Friday, December 29, 2017

Lean Quote: Follow Effective Action With Quiet Reflection

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.


"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." — Peter Drucker

Great leaders pause and reflect on a regular basis; leaders at their best renew themselves daily. Without time for reflection, a leader is likely to miss important cues, to forget to do the more important things. They don’t see opportunities because they are hidden by the busy and trivial things. Over time, the leader without time for reflection is doomed to run out of ideas, energy, and the ability to serve those that we lead. We simply “run out of gas.”

Unfortunately, there’s not enough emphasis in the business world about the need for leaders to make time in their day for reflection. In fact, thanks to today’s accelerated pace in the workplace, a greater focus is being put on a leader’s ability to react fast to changes and making quick decisions for their organization. While the ability to think quick on one’s feet is certainly a valuable trait for a leader to demonstrate, it’s also important that leaders develop the habit of putting aside time during their day to reflect not only on current decisions their organization needs to make, but also to review past mistakes to see what lessons their company can gain from that experience.

For many leaders, the acknowledgement that slowing down for some part of the day is necessary, desirable and valuable is in itself transformative. Even the very practical leader will discover that regular time spent in reflection will bring greater perspective and new levels of emotional clarity.  This is the time to step back and take an unhurried look at daily challenges, past “mis-takes” and future visions.

The more you reflect, the more you realize that it comes naturally, and that without it, you are not able to do your job. You will discover that we all reflect, most of the time. By relearning how to use your reflecting skills as a tool in your leaders toolbox, you can increase your ability to see possible challenges early, and seek alternative solutions before you are forced into a corner. You become pro-active.

Making time to reflect on past decisions and mistakes, and allowing yourself the opportunity to learn from it, is a critical step to continued growth and development and your ability to effectively lead others.


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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top 10 Lean Leadership Quotes of 2017


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 cannot improve.

These are the top 10 quotes on A Lean Journey website in 2017.
2.     "Chaotic Action is Preferable to Orderly Inaction." — Karl E. Weick
7.     "To succeed, one must be creative and persistent." — John H. Johnson
9.     "Simplicity is the key to brilliance." — Bruce Lee

10.  "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." — Will Durant’s summation of Aristotle’s ideas

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Lean Quote: Everybody Wins With a Healthy Work-Life Balance

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.


"We believe in work+life, not work vs. life." — Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot

No matter what career you’re in or how many additional commitments you have, creating a healthy balance between work and play is absolutely essential when it comes to leading a happy and productive lifestyle. But it’s not always easy – especially if you have a particularly demanding career.

A good work/life balance can enable employees to feel more in control of their working life and lead to:

  • increased productivity
  • lower absenteeism
  • a happier, less stressed workforce
  • improvements in employee health and well-being
  • a more positive perception of you as an employer
  • greater employee loyalty, commitment and motivation
  • a reduction in staff turnover and recruitment costs

The benefits of a work-life balance initiative are not confined to just the workforce. Work/life policies and flexible working practices can also help you:

  • react to changing market conditions more effectively and meet customer demands - for example, shift work, part-time work and flextime can help you open longer without making your employees work longer hours
  • meet seasonal peaks and troughs in your business
  • boost your competitiveness
  • become recognized as a business that people want to work for

By providing enabling work environments, organizations can help employees accomplish work tasks as efficiently as possible, leaving more time to attend to personal responsibilities.

The message for company leaders is that many of the same factors that are associated with a more engaged and effective work force also lead to work environments where employees are more positive about stress and work-life balance issues.

The bottom line? Work life balance can help you increase revenue, cut unnecessary expenses, and improve your organization's reputation.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2017


As 2017 comes to an end and we look toward 2018 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #1565 - Don’t Just Talk About it, Do it!
Once you have a Lean strategy in place, put it into fast and thorough action. Naturally, implementation is what ultimately yields results and improvement. The last think you want is to devise and formulate a Lean campaign that then sits on the shelf and collects dust. Run with your Lean plans as soon as you have everything nailed down.

Lean Tip #1566 - Harness the PDCA Strategy
One of the key concepts used in Kaizen is the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” strategy. This is a quality model that can be used when implementing any type of improvement in the facility. As you might expect, the PDCA strategy is a cycle of ongoing improvement that should never end. The steps are as follows:

Plan – This step is where you identify an area where improvement is possible and make an initial strategy on what chance should be made to realize the desired improvements.

Do – Implement the change, but only on a small scale. This may mean having one department make the change in some situations or for larger corporations, having one facility make the update. During this step it is also very important to be gathering as much data regarding the change so it can be properly evaluated.

Check – Review the results of the change including the data that was collected. Looking to see if they had the desired impact or not is critical to know whether you should move forward with rolling the change out to other areas.

Act – IF the data in the check step points to a success, it is time to push the change out on a wider scale. Once the change has been successfully implemented you will go back to the plan step to look for further improvement opportunities. If the data from the check step shows that the change did not work as planned, you go directly to the plan step to either start from scratch or attempt to make the needed adjustments to get the desired results.

Lean Tip #1628 - One of the Best Forms of Recognition is to Provide Opportunities for a Contributing Employee.
Opportunities can take many forms. But, all of them are outside of the normal day-to-day requirements of their job plan.

Employees appreciate chances for training and cross-training. They want to participate on a special committee where their talents are noticed. They’d like to lead a team that is pursuing an important objective.

They are happy to attend professional association meetings and proud to represent your organization at civic and philanthropic events. They’d appreciate the green light relative to implementing an idea they have for increasing morale in your workplace.

They are eager to stop doing portions of their job that have become rote in favor of new goals and assignments that stretch their skills and build on their abilities.

Lean Tip #1640 - Build Trust Through Open Communication & Clarity
One of the most important components necessary to nurture and grow workforce alignment is for the leader and management to have a strong relationship with their word. Trusting senior leaders and management is a critical driver of employee engagement.  Integrity and open communication is one of the most crucial behaviors of highly effective leaders. People do not trust a leader of an organization who does not follow through on promises or has a reputation as someone who re-negotiates agreements after the fact.  Creating boundaries and agreements as well as honoring those agreements and boundaries is where the rubber meets the road with honoring one’s word. 

Trust is not about being perfect and certainly not about keeping things static and steady. It is about clearly communicating when and why things need to change, and giving people advance notice of those changes and how they can best adapt.

Lean Tip #1676 - Don’t Measure Everything that can be Measured
Don’t measure everything that can be measured and don’t blindly trust an analytics tool to collect the right data. Instead, use the business goals to choose a small amount of metrics that truly help you understand how your product performs. Otherwise you take the risk of wasting time and effort analyzing data that creates little or no insights. In the worst case, you action irrelevant data and make the wrong decisions.

Lean Tip #1692 - By Failing to Plan, You are Planning to Fail
Good planning mitigates risks and promotes learning early. While planning, teams consider, talk through, and eliminate ‘flow’ blockages before they occur. The ROI on planning is huge. A good plan has enough detail for it to be predictive of how much work is really going to be involved, and therefore when you will be done. Records of past plans can also help, as an input into how much work will really be involved in the various tasks, and how much unpredicted work there typically is in a project.

Lean Tip #1693 - Figure Out How the Work Gets Done.
We have lots of assumptions about how work gets done that don’t mirror exactly what happens. After all, during the day-to-day grind, we don’t think about how we do the work, we often just do it. Ask an outside observer to record the steps of the process in a way that he/she could repeat it themselves if they had to, without assistance.

Lean Tip #1701 – Maintain Clear and Comprehensive Communication on a Consistent Basis
One of the most vital strategies that must be employed in order to align employees with the company’s vision is maintaining clear and comprehensive communication on a consistent basis. Not only must a company’s basic vision be communicated to employees in this manner, but the goals and objectives associated with the mission must be conveyed via consistently reliable, clear and comprehensive communication as well.

Clear and comprehensive communication regarding the company’s vision is best ensured by taking advantage of multiple resources. In addition to direct face to face communication with employees about vision related issues, a company needs to take advantage of high-tech resources as well — including email, texts, blogs and related avenues.

Lean Tip #1706 – Challenge the Status Quo
Throw out all your old fixed ideas on how to do things. Replace “sacred cows,” personal opinions, and “it’s the way we’ve always done it” with performance facts and data. Numbers are the language of improvement. Avoid the emotional traps of blaming people or making excuses that prevent you from discovering the real problem. Once you have established the new best-way of doing something, stick with it until a better way is found. When confronting old ideas and traditions, apply the Rules of Engagement.

Lean Tip #1718 - Effectively Engage Employees
Listen, listen, listen. If there is another piece advice that a company should take, it’s to receive and respond to the feedback that is provided by the employees. They are the ones making sure that all the clients are happy and that all the work gets done, so keeping them in the loop is vital.

Understanding that no two employees are the same is another important tactic to use when trying to understand the employee’s concern. Being able to realize that there are going to be many different reasons for opposition depending on the person is pertinent, because then managers can tailor ways to work out these problems.

Lean Tip #1779 – Keep Up the Positive Attitude.
It takes a strong source of positivity to influence the attitude of the entire team. Good team leaders always keep a positive attitude. Always. They need to maintain the positive attitude to motivate the rest of the team to stay confident. Do your work by anticipating problems and planning ahead, instead of discovering problems only when they come and having to respond to them. Keep your team well informed of such potential situations, so they can be well prepared. This can help to keep problems small, so teams can continuously stay focused on working on the main project without getting too flustered along the way.


These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2018. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Top 10 Posts of 2017


The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flipped back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

Effective communication is everyone's job. It builds trust, teamwork, and high-performing organizations. If culture drives an organization, effective communication is the fuel.

You should build your Lean culture on the following essential elements: make the customer everyone’s business, standardize work for managers, have daily accountability and require discipline.

As a team leader, one of your primary roles is developing the resources, specifically, the human resources of your department, business unit, or team. The tasks of a team leader are classically defined as those of planning, organizing, staffing, motivating, achieving, and evaluating results.

Students participating in an education program at IDEXX Laboratories made a video to illustrate the 7 wastes.

The effects of micromanagement can be disastrous for a company’s culture. In the best situations, micromanagement is an impediment to progress and in extreme cases it can cause the organization to stagnate.

Kaizen is a philosophy of continuous improvement in which every aspect of the business can and must be improved. It is a process that engages the “human element,” while eliminating all forms of non-value added activity and waste.

The SIPOC is a key tool to help the team understand and communicate the current state and the bounds of a given process as well as who might be critical to engage as the project develops.

In the office environment, the 8 classic waste types of the Lean methodology manifest in different ways than we see on the factory floor.

Just because you are busy does NOT mean you are productive. In this post you’ll learn 6 differences between busy people and productive people.

Daily tiered meetings (a series of four brief meetings to review what happened yesterday and assign actions for improvement) are an integral element of daily management system.


What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2017? Any recommendations for next year?

Thanks for your continued readership in 2017. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success in 2018.


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Friday, December 15, 2017

Lean Quote: Unhappy Customers Great Source of Learning

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.


"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." — Bill Gates, Microsoft

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important aspects of any organization. If customers aren’t satisfied, they will take their business elsewhere and the organization won’t last.

For any business the customer is the lifeblood. Every process and every action internal or external should ultimately result in the value addition to the customer and the customer’s delight. Therefore it is essential that the customer needs, wants and expectations are identified before you embark on a quality building program.

When it comes to customer feedback, bad news is good news. ​If a customer complains, it doesn’t mean they are going to abandon you, necessarily. It actually is a sign of commitment. They’re taking the time to complain to you about the product, because they want it to work. 

Customer satisfaction does not simply happen; it is an effect. Quality is one important cause of the customer satisfaction effect, along with price, convenience, service, and a host of other variables. Generally businesses do not seek customer satisfaction as an end in itself. The presumption is that increased customer satisfaction will lead to higher revenues and higher profits, at least in the long term. To best serve customers, the successful quality program will apply specific principles, techniques, and tools to better understand and serve their firm’s royalty – the customer. The Customer is KING!

Good businesses use customer feedback to get better, and improve themselves. 


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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Follow the DOVE When Brainstorming


Brainstorming as a team often generates a great number of thoughts and ideas in a short period of time. This technique truly demonstrates the value of team problem-solving. A few points to remember during the brainstorming session are summed up in the acronym DOVE:

Defer judgement - accept all ideas, list everything, evaluate later.
Off-beat ideas encouraged - opt for original and creative suggestions
Vast number of ideas is the goal - get as many ideas as possible, the more the better
Evaluate ideas later - expand and build on each other's ideas

There are some basic tools that can be helpful for brainstorming sessions to be effective. These are: white board, sketch paper, notebook, pens, pencils, markers, construction paper and most importantly, a clear mind. Depending on the type of problem you are solving, you can even incorporate Legos or other building blocks. Physical items can help with finding the solution.

It is important to remember you don’t need a big fancy meeting space to initiate a brainstorming session. It can be a group where everyone pulls up their chairs and shouts out ideas while the facilitator jots them down and moves the session along. At the same time, comfort and time are important. When you hold a session, make sure the room allows people to get up and move about freely while limiting other outside noises and distractions. Ask that everyone turn their electronic devices on silent to reduce distractions.

These guidelines can assist in the creation of an environment where all ideas are valued and where employees listen effectively to others' and value each others' opinions.

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