Friday, June 30, 2017

Lean Quote: Build Commitment by Engaging 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.

"No single seminar, classroom experience, or “colored belt” will provide you bottom-line Lean results.  Lean happens at the process…with your people, trained and motivated, fully engaged in the hot pursuit of excellence, as they follow your lead and learn to share and support your Lean Vision." — Bill Hanover, CCO, TPS – ThroughPut Solutions

As a leader, it’s your job to take your company in the right direction. But you’re only as strong as the weakest member of your team. Challenge employees to be the best they can be. Give them tasks that put them outside their comfort zones every now and again. Then guide and motivate them. It’s not only a good way to keep your employees striving for excellence; it’s also a way for you to see how certain people will react in certain situations.

The real expert at a job is the person doing the job. Your employees will often have ideas to improve the product, service or processes that managers may not spot. But this means that managers and senior leaders need to be enthusiastic about the idea and committed to it.

Avoid being prescriptive with each step of your approach, rather opting to use a facilitated approach to get support and buy in from the teams involved. Always be open to a team using a different approach though still aligned to the overall objectives. Forcing things down people’s throats doesn’t really work well.

The best way to build commitment is by involving people. This way they will have a sense of ownership. By involving your frontline teams in selecting the project that they believe will make a difference, you’ll build ownership, engagement, and have their commitment.



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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

5 Questions to Ask When Drawing A Process Map


A process map is like a flowchart. It is constructed for the purpose of showing the flow of a process or cycle over time. The detailed sequences of activities, inputs, and outputs for a particular process is the key information needed to construct the map. The way in which this information is obtained is by asking a series of questions aimed at tracking the flow through each function or activity.

For any process map generated, the questions are similar in content and purpose, but are phrased to elicit the process flow being mapped. Start your questions at the beginning of the process:

Question 1: Where does the process begin – what is the very first thing that happens to initiate the process – and who does it?

Question 2: What happens next and who does that?

On the simplest level, the map may be constructed by repeating question 2 until the entire process is mapped. However, there are some specific situations and items that you should know how to represent on your map.

It is likely that there will be some “if/then” situations in the product or information flow. These are decision points that will necessarily create branches in the map illustrating alternate routes for the product or information to flow, depending on decisions made. It is important that these situations be identified and mapped, which can be done by asking:

Question 3: Is there a decision to be made after step x ?

If so, what is the decision and what are the branches that the process might take after this decision? What are the first steps in each of the branches? Continue with Question 2 for each of the branches.

The product or information flow may cut across different functional areas, or the same step may occur at the same time. Also, different steps may occur in different functional areas at the same time. This usually means there are various product or information components that will be rejoined. To cover this type of situation ask:

Question 4: Regarding the last step performed by function x, is there another function that is performing that same step simultaneously?

Or, is there another different step that is happening simultaneously, and if so, what is it and who does it?

You should also identify the inputs and outputs from each step in the process flow. Inputs are the products or information required for a step to be completed. Inputs can include orders, decisions, policies, specifications, subassemblies, raw materials, etc. Outputs are the outcomes from a step that are passed on to the next step. The outputs from one step become the inputs to other steps. Ask:

Question 5: What are the inputs and outputs associated with step x ?

Often there is an issue among team members over what level of detail is appropriate for mapping. Additionally, it is sometimes unclear if a step should be included as part of the process if it doesn’t happen all the time. This is where I use the 20% rule. This rule states that you should map a step if it occurs 20% or more of the time. This is not, however, a hard-and-fast rule, and there are exceptions. Think of this rule as a way to help you determine whether to map a step if there are no obvious indications for or against including it.

It is important that you clarify and confirm the map. Review it with those who provided the information and expect changes. Building the map is and iterative process. 

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Monday, June 26, 2017

9 Phases of Cycle Time Reduction


The overriding goal of cycle time reduction is total customer satisfaction. Changes in areas to reduce cycle time should result in improved operation of the cycle, given current resources, technology, and capital. These should set the stage for continuous improvement.

There are nine phases in cycle time reduction efforts:

Phase 1: Identify Critical Business Issue – This phase involves identifying the overall business issues with which you are concerned.

Phase 2: Identify Critical Process – This phase involve identifying a specific process or cycle for which you will construct a process map.

Phase 3: Form Cross-functional Process Team – This team should be familiar with and be impacted by the issue.

Phase 4: Draw Cross-functional “Current State” Process Map – This phase involves drawing a map of a particular process or cycle as it currently operates. Analyze the “As Is” process map and identify disconnects.

Phase 5: Establish “Current State” Cycle Time – This phase involves calculating total cycle time for a particular cycle as it currently operates.

Phase 6: Draw a Cross-functional “Future State” Process Map – This phase involves drawing a map of a particular process or cycle as it should operate. Include the cycle time for a cycle as it should operate.

Phase 7: Produce Action Plan to Support “Future State” Process Map and Cycle Time – This phase involves documenting detailed action steps on how to fix the problems within a particular cycle, or how to go from “Current State” to “Future State.”

Phase 8: Implement and Monitor “Future State” Action Plan – This phase focuses on the follow-up required to implement changes.

Phase 9: Use Tools for “Best in Class” Pursuit – The purpose of phase 9 is to benchmark “Best in Class” performers and competition to help determine the “Ideal” level of performance.

It should be the goal of each business function to move from a current state “As Is” to a future state “Should Be” level of performance in the parameters critical to the business.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Lean Quote: Brains, Like Hearts, Go Where They Are Appreciated

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.

"Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated." — Robert McNamara, Fmr. American Secretary of Defense

Entrepreneur.com recently released an infographic all about why employees quit their jobs. 82% of employees polled report they don't receive enough recognition. There is nothing like pouring your time and heart into a project just to have it go unnoticed and unrecognized by management. It can make employees question why they worked so hard in the first place, and convince them the grass would be greener somewhere else.

Did you know that employee recognition can be one of the best forms of retention? In fact, employee recognition can be thought of in terms of a positive feedback loop. The formula is both easy to remember and easy to put into practice: Employee recognition equals employee productivity equals management gratitude. 

The more employees know that their efforts are appreciated by management and the company as a whole, the more they'll strive to do great work. Employee recognition benefits both the staff and the business itself in several ways:

Benefits of Employee Recognition for Workers

Greater motivation: Employees who know they stand to be rewarded for outstanding performance approach their jobs with greater enthusiasm and creativity. The opposite is unfortunately true: Not being appreciated is commonly cited by departing employees as a reason for moving on to a business where they feel their efforts are more likely to be recognized.

Peer acknowledgement: Chances are, employees who get word of a coworker’s achievement will take the time to offer their own congratulations. It’s hard to image an employee who wouldn’t welcome the acknowledgement.

Empowerment and inclusion: Employee recognition programs can make staff members feel more connected to the company rather than just the recipient of a regular paycheck. That moves loyalty beyond just a financial appeal.

Benefits of Employee Recognition for the Business

Reinforcing positive behavior: If employees excel, others will notice. That can help others raise their performance in hopes of being recognized as well.

Lowering stress levels: If the emphasis is on the positive rather than an overriding concern about snafus, employees are likely to feel less overwhelmed about their job responsibilities.


Increasing customer retention: Higher employee motivation levels typically carry over to satisfied customers and clients. Those you do business with inevitably notice employees who bring a commitment and enthusiasm to what they do. Unfortunately, a disgruntled or frustrated employee can stand out to customers just as much.


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Looking at Service in the Terms of Cycle Time

Total Cycle Time is the actual time elapsed from when a customer expresses a need for a product until customer's need is satisfied. It includes all the time spend by managers in directing the business, by office personnel in handling and processing the paperwork, by engineers in creating and developing new products and technologies, by direct labor in manufacturing the products, and by marketing and sales staff in generating customer interest in the products. It also includes all wait time; i.e., queue and transport time.


The easiest way to conceptualize Total Cycle Time is to think of a stopwatch in the hands of a customer. Imagine that at the very moment a customer describes a need or desire for a product to any customer representative, that customer presses the button to start the stopwatch. It continues to run until the time the customer receives the product, determines that the product is usable, and sends payment to company.  When the company receives payment, the customer pushes the button to stop the watch. The amount of time recorded on the stopwatch is the Total Cycle Time.

We tend to think of cycle time only as the time that our department or function works on a product. Furthermore, we do not usually count the time that the product just sits and nothing is being done to it at all by anyone. The customer's stopwatch keeps ticking through all the work functions and the wait time.

We realize in today's highly competitive market we cannot survive without creating a strong company culture focused on the customer. Customers demand quality service, attention on the spot, and commitment to solving problems if things go wrong.

If we are not taking care of our customers, we will not be competitive today and beyond.

Some of our existing processes might require a great deal of coordination among departments. Every time there is a hand-off from one department to another, there is a chance for a mistake that can make a negative impression on customers.

One term frequently heard in discussing cycle time is cycle of service. A cycle of service is defined as a complete sequence of events the customer experiences in getting his or her needs met. It starts wit the first moment of truth and continues through a series of related moments of truth until the customer is satisfied with the result and requests products and services again.

Looking at service in terms of a cycle of service is really looking at it from the customer's point of view, not the organization's.  The customer doesn't care about the internal silos, segregation of functions in a business to the point where there is little or no communication between functions. The only thing that matters to the customer is getting his or her needs met.

Analyzing and streamlining our processes are excellent ways for us to think in customer-first terms.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Changing the Culture


The animal kingdom has survived for millions of years on a simple concept: Adapt or disappear.

So why do we, the more intelligent of species (big assumption), seem to have such a difficult time with change? The answer is fear. And, what do we fear? If you think about it, all fear is born out of a sense of losing control. For control. For example, it would seem irrational to fear standing on a solid structure, say a park bench, two feet off the ground. However, it seems quite normal to fear standing on solid structure eighty feet off the ground.

Why the difference? Do we fear the instability of the structure? Usually, not. Our fear is our own instability. We might lose control and fall, or even worse yet, jump!

Change takes away our sense of control. Change brings a situation that is usually new and unfamiliar territory. Consider the proverb…

“For the timid, change is something to be feared; for the complacent, change is a threat, but to the confident, change represents opportunity.”

The greatest barriers to innovation and possibilities are in our own minds. These barriers are known as paradigms. Paradigms are rules or mindsets that govern and define how we perceive and interpret a given situation. Paradigm shifts are fundamental changes to these rules or mindsets. They are revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

Here are some steps to more your organization through the cultural change of implementing lean.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Make the change as transparent as possible.
  2. Leverage your intellectual and creative capital. Listen to what people say. Implement their ideas.
  3. Be in a constant state of learning. Investment in the training and education of your workforce will pay big dividends.
  4. Live by good organizational habits. Reinforce the discipline of making high standards a way of life.
  5. Focus on organizational goals. Your initiatives should be realistic and aligned with the goals of the organization.
  6. Be obsessed with customer service. If you’re not, someone else will.
  7. Encourage intelligent risk taking. Challenge the organization to reach out beyond the comfort zone.
  8. Work hard at building trust. It’s difficult to gain, but easy to lose.
  9. Constantly improve. Benchmark an absolute standard of perfection.

Company culture is important because it can make or break your company. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Lean Quote: Just Remember, You Can’t Climb the Ladder of Success With Your Hands in Your Pockets

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.

"Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets." — Arnold Schwarzenegger

It is that time of year when student's are graduating and you hear of many commencement speeches. I wanted to share this one from a few years ago which has many points that I believe align to Lean Thinking.
Arnold’s 6 Rules to Success:
1. Trust yourself
Many young people are getting so much advice from their parents and from their teachers and from everyone. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who. Figure out for yourselves what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.
2. Break the Rules
Break the rules, not the law, but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That’s what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Anything I’ve ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. So you can’t always win, but don’t afraid of making decisions. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision and you know that it is the right thing to do, and success will come. So don’t be afraid to fail.
4. Don’t Listen to the Naysayers
How many times have you heard that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and it’s never been done before? I love it when someone says that no one has ever done this before, because then when I do it that means that I’m the first one that has done it. So pay no attention to the people that say it can’t be done. I never listen to, “You can’t.” (Applause) I always listen to myself and say, “Yes, you can.”
5. Work Your Butt Off
You never want to fail because you didn’t work hard enough. Mohammed Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the ’70s when he was asked, “How many sit-ups do you do?” He said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.” That’s what makes you a champion. No pain, no gain.
But when you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now, if you want to coast through life, don’t pay attention to any of those rules. But if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work. Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.
6. Give Back
Whatever path that you take in your lives, you must always find time to give something back, something back to your community, give something back to your state or to your country.
Remember these 6 rules. Trust yourself, break some rules, don’t be afraid to fail, ingore the naysayers, work like hell, and give something back.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Commencement Address
University of Southern California
May 15, 2009


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