Monday, October 31, 2016

Lean Roundup #89 – October, 2016



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


Toyota Kata: Reflection on Coaching Struggling Learners – Mark Rosenthal says Improvement Kata is a proven, effective mechanism for helping a learner gain understanding, but it isn’t the only way.

Understanding Data is Often Challenging – John Hunter says using data well (with an understanding of variation) will greatly enhance improvement efforts but it is a challenge and requires thoughtful consideration.

Lean/TPS in the Public Service, Part 3 – Obstacles & Countermeasures? – Pascal Dennis notes three major obstacles to Lean/TPS in government and the possible countermeasures.

Where’s your lean team? [Lessons from the Road] – Jamie Flinchbaugh discusses where Lean resources should reside within the organization and what that means in terms of messaging for your cause.

Kaizen: A Comprehensive Business Strategy – Bob Emiliani explains why Kaizen is simple yet effective improvement practice to transform many aspects of your business.


Daily PDCA is a Meditation – Pascal Dennis says Lean methods are meant to jolt us out of our slumber and the most basic mediation of all is daily Plan-Do-Check-Adjust.

Managers & Leaders - Glenn Whitfield discusses the difference between manager and leader characteristics.

Coach Them and You Will Learn - Blair Nickle explains how coaching employees is servant leadership at its best.

Real Productivity Improvement vs. Pressuring Workers; Easier vs. Suboptimizing – Mark Graban explains that telling people to work harder without properly supporting them can lead to all sorts of problems.

Designing a Lean Home – Kevin Meyer explains Lean concepts that could be applied to designing a home.

For Continuous Improvement, Think Like a Child – Jon Miller shares the traits and behaviors of a child that can be applied to continuous improvement.

Kaizen: A Comprehensive Business Strategy – Bob Emiliani explains how kaizen is a comprehensive business strategy.

Lean Strategy – Bob Emiliani asks whether Lean is a strategy or not and why.


Ask Art: How is lean the opposite of everything people have been trained to do? – Art Byrne discusses Lean management and traditional management of business.



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Friday, October 28, 2016

Lean Quote: There are No Limits

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 always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.— Bruce Lee

Companies naturally plateau because they get too happy too soon.  The earliest plateau occurs after some initial stability from attacking low hanging fruit. In actuality if you are focused on developing people it is all low hanging fruit. These plateaus along the journey to true north can be counteracted by not only teaching the know-how but teaching the know-why.

Plateaus are going to happen and management must anticipate them.  They are a temporary place to solidify concepts and learning. Leaders must take the next step to move past their comfort zone. It is management kaizen that gets you past plateaus. Companies who break through realize that employee development leads to business (and Lean) success.

Simply, sustainability is about lasting change. 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.

When it comes to complacency with regard to Lean it is often the result of a “We are Lean” mindset. This leads to a reduction in awareness/focus and leads to a false sense of security. For Lean to work effectively, the organization must be constantly focused on continuous improvement and best practice procedures for providing value. What sets an effective Lean system apart from simply reducing waste is ingraining continuous improvement thinking into daily practice. Lean is not about a destination but rather journey.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Taking Action on Your Ideas

There are a number of decision-making tools for evaluating your ideas. One I prefer is the impact/effort analysis for looking at the cost and benefit. It is the process of using a matrix-style tool to evaluate several options against the impact gained and effort required for each option or idea. Each idea is placed in one of the quadrants shown below, based on group assessment of the impact and effort required to implement the idea.



• Ideas placed in quadrant 1 are easy and cheap but produce minimal benefit. They are appropriate when they can be included in annual plans or address existing problems.

• Ideas placed in quadrant 2 are easy and cheap and produce significant benefit. They are easy to implement quickly.

• Ideas placed in quadrant 4 are difficult and expensive and produce minimal benefit. Ideas from this quadrant should generally be discarded.

• Ideas placed in quadrant 3 are difficult and expensive but will result in significant benefit. If these ideas are considered, appropriate time and resources should be made available for their exploration.


Impact/effort analysis is a powerful approach for prioritizing and choosing from multiple options.

While the matrix tool is described using impact and effort as evaluation categories, the same matrix – and approach – may be used to evaluate options against other categories, such as cost/benefit, impact/risk, value/effort, etc. The matrix indicates that the options are evaluated from a low, medium, and high perspective, yet the criteria may be replaced with elements based on specific and organizational needs. For example: Low, medium, and high may be replaced with appropriate dollar values, if the matrix would be used to do a cost/benefit analysis, rather than an impact/effort. As you can see, the matrix categories and criteria may be tailored to your organizational needs.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Five Steps to Successful Brainstorming


Caught with a problem you cannot solve? Need new ideas and solutions? The process of brainstorming requires you to think out of the box that is keeping you in the problem.

Brainstorming is a popular tool that helps you generate creative solutions to a problem.

It is particularly useful when you want to break out of stale, established patterns of thinking, so that you can develop new ways of looking at things. It also helps you overcome many of the issues that can make group problem-solving a sterile and unsatisfactory process.

A brainstorming session requires a facilitator, a brainstorming space and something on which to write ideas, such as a white-board a flip chart or software tool. The facilitator's responsibilities include guiding the session, encouraging participation and writing ideas down.

Brainstorming works best with a varied group of people. Participants should come from various departments across the organization and have different backgrounds. Even in specialist areas, outsiders can bring fresh ideas that can inspire the experts. 

There are numerous approaches to brainstorming, but the traditional approach is generally the most effective because it is the most energetic and openly collaborative, allowing participants to build on each others' ideas.

Step by Step Guide

1. Review the rules of brainstorming with the entire group: 
         No criticism, no evaluation, no discussion of ideas. 
         There are no stupid ideas. The wilder the better. 
         All ideas are recorded. 
         Piggybacking is encouraged: combining, modifying, 
         expanding others’ ideas. 

2. Review the topic or problem to be discussed. Often it is best phrased as a “why,” “how,” or “what” question. Make sure everyone understands the subject of the brainstorm. 

3. Allow a minute or two of silence for everyone to think about the question. 

4. Invite people to call out their ideas. Record all ideas, in words as close as possible to those used by the contributor. No discussion or evaluation of any kind is permitted. 

5. Continue to generate and record ideas until several minutes’ silence produces no more. 

Things to Consider

• Judgment and creativity are two functions that cannot occur simultaneously. That’s the reason for the rules about no criticism and no evaluation. 

• Laughter and groans are criticism. When there is criticism, people begin to evaluate their ideas before stating them. Fewer ideas are generated and creative ideas are lost. 

• Evaluation includes positive comments such as “Great idea!” That implies that another idea that did not receive praise was mediocre. 

• The more the better. Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between the total number of ideas and the number of good, creative ideas. 

• The crazier the better. Be unconventional in your thinking. Don’t hold back any ideas. Crazy ideas are creative. They often come from a different perspective. 

• Crazy ideas often lead to wonderful, unique solutions, through modification or by sparking someone else’s imagination. 

• Hitchhike. Piggyback. Build on someone else’s idea. 

• When brainstorming with a large group, someone other than the facilitator should be the recorder. The facilitator should act as a buffer between the group and the recorder(s), keeping the flow of ideas going and ensuring that no ideas get lost before being recorded.

• The recorder should try not to rephrase ideas. If an idea is not clear, ask for a rephrasing that everyone can understand. If the idea is too long to record, work with the person who suggested the idea to come up with a concise rephrasing. The person suggesting the idea must always approve what is recorded. 

• Keep all ideas visible. When ideas overflow to additional flipchart pages, post previous pages around the room so all ideas are still visible to everyone. 

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Lean Quote: Life of Education

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.

"All of life is education and everyone is a teacher and everybody is forever a pupil.— Abraham Maslow

One of the worst phrases that any person or entity can say is “I already know that” because this can very well destroy any chances of continuous learning. And when there is no learning, there is no growth.

In any organization, continuous learning means growth through learning events and experiences. It can be applied to individuals, team, and organizations- a process that will help them to achieve their overall objectives. Undergoing a continuous learning process entails change; one cannot learn and still be the same person, team, or organization. There is a constant evolution in the way we think and act, brought about by new understanding, new knowledge, and new skills.

Foster a work environment that encourages continuous learning. Make it clear to your employees that most learning happens past the initial training. Employees will be less stressed because their development will occur gradually over time, rather than be front-loaded at the start. It also makes it clear that your first priority is their well-being, which translates into higher workforce morale.

Think of continuous learning as smoothing out the bumps and valleys of your employees’ learning curve. A front-loaded strategy has a huge spike right at the beginning that demands a lot out of your employees. This may have a negative effect in their motivation, stress levels and skill proficiency. Implementing continuous learning straightens this curve out.

Replace the idea of training with capability development. This empowers the employees to be more self-motivated and more likely to want to improve themselves. Build a culture around employee satisfaction and improvement. Integrate continuous learning into daily routines.


A constant quest for learning provides the means to always be moving forward, to conquer new frontiers and achieve new and exciting goals. Make a point to learn something new every day. Learning new things brings more exciting experiences your way. It allows you to meet other people who can bring further knowledge or learning opportunities.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lean Tips Edition #101 (1516 - 1530)

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 #1516 - Challenge Your Employees to Move Out of Their Comfort Zone.
You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, give your employees challenging assignments. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Lean Tip #1517 - Pair Employee’s With a Mentor.
Once their goals have been established, find someone who is in a similar role to the target position to serve as a mentor. Mentoring enables an organization to use it’s existing talent to impart their knowledge and expertise to one another. Everyone – the organization, the mentor, and the mentee – benefits from the mentoring process.

Lean Tip #1518 - Offer Opportunities for Individual Growth.
Employees want training. Providing coaching and development activities throughout the year is an employer’s best bet to create a culture of growth within the workplace. To ensure continuous growth and improve productivity, equip employees with the tools they need to function at peak performance.

Lean Tip #1519 – Remove Barriers for Development
Many organizations are rigid in their organizational structure and processes, which can make it challenging to implement some cross-functional development and facilitate dynamic growth and high-performance training. It’s up to leadership to bridge silos, knock down walls, and design a system that encourages a fluid approach to learning and working. Today’s generation of workers are used to change and enjoy open work environments that let them explore. Take the barriers away and watch people flourish.

Lean Tip #1520 - Show Employees You Trust Them
If you want to help employees develop, trust them to do their jobs by getting out of the way. Let them know what your expectations are by modeling the behavior you expect—show them you trust them. This not only lets employees know what they need to succeed and gives them greater ownership, but it also shows them that credibility and trust are important in your organization.

Lean Tip #1521 - Stop Putting Out Fires
A manager who regularly steps in to solve staff's problems isn't doing them (or himself) any favors. He's only training them to bring him the problems, rather than solving them. Coach your staff to develop their confidence and problem-solving ability. This alone will increase organizational efficiency. Sometimes the simple question, "What can you do about it?" will help to uncover a solution.

Lean Tip #1522 - Align Employee Behaviors to Long-term Business Objectives.
All teams, whether on the court or in the workplace, are trying to achieve something greater than themselves and reach big, long-term goals by working together. Great managers understand that, and use this overarching goal to motivate people and get the best performance.

Lean Tip #1523 - Support Teamwork and Leverage Employees' Individual Strengths.
Building a great team means placing each person in the right position based on his or her talents. If you put individuals in the wrong place and they fail, they're not bad athletes or employees — you're a bad coach for not using their strengths. Take an employee-centric view when assigning roles, and hand out tasks that match the individual's skill set.

Lean Tip #1524 - Celebrate the Failure
Remember, most employees are trying to do their best, most of the time. Show appreciation for the well-intentioned action, even if it led to a failure. Talk about what the employee did right, then explain the problem. Always focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

During your discussion with the employee, go over any processes and procedures necessary to get a procedural task done right the next time.

Lean Tip #1525 - Make Feedback Part of Your Team Culture.
Set the tone that feedback is a good thing. You give feedback because you want your employees to be awesome, not because you want them to be punished. Giving feedback regularly and mixing praise with constructive criticism will help enforce that tone.

Lean Tip #1526 - Give Machine Operators Process Ownership.
A number of real-time digital condition monitoring and reporting systems now support the positive trend to operator-driven reliability (ODR). The Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) approach shifts basic maintenance work (and problem notification) to machine operators, freeing up maintenance personnel to work on planned maintenance. The idea is to give workers ownership of their machine and the process, maximize equipment effectiveness, increase employees’ skills and reduce manufacturing costs through continuous monitoring. For their part, the maintenance team should respond to requests within a pre-determined time window.

Lean Tip #1527 - Engineer Machine Improvements for Maintainability and Operability. 
Windows cut into guarding to give easier viewing of gauges will make the daily checks easier to perform and more likely to be completed. Access doors installed on equipment will allow for easier periodic maintenance. Consolidation of lubrication points into a single manifold also contributes to more consistently performed maintenance.

Lean Tip #1528 - Forget About Perfection
Perfection is great, but in reality it is not attainable. Focusing on getting everything 100% perfect every time can be a huge waste of time. Figure out what level of excellence you need to hit for each task, and then make sure to get to that point. Constant improvement can continue, but in the meantime your productivity will go up dramatically if you stop worrying about making sure every tiny detail is perfect.

Lean Tip #1529 - Invest in Training
Having versatile employees improves the overall productivity of the company. This should not translate into a “Jack of All Trades” situation. Investing in training your employees in skills they are not good at will make them better people overall. When employees see you investing in their learning of side skills that improve their core skill, it gives them more encouragement to produce better results for the company.

Lean Tip #1530 - Eliminate Scrap to Increase Productivity and Profitability.

People don’t always understand the true cost when it comes to scrap. If you make a product that must be thrown away, you don’t just lose the materials. You also lose the labor and the opportunity for profit. Even if you can rework a product, you’re still losing out on the labor and cutting into your profit.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Adapting to Change, Start with a Clear Vision


When a person is undergoing significant change, five things are necessary to adapt successfully to the change:
  • A clear vision of how the situation will be after the change
  • Time to absorb the new vision
  • Time to adjust behaviors
  • Coping mechanisms to manage the stress of change
  • Time to ponder the meaning of the change, and to internalize and own the change
People are more likely to do things that move them toward a goal if they clearly imagine what their world will be like after the change is successfully accomplished. This mental adjustment needs to be imagined in positive terms, not in the dread scenarios we often create in our minds. Helping employees shift their mental context from today’s problems to tomorrow’s successes is the role of a Lean Champion.

Successful change is hinged on a picture of a desirable future. Vision can provide both a corporate sense of being and a sense of enduring purpose. While incorporating a measure of today's success, vision transcends day-to-day issues. And, by providing meaning in both the present and the future, vision can empower and encourage leaders and followers to implement change.

An unclear change vision can derail the transformation of a company. Without a sensible vision, change efforts can dissolve into a list of confusing projects that take the organization in the wrong direction. Efforts without a clear vision are bound to fail, even if plans, directives, procedures, programs, goals, and deadlines are properly laid out. The many details of transformation can confuse or alienate employees unless they have a clear understanding of where they are being led. It is important that the vision be easy to communicate.

A change vision should be compelling enough to motivate fundamental rethinking at all levels of the company. However, it should not be impossible to realize. If the change vision is difficult to attain then it will have no credibility, and change will never take place.

According to John P. Kotter, the success of a company's transformation process depends on how easily and quickly the leader communicates the change vision to his employees and on how readily the employees understand and take an interest in the vision.



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