Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lean Roundup #82 – March, 2016



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of March, 2016.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Ten Posts for Ten Shingo Principles – Bruce Hamilton shares 10 posts from his archive on the 10 guiding principles of the shingo prize that you’ll find informational.

5 Psychological Factors affecting 5S Implementation in Office – Vivek Naik shares his perspective on the behavior of people you are trying to engage in continuous improvement.

When Lean Fails: The Common Causes – Gregg Stocker shares 5 causes from experience that are the most destructive and the most difficult to resolve when transforming to a Lean organization.

You can't spell "challenge" without "change"! – Tracey Richardson says we often have to challenge the status quo and build upon that tribal knowledge we have gained to create new and better ways we all can align with.

The Fog of Waste – Jon Miller shares a story that illustrates the difficulty of leaders and workers to say why didn’t we do this (lean) earlier.

Seek to Improve How You Learn, Don’t Just Accept That You Can’t Do Better – John Hunter says companies would be wise to put more effort into helping people learn better.

Lean Means Pain: Dispelling the Myths – Pete Abilla describes what the Lean approach is really all about.

Sorry, But Lean Is About Cost Reduction... – Michel Baudin discusses Lean’s purpose of cost reduction or value maximization.

Transforming the Energy in your Lean System - Patricia Kramer says one of the objectives of Lean coaching is to continue to move the energy to a positive state.

Lean Transformation Failure Analysis – Bob Emiliani says the ubiquity of Fake Lean informs us that there are significant defects in the Lean transformation process that contribute to failure.

Positively Shaping Organizational Culture through Strategy Deployment - Aaron Fausz says an often overlooked factor that can contribute significantly to a positive organizational culture is how strategy is deployed throughout an organization. 

True North Can Really Be “Management by Results” in Disguise - Mike Stoecklein describes understanding and managing toward True North is not the same as management by results.

Collaboration Does NOT Equal Consensus – Matt Wrye explains that good leaders know the difference between collaboration and consensus and when consensus is important.

The Loneliness of the Small Business Owner – Pascal Dennis shares some lessons from the obstacles that small business owners face.

Cultural Barriers Companies Face When Trying to Strengthen a Culture of Quality - James Lawther gives you a handful of examples, a belief, an alternative view, and a piece of evidence to barriers of building a quality culture.

Why Vanity Metrics are Dangerous: Holding a Mirror Up to Your Measures of Success - Julia Wester discusses the dangers of vanity metrics, and present a quick test you can to do to evaluate your own success measures.

Poka-Yoke: Is Mistake Proofing a Reality? – Pete Abilla shares 7 crucial steps for implementing mistake proofing.

Coaching in Sports and at Work – Jon Miller describes differences between sports teams and business teams to consider if we want our managers to be successful coaches.

The Biggest “Bang for Your Lean Buck?” Respecting Your People - Paul Critchley talks about respecting people and how leaders can do so.


Evolving Out of Need – Bob Emiliani talks about the next generation of Lean where he says persons and organizations promoting Lean cannot be more important than Lean management itself or the Lean movement.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Building a Fit Organization


There have been countless literary volumes written about Lean (I know I have read a lot of them) but alas organizations still fail to be excellent. Too many business leaders see process improvement as a mere project, something separate from the more “pressing” goals of profits and growth. That is where they go wrong. And that’s where Building the Fit Organization comes in.

My friend and Shingo Prize winning author, Dan Markovitz, has done it again with a new practical, hands-on guide to making Lean intrinsic to your company. If you read his previous book (A Factory of One), you will already know that Markovitz is an expert in Lean principles, but here he shows how those fundamental principles work in action.

Building the Fit Organization is a must read for any business leader who wants to achieve sustainable operational excellence. Markovitz presents a very readable book that provides simple and compelling advice on transforming an organization. By comparing a fit organization to athletes, he demystifies why organizations so often fail at process improvement initiatives, and presents useful tips for building operational excellence into the core DNA of a company culture. 

Rather than trying to copy Toyota, and failing leaders must learn from it, “learn how to convert their flabby organizations into ‘fit’ ones. Markovitz distills lean management into six principles, devoting a chapter to each, for getting fit:

1. Making an unshakeable commitment to
2. Increase value provided by
3. Doing the right work (things that deliver value to the customer)
4. In the right way (through standard work)
5. With continuous monitoring of processes (through visual management systems)
6. And structured coaching for everyone (using the scientific method).

Throughout the book Markovitz, makes these principles more understandable with an analogy many can relate to of physical fitness and athletic excellence. He draws parallels between the critical principles for business “fitness” and the principles of physical fitness – because the same concepts that make for a fit person make for a fit company. The result is a refreshing, easy-to-read, 193-page books free of Japanese terms and business jargon,

Markovitz uses a number of case studies to illustrate the principles with real world examples.  These companies show what can be possible (results) when implementing the principles of a fitter organization. 

And at the end of each chapter, he includes a “Monday Morning To-Do List” with practical steps for applying each principle. Appendix 1 provides a simple thought provoking self-assessment on how you and your company currently use or don‘t use the six principles. Appendix 2 offers a list of books to dig deeper into tools corresponding to each principles, now that you understand them better.

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a five-person organization, you can embark on this fitness program. Implementing these principles will set you on the road to organizational excellence (fitness). What are you waiting for start getting “fit” today.



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Friday, March 25, 2016

Lean Quote: Foster Innovation Amongst Our Employees

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.

"Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imagination, our possibilities become limitless.— Jamie Paolinetti 

Innovation can be a company’s best strategic advance, especially in today’s competitive and crowded marketplace. However, for the innovation to occur, most companies have to be willing to embrace the risk of potential failure. Employees may be afraid to offer insight and new ways of doing things because the company culture doesn't support them. If you really want to empower employees, you'll need to create a company culture that encourages and rewards innovation. You may start by asking individuals to look for ways to improve efficiency, output, safety, etc. in the tasks they perform every day. Actually, this kind of an approach across the company always has to start with the tone at the top – if employees see their manager taking risks and testing new ideas, they are more likely to follow suit.

Foster innovation by challenging assumptions about what can and cannot be done. When employees come to you with an idea or a solution to a problem they believe is for the betterment of the company, it’s a sign that they care. Supporting new ideas and giving an individual the chance to ‘run with it’ is motivating, whether or not it works out in the end.

React to mistakes and failures in a way that shows that you condone risk-taking. Give your support, provide resources, and remove barriers to change. Approach problems as learning opportunities. Think twice when people agree with you; show you value independent thinking and reward people who challenge you.

As ideas cannot be shared without honest and open communication, encourage your employees to say a thing or two about company’s latest projects. Communication always takes time, so adequate time and place for discussion and meetings must be apportioned into the normal schedule.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lean Tips Edition #92 (1381-1395)

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 #1381 - Continue to Educate and Improve Yourself.
Great leaders demonstrate effective leadership skills, but most importantly, continue to improve themselves in every possible way. The person who thinks he is an expert, has a lot more to learn. Never stop learning. Be receptive to everyone’s perceptions and information from around the world and beyond. Always grow and learn.

Lean Tip #1382 - Set Definitive Goals and Follow Concrete Action Plans.
You have to know where your destination is before you can map out a plan to get there. To improve your leadership skills, first set specific life goals with appropriate timelines. Design your goals by moving backwards from the end of your life to the present week. Then, formulate action plans you can commit to that will get you to where you want to be.

Lean Tip #1383- Make Your Team’s Job Easier, Not Harder.
If you want to maintain good morale and a positive outlook among your staff, be wary of criticizing and controlling their efforts too much. It’s better to support their creative processes—provide them with the tools necessary and help “sell” their work to other departments, if that is needed.

This all serves to remove as many hurdles from their progress as possible, helping them to achieve their goals as fast as possible. It also enhances their confidence, knowing that their manager or superior is behind them and their ideas.

Try to be their advocate in the organization—you have the tools to make their work easier so that they can focus on the project at hand and not worry too much about structural obstacles and issues.

Lean Tip #1384 - Acknowledge Good Work
Don’t be one of these bosses who only provides feedback when you’ve got something to criticize! By providing your staff with positive feedback it will help to build their confidence and encourage them to get more involved in the future, so it’s vital that you acknowledge their achievements and the effort that they are putting in. Encourage creativity and ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected of them.

Lean Tip #1385 - Challenge Thinking and Assumptions. 
Don’t give all the answers to your direct report. Question their current constraints and help them explore new possibilities or new behaviors. Try asking questions such as, How could you look at the situation in a different way? What would happen if you made a change? What other alternatives can you think of?

Lean Tip #1386 –Share Information and Numbers
Let them in on what is going on within the company as well as how their jobs contribute to the big picture. When you keep you employees informed they tend to feel a greater sense of worth. Keep communication hopeful and truthful – do not be afraid to share bad news, instead be more strategic about how you deliver it. Improve performance through transparency – By sharing numbers with employees, you can increase employees’ sense of ownership.

Lean Tip #1387 - Collaborate and Share on Problem-solving
When employees get the idea that their manager or leader is the one who has to solve all the problems, it takes away from their sense of empowerment, and ultimately is likely to decrease engagement over time. Encourage team members to take responsibility, and work through problems or issues on their own, or collaboratively. It’s not the manager’s job to fix everyone else’s problems.

Lean Tip #1388 - Remove Roadblocks that Hinder Achievement
The employees should be given ample attention, and their performance should be monitored from time to time so that the management can identify the issues that the employees are facing in relation to their tasks. This activity will strengthen the internal communication between the employees and the management, which eventually will lead to development of employee skills and will improve their engagement at work.

Lean Tip #1389 - Streamline Workflow. 
Overly-complicated processes, confusing approval procedures, and slow decision-making and communication can really add up and can lead to worker burnout. Leaders should be critical of your current systems: “it’s always been done that way” is not a good enough reason to keep people miserable. Engage your people in eliminating waste, reducing complexity, and streamlining their work. They are closest to the action; get them involved in making their work better, more enjoyable and more effective.

Lean Tip #1390 - Foster a Culture of Gratitude: Recognize Your People. 
In every organization and on every team, all employees have an innate desire to feel appreciated and valued by others – their peers and their leadership. In other words: most employees want to do good work, but most employees want to be noticed for doing good work. Celebrate their accomplishments. Reward and recognize their performance. Sometimes, just say “thank you.” It will reinforce the behaviors and outcomes you want more of, and it will build goodwill with your people – it shows that you noticed and that you care. And it doesn’t have to be cash; in fact, oftentimes the most effective recognition has nothing to do with cash rewards.

Lean Tip #1391 - Hold a Weekly All-Hands Meeting.
By having weekly meetings centered on transparency, you are setting the tone for your company. And by sharing important information to the company in such a candid way, you will promote individuals to do the same.  If you have questions, ask them. If you are not clear about how your goals align to the priorities, ask your manager. Are you contributing to our metrics in a meaningful way or do you have other ideas?

Lean Tip #1392 - Give Your Employees A Suggestion System.
As a leader you need to get as much feedback as possible whether it come in directly or indirectly. It is one thing to ask for feedback, it is another to act on it. Keep in mind, if you are going to encourage and implement a mechanism that asks for feedback, you need to be equally enthusiastic when it comes to embrace that feedback and put a plan in place to act on common themes and trends that emerge.

Lean Tip #1393 - Help People Understand the True Financial Impact of Decisions. 
Get comfortable framing all major decisions in economic terms. If a manager wants to spend money on something – a new piece of equipment, a new employee, a salary increase – she needs to be prepared to explain in financial terms how it will pay off for the company. Employees, too, need to understand the real cost of mistakes or lapses in productivity as well as the potential positive impact of doing things in a new way.

Lean Tip #1394 - Put Mechanisms in Pace for Communicating Vital Issues to Frontline Employees. 
People aren't going to pick up on what leaders want them to know by osmosis. You need to tell them clearly, succinctly, and often. That means putting in place a system, or a series of systems, to ensure that the transparency value gets translated into action.

Lean Tip #1395 - Increase Dialogue With Everyone Involved.
Starting and maintaining a dialogue with people you work with builds trust. It involves a mindful exchange without preconceived agendas. Dialogue is a way of hearing and contributing to a collective wisdom without judgment, a need to win, or a desire to believe you have the answer. In some ways, it’s about thinking together and, in doing so, opening oneself to new possibilities and new voices.



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Monday, March 21, 2016

Mentoring is Vital to Developing Lean Thinking


One key area frequently overlooked in process improvement deployments is the importance of developing experts who understand both the art and science of mentoring to grow real internal capabilities.

Mentoring can be defined as a significant, long-term, beneficial effect on a person’s life or style, generally as a result of personal, one-on-one contact. A mentor is one who offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or wisdom that is especially useful to the other person.

People who have been mentored often recognize that something very special has happened, but they may not even know what to call the experience. Mentoring can be done by anyone, at any time, in almost any place. Mentoring can take the form of a one-sot intervention or a lifelong relationship. It can be carried out informally as an element of friendship, or formally as part of a highly structured employee orientation program.

Mentoring is a process whereby mentor and mentee work together to discover and develop the mentee’s latent abilities and to encourage the mentee to acquire effective tutor, counselor, friend, and foil who enables the mentee to sharpen skills and hone her or is thinking. There should be a genuine interest in both parties in what you are trying to achieve, what you are learning, and what will be next.

Mentoring also can happen almost unconsciously. Someone may do or say something that will have an important effect on someone else. Or the recipient may become only slowly aware of how important a given intervention has been in his or her life. Yet these empowering links are not just beneficial accidents. Their power springs from the giving nature of the mentor and the receptiveness of the mentee to absorb, digest, and use the lessons passed to her or him. Probably we have all had such experiences, both as mentor and as mentee.

Effective mentoring requires going above and beyond. It is a relationship in which a person with greater experience, expertise, and wisdom counsels teaches, guides, and helps another person to develop both personally and professionally to meet exceptional standards of performance.

It is the role of executives and managers to create an environment and the systems in which employees can and will take responsibility for the practices, behaviors and thinking that achieve, sustain and build on improvements made with Lean. Mentoring is an important component to building this learning environment to support process improvements.

The mentor is checking that the mentee is learning the right skills and thinking to develop the organization. As each level in the organization begins to understand their role in coaching/mentoring the next level - and gain both the skill and perspective to do it, the organization achieves a cascading coaching/mentoring environment where continuous Lean improvement can flourish.

Mentoring is vital to develop and teach the thinking that is key to promoting and propagating the principles that underlie the Lean methodology. Without an embedded mentoring structure, the organization cannot deploy the deep understanding necessary for proliferating, or even sustaining, continued learning. Also, without a long-term commitment to mentoring employees, the learning developed in each employee would only reach a superficial level.

Don’t overlook the critical role mentoring plays in a Lean thinking organization.



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Friday, March 18, 2016

Lean Quote: Mistakes Are Inevitable But You Can Learn From Them

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.

"A mistake is an event, the full benefit of which has not yet been turned to your advantage.— Ed Land (Polaroid) 

Nobody likes making mistakes. It is human nature to make mistakes. If you go through life afraid to make a mistake, you’ll spend most of your life doing absolutely nothing. There is no harm in making mistakes, it is an essential part of learning. If you feel the need to avoid mistakes at all costs, it becomes a psychological barrier to taking risks.

Learning from your mistakes is one of the greatest personal achievements you can make. From your own mistakes you can gain wisdom and accelerate self-improvement. Mistakes, because of their relationship with risk taking, are essential to success. The important thing is to view mistakes as a useful stepping stone to a higher confidence and a broader perspective.

Learning from mistakes requires three things:
·       Putting yourself in situations where you can make mistakes
·       Having the self-confidence to recognize and admit to them
·       Being courageous about making improvements



The most important lesson in making mistakes is to trust that while mistakes are inevitable and you can learn from them. No matter what happens tomorrow you'll be able to get value from it, and apply it to the day after that. Progress won't be a straight line but if you keep learning you will have more successes than failures, and the mistakes you make along the way will help you get to where you want to go.



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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How to Avoid 6 Common Pitfalls of Process Mapping


Earlier this week I discussed the benefits of processing mapping.  Process maps are used to develop a better understanding of a process, to generate ideas for process improvement or stimulate discussion, build stronger communication, and — of course — to document a process.  Creating a process map is a relatively straight forward process but some mistakes can derail the process.  

Here are the most common pitfalls in process mapping and some possible remedies:
  1. "Unbalanced" map (too much detail in some areas, not enough in others).
    Remedy: Compare to other parts of the map; ask, "Does this step contain roughly the same amount of effort as that step?"
  2. Gaps (missing or uncertain steps).
    Remedy: Ensure that those who help create the map are knowledgeable of the process, or hav others review the draft for completeness and accuracy.
  3. Map too "busy."
    Remedy: Use additional paper and plenty of white space, or expanded maps cross-referenced to base map.
  4. Takes too long, or people get bogged down.
    Remedy: Establish ground rules:
    - outstanding items list
    - move on after 5 minutes
    - follow rough draft principle; first get it down, then get it good
    - use a facilitator.
  5. Unclear terminology, or cannot remember what was said about a particular step.
    Remedy: Take notes while mapping, create a glossary of terms.
  6. Group is mixed or defers to designated decision makers.
    Remedy: Stress that firsthand knowledge of the work process is what matters.  Strive for equal participation, even if it means redefining the group.  Try to prevent this problem by staffing the group with the right mix up front and explaining to management that they should select those closest to the work. 
What advice would you give others when mapping a process? 


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