Study: VIBCO’s Lean Transformation Journey – Karl Wadensten shares the story of VIBCO’s Lean transformation from the words of their leader.

The Many Benefits of Going to Gemba – Gregg Stocker discusses the cultural importance of going to the place and observing for yourself.

Bootstrap Root Cause Analysis into Your Strategic Thinking – Jon Miller puts both problem solving and strategy development in a common frame of logical thinking.

How Do You Fight A Fire With A Garden Hose? – Steve Kane explains that using your limited resources to protect the surrounding area might be the best course of action.

Knowing What I Know Now… - Jon Miller shares some lessons he learned over the years in a what would you do differently kind of piece.

LinkedIn: Is Your Technology Solving a Problem or Causing New Ones? – Mark Graban discussed the use of technology in continuous improvement and it’s effectiveness.


How to Start Lean? – Paul Akers answers the common question of where do you start which he says is about getting good at continuous improvement.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Lean Quote: Don’t Seek Immediate Perfection

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.

"An environment that calls for perfection is not likely to be easy. But aiming toward it is always a goal to progress.— Thomas Watson, Jr.

Perfection is futile.  To be sure, perfection is the goal but it can not be achieved in one single initiative.

If we all waited for perfection, we'd still be reading by candlelight and riding horses to work. The problem in the real world is that nothing is perfect. It sounds obvious, but it is not quite as obvious.

Shoot for better, 80% better. Once you get to a certain point (whether it's 50% or 80%, or another number that makes sense), then run with it. In other words, take action. Then, adjust as you go along.

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the work. The last 20% of benefit (the perfect) requires 4 times more work. Often people believe perfection (100% benefit) is only slightly more expensive/difficult than the good (80% benefit). That isn't true.

If you try to achieve perfection you may well be at the kaizen a very long time.  Perfection is elusive.  If you can accomplish 80% of what you set out to and meet the goals of the charter then call it complete.  You will be back to improve from this new state again.

If people are told that perfection is the goal, but that it is impossible, they will rightly think that management has not quite thought this one through. They will mistrust much of what else is said. Instead, people should be told that perfection is the goal and we simply don’t know enough at the moment to reach it.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Daily Lean Tips Edition #80 (1201-1215)

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 #1201 - 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 #1202 - Identify Changing Requirements.
Over time your needs will change. You need to stay aware of this, so you can change processes accordingly. Keep a list of your top requirements to help you make better decisions on tools to use.

Lean Tip #1203 - Share More, Not Less.
Even in a small company, silos emerge. A practice of more sharing will help everyone stay in touch with what others are doing, and create a collective expectation. Keeping everyone pointed in the same direction is hard; sharing more about what’s going on, how you’re doing things, reasoning behind decisions, etc. will help.

Lean Tip #1204 - Teach Others What You Learn.
One of the best ways to deepen and solidify your new knowledge is to teach it to others. Give a presentation, run a seminar, teach a class, or volunteer to run a small internal workshop to teach others in your organization what you are learning. Real learning occurs when you share it.

Lean Tip #1205 - Develop Exceptional People And Teams Who Follow Your Company’s Philosophy.
Exceptional people thrive in environments that promote Continuous Improvement; however, organizations that have a powerful culture of CI are not those that demand that employees practice CI. Instead exceptional people are “developed” within the “system dynamics of an organization” – in other words, they work in a place where Continuous Improvement is second-nature.

People must feel secure; feel as though they are part of a team; feel challenged in their job; have some degree of autonomy and feel like they have some control over their work.

Without a culture of respect, where each person is valued for what they contribute to an organization, the chances of developing exceptional people who strive to improve what they do and how they do it every day becomes nearly impossible.

Lean Tip #1206 - Develop Dashboards that Provide Insights to Improve Decision Making and Increase Success.
Decisions are based on information. The more accurate, timely, and relevant the information, the better the decisions. Today’s technology enables organizations to provide customized dashboards that present staff with KPIs critical to their success. When properly designed with business goals in mind, these dashboards can increase transparency by communicating performance to selected stakeholders throughout the organization and alerting decision makers to situations that need immediate attention.

Lean Tip #1207 - Use Collaboration Capabilities to Enhance Teamwork.
Workers are especially interested in collaborative environments where they can share their ideas and feel involved in their organization. Organizations with greater employee engagement realize significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction. Additionally, they enjoy reduced turnover, lower absenteeism and fewer safety incidents. By providing technology that enables employees to participate in multi-way communication, organizations create stronger workforces more personally invested in their employers’ future and success.

Lean Tip #1208 - Employ Digital Teaching Aids to Increase Employee Knowledge and Advance Skills. 
Never before have so many people been connected with so much knowledge. And never before have they felt so motivated to utilize the available resources to improve their work lives. Employers who have realized this are reaping the rewards of computer-based staff training programs that engage and educate. Cost efficiencies are quickly realized as remote staff can learn online, and employee advancement improves through development of new skills.

Lean Tip #1209 - Demonstrate That You Value People
Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you.

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

Lean Tip #1210 - Solve Problems: Don't Pinpoint Problem People
When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty. (Thank you, Dr. Deming.)

Lean Tip #1211 - Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance
Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them.

When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

Eventually, you will feel comfortable telling the employee that he or she need not ask you about similar situations. You trust their judgment.

Lean Tip #1212 - Encourage open communication.
Organizations that use a formal top-down communication hierarchy make it difficult for their employees to speak up. Even if they did gather enough guts to share their opinions, they may feel like their input won't matter much. After awhile, these people may give up on speaking up.

Create methods for direct communication. Acknowledge input. Foster an open exchange of ideas. Face facts — every idea isn’t good, but you won’t find the game-changers if you don’t explore new concepts.

Lean Tip #1213 - Provide Plenty of Context.
Be transparent with your employees. Tell them why you make certain decisions and what direction you're planning on taking the company. If we can do a better job of sharing the core values and the important business goals, we can hope to draw out team members’ talents and energy.

Lean Tip #1214 - Require Accountability.
The best way to do this is by discussing setbacks and recognizing extra efforts among your people. Why would someone want to continuously work hard if they don't think that their efforts are appreciated?

Empowered people are confident, knowledgeable, and able to be more productive without being micromanaged or having excessive oversight. They demonstrate initiative and own their work. At the end of the day, this is better for you as their superior and better for the organization as a whole.

Lean Tip #1215 - Give Employee the Chance to Fail -- and a Safe Place to Land When They Do.
Not all employees are risk-takers. Fortunately, the willingness to take risks can be taught -- or at least modeled.

First, stomp out micromanagement in your organization. If your employees feel as if they have to seek approval before making every decision, or if their day-to-day routine is filled with monitoring and correction, they’ll never take initiative.

A manager shouldn’t be a babysitter. Encourage every manager to be a mentor, and give employees opportunities to push out of their comfort zone. If employees fail, train your managers to treat those mistakes as teachable moments. Train your managers to help employees try again -- and to give them the tools and motivation to do so.




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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Six Elements of Success


How do you define success? For some business leaders, success is defined by monetary rewards, while others say success is having a positive impact on others.

The mundane definition of success is of course a company that provides "value" to its customers, owners, shareholders, society and employees. This encompasses the entire business cycle from generating profits, using capital efficiently to delivering superior customer service.

Sure, success in business and in life means different things to different people. Whether or not you are successful depends on how you define success, and on the tradeoffs you are willing to not just accept but embrace as you pursue that definition of success. We can have a lot but we can't have everything.

Success is every organization’s goal. But what is the key to success?

1. Clear Shared Vision
In today’s rapidly changing world, it’s not just enough to have a purpose for existing.
Identifying and communicating a clear vision is one of the most important functions a business leader can perform. Leaders have to focus the organization’s resources on the greatest opportunities. Not only does a clear, shared vision help define the values of your company and its employees, but it also helps guide the behavior of all employees.

2. Bias for Action
It is basic human psychology that people do not change the way they do things unless there is a pressure for change. If you do nothing, nothing changes. Things at rest have a tendency to remain at rest. High performance cultures are impatient to get things done. They are doers, not talkers, keeping an eye on where the value is to ensure their actions will enhance the business. Failure cannot be unduly punished. Unless people feel free to make mistakes, they will not feel free to take bold actions.

3. Engaged Staff
Without people being engaged in continuous improvement and wanting to participate you will simply encounter resistance. People today want some direction and structure, but they also want freedom and encouragement to develop their skills and knowledge. Effectively managing people requires balancing constraining forces (providing direction, structure, organization, some rules) with liberating forces (encourage personal growth, development and creativity).

4. Capability
The ability to be able to successfully deliver products and services to the customer base of a business is tied up with the maturity of its capabilities. These capabilities—the collective skills, abilities, and expertise of an organization—are the outcome of investments in staffing, training, compensation, communication, and other human resources areas. They represent the ways that people and resources are brought together to accomplish work. They form the identity and personality of the organization by defining what it is good at doing and, in the end, what it is.

5. Efficiency
Business operations should also see efficiency as a primary goal. The efficiency focus began with practices such as lean management and systems management used primarily in manufacturing circles, but the concepts soon found their way into other industries. How the business arranges its production chain physically, how many steps of the production process it can do at the same time and what the downtime of its equipment or process is are all vital factors in increasing efficiency. The goal is to produce as many goods in as short a time as possible.

6. Quality Control
While the steps of the operational process are important, the organization must also assess its work at the end of the process. Quality control examines the final product and looks for defects and ways it can be improved. Most businesses will only accept a certain level of defects or problems -- some prefer not to accept any at all. This improves product flow and solves minor problems that could become major issues later on.


Success in business is not by chance. Success does not find you. There is no shortcut. It takes hard work and a long time. And success would not exist without failure. Failure is not final. If you want to succeed where others fail, you have to step fight over the failure and keep walking. Success is a journey not a destination. Follow these keys to success and you will be on your way to success.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Lean Quote: Change It or Change Your Attitude

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.

"If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.— - Maya Angelou

We are often not in control of the issues we face at work or home. Problems just present themselves. And chances are the issues you're facing aren't so cut and dry. The solution to the problem might just be your attitude. 

You can find at least two ways to look at virtually everything. A pessimist looks for difficulty in the opportunity, whereas an optimist looks for opportunity in the difficulty. Unfortunately, many people look only at the problem and not at the opportunity that lies within the problem.

Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure. A positive attitude can motivate other people to change their negative thinking and come over to your side. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.

Here are 3 critical ways your attitude as a leader impacts your team, for better or for worse:
1. Your Attitudes Determines Their Attitude.
As a leader, your mood is contagious. Over time, your attitude will set the tone for your entire team and organization.

Be a goof and you will have an organization filled with goofs (and all the good people will leave).
Be stern and you will have a stern organization.
Be angry…
Be critical…
Be negative…
Be unpredictable…
Be encouraging…
Be hopeful…
Be fair…
Be generous…

The fact that you don’t want your attitude to impact the organization is irrelevant. It simply does.

2. You Determine the Level of Passion and Enthusiasm in Your Organization.
If you think the organization you lead lacks passion and enthusiasm, take a hard look in the mirror.

3. Your Attitude Determines What Is And Isn’t Possible.
As a result, if you’re a leader, please realize:

If you believe it is possible, it is. And if you don’t, it’s not.

That’s right. You’re the vision bottleneck. You’re the broker and the killer of dreams.

If you are consistently the negative voice around the table, you will stifle the imagination of your team for what’s possible. Conversely, when you dare to dream, dare to imagine, and dare to hope, and persevere, then the impossible becomes the possible.

The attitude of the leader has a huge impact on the culture, environment, and mood of the department or organization. The leader’s attitude tends to spread and affect others dramatically. A good leader has the attitude of serving his employees at all times, often at the expense of his own morale or personal needs. A good leader truly cares about the morale of the team, pushes and motivates his team with respect, a relentlessly positive attitude and with a genuine heart.



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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hierarchy is Killing Your Business


Most organizations still have a hierarchical, command-and-control organizational structure, sometimes called “smoke stacks” or “silos.”  A hierarchical organization has more defined roles, procedures, and lines of communication. Typically, there is a chain of command which needs to be followed. The functional specialists in charge of each smoke stack tend to focus on optimizing their own functional area, often to the detriment of the organization as a whole. In addition, the hierarchy gives these managers a monopoly on the authority to act on matters related to their functional specialty.  The combined effect is both a desire to resist change and the authority to resist change, which often creates insurmountable roadblocks to Lean improvement projects.

A hierarchical organization can be compared to a totem pole. The least important employees, generally those who earn the least with little responsibility and little input into company decision making, are at the bottom of the pole. The top of the pole includes the owner of the business, CEO, or other major players in the decision making process of the company. In between the low men on the totem pole and the top men is everyone else in order from the least responsible to the most responsible. Each step upwards on the totem pole generally offers higher pay and more responsibility.

Too many levels of hierarchy have disadvantages:
  1. Too Rigid. Organizations need to be able to adapt quickly to changing market conditions. Put simply, a hierarchy can’t handle speed well. Rules and procedures that inevitably accompany hierarchies almost never change fast even if they are now irrelevant, overly burdensome, and the like. Hierarchies can’t jump to the left or the right easily, and over time it’s easy to keep adding levels and rules, to keep making silo walls thicker.
  2. Stifle Innovation. In a hierarchy, there’s a process for everything, and usually these processes are followed to the letter. Innovative organizations, however, are always questioning the status quo. They ask: “How can we do this better?” which often results in a sudden change in direction. Hierarchies simply aren’t built this way. If action is going to be taken, it has to be built into the plan a year ahead of time.
  3. Poor Communication. People in hierarchical structures tend to want to approve communications as they pass up and down the hierarchy. This can cause delays and confusion. A manager may not get to an email for several days and may then offer an opinion or place a restriction that kills the communication altogether. The sheer amount of time a directive can take to reach employees from the head office can cause costly delays.
  4. Slow Decision Making. Decision-making is usually slower in hierarchical structures because responsibility and authority are concentrated in a few people at the top. The hierarchical system places limits on the responsibility and authority of individual employees, which reduces an organization's ability to adapt to dynamic business conditions. Although a command-and-control hierarchical system might work well in a crisis, it is of limited help after the crisis is over.
  5. Little Empowerment. In a rigid hierarchy, the people who deal directly with customer problems may have the least authority to solve them. The higher on the rung the manager is, the more distance she may have from the customer. The rules of a hierarchy require that higher-ups approve decisions, and this can mean that people in the field or at the front counter may not be able to move quickly to respond to customer needs.

The more layers and levels of management, team leaders division heads, etc., that you have in your company, the more challenging it becomes for information to travel throughout the organization, and the more people are likely to become territorial. By keeping the layers of information to minimal we can empower people to provide solutions and to be directly attached to all of our company goals.

Every employee should be empowered to act independently in the best interests of the company and our customers. Teams should be trusted to work together to find the best possible solutions to problems – and to put them straight into action.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Tell-Tale Signs Your Employer is Focused On Employee Development


It is hard to think of a more important and most neglected management aspect than employee development. Unfortunately, many organizations do not plan properly for the development of their people and teams. People development without proper planning in place normally results in internal and external conflict, which leads to confusion, low productivity, less motivation, and therefore loss in various ways. When the right plan for development is designed based on the employees’ needs, desires, and potential the expected positive outcome will be achieved.

How can you tell your employer is focused on employee development?

  1. They invest in their employees' careers.  One of the things I value as a coach are organizations that value their employees.  Invest in training your executive team on down to entry-level employees with coaching programs, mentoring programs, training programs.  If every organization did this, it would create a completely different and more effective corporate environment.

  1. They trust their people to get the job done.  Working isn't about punching a clock.  Rather, it's about getting high-quality results. Don’t micro-manage your employees otherwise they won’t learn. Autonomy comes from trust and responsibility.

  1. They partner with their employees. Career development focuses on collaboration.  What does it really take to get and stay motivated at work?  Employees, managers and executives need to create the kind of work environment that inspires them to grow.

It is a proven that companies that invest in the continued training and proficiency of their employees enjoy improved performance, lower attrition rates and a greater overall return on their investment. Intellectual capital is now a critical factor for competitive advantage in today's global world. The organizations that recognize the benefits and value of providing continuing training opportunities to employees will be better able to compete in a rapidly changing world.

Providing employees with the tools and resources to do their jobs effectively can make a real difference in employee morale and productivity. The employees of Best Employers state that they have access to the tools, resources, and processes to perform at a much higher rate than employees from average companies. Is it possible to have engaged employees without enabling them? An engaged employee who is not enabled to perform is not likely to stay engaged or stay with the company for long.


Development planning doesn’t have to be elaborate or costly.  At its core it’s mostly a matter of good managers taking the person-to-person time to understand their employees… recognizing their skills and needs… and guiding them to fill in the gaps.   If it’s done well, the payoff can be substantial in terms of long-term loyalty.   If it’s not, the costs can be substantial in terms of long-term talent.

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