Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lean Roundup #102 - November, 2017


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

Slowing Down to Speed Up – Gregg Stocker says slow thinking is what leads to the big gains that Lean thinking drives. 

Sphere of Influence – Tom Stoffel explains some keys to unlocking a strategic plan to drive significant improvement.

15 Lean Failure Lessons from Software Development, 1/3 2/3 3/3 – Jon Miller shares thoughts from an article about how software is written to shed light on the question of why Lean transformations often fail.

Frontiers - Lean & IT – Pascal Dennis encourages IT shops around the world to learn & adapt the powerful thinking methodologies of Lean.

Ask Art: Can Lean and “Make-the-Month” Co-exist? – Art Byrne explains why the make the month is so bad for so many things.

Oppsss the wheels fell off your lean initiative?  - Norm Bain says one of the biggest obstacles to long term success with lean is that many of the lean concepts are so simple to understand that you may fall into the trap of believing that they will be simple to implement.

Are You Overproducing Improvements? – Mark Rosenthal talks about the danger of batching improvements and why it is better to flow improvements.

Using a Checklist is Better Than Reprimanding Someone and Saying “Don’t Forget” – Mark Graban explains from a personal example how a checklist can be used to improve process adherence.

Standardization With a Systems View Allows Creativity to Flourish – John Hunter says standardization allows us to creatively improve within the context of the system and with an understanding that certain key factors will conform to those standards.


Wishing Everyone a Granular Thanksgiving – Jon Miller advocates instead of batching our gratitude once pear year, we can reflect on what we are thankful for each day.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #117 (1756-1770)

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 #1756 – Set Goals for Alignment and Motivation
For your team to be aligned, they have to be working for a common purpose and with a similar motivation.

The ideal team has come together, with each team member bringing a separate set of skills and expertise. Your team will be aligned when their common goal is known, and when they cooperate together to achieve it.

Goals have the added bonus of increasing motivation. You’ll find that your employees are more motivated when they have something to strive for.

If your team is working well together, and they are aligned with a common goal, you might find they individually exceed your expectations.

Lean Tip #1757 - Define the Responsibilities of Team Members
In order to work toward your common goals, each person on the team should agree to how you’ll meet the goal.

Once that happens, you can set individual responsibilities. These should be well-defined so there is no room for interpretation.

For the good of the team and motivation of all members, keep the individual tasks as evenly distributed as possible.

Lean Tip #1758 - Provide Encouragement To Your Team
As the team leader, your encouragement goes a long way in building your team and keeping members active and engaged.

Make sure that everyone continues to work together and remains aligned in goals and motivation.

Ensure that everyone knows they have a place on the team, and everyone’s opinions and work is valued.

Lean Tip #1759 - Increase Motivation With Realistic Goals
You’ll find that your employees are more motivated when they have something to strive for. Make sure your goals are specific and attainable.

Goals that aren’t reachable are motivation killers. You want your team to be successful, so make sure your goals are realistic.

Generally, you’ll find your team members want to be successful, and your goals will motivate them to reach for excellence.

You can always offer some time of reward if your team meets your goal.

Lean Tip #1760 - Align the Team for Maximum Teamwork
Consider the team who can’t reach its goals unless every member of the team works together, finishing their tasks on time.

This is a team that is aligned with a shared motivation. When your team realizes their goals can only be reached with maximum teamwork, you’ll have a better chance at success.

Lean Tip #1761 - Lead by Example
It is vital that your senior leaders model any change initiatives for your employees. If your senior leaders do not “walk their talk,” employees will quickly stop trying as well. Your staff will think, “Why should I make these extra efforts if the people running the organization aren’t bothering?” Leaders who don’t back up their words with actions lose employee trust. A change initiative requires a team effort, and management should be fostering trust and leading their teams. Senior leaders can introduce a change process, but it’s their active participation that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to change.

Lean Tip #1762 - Communicate Consistently to Avoid Confusion
It’s likely there will be some confusion during a change process. Employees may feel disoriented as your organization lets go of old processes and embraces new procedures. In order to help your staff feel more comfortable, make sure to communicate with them often.

Think of your organization as a sailboat, and you’re simply changing your course. When you turn your boat, the sails often luff or flap as they adjust to the shifting winds. As captain, you can keep your crew from panicking by reassuring them you’re headed in the right direction. Employees will feel safer knowing that someone is at the helm.

Lean Tip #1763 - Provide Education Whenever Possible
Executives usually don’t want to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. Keep in mind that many leaders, especially those who do not have a manufacturing or engineering background, may not have had much exposure to the lean and Six Sigma tools. So, improvement leaders may need to dedicate some one-on-one time in order to address any deficiencies. Another good tactic is to suggest that all company leaders attend training in order to show their support and to help build a common culture and understanding.

Lean Tip #1764 - Tie Improvement Efforts to Strategic Goals
One of the first company functions that needs to be exposed to the improvement tools and methodologies is the finance group. Many improvements (5S for example) may prove difficult to calculate a hard dollar savings. So, if an improvement team has an accountant type resource as one of the members, they have a better chance to show the business executives that the savings are real. Otherwise, you may be accused of trying to use “smoke and mirrors” to validate the efforts and justify the costs of the training and resources.

Lean Tip #1765 - Empower Employees to Contribute.
Control of their own jobs is one of the five key factors in what employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimize resistance to change. Give the employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage.

If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale, the goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your job is to empower the employees to make the change work.

Practice effective delegation and set the critical path points at which you need feedback for the change effort - and get out of the way.

Lean Tip #1766 - Create an Organization-Wide Feedback and Improvement Loop.
You must maintain an open line of communication throughout your organization to make sure that feedback reaches the ears of the employees leading the charge. Changing course or details, continuous improvement, and tweaking is a natural and expected, part of any organizational change. Most changes are not poured in concrete but there must be a willingness to examine the improvement (plan, do, study, take additional action).

Lean Tip #1767 - Listen Deeply and Empathetically to the Employees.
You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change.

You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.

Lean Tip #1768 - Provide Great Training and Equally Great Support
Putting the change in place is just the beginning. There needs to be systems in place to help support your employees and make sure that the change sticks. Most changes don’t fail in the implementation, they fail in their execution. Training and support help ensure the change will last.

Lean Tip #1769 - Show the Results for Positive Reinforcement
Depending on the change, you want to keep some sort of metrics to show the results to everyone in the organization. The more positive results seen by employees, the more enthusiastic they will be about not only this change, but any others that take place down the road. Nothing speaks quite like results!

Lean Tip #1770 - It Pays to Reward Success

Remember, success builds on itself. By rewarding success, you will create internal champions from among those who are higher risk takers and more aware of the value of the new outcomes. They will become your role models and persuaders. Others will follow them more easily.



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Friday, November 24, 2017

Lean Quote: Gratitude is Something We Have to Practice

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.


"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." — William Arthur Ward

Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

Thankfulness is something we have to practice. It is like learning how to play the piano. Just as anyone who wishes to play piano well has to practice scales over and over again, thanksgiving must be practiced continually.

Of course, like any worthwhile endeavor, practicing gratitude demands daily mindfulness and ongoing effort. It’s so easy to get caught up focusing on all that isn’t as you want it to be - what people do (or fail to do), what’s happening in your job, community, or family; the state your health or the shape of your finances. It’s why so many spend the best years of their lives anxious and resentful, cursing the gap between their plans and reality!

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, may we vow to live not just this day but every day with a grateful heart and to use our blessings to bless others.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!


For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or a forerunner to Christmas festivities. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the lost of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance. 

This “thanksgiving” meal would not be celebrated again until June of 1676. On June 29 the community of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for their good fortune. Ironically, this celebration excluded the Indians, as the colonists’ recognized their recent victory over the “heathen natives.” One hundred years later, in October of 1777, all 13 colonies participated in a one-time “thanksgiving” celebration which commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. It would take a span of over 150 more years to establish Thanksgiving as we celebrate it -- George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday in 1789, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November in 1863, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.

The meaning of Thanksgiving has undergone numerous transitions -- an expression of gratitude for survival, a council’s recognition of its flourishing community, submission of the local natives, the defeat over the British, resulting in a collection of our nation’s traditions and values. Over the centuries, families added their customs to the Thanksgiving celebration, preserving that which they held most precious.

Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about. 


I am thankful for you, the readers of A Lean Journey Blog. You make sharing my thoughts rewarding in so many ways. I wanted to take this time to resound my appreciation for your interest, dialogue, and support of me and A Lean Journey Blog. 

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Be Thankful This Thanksgiving


It is that time of the year again, when families and friends come together and celebrate the preamble to the Holiday season. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all of the great, influential people in our lives. Our immediate outpouring of gratitude always seems to focus on families and friends, the turkey, stuffing and afternoon football.

However, if we don’t get caught in the raucousness of Thanksgiving, and really sit down and value what we have, our jobs, colleagues, and employees equally deserve thanks. And a simple expression of gratitude goes a long way in the workplace.

Here are four great ways to show your employees how grateful you are to have them, just in time for the Thanksgiving holidays.

1. Have an office meal: Who doesn't love a healthy helping of some good food? Thanksgiving is a great time to try and get all your employees in one place for an office meal.

2. The gift of time: Look to the thing many employees value most: time off. When it comes to the holidays, an extra day to prep is always appreciated. If your company can afford to grant this gift to your employees, give it a shot. 

3. Appreciate their work: Nothing inspires people more than knowing their worth. A well-crafted compliment can be better than even the most expensive gift. Your praise can work to kill two birds with one stone. Give your employees the gift of gratitude while also motivating them to produce better work. Sounds like a win-win gift to us.

4. Thank-you wall: When words aren't enough, showcase your creative side. This public display of appreciation is a great way to acknowledge how everyone's good work contributes to a stellar company. Leave your workers with a positive feeling about their efforts before they head off for their holiday travels.

So this Thanksgiving season, extend your thanks from family and friends to your colleagues and work community as well.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Lean Quote: Developing Excellent Communication Skills is Absolutely Essential to Effective Leadership

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.


"Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter." — Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.

Communication is the glue that binds an organization together but do not assume that several announcements and a note on the notice board is sufficient to get the story out. Some say to communicate seven times and seven ways but that does not mean seven months apart. Develop and implement a robust communication plan.

Effective communication is all about conveying your messages to other people clearly and unambiguously. It's also about receiving information that others are sending to you, with as little distortion as possible. Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver.

Developing advanced communication skills begins with simple interactions. Communication skills can be practiced every day in settings that range from the social to the professional. New skills take time to refine, but each time you use your communication skills, you open yourself to opportunities and future partnerships.

Communication is a key ingredient for empowerment. Give every employee equal and direct access to information. Many companies have developed a trickle-down style of communication that alienates those employees who may not be "in the loop." The more informed employees are and the more communication is open, honest, direct and complete, the more likely employees are to feel empowered and connected to the daily operations and overall goals of their company.

Open communication is at the center of Lean and Respect for People. Employees need to know what is expected of them and how they’re performing. Visual displays such as scoreboards, scheduling charts, team communication boards, and recognition displays all help to keep information flowing between employees, departments and upper management.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Seven Steps of Problem Solving


Problems are expected in the course of business. A successful organization is not determined by the absence of problems. Rather, success is measured by how we solve the problems that do emerge.

The seven-step “root cause” problem solving process is a logical, commonsense method to solve any type of problem. It provides a road map to help everyone solve problems during the improvement journey. It suggests what materials and information are needed to resolve an emergent issue. And it provides a record of the decision making process. If the solution we select does not bring the desired results, we can review our steps and assumptions and make subsequent adjustments.

Versions of the problem solving process exist under a variety of acronyms. Regardless of the specific model employed, there are seven universal steps:

  1. Select the issue.
  2. Search for data to describe the situation.
  3. Analyze the facts to obtain root cause(s) of the performance gap.
  4. Select a solution.
  5. Conduct a pilot test.
  6. Evaluate performance.
  7. Standardize the gains, reflect, and repeat the process.
Let’s cover each of these steps in a little more detail.

1. Select the Issue. Start with the voice of the customer. Even if your work group does not have direct contact with the external customer, take the time to identify how your activity affects the customer. Then create a measurable problem statement, such as “reduce late deliveries.” Specify the measurable performance gap you wish to close.

2. Search for the data to describe the current situation. Gather all the relevant facts. In the early stages of any problem solving process, data are often scarce, and it’s tempting to accelerate the process by moving right into action. But take the time to search for the date to describe the current situation. Use the seven basic quality tools (fishbone diagram, Pareto chart, histogram, line chart, scatter diagram, control chart, and check sheets) to analyze the data and visually display the facts of the story. New ways of thinking will emerge when the data have a chance to speak.

3. Analyze the facts to obtain the root cause(s). Problems are often complex. Often, what we view as the problem is merely the symptom of a deeper, more complex problem with multiple contributing factors. In other words, the problem manifests in one area, but the “root cause(s)” of the problem lies elsewhere. One simple method to identify the root cause of a problem is called the “5 whys.” Simply ask “why?” five times. By the time you get to the fifth “why,’ you are usually down to bedrock. Another technique used to identify root causes is the fishbone diagram (also called the Ishikawa diagram, or the cause and effect diagram). The main purpose of the technique is to identify and map the major contributing factors to the development of a problem.

4. Select a solution. Unlike many mathematical problems, which allow for only one answer, quality problems have many possible solutions. So don’t jump to the conclusion that on particular solution is the only solution. Take the time to identify and consider as many ideas as possible. This is perhaps the most creative step in the problem solving process. Do not judge the quality of your solutions, even the crazy ones, until you exhaust the brainstorming process. Then, select an approach, preferably one that focuses on process improvement and that is financially feasible, has the best chance of being implemented and will have a high impact on the problem.

5. Conduct a pilot test. Take the time to do a test run on the solution. Make individual responsibilities clear and establish a daily schedule for the improvement plan. Notify anybody who might be affected by your changes before you begin implementation.

6. Evaluate performance. How well have you done? Is the problem subsiding? Do you see any improvement? Are there any assumptions that need to be modified? Check whether your solution produced the desired affect. If the results are not satisfactory, revisit the earlier steps in the problem solving process.

7. Standardize the gains, reflect, and repeat. Once you see that the solution is working, take action to maintain the gain. Standardize the solution so that you can prevent the very improvements you worked so hard to accomplish from being neglected or replaced over time with past practices. Gather data until the benefits stabilize. After you confirm that you achieved your desired effect, communicate the improvement.

The seven step problem solving process is a powerful mechanism to solve problems once and for all. In the end, an improvement is never an improvement until every step, including follow up, is implemented, then look for new ways to improve. Continuous improvement is just that – continuous.




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