Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lean Roundup #96 – May, 2017


A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of May, 2017.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

The Lean Journey: It’s in the Name – Jon Miller reflects and explains the meaning of the Lean journey.

Short-Term vs Long-Term: They Both Matter – Gregg Stocker explains why the real problem for the organization occurs when people get so consumed with short-term problems that the long-term becomes an afterthought and what to do about it.

Are You Putting Out Fires? Or Leading Improvement? - Tom Stoffel says as organizations move beyond the foundational process tools, leaders must guide the organization through the maturity continuum from firefighting, to improvement and standard processes, to sustaining with management systems, and ultimately to aligning all of these to meet the strategic goals of the organization.

Is Lean a set of tools – or a set of principles? | Pascal Dennis – Michel Baudin answers Pascal Dennis’s question regarding Lean as a set of tools or principles and why you need to learn the principles behind the tools.

Lean is Not About Principles – Jon Miller answers the question by explaining the relationship between tools and principles and whether there is one set of principles that guide us.

Improving Management with Tools and Knowledge – John Hunter says widespread and frequent use of management improvement tools is critical to creating a strong management system.

Reflecting on Waste – Bruce Hamilton explains that Ohno and Shingo together frame the technical and social sciences of what we call Lean today.

3 Recent Audience Questions on Kaizen & Continuous Improvement – Mark Graban answers 3 questions about engaging people in improvement and about how to share and spread improvement ideas broadly.

Want to Respect Your People? Share the Profits!  - Orest (Orry) Fiume shares ten elements of a successful profit-sharing plan from experience.

Ask Art: Is Lean a Strategy? – Art Bryne explains how and why Lean is strategy for exceptional  business performance.

Lean Outside of Manufacturing – Steve Kane shares the Grand Rapids Fire Department lean journey, a great example of lean outside of manufacturing.


Easier, Better, Faster, Cheaper… What’s Missing There? – Mark Graban says that safety is missing and explains why it is important to make a top priority.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in four seniors is a veteran. This fact is a testament to the dedication and bravery of older generations, and also a reminder of how tumultuous the last century was.

The destructive wars of the century may have faded from America’s collective consciousness, but those who were there, and those who lost a friend or family member, will never forget.


Nearly one-million brave servicemen and women died defending the United States during our nation’s history. Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor these Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice. It means that, as long as there is a U.S., they will never be forgotten.

This weekend our cities will be decorated in bunting and the American flag will be flying along downtown streets all across America. There will be memorial ceremonies held at National Cemeteries, and small local cemeteries, where veterans are buried beneath broad, manicured grounds marked with long, regimented rows of white marker stones.

It is not wars that we are remembering with this national holiday. Rather, we are remembering those who served and those who gave their last full measure of devotion in order to insure that the freedoms that this country offers to all would be able to be passed on to the next generations. We remember them because they tell us something of our human dignity. They remind us of the cost of freedom and of the quality of our character as a nation. We do not gather on this holiday to glorify wars. Rather, we are challenged to remember that when war comes unbidden to us, there are those who are willing to give their all to defend this nation. Deep down we want to remember in the hope that we will find ways to prevent wars and never again have to fight them again. There is, among veterans, no more hoped for desire than the desire that their own sons and daughters will never have to suffer the terrors of war, or the effects of war.


All veterans hope and pray that their war will be the last war.


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Friday, May 26, 2017

Lean Quote: Invent the Future Instead of Trying to Redesign the Past

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.

"The trouble with the future is that it usually arrives before we're ready for it." — Arnold H Glasow

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. This suggests that the best way to know what's coming is to put yourself in charge of creating the situation you want.

Be purposeful. Look at what's needed now, and set about doing it. Action works like a powerful drug to relieve feelings of fear, helplessness, anger, uncertainty, or depression. Mobilize yourself, because you will be the primary architect of your future.

One of the keys to being successful in your efforts is to anticipate. Accept the past, focus on the future, and anticipate. Consider what's coming, what needs to happen, and how you can rise to the occasion. 

Stay loose. Remain flexible. Be light on your feet. Instead of changing with the times, make a habit of changing just a little ahead of the times.



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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #110 (1651-1665)

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 #1651 – Build Trust in Organizational Leadership.
People crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leaders. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to face issues of trust. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. If leaders disengage or refuse to share their own ongoing learning journeys, how can they expect their people to enthusiastically pursue theirs? It’s the old adage of “lead by example.” If managers want employees to engage in learning and development, then they need to show that they are actively pursuing their own personal learning journeys as well.

Lean Tip #1652 – Provide Constant Feedback on the Positives
When people know what they’re doing well, they’ll keep doing it – or, even better, do more of it. Providing someone with a little recognition on what they’re doing well can go a long way toward boosting morale. This is not to say “ignore the weaknesses” – just don’t make the weaknesses the only focus area of feedback. This doesn’t mean you should not create accountability, it actually means the opposite – but, if all you do is criticize, people will learn how to hide their mistakes or shift blame.

Lean Tip #1653 – Collaborate and Share on Problem-Solving with Your Employees
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 #1654 – Develop “Soft-skills”
It’s unfortunate that these vital skills have been de-emphasized in corporate environments. Even the name “soft skills” makes them seem relatively unnecessary. Emotional intelligence at work is just as important as the intellectual know-how required to perform a specific task. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill all play a vital role in effective leadership and execution at all levels of the organization. When the team is in harmony, work gets done more efficiently and with greater ease.

Lean Tip #1655 – Provide Plenty of Context
Most leaders carry lots of information in their brains. Unfortunately, many employees don't get the benefit of all that information, yet they are expected to take action and make good decisions as if they understood every nuance. Great leaders figure out how to extract the important information from their minds and share it in a structured and consistent manner. An employee who clearly understands the core values, purpose and direction of the company can easily make consistent decisions and take appropriate action at any junction. It's on you as the leader to impart your vision. That's how you lead.

Lean Tip #1656 - Appreciate Your Team Members’ Efforts
Only by appreciating others and making your team members aware of the importance of their role can you drive your team towards success. Engage all your team members by sharing information relevant to your project and recognizing their participation through regular feedback.  Besides this, reward all members of the team for achieving specific goals to motivate them and make them more committed towards the project or the company.

Lean Tip #1657 - Facilitate Idea Sharing
Set up either physical or virtual work spaces to enable team members to get together to brainstorm, share ideas, or discuss progress on projects. An open-work environment is not always appropriate for team discussions, so you might need outdoor or remote spaces in the workplace to facilitate team meetings.

Lean Tip #1658 - Discuss Team Dynamics on a Regular Basis
Encourage open communication during team meetings to discuss team dynamics in order to make your team more effective and productive. Invite ideas and suggestions as to how team members could elevate teamwork to achieve specific goals. These discussions should always be used as a chance to improve team dynamics rather than criticizing someone in front of other team members.

Lean Tip #1659 - Welcome Questions, Suggestions, and Comments
Encourage everyone on the team to put forward their ideas, suggestions, and feedback regarding the project to identify and correct issues and increase the effectiveness of the team in a timely manner. Remember that all great ideas and improvements come up through questions or by looking at a situation from a different perspective, so encourage all types of input from each team member.

Lean Tip #1660 - Provide Learning Opportunities
By offering training or providing learning opportunities on an ongoing basis, you can strengthen team members’ skills and capabilities for consistent growth and development. Also, you can assign mentors or hire an external professional coach to develop specific skills and competencies within the team as well as individuals.

Lean Tip #1661 - Share The Vision With Your Team
The most important element of teamwork is sharing a common vision so that everyone can work together toward it. When everyone on your team knows your goals and vision, they better understand their role in realizing it.

Don’t be shy about communicating your true vision and goals to your team. Do you hope to be the best in your neighborhood? In the world? Do you want to provide the best experience for every customer that walks through your doors? Tell your employees, so they can all look to your vision for guidance and inspiration.

Lean Tip #1662 - Share Information With Your Team
No one likes to be kept in the dark, and withholding information from team members is a surefire way to create confusion and resentment among team members. It can also create competitive undercurrents in your organization, which is the antithesis of teamwork.

Be clear with everyone on your team about new information as it relates to your business and your goals. Your staff will appreciate being kept in the loop, and more importantly, it sends the message that you value and respect their place in the organization.

Lean Tip #1663 – Empower Your Team
When it comes to teamwork, one of the most detrimental forces is a management team that micromanages. A team functions best when they are empowered to make important decisions and complete the critical tasks that move an organization forward.

In some cases, you may need to be overt about empowering your team. Tell them that you expect and encourage them to be self-starters, to take tasks on themselves and to complete things without typical “approvals” (if possible). By doing so, you’re sending a message of trust and respect to everyone on your team.

Lean Tip #1664 – Listen to Your Team
As a manager, hopefully you’ve been able to build a culture of openness and feedback with your team. And since you’ve done so, you’re hopefully hearing the highs and lows of employee experience on a regular basis.

The important thing when it comes to feedback is not to glaze over or dismiss it. Your responsibility is to listen and really hear the feedback your employees have so you can address it in a way that improves the team dynamic. Be patient, and make sure your employees know that you’re there to listen and help whenever they need you.

Lean Tip #1665 - Clarify Roles and Responsibilities on Your Team
It’s tough to work well together when you don’t understand how someone’s role is different (or similar) to your own. Clarifying roles is an essential part of running a well-functioning team.


It’s important to be proactive in outlining team roles. If you wait for questions to arise, it means you’re losing critical productivity and team-building opportunities. As you outline new goals for your team, make sure you’re also outlining each member’s role and responsibilities in reaching those goals - either in a meeting, or one-on-one with each person.



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Monday, May 22, 2017

8th Year Blog Anniversary

It is hard to believe but tomorrow marks the 8th anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog and as tradition here each year I take the opportunity to reflect. The act of "self-reflection" is called Hansei is Japanese. It is the practice of continuous improvement that consists of looking back and thinking about how a process can be improved.

I’d like to think that I turned my naive endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 1465

Most read post:  DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 27,000 views

followed by The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process (with over 27,000 views)


Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  223

Top 3 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 49%
United Kingdom – 7%
Canada – 5%

Total views:  Over 1,103,907 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 848,087

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 1,981

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,414

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,206

Total Tips Shared: Over 1665


I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this past year.  It has been a successful Journey this past year. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful next year.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Lean Quote: Keep Your Sense of Humor

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.

"Enjoy yourself. If you can’t enjoy yourself, enjoy somebody else." — Jack Schaefer

“Enjoy yourself. If you can’t enjoy yourself, enjoy somebody else.” Jack Schaefer
You’ve hear the line: “They said cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.” An upbeat attitude and good sense of humor won’t keep you from getting hit by trouble, but they’ll help you handle it if you do get hit.

For years Reader’s Digest has been saying it: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Psychological and medical research solidly confirm this – humor is good therapy. It helps you keep things in perspective, and that’s important right now.

Change usually offers plenty of reasons to be upset, worried, and confused. You can laugh at the craziness of it all, or you could choose to cry. Either one would be an understandable emotional reaction to the situation.

Crying may be cleansing, but humor is healing. So choose laughter. It also helps keep you from blowing all the aggravations out of proportion.



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dealing With Negative People


Some people exude negativity. They don’t like their jobs or they don’t like their company. Their bosses are always jerks and they are always treated unfairly. The company is always going down the tube and customers are worthless.

Very often, negative people do not realize how their pessimistic attitude can affect others, and therefore they do very little to try to change how they act. Luckily, there are certain tips and pointers that you can use to better deal with the negative vibes that are being emitted in their company.

So, how does one deal with negative people?

One obvious solution is to walk away from them. But this is easier said than done. You can’t always just “get rid of” negative people. Sometimes they are your family, friends, coworkers. People have bad days. Even you.

A more practical approach to dealing with them is to start by understanding the reasons for their negativity. In brief, almost all negativity has its roots in one of three deep-seated fears: the fear of being disrespected by others, the fear of not being loved by others, and the fear that “bad things” are going to happen. These fears feed off each other to fuel the belief that “the world is a dangerous place and people are generally mean.”

The fears that negative people harbor manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including:

• A thin skin, or the proclivity to take umbrage at others’ comments; e.g., “you look good today” is interpreted as, “you mean, I didn’t look good yesterday?”

• Judgmentalism, or the tendency to impute negative motivations to others’ innocent actions; thus, guests who don’t compliment a meal are judged as “uncouth brutes who don’t deserve future invitations.”

• Diffidence: A sense of helplessness about one’s ability to deal with life’s challenges, leading to anxiety in facing those challenges, and to shame or guilt when the challenges are not met.

• Demanding nature: Although negative people are diffident about their own abilities, they nevertheless put pressure on close-others to succeed and “make me proud” and “not let me down”.

• Pessimism, or the tendency to believe that the future is bleak; thus, for example, negative people can more readily think of ways in which an important sales call will go badly than well.

• Risk aversion, especially in social settings. This leads to reluctance to divulge any information that could be “used against me,” leading, ultimately, to boring conversations and superficial relationships.

• The need to control others’—especially close-others’—behaviors. For example, negative people have strong preferences on what and how their children should eat, what type of car their spouse should drive, etc.

Notice a common feature across all of these manifestations of negativity: the tendency to blame external factors—other people, the environment, or “luck”—rather than oneself, for one’s negative attitudes. Thus, negative people tend to think, “If only people realized my true worth, if only people were nicer and the world wasn’t fraught with danger, and if only my friends, relatives, and colleagues behaved like I want them to, then I’d be happy!”

Being around negative people is toxic and can negatively affect us. As practitioners, we can often find ourselves living in a bubble of positive, like-minded people, which makes it a little more difficult to have patience for people who are the opposite. It is one of the many challenges in trying to implement Lean, but it is also a wonderful reminder for us to go back to the lessons we learn through respect for people.

Not letting that negativity affect us is not easy, and encouraging negative people to change is even more so. Approaching both with kindness, non-judgement, and our own positivity can make things a bit easier.

How do you deal with negative people in your life? Share with us below!

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