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Friday, January 29, 2016

Lean Quote: Continuous Improvement is About Problem Solving

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 no problem is recognized, there is no recognition of the need for improvement.— Masaaki Imai

The success of a company can depend to a large extent on the ability of its staff to solve problems effectively, both in their day-to-day work and through innovation. We are all faced with problems to solve in our workday. 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. Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure.

The starting point for improvement is to recognize the need. Kaizen emphasizes problem awareness and identification. Once problems are identified, the problems must be solved consequently. Kaizen is a problem solving process which requires the use of various problem solving tools. In Kaizen, the mindset of “no problem” or “no opportunity” must be carefully avoided.

Opportunities for improvement exist in all aspects of every industry, and can be identified by every person in any business. With the right culture of continuous improvement, problems, and technology, conscious identification of opportunities for improvement can transform a company into a more efficient, high-quality business.

Possessing good problem solving skills does not make people automatically use them to the benefit of the organization. They need encouragement, support and guidance in applying them to the organization’s problems.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

5 Reasons 5S is a Good Place to Start Your Lean Journey


Many consultants will advise clients that 5S is a good place to start when starting your Lean journey.  This is for good reason.  5S is a process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, and high performance workplace.  It enables anyone to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions at a glance.  5S can be the foundation for continuous improvement, zero defects, cost reductions and a more productive work space.  The 5S methodology is a systematic way to improve the workplace, processes and products through employee involvement.

Embarking on your Lean journey with implementing 5S is beneficial for several reasons:

1. Organized and safe work place. With some simple training, supplies, time and a little bit of elbow grease, you can carve out a very well organized area in your workplace.  People are less likely to get injured in an organized environment.

2. Provides structure and discipline. Successful implementation of 5S requires that processes be defined and process ownership assigned. This begins to create basic process team structures with assigned responsibility and accountability for process conditions and performance.

3. Creates visibility. It allows you to see problems more easily. If you have a good 5S condition, problems can be seen easily.  When process conditions start to become standardized, leading to the surfacing of abnormal conditions, which in turn can lead to problem solving, learning, and developing corrective and preventive actions.

4. Improves morale. People enjoy working in an organized environment.  Yes, there are those out there who really don’t mind working in a dirty, filthy place, but studies have shown that morale is higher in companies with a higher level of 5S.

5. Continuous improvement. 5S begins to stimulate employee contributions and ideas for improvement. It is important for firms that begin their improvement journey with 5S to nurture the employee contributions which can flow out from 5S activity.

5S is a prerequisite for most other Lean tools.  Well-implemented, 5S can open up entry points into flow and pull, equipment reliability, standardized work, and value analysis. We know that Standard Work is a baseline for all improvements, but if the workplace is unorganized and the necessary items needed to do the job are not easy to locate, how can Standard Work be followed?  Without Standard Work, you really don’t have a chance to improve the process and 5S is a critical prerequisite.

So by starting with something as simple as sorting through your items, setting them in a designated space, shining them up, you can achieve higher levels of Safety, Quality, Problem Solving and Morale.  Not to mention, you won’t really be able to proceed further in legitimately implementing Lean practices.  Don’t you think that it’s worth it to rank 5S as a high priority for your workplace?  Just make sure you are aware of the commitment level you need to Standardize the practice and Sustain it, otherwise all you are doing is “cleaning up” once in a while.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

6 Key Requirements for “Lean” Team Leaders

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).

What are the qualities of a good team leader in a Lean environment? This is one of the most contemplated questions when undergoing a Lean thinking transformation since leadership is critical to its very success. In my opinion there are at least 6 key requirements for a team leader in a Lean company:

1. Willingness and Desire to Lead
A person need not possess all of the following characteristics when they first get the job.  They only need to have the desire and willingness to learn and develop the other skills.  The leader must want to motivate and inspire people to achieve great things.  

2. Job Knowledge
Leaders should be knowledgeable about the materials, machines,     tools and   production steps in their area.  Must know the process and correct way each operation should be performed.  This requirement is often missing from leaders outside Toyota, with the implied assumption that general management skills can overcome a lack of in-depth job knowledge.

3. Job Responsibilities
A leader must know his/her role.  Leaders must understand the policies and procedures and be able to communicate them to their team members and ensure that they are followed.

4. Continuous Improvement Ability
A leader must constantly analyze the work looking for ways to improve the process.  The major part of a leader’s role is to encourage his/her people to develop continuous improvement in thinking and action.  It is more important to have many small daily improvements than to have few major improvements.

5. Leadership Ability
A leader must be able to “translate” the overall company objectives into specific activities that their team must perform in order to be successful.  They develop the game plan and assist the team in how to carry it out.  They must provide support, training and coaching to ensure success. 

6. Teaching Ability
Primary duty is to teach others.  If skill and knowledge is not passed on to others, the organization will not grow and prosper.

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 particular leadership skills. The only element that cannot be taught is the desire to be a leader.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Lean Quote: Thought and Action

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.

"Life is measured by thought and action, not by time.— J. Lubbock

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).

Improvement requires a bias for action. Just like the Nike tagline, you should go ahead and just do it. Deploying Lean means you're following a PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle and that it's okay to fail. Whether you succeed or fail, you're following through on Lean.

For leaders, action is one of the most important traits they can embody.  Taking action means getting things done.  It means seizing the initiative.  It conveys momentum, and energy, and creating something new, something that didn’t exist before.  And this excites followers and others who understand that going towards something is always better than sitting around staring at the wall.

Good leadership is not reflected in the leader’s actions alone, 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. In fact, the true success of a leader can not be measured without considering these results long term.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lean Tips Edition #89 (1336 - 1350)

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 #1336 - Support New Ideas Amongst Your Team
Each team member will feel empowered by the opportunity to not only implement day to day tasks, but as well as suggest new ideas and make them a reality. Give people a chance to take initiative and you will be amazed by their ability to create brilliant ideas.

Lean Tip #1337 - Give Challenging Tasks
People can't grow if they are constantly doing what they have always done. Let them develop new skills by giving challenging tasks. At the same time make sure the tasks are reachable and in the frames of the person's interests.

Lean Tip #1338 - Give Employees Opportunities to Grow
If people know that everything is going to be the same way all the time, they will definitely lose the motivation to put their maximum efforts in work. They should be sure that the devotion and hard work will lead to new personal and professional achievements.

Lean Tip #1339 - Give Employees as Much Support as You Can
Even if people in your organization are self-disciplined and creative enough for finding solutions to various problems, anyway they are always in need of your guidance. Support them as much as you can, and they will be inspired to do the same for you and for the organization.

Lean Tip #1340 - Celebrate Each Success
Even the smallest achievements are worth being celebrated. The road to success consists of thousand small steps. Glorify each and every goal achieved. Show to your team that all of you made one more important step forward.

Lean Tip #1341 - Set Descriptive Business Goals
What the mind can’t visualize, the mind can’t achieve. Thoughts are things and the more time you spend describing and visualizing your goals, the better your chances will be to actually reaching them.

How does this work?

Grab a piece of paper and visualize your goals. This might sound silly to some people, but there is real power in visualization. Take the time to thoroughly visualize and describe your goals in as great detail as you can. Use an entire sheet of paper to define just what your life will be like when you achieve that goal.

Lean Tip #1342 - Set Achievable Business Goals
This doesn’t mean you can’t set lofty business goals, especially in the long term. This means you should set goals that you truly believe you can achieve. Regardless of what that goal is, ensure that you at least have a chance in achieving it.

This doesn’t mean you have to know just how you’re going to get there every step of the way. The founder of any successful startup can tell you that they never could have imagined all the steps that would have been necessary to get to where they are today.

Setting achievable business goals simply means that you believe in yourself wholeheartedly enough to see that goal through. It means that you’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

Lean Tip #1343 - Set Time-Focused Business Goals
Always set time-focused business goals. You can’t simply set a goal with no time element involved, or even an obscure one. No matter what your business goal might be, you have to set a clear date on when you’ll achieve it. This will help to add some perspective as you reach towards your goals.

Lean Tip #1344 - Create Goal Milestones
Milestones are a great way to help create some stepping stones as you work your way towards achieving your business goals.

But what are milestones exactly?

Well, think about it this way. Let’s say you’ve set the business goal to become the top salesman in your company within 18 months. In order to do that, you’ll need to hit some milestones first.

So, what are some milestones you could create along the way?

For example, you could create a quarterly goal to contact a certain number of people or reach a certain dollar amount in sales. You could also set these as monthly goals, weekly goals, or even daily goals, that we could otherwise call milestones.

What’s important is to create milestones that will help you move in the right direction and ultimately see you achieving your business goals in the long term.

Lean Tip #1345 - Make a Plan and Act on It
In order to achieve any business goal, we need a plan and we need to act on that plan. The plan is our roadmap towards our goals. How are you going to reach your business goals?

This isn’t something abstract or arbitrary exercise that’s done in the mind and tucked away in your mental filing cabinet. This is something that requires true mental fortitude, and that’s written out and planned in a meticulous fashion.

Whatever your business goals might be, the only way to achieve the ones that we set for ourselves, it to have some sort of plan that we act upon.

Of course, daily massive action is required once we do have our plan. Plan and act. Recycle and repeat. That’s the way to achieve your business goals.

Lean Tip #1346 - Track and Analyze your Goals
Reaching our business goals is next to impossible when we don’t have a system to track and analyze. Find a way to track your results on a daily basis, and create a spreadsheet.

By tracking and analyzing, you can also help to ensure that your plan is working in your favor. What are you doing on a daily basis that’s helping you to move closer to your goals? Are you moving further away?

Setup some metric and system for tracking and analyzing your progress towards your goals. You simply can’t achieve your goals without tracking and analyzing your efforts.

Lean Tip #1347 - Adjust Your Plan When Needed
Although we might set a plan to achieve our business goals at the outset, and act on that plan, when we track and analyze our progress, and we see that we’re not getting the results we’re after, we have to adjust our plans.

Think about it this way. A plane is traveling from LAX to JFK. That plane has a plan to reach its goals. In general, it knows the overall speed, direction, and cruising altitude it wants to travel at.

However, along the way, things might arise. For example, the plane might experience turbulence at 33,000 feet, forcing it to climb higher or sink lower. The plane might also need to avoid a storm system, causing it to change directions to make its way around it.

Of course, the plane has to adjust its plan to arrive at JFK, but it doesn’t change its goal of arriving there. Similarly, you should adjust your plan when needed.

Lean Tip #1348 - Focus on Key Habits
The instillation of key habits are a great way for us to achieve our business goals.
Key habits help in the formation of other good habits. When we focus on good habits, other good habits simply fall into place.

For example, working out for 30 minutes per day is considered a key habit. When someone works out for 30 minutes every day, they’re more inclined to eat right, drink plenty of water, and take their vitamins. Why? Because working out is a key habit.

Similarly, in business, there are plenty of key habits. Find the right habits and focus on those, and watch as other good habits that will help you reach your business goals, fall into place.

Lean Tip #1349 - Leverage the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto principle, says that 80% of the results comes from 20% of the efforts. Anything that we measure, we’ll find that 80% of our results are coming from 20% of the work that’s put in.

Find the 20% of your efforts that are producing the 80% of your results, and amplify them. To do this, you have ensure that you track and analyze all of the time that you spend on your work-related efforts throughout the day.

Learn to harness this principle, and watch as all the business goals that you set for yourself ultimately materialize as you slowly but surely achieve career success.

Lean Tip #1350 - Create Profound Reasons for Goals
Do you have deep and profound reasons for wanting to achieve the business goals that you set for yourself? I’m not talking about superficial reasons. I’m talking about meaningful reasons.

What’s going to actually help you here is developing profound and meaningful reasons.

Time, security, freedom, contribution, and family are some of the deeper and more profound reasons we could set to help achieve our business goals.

Put some real thought and effort into why you’ve set the business goals for yourself that you’ve set. If you want to actually achieve them, make sure you associate a strong-enough reason to doing so.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Leader Standard Work is a Management System For Sustaining Gains

Courtesy of Beyond Lean Blog

Sustainability is discussed often and one of the great issues in management.  We have all seen facts related to the low rates of sustaining change or seen news about a company who lost its way. Unfortunately, we see all too often those companies who finally reach #1 to only lose their way.

Complacency can and will compromise the performance of your organization. Everyone can become complacent in their particular environment, and there are different levels of complacency. At higher management positions, complacency may be more latent. At the line personnel “trigger pullers” level, however, complacency can have catastrophic results.

There is no such thing as self-sustainability, it requires ongoing effort. Organizations need to follow a disciplined process of on-going activity by all.  Leader Standard Work is the system that provides a structure and routine for leaders.  It set standards for expected behaviors of leaders and drive accountability.

In simplest terms, Leadership Standard Work is a check-list of leadership activities to be performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. What makes this tool exceptionally effective is that, when well defined, Leadership Standard Work drives process definition and daily accountability.

As with any standard work it is to create consistency in how a process is to be performed – to create a standard or routine. Once the standard is created it allows for non-standard conditions to be more readily identified. A non-standard condition can be that the process was not performed in the way it was meant to be done, or it is taking longer than it should, or it is not being done at all. The non-standard condition can trigger a corrective response or constitute an opportunity for improvement in the process.

Leader standard work, in the case of the first line supervisor, involves having a daily plan of what the leader’s key duties are. Those might specify, for example, at least three gemba walks and dialog with each person in the area each day.

As we go up the ladder, the plan could become weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc., depending on the level in the organization. For example, a plant manager might commit to a daily gemba walk to touch base with the value stream managers, supervisors and a few hourly associates in each area just to understand how the plant is running each day, what the issues are and, yes, to be visible to everyone.

Sounds simple enough, but this concept of Leadership Standard Work can be difficult to implement.  It is truly a culture change inside a culture change.  Leadership Standard Work can be divided into three components:

1.  Auditing and Verification of Direct Reports
It starts with the standard work tasks of the front line staff.  The supervisor begins the Leadership Standard Work cycle by verifying the standard work tasks of their direct reports.

That supervisor reports to a director.  That director’s standard work is verifying the standard work tasks of their supervisors.  The director reports to the administrator who verifies the standard work of the director.  The administrator reports to the executive as the standard work builds upward and the executive verifies the standard work of the administrator.

These are the interlocking layers of accountability that are the basis for sustainment.  This layering supports the disciplined adherence, the accountability and root cause problem-solving that is necessary for sustainment and is the first component when building Leadership Standard Work.

2.  Define the Outcome Metrics
What metrics indicate the department is performing well?

What are the process characteristics and attributes necessary to achieve those outcomes?

What are specific behaviors and tasks necessary to achieve those outcomes?

What are the controls in place to ensure those behaviors are present every day, in every case?

Defining the outcome metrics and determining how you as a leader can ensure these attributes, behaviors and controls are occurring is the second component when defining Leadership Standard Work.

3.  Leadership Tasks: 
These tasks are not meetings and answering emails.  These are process related tasks that must occur on regular intervals and fall into three categories:

1. Scheduled tasks -put the appropriate audits in place to ensure disciplined adherence to process

2. Unscheduled but predictable tasks – ensure adherence to service level targets

3. Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks – ensure adherence to service level targets and no disruption to scheduled tasks to accomplish.

Leadership Standard Work is built into the natural stream of your day and your work.  It allows you to be proactive when addressing problems and gives you the opportunity to truly understand the manner in which your unit, your department, or your hospital is functioning.

Leadership Standard Work is the engine, the driver and the impetus for sustainment of a Lean management system and the transformation to a Lean culture.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Lean Quote: Learn from Others

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.

"Every person has two education, one which he receives from others, and one, which he gives himself..— Edward Gibbon

Regular, effective and relevant training is massively important and a great motivator. If you want them to perform properly and consistently then you have to give them the tools to do so. Training is always good, it keeps people up to date and focused on the job at hand, it keeps their skills at the forefront and it will show them that management are obviously concerned with how well they do their job, etc. If they are given good quality training that covers the topics and issues they are faced with then they will respond and to a certain extent motivate themselves to stick with what they learn.

Managerial training responsibilities extend far beyond simply going over work procedures and sending employees to classes when they need to master a new skill. Effective workforce training is an ongoing process that requires supervisors to engage in ongoing skill development with their employees. Managers must engage in informal training needs assessment on an ongoing basis, paying attention to employees' strengths and weaknesses and identifying gaps that can be overcome through training opportunities.

It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information/technology age. Learn at least one new thing every day. Improve your mind and enhance your skills. Never stop learning.

Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the Web. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt.

Effective development rarely happens in isolation.  Instead, successful learning occurs through a continuous process of feedback and support.  Learn from people outside of work and realize that no single person will fill all your needs. Getting input and advice from a wide range of people will provide you with new ideas.  Develop a habit of identifying what you can learn from each person you meet.  Realize that to keep learning, you need to put yourself into unfamiliar situations.

Everything can contribute to our experience of learning.  But as you may realize, learning is incomplete if we don't listen to the voices of those whose background and experiences are different from our own.

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