Friday, March 31, 2017

Lean Quote: Use Every Person's Skill Set to the Fullest

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.

"Use every person's skill set to the fullest. Both optimist and pessimist contribute. An optimist invents the hot air balloon, and a pessimist invents the parachute." — Ramesh Lohia and Surbhi Lohia, Consultants, Six Sigma, Kaizen

The worst kind of waste is the lack of employee involvement and creativity. Lean doesn’t work unless everyone is involved and has input. We must involve employees in the continuous improvement process because the people actually carrying out the job know how to do that job better. The best companies in the world tap the creativity and talent of the whole organization and not just a select few.

The lack of ongoing employee involvement at the shop-floor level has been identified as a major reason for the non-sustainability of Lean in the organization. When there is a lack of staff involvement, and management fails to seek employee input on critical decisions, employees may feel dejected and detached from the organization.

This happens frequently in large organizations where the skills and backgrounds of everyone are not common knowledge.  This can vary from not capturing ideas that employees might have for new products or innovations, to the six-figure salary executive correcting data entry errors in a financial spreadsheet. The biggest crime in this category is not empowering or enabling the people most intimate with a process to improve the process.

Lean thinkers at Toyota believe that showing respect for people means you allow them to think for themselves and solve their own problem. It is often said that the mission of Toyota is about developing exceptional people who happen to make great cars. The point is that it is more about people and less about the problem.


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Guest Post:The SWOT Analysis and What It Can Do for You


Do you ever feel like your team or business is struggling, but aren’t sure how to approach the problems that you have? You might want to try a SWOT analysis.  A SWOT analysis examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that a business faces, and it’s a great way for your team to sit down and figure out what to do about it.  Aside from the advantage to employees and managers, SWOT also helps investors see the likely risks and returns of a given venture. Investors want to know more than hopes and visions; they want to know how physical, human and intangible assets such as brand name recognition will be used to drive growth. Here, we go over what SWOT entails, how the analysis can be used by team leads and project managers, and general execution strategy of SWOT-based reforms.

SWOT Internals - Strengths and Weaknesses
Generally, strengths and weaknesses are under a high degree of control by management and employees. Note, however, that control doesn't mean ease of implementation. Internal processes can be notoriously complex, especially if rooted in an organization's culture. Also professional censure and personal risk aversion steer employees and leaders towards smaller, incremental and perhaps ineffectual changes. Bold reforms, while optimal on paper, come with challenges and pitfalls that can be hard to overcome.

SWOT Externals - Opportunities and Threats
Opportunities and threats address the market and financial environment outside the business. The key in dealing with opportunities and threats is identifying likely profit drivers and hazards and attempting to steer business marketing and operations accordingly. Reforms with respect to SWOT externals present a more volatile risk/reward profile. Here, it’s important not to punish occasional bad performance since doing so will dampen the kind of creativity and drive required for success in dealing with SWOT externals.

Team and Project Management
A team leader or project manager would be wise to divide employees into two groups. The first should specialize in understanding business internals such as operational processes, channels of influence, and staffing needs. The second group focuses on team members who lean more towards knowledge of the market, sales strategies, customer needs, financials, and competitors. Have internal employees focus on expanding the strength and weakness aspects of a SWOT analysis, while external-focus employees focus on threats and opportunities. Then, combine your findings into several improvement plans.

Executing SWOT reforms
Analyze the risk and likely rewards of each feasible improvement plan. Begin by executing a relatively low-risk improvement plan, but don't neglect the possibility for phenomenal growth. Remember that higher-risk projects could pay off greatly, but be careful not to confuse established internal operations or customers about business goals and core competencies.

SWOT is not a cure-all, but it is very useful in assessing likely business success and, in fact, can be useful in nearly any discipline. Someone pondering a new career can draw up an analysis of personal strengths and weaknesses as well as identify where in the labor market those combined personal traits would carry the greatest reward and/or present the least risk. For example, an introvert would not be wise to go into commission-only sales, nor would someone without a head for numbers be well-served by investing in graduate-level physics courses. SWOT analysis is not perfect, but it is useful in many aspects of life including business management.

About the Author:
Rachel Stires is a media relations specialist for the Management Training Institute. She enjoys talking about trends in management and how industry leaders can make the most of the opportunities available to them.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, March 27, 2017

7 Wastes Demonstration From Students

When thinking Lean, you should always be thinking about waste. Each business potentially has 7 Deadly Wastes according to Lean thinking. 

The 7 wastes are:
• Defects
• Overproduction
• Transportation of product
• Waiting
• Inventory
• Motion of people
• Processing





Students participating in a education program at IDEXX Laboratories made a video to illustrate the 7 wastes.  This video reminds me of the Toast Kaizen video.



Do you have a favorite 7 or 8 Wastes video that you use for demonstration with your teams?  

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lean Quote: Leadership Emphasizes Asking the Right Questions Not Finding the Right Answers

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 most common source of mistakes in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the right answer rather than the right question." — Peter Drucker

Ability of leaders to ask the right questions is critical to the success of a project. The type of questions will determine the quality of process improvements. If leaders do not know what to look for, teams would get the message that they can get away with whatever is possible.

All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:
       1) What is the process?
       2) How can you tell it is working?
       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Nothing sustains itself, certainly not Lean manufacturing or Lean management. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. Lean management is, as much as anything, a way of thinking.

Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them.

When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

If you don't ask the right questions, you don't get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.



Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #107 (1606-1620)

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 #1606 - Hire or Develop Lean Leaders and Develop a Succession System
The key here is not to take ownership of the plan but to provide conditions in which the team can implement Lean. The aim of this approach is to create a nucleus of people who are trained in the Lean tools and techniques, who have experienced Lean through hands-on application and who can then with some external support move on to help others create lean processes by transferring their knowledge.

Lean Tip #1607 - Create a Positive Atmosphere
Be tolerant towards mistakes committed in lean environment with a supportive and learning attitude. Have patience with progress as this will be key to get results and also try to create a blame free supportive environment. Have courage to take risks at crucial stages to push things and resources to meet the plan and achieve results.

Lean Tip #1608 - Benchmark With Other Companies
Visit other companies that have successfully implemented lean to get ideas and understanding; other companies are often delighted to present their lean implementation progress. Networking is key to ensure global understanding with other companies implementing Lean.

Lean Tip #1609 - Set up a Lean Enterprise Steering Team
This team would be responsible to provide support in the planning, resourcing, implementation, and follow-up accountability for implementation. The steering team is often identical to the normal line management team. The internal resources and external consultants would provide consulting support to the team. This infrastructure would resolve inter-departmental issues.

Lean Tip #1610 - Use Experts for Teaching and Getting Quick Results
The word "sensei" is used in Japan with some reverence to refer to a teacher who has mastered the subject. A company needs a sensei to provide technical assistance and change management advice when it is trying something for the first time to help facilitate the transformation, get quick results, and keep the momentum building.

A good teacher will not do it all for you. You need to get lean knowledge into your company, either by hiring experts or by hiring outside experts as consultants. To develop a lean learning enterprise you need to build internal expertise—senior executives, improvement experts, and group leaders who believe in the philosophy and will spread lean throughout the organization over time.

Lean Tip #1611 - Complete Most Important Tasks First.
This is the golden rule of time management. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete, and do those first.

Once you’re done, the day has already been a success. You can move on to other things, or you can let them wait until tomorrow. You’ve finished the essential.

Lean Tip #1612 - Get An Early Start.
Nearly all of us are plagued by the impulse to procrastinate. It seems so easy, and you always manage to get it done eventually, so why not?

Take it from a recovering chronic procrastinator — it’s so much nicer and less stressful to get an earlier start on something. It isn’t that difficult either, if you just decide firmly to do it.

Lean Tip #1613 - Don’t Allow Unimportant Details to Drag You Down.
We often allow projects to take much, much longer than they could by getting too hung up on small details. I’m guilty of this. I’ve always been a perfectionist.

What I’ve found, though, is that it is possible to push past the desire to constantly examine what I’ve done so far. I’m much better off pressing onward, getting the bulk completed, and revising things afterward.

Lean Tip #1614 - Turn Key Tasks into Habits.
Writing is a regular task for me. I have to write all the time — for work, my hockey organization, my blog, etc. I probably write 5,000 – 7,000 words per week.

The amount of writing I do may seem like a lot to most people, but it’s very manageable for me, because it’s habitual. I’ve made it a point to write something every day for a long time.

I rarely break this routine. Because of this, my mind is in the habit of doing the work of writing. It has become quite natural and enjoyable. Could you do something similar?

Lean Tip #1615 - Create Organizing Systems.
Being organized saves tons of time, and you don’t have to be the most ultra-organized person in the world either. Systems aren’t complicated to implement.

Create a filing system for documents. Make sure all items have a place to be stored in your dwelling. Unsubscribe from e-mail lists if you don’t want to receive their content. Streamline, streamline, streamline.

Lean Tip #1616 - Promote a Culture of Learning.
In today’s fast-paced economy, if a business isn’t learning, it’s going to fall behind. A business learns as its people learn. Communicate your expectations that all employees should take the necessary steps to hone their skills and stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support those efforts by providing the resources needed to accomplish this goal.

Lean Tip #1617 - Stress Training as Investment.
The reason training is often considered optional at many companies is because it is thought of as an expense rather than an investment. While it’s true that training can be costly up front, it’s a long-term investment in the growth and development of your human resources.

Lean Tip #1618 - Choose Quality Instructors and Materials.
As you probably don’t have unlimited time or funds to execute an employee training program, you should decide early on what the focus of your training program should be. Determine what skills are most pertinent to address current or future company needs or ones that will provide the biggest payback.

Who you select to conduct the training will make a major difference in the success of your efforts, whether it’s a professional educator or simply a knowledgeable staff member. Having the right training materials is also important — after the training is over, these materials become valuable resources for trainees.

Lean Tip #1619 - Clarify the Connections of Training and Their Job.
Some employees may feel that the training they’re receiving isn’t relevant to their job. It’s important to help them understand the connection early on, so they don’t view the training sessions as a waste of valuable time. Employees should see the training as an important addition to their professional portfolios. Award people with completion certificates at the end of the program.

Lean Tip #1620 – Make Training Ongoing and Measure the Results.
Don’t limit training solely to new employees. Organized, ongoing training programs will maintain all employees’ skill levels, and continually motivate them to grow and improve professionally.


Without measurable results, it’s almost impossible to view training as anything but an expense. Decide how you’re going to obtain an acceptable rate of return on your investment. Determine what kind of growth or other measure is a reasonable result of the training you provide. You’ll have an easier time budgeting funds for future training if you can demonstrate concrete results.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Benefits of Trystorming


A recent fortune cookie fortune reminded me of an important Lean lesson. The fortune says:
“The best angle from which to approach any problem is the TRYangle.”

I’ve learned at Wiremold, originating from Art Byrne, the fundamentals of trystorming. This method consists of, “Rapid cycles of real-time experimentation, used to test and adjust improvement ideas before establishing standard work or implementing processes broadly.” In plain language this means – try it out! Try Storming incorporates physical actions that can engage other senses and give testers a better sense of whether an idea is viable or not.

Trystorming is different from brainstorming in that it encourages the rapid development and test of an idea rather than merely thinking about the possible solutions. It allows people to visualize, touch and further improve on an initial idea. It also models action rather than talk. Often in our desire to design the perfect Future State we forget that the best way to build a process that works is through the iterative process of trying, adjusting/correcting, and trying again.

The process is built on three basic principles:
  • It is not important to create perfect solutions.
  • Be action-oriented.
  • Keep solutions simple.

These principles work hand-in-hand to develop effective solutions. When implemented correctly, Try-Storming can be used to continuously improve any business process.

One of the key reasons to utilize trystorming as part of any process design activity is that it models action rather than talk. By leaving the conference room and actually trying ideas during the course of the work, your team will quickly realize that your activity is more than just a meeting or an exercise in theory. 

In addition, taking action typically increases the level of idea generation and team engagement exponentially. By mocking up and trying concepts the team will be able to visualize their ideas and transform plans into tangible improvements quickly. While trystorming requires much more energy than the traditional design approach, use of this methodology will significantly reduce the overall time needed to reach a workable solution.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Friday, March 17, 2017

Lean Quote: Spend Time on Root Cause Analysis

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.

"Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them." — Henry Ford

When it come to problem solving some like band-aids and temporary solutions rather than to solve the root cause. Root cause analysis is the process of methodically gathering and ordering or ranking data about the causes of counter-quality within an organization, then identifying and assessing prevention options for implementability and effectiveness.

The following definitions are important to understand when finding the root cause.

PROBLEM is the situation that you are primarily concerned about. Example: copy machine malfunction.
SYMPTOM is the result or consequence of the problem. Example: blurred copies.
CAUSE is the reason you have the problem. Example: a worn out part.
SOLUTION is what you decide to do about the problem. Example: replace the part.

Keep in mind:
Corrective Action - Addresses the PROBLEM at hand
Root Cause Analysis - Addresses the RECURRENCE
Preventive Action - Addresses the OCCURRENCE

Root cause analysis determines the underlying cause(s) that need to be addressed to effectively prevent or to lower the probability of a recurrence of the problem. If we do a poor job of identifying the root causes of our problems, we will waste time and resources putting band-aids on the symptoms of
the problem.

Symptom Approach                     Root Cause
• “Errors are often a result of         • “Errors are the result of
worker carelessness.”                   defects in the system.
                                                       People are only part of the 
                                                       process.”

• “We need to train and                  • “We don’t have the time or
motivate workers to be                   resources to really get to the
more careful.”                                 bottom of this problem.”

• “We need to find out why this      • “This is critical. We need to 
is happening, and implement         fix it for good, or it will come
mistake proofs so it won’t              back and burn us."
happen again.”

Root cause analysis helps us reduce turnbacks and frustration, maintain customer satisfaction, and reduce costs significantly. Put your time and energy into solving problems by identifying the root causes and preventing them from occurring



Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare