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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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