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Monday, May 30, 2016

Remembering the Sacrifice of Those Who Enable Freedom

Memorial Day is a time to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is a day to celebrate former and present service members who protect our freedom.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me. -Lee Greenwood

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance. It is a day to remember all of our Fallen Heroes from all of the wars. It is a day to think about the families that will forever grieve for their lost loved one. It is a day to be thankful to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought and died to win the freedom and democracy that we Americans cherish so dearly. They also fought and died to bring that same freedom and democracy to the people of other countries as well.

Take a moment this Memorial Day to remember all those men and women who have so bravely and honorably served this country. The courage and sacrifice of all who died in military service will not be forgotten.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Lean Quote: You Manage Things; You Lead People

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.

"You manage things; you lead people.— Grace Murray Hopper

While a leader can be a boss, not every boss is a leader. The distinction between being a boss and being a leader may seem small, but it means the world to the people who work for you.

The definition of leadership is “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” That is why it is my belief that if you are a good leader for your organization, then you really don’t need to worry about being The Boss. You will gain more influence and have more positive impact on your organization if your team feels valued and respected and has an understanding of where you expect them to be headed.

Here are few key points on leadership:

  • A company is a community, not a machine.  When building a synergy on any team, you have to start by building trust and confidence up and down the chain of command.  Start by developing a vision that is easy to communicate and easy to comprehend. Once your team understands the collective vision and goals of the organization, individual goals become closely tied to the collective goal.  Brainstorm with your team and listen intently to suggestions and incorporate best practices.
  • Management is service, not control.  Once a vision is established, a great leader constantly queries his/her managers to see if they have the tools necessary to excel.  Once the tools are determined and obtained, empower your managers to make decisions on their own, but always make it clear that you are available to assist at any time.
  • Employees are my peers, not my children.  This point ties into the previous point about providing service.  Nobody in any organization likes to be “talked down to” or constantly second-guessed.  Treat your team members as you would expect to be treated.  Remember, you want to encourage the sharing of ideas

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lean Tips Edition #95 (#1426-1440)

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 #1426 – If You Make a Mistake, Correct it Right Away.
Stuff happens. Accept it, and adjust accordingly. Corrections are necessary along the way. Acknowledge that the mistake happened, especially when it affects other people, then correct it.

Lean Tip #1427 - Do Not Make Excuses.
Start by questioning current practices. Making excuses for not doing something is easy. Again, focus on the outcome. Then, take action. There is no excuse for not trying something.

Lean Tip #1428 - Kaizen Ideas are Infinite.
Kaizen is a process of learning and growing, steadily and continually. There are always ways to "tweak" elements of your life in order to improve them. It has been said that life is a journey, not a destination.  And practicing the philosophy of continuous improvement, of kaizen, will help you to make the most of that journey!

Lean Tip #1429 - Think Small When It Comes to Improvements
Many companies today are only looking for the, “BIG WINS” when it comes to improvements. While big wins are always nice, they really aren’t going to be able to happen very often. A company that identifies small areas of improvement and implements them frequently is going to make much more progress over time than one that ignores the small things and only focuses on bigger issues.

Lean Tip #1430 - Empower Employees to Take Steps Toward Improvement
Good managers are an invaluable part of having a facility that engages in continuous improvement. This is because good managers know that it is often going to be the employees who come up with the next great improvement idea. Employees perform their jobs all day everyday so it is no surprise that they will be the ones to find problems and hopefully the solutions to them.

Lean Tip #1431 - Recognize Successes
When a change is made that results in improvement in the facility it should always be recognized. This recognition could be something as simple as a thank you from the department manager or as large as corporate recognition with a bonus or other reward. To the extent possible, all recognition of improvements made should be done as publicly as possible to help motivate others to work towards improvements.

If someone has an idea that doesn’t work out as planned, it can still be a good idea to recognize that even though it didn’t work out, it was still a good thing that they made the attempt. As the saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Even when ideas are unsuccessful it is still a learning opportunity and it may trigger ideas about the next great improvement in the facility. Never punish people for making an attempt at improving the facility.

Lean Tip #1432 - Engage the Full Team to Find Improvement Opportunities
Continuous improvement in a facility is almost never going to be made by a single person. This is why you need to have the entire team involved. This starts with the CEO and leadership team and goes all the way to the front line employees. By creating a teamwork environment where everyone is working together to ensure ongoing improvement you will be much more successful in the long run.

Even when employees propose an unrealistic idea it should still be seen as a positive step. Taking all ideas seriously and trying to find ways to implement them if practical can allow employees to have the confidence in the management team that they need to want to bring new ideas up to the team.

Lean Tip #1433 - Know Your Processes
You can’t make improvements on something if you don’t really know what is going on with it. This is why you should have a clear understanding of everything that is happening in the facility. A great strategy for this is to employ value stream mapping. This will help you pinpoint where all the value for your products is added so that you can eliminate any waste that is involved.

Keeping your value stream maps updated and accurate is important. Every time a change is made to an area, for example, make sure you know how it is impacting the value add to that area. This will ensure you are always evaluating an accurate portrayal of your facility so you can make the needed improvements on an ongoing basis.

Lean Tip #1434 - Never Give Up
Whenever thinking about Kaizen continuous improvement you need to recognize that the ‘continuous’ part of the strategy is extremely important. This is a strategy that should be implemented as soon as possible and then continued indefinitely into the future. As soon as one improvement is made, it is time to start looking at what the next improvement opportunity will be.

It is also important to remember that there will be failures along the way. Some ideas will be tried and found to not produce the results that are needed. When this happens make sure you and your team don’t get discouraged or give up. Instead, start the process of finding and implementing improvements over and you’ll soon achieve the results you were hoping for.

Lean Tip #1435 - Implement Hoshin Planning
Hoshin Planning is a concept where all employees are looked at as the experts in their specific jobs that they are. Since they are seen as experts, they will be held accountable for achieving the desired successes, including continuous improvement. This is different than empowering employees because it not only gives them the ability to identify changes, but actually puts them in the decision making position.

In addition to helping ensure employees are contributing to the continuous successes desired, you are also empowering them with more trust and responsibility. It has been shown that this type of strategy can improve job satisfaction and company results.

Lean Tip #1436 - Collaborate with Employees to Set Goals
According to recent research done by Gallup, only about half of employees understand what is expected of them and even more concerning, managers aren’t even sure of what is expected of them! If employees aren’t aware of what they should be working towards, they are just existing, not developing. Managers can combat this to by including employees in the process of goal setting. They should be just as aware of their strengths and weaknesses as their managers are so they can constantly assess their work, set milestones and think about the big picture. Doing so will help them plan reasonably attainable goals with managers.

Lean Tip #1437 - Make Employee Performance Goals Attainable
Shoot for the stars isn’t really an analogy that works in performance management. Managing employee performance is all about practical, attainable and realistic goal setting. While having ambitious goals shouldn’t be a bad thing, it can negatively impact employee morale and engagement. Managers should assess each employee’s strengths and craft goals based off individual development. One thing that should be avoided is expecting each employee to meet the same goals. They are not the same person and goals should reflect that. Personalization is key.

Lean Tip #1438 - Align Employee Goals with Company Goals
As thoughtful as it might seem, managers don’t just exist to help employees reach their own professional goals. The idea is that those goals should align with the overarching goals of the organization. This is not news!
However, alignment can be difficult if managers don’t understand the strengths, weaknesses and intrinsic motivators of their people. One surefire way to familiarize managers with these elements is regular communication with team members. They should try to increase communication to at least once a week, especially during big projects and track each employee’s progress to identify strengths and areas of improvement.

Lean Tip #1439 - Recognize Goal Achievement (or Lack Thereof)
Recognizing employee performance goal achievement (or any goal achievement really) is another motivating factor to continued goal success. Employees will be engaged and motivated from the above tips, but often times, realizing the success of professional development can take time. Managers can keep employees engaged by rewarding them when they’ve met goals. Rewards can come in the form of a bonus, a pay raise, an extra day of vacation, the possibilities are nearly endless. At the very least, managers should take time to personally recognize their team’s successes, whether it’s in one-on-one meetings or in front of the entire company or department.

Lean Tip #1440 - Link Vision With Day-to-Day Reality

Goal setting is the opportunity to link employees’ every day work to the larger strategy of the organization. It has been said that a goal is a “dream with a deadline.” Leaders can take steps to communicate the organization’s vision for the future in inspirational terms as well as in setting practical goals and objectives that demonstrate a clear path to achieving that vision. Managers can then help employees plan their own part in setting individual goals that are aligned to and support the overall vision.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Top 10+ Lean Manufacturing Books

Luckily, there is no shortage of literature on Lean Manufacturing over the last several decades.  I have been fortunate to read many books from a great many authors on a number of aspects on Lean.  A good book can be a great place for some to learn about Lean and how to implement the concepts in their company. The following is a list of books I recommend on learning Lean in no particular order.

The Machine That Changed the World (1990) by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos 
            The book that started it all!  The Machine That Changed The World is an excellent read to understand the foundations and history of Lean in the automotive industry.  Womack, Jones and Roos thoroughly document the whole of the Toyota Production System, pinpoint the advantages of Lean manufacturing over the prevailing mass-production system used in the western world at the time, and correctly predicted the rise of Lean manufacturing principles, not just in automobile manufacturing, but in any value-creating endeavor. 

Lean Thinking (1996) bJames P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
            Lean Thinking is a follow on from The Machine That Changed The World, written by Daniel Jones & James Womack.  It is a more practical book in that it explains the ‘how to’ of lean manufacturing.  It does not necessarily delve deeply into the step by step actions required to implement a specific lean tool.  Rather it sets out the guiding principles that should govern any lean implementation.

Learning to See (1998) by Mike Rother and John Shook
            Learning to See is a spiral bound workbook that is perfect for Lean practitioners.  It takes the reader step-by-step through the process of creating a value stream map.  It does this by way of a worked example in the book.  Each section is clearly laid out and contains clear diagrams and informative sidebars.

Creating Continuous Flow (2001) by Mike Rother and Rick Harris
            This book is produced in the same format as Learning to See.  The focus of this book though is on creating flow throughout a process.  This is a natural progression from Learning to See.  In a lean transformation, a value stream map is used to identify opportunities for improvement.  Once a process has been identified as a constraint, this workbook can be used to improve the flow at a process level.

The Toyota Way (2003) by Jeffrey Liker
            Outlining the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System, this is a must read for anyone interested in lean manufacturing. Prior to the publication of the Toyota Way, the vast majority of the Lean literature focused on describing the tangible, technical aspects of the Toyota Production System.  Without understanding the accompanying business philosophies and management principles, most organizations that attempted to mimic Toyota failed to generate the same – if any – level of results.

The Toyota WayFieldbook (2005) by Jeffrey Liker and David Meier
            Following on from the previous recommendation, this fieldbook takes the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System and provides a hands-on implementation guide.  There are case studies, tips to help and traps to avoid as well as reflection questions in each section.

Getting theRight Things Done (2006) by Pascal Dennis
            Written by Pascal Dennis this “leader’s guide to planning and execution” gives a clear walkthrough the process of strategy deployment.  The book is designed to provide readers with a framework for understanding the key components of strategy deployment: agreeing on the company's “True North,” working within the PDCA cycle, getting consensus through “catchball,” the deployment leader concept and A3 thinking. It links action to theory and reminds us that lean tools - like value-stream maps, kaizen events, and 5S - are only the means to an end, not ends in themselves. Highly recommended if you need to clarify, align and focus on your major initiatives.

Creating a Lean Culture (2005) by David Mann
            David Mann’s superb work on how to sustain lean conversions.  Learn about the four key principles of lean management: leader standard work, visual controls, daily accountability process and discipline. This book may not contain all of the tools or knowledge you need to sustain Lean conversions, but the practical examples and methods for engaging team leaders, supervisors and managers in the daily maintenance of a Lean operating system through an expanded definition of standard / standardized work, makes this highly accessible book required reading for anyone attempting a serious Lean deployment.

The LeanTurnaround (2012) by Art Byrne
Very few people on the planet can claim the level of real-world Lean success that Art Byrne can.  Perhaps, no other book provides such a deep dive into the strategic nature of Lean or the role of senior leaders in driving change.  Certainly, none that can back up the theory and discussion with such dramatic and concrete results as Mr. Byrne and his time spent as CEO of Wiremold.  This book is a must-read for any executive looking to create and sustain a successful Lean organization.

Gemba Kaizen (1997) by Masaaki Imai
With the publication of his book Kaizen in 1986, Masaaki Imai brought the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement to light.  In the sequel, Gemba Kaizen, Mr. Imai enlightens the world to another core Lean concept: the gemba.  By combining a focus on incremental, small improvements with a thorough understanding of “the real place”, the book has contributed significantly to the mindset of the present-day Lean thinker.  As a bonus, the text includes several case studies from real-world application of the gemba kaizen approach.

Toyota Kata (2009) by Mike Rother
This may not be the best book with which to start your Lean journey, but it is certainly the direction you should head in which to finish.  Only those who have struggled to find Lean success will fully appreciate the power of the kata methodology.  Of all the texts on Lean and continuous improvement, Toyota Kata achieves what no other book before it has fully accomplished: translating Lean into a set of simple, practical routines, organized around improvement and coaching, that can be readily and effectively practiced at all levels of an organization.  Rother cuts down many long-standing fallacies about the practice of Lean, such as the misunderstanding of common Lean “tools” and the misconception of waste elimination.  In doing so, Mr. Rother places the focus right where it should be: on the development every person in the organization through a habit of problem solving and the achievement of continuous improvement. 

Real LeanVolume 1 (2007) by Bob Emiliani
Now here's a book for managers! Bob Emiliani provides an analysis into lean management and the role managers play in developing a Lean culture. He explains the purposes, advantages, myths, and misinformation surrounding Lean management - the application of Lean principles to those management and leadership positions. Real Lean is a practical guide to Lean management, complete with interesting and informative linkages to historical events and long-forgotten perspectives in Lean.

Have you read any of these?  What would you recommend to others? What is your favorite Lean book?

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