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Friday, April 29, 2016

Lean Quote: Don’t Wait, Start Now

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.

"Don't wait. The time will never be just right.— Napoleon Hill

I am often asked when the best time to start your Lean Journey is. Well, the short answer is now.  There is never a convenient or inconvenient time for change.

Sometime, I hear “we are not ready for lean”. This is a rather circular argument, because effectively what the management is saying is that business processes are too bad and therefore it can’t implement improvement. Of course this means that the business will never improve! I have never seen a business where the processes where too bad to start improving.

Many organizations are waiting for the optimum time to change.  Unfortunately, tomorrow never comes.  If you allow it you will always find another distraction.  There is never a better time to start than now.  We really must invest every day in our future since you can't get back lost time.

Don’t spend your time trying to wait till things are perfect. Perfection is elusive. It is more important to get started. And it's better to get something done imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: Lean Culture Change – Using a Daily Management System

There are many books that explain the why, the what, the when and the where. These are all very important. However without the how - the needed execution to achieve - high performance will not take place. Lean Culture Change does an amazing job all tying all the tools together to deploy and practice a lean management system.

Steven Leuschel, Lean healthcare practitioner pens book, Lean Culture Change Using a Daily Management System. This new book reveals decades of organizational transformation knowledge deeply rooted in the Toyota Production System and Toyota's culture. He covers the importance of daily huddles to develop respect for all employees, problem solving to stop firefighting, utilizing a balanced scorecard to drive performance improvement, strategy deployment to ensure all stakeholders are aligned to one purpose, how to improve the system vice sub-optimization, a safety system to ensure patient safety is priority, and how to sustain for the long haul.

The book is packed with principles, practices, and tools at a tactical level. It is a helpful resource for you to know the countermeasures to problems many organizations have in implementing Lean management.

Lean Culture Change is designed to be a training manual for team leaders and Senior Leaders who wish to study and adapt the Transformation Curve. This hands-on field book contains over 200 pages, 100 images/examples, and 6 case studies.

The target audience for this book is healthcare professionals looking to implement Lean however I believe all industry management can learn from this book. I would recommend Lean Culture Change to leaders looking to coach cultural transformation and continuous improvement.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: The Dark Matter and Dark Energy of Lean Thinking

Lean Thinking promises much, but delivers at best a thirty percent success rate. Author Bob Brown, a certified Lean Thinking leader, attacks this problem the same way astrophysicists understand the workings of the universe. Assuming there is a reason for the abysmal results of change management, especially with Lean Thinking initiatives, he postulated Lean Thinking dark matter and dark energy, identifies what it is, and provides concrete solutions for every organization. The Dark Matter and Dark Energy of Lean Thinking identifies flaws in Lean Thinking and provides a new way of implementing Lean, especially to knowledge workers.

The tools of Lean work fine, it is the people side that contains hidden strengths and weaknesses. Bob Brown explores Lean beyond the classic seven wastes to create a balanced understanding of Toyota's two pillars of success; continuous improvement and respect for people.

He introduces the new Lean "Seven Assets". They are:
  1. Teamwork
  2. Leadership
  3. Communication
  4. Problem solving
  5. Engagement
  6. Reward
  7. Knowledge
The key is to identify how each asset is operating in an organization and continually enhance it. The reader will be able to create a balanced approach to continuous improvement and achieve much better results when focusing on the people side of Lean.

This book is about people. It is designed for people who want satisfied employees and seek better ways to enhance employee impact. It focuses people development and people interactions.

Brown’s book it a very quick read at under 2 hours. It’s strength is in the thought provoking approach to people factors of change. This is deeper dive into the psyche of employees and how if over looked will lead us astray.

Note: The author provided a copy of this book for review.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Lean Quote: Learning Requires Knowledge and Practice

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.

"Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.— Lao Tzu

Human beings can definitely learn by hearing, reading, watching, seeing, and analyzing…but when it comes to getting results you simply cannot learn better than to learn by doing. 

There is really only one way to learn how to do something and that is to do it. If you want to learn to throw a football, drive a car, build a mousetrap, design a building, cook a stir-fry, or be a management consultant, you must have a go at doing it. Throughout history, youths have been apprenticed to masters in order to learn a trade. We understand that learning a skill means eventually trying your hand at the skill. When there is no real harm in simply trying we allow novices to "give it a shot."

One of the places where real life learning takes place is in the workplace, "on the job." The reason for this seems simple enough. Humans are natural learners. They learn from everything they do. When they watch television, they learn about the day's events. When they take a trip, they learn about how to get where they are going and what it is like to be there. This constant learning also takes place as one works. If you want an employee to learn his job, then, it stands to reason that the best way is to simply let him do his job. Motivation is not a problem in such situations since employees know that if they don't learn to do their job well, they won't keep it for long.

If you do something often enough, you get better at it -- simple and obvious. When people really care about what they are doing, they may even learn how to do their jobs better than anyone had hoped. They themselves wonder how to improve their own performance. They innovate.

Learning requires two elements to be truly successful overtime:

Practice: After completing a learning experience, create opportunities to apply what you learned as soon as possible and many times to refine your ability.

Experiment: Take a risk and try something new, even if you aren’t all that comfortable. We can learn as much, sometimes more, from our mistakes than from getting it right the first time.

We must, as best as we can, teach employees to do things, rather than having them be told about what others have done. Learning is the accumulation of experience and thinking about new situations. We must encourage explanation, exploration, generalization, and knowledge accumulation.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

5 Low Cost Ways to Develop Your Team

One of the most important qualities of a good leader is the ability and desire to develop their employees. Taking an active role in the development of your team demonstrates confidence and concern for the future of the organization.

In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee regularly and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement.

Here are 5 inexpensive ways to offer development to a team:

1. Read a book together. There is an unlimited supply of highly rated books available to help you succeed. Find some good ones, read and digest them as a team. Many companies have their own libraries and training that are available for the asking. Start your collection today.

2. Conduct “lunch and learn” sessions. Chances are good that everyone on your team has something to offer that can make the team better. Bring in your lunch or buy lunch for the team. Take turns sharing with each other something you already know or are learning over lunch.  Ask employees to come prepared to talk about a topic ahead of time.

3. Network and visit other businesses. Allow the team to visit other businesses in the area, either individually or as a group. Sometimes the quickest ways to promote change is to introduce leaders to other environments. It is a great way to develop new ideas and improve upon what you are doing as you see what others are doing firsthand. Be sure everyone goes expecting to bring something back to the team they have learned. Local groups that share your interest in a particular topic, offer a great forum to learn and share information for little or no cost.

4. Use online resources. Technology allows for some great online training. Gather the team around a computer and learn without leaving the office. Find a great webinar or blog post that you feel would help develop employees and encourage them to spend some time out of their day to watch and participate in the webinar or read the blog.

5. Hold in-house classes. In-house training is an excellent way to provide training to a large portion of the workforce without a hefty price tag. Use the experts you already have. If one of your employees excels at topic or subject you are learning, have them present to the rest of your team. Your internal experts could also serve as coaches and mentors.

An organization’s goals are achieved through its employees, the company’s most valuable asset. Employees need ongoing training to ensure that they are learning new and best practices while contributing to the success of the company. Best-in-class organizations place high value on the development of their people.

You don’t need a huge training budget to make substantial changes in your organization. Though it can be argued that the more you invest, the more return on your investment you are likely to see. Consider these methods to stretch your training dollars.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Top 15 Ways to Lead by Example

Whether you realize it or not, if you're a leader, your employees are watching every move you make. Good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust--a critical element of productive leadership.

Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

There are many ways leaders can set an example to others, but here are 15 of those ways.

1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them.

2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really is the best policy. Promote an office environment of truthfulness.

3. Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.

4. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary. We always learn more from mistakes than successes, provided we seek to understand the point of failure and eliminate that particular issue.

5. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.

6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more.

7. Listen. Practice patience and try to not interrupt when someone is talking. Be attentive, make eye contact, nod and ask pertinent questions. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.

8. Let the team do their thing. Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.

9. Take care of yourself. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it!

10. Roll up your sleeves. Show that when a job needs to be done, everyone at every level needs to chip in and participate. Do your part, and make sure that what needs to get done, gets done.

11. Demonstrate integrity. Inspiring your employees is important, but they must believe in you as well. They’ll look up to you if you fulfill your commitments, even if it’s something as basic as showing up for a scheduled meeting.

12. Establish an impeccable standard of excellence. The best way to establish a standard is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Showcase excellence. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. Reflecting excellence is critical to exercising effective leadership.

13. Share the credit. Collaboration is the key to success. You will quickly lose respect with your colleagues and co-workers if you tune them out and refuse to share the spotlight with them.

14. Be a fearless problem solver. Instead of freaking out in a bad situation, focus on ways to deal with problems. Be fearless and create solutions. How a leader reacts in a bad situation speaks a lot about his personality. So, make sure that you create a good example for others.

15. Praise improvement, even minor improvements. Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.

When you “walk the talk,” your behavior becomes a catalyst for people’s trust and faith in you. And it also emphasizes what you stand for. Leading by example shows people exactly what you expect and gives them living proof that it can be done. On a deeper level, leading by example and being as good as your words builds trust. It’s a sign that you take what you say seriously so they can, too.

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