Friday, July 20, 2018

Lean Quote: Value Means More Than Success

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.


"Try Not to Become a Man of Success. Rather Become a Man of Value." — Albert Einstein

Success is something that can be judged based upon achievement of goals. However someone who is successful does not necessarily have to give anything valuable to the world.

Value is something that can be measured based upon what an individual has contributed to the world.

Examples of success:
A politician that is elected to a high level of office can be considered successful politician.
A business man that makes a lot of money in the stock market is considered a successful stock broker.
An athlete that wins a gold medal in the Olympics is considered a successful athlete.
Albert Einstein achieved many great accomplishments in physics during his lifetime, and is therefore considered a successful physicist.

Examples of value:
Einstein invented the wheel, and the wheel is used by nearly all human beings living on the planet; therefore he has contributed something of extraordinary value to society, and is hence a valuable person.
Einstein synthesized the polio vaccine, which has been used to rid much humanity of a horrible disease, hence he is a person of value to society.
Through his theory of general relativity Albert Einstein fundamentally changed our view of gravity, and it's mechanics, clarifying many previously misunderstood concepts, and natural phenomena; hence he has been of great value to humanity, and more specifically to the field of physics.

A leader of value measures success by his or her ability to consequently do their best within their definition of priority. A person of success may be valued. But a focus on success outcomes relies on an external benchmark…a measure against arbitrary criteria.


Having made the distinction between the two, it is also important to understand that "success" and "values" are not polar opposites. They can exist simultaneously in the one who is successful as a result of their commitment to principle. Success becomes the outcome of values rather than its own singular objective.

Throughout history, the people who change the way we think, and live, and the people who influence our lives most have been men of value rather than men of success. Though it should be noted that most people of value can also be considered successful, due to the value of their contributions to the world.

There's nothing wrong with success, but oftentimes it's easy to lose sight of who you are when you're successful. If you keep your eyes on your own values, you'll end up both successful and a good person, which is a pretty good combination.

Einstein's quote does not preclude becoming successful (after all, he himself was both), but exhorts value creation as being a higher priority.

It also subtly calls for those who have success but have not yet used it to help other people to pitch in, under the guise of leaving a much longer-lasting legacy.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #127 (1906-1915)

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 #1906 – Establish Goals For Your Team And Ensure They’re Accountable For Getting Their Work Done.
Create accountability for your employees by aligning your team’s goals with company goals. This will allow them to have a better understanding of the big picture and to make more valuable contributions. Working together on strategic initiatives contributes to a shared feeling of success and improves a team’s ability to work together.

Lean Tip #1907 – Be the Leader Your Team Needs and Lead By Example
To improve employee relationships and promote teamwork, resolve interpersonal issues when they arise. Be sure not to let disagreements or hurt feelings fester. Encourage communication by bringing things out into the open and resolving issues as soon as possible.

Lean Tip #1908 – Foster a Collaborative Environment
Your team requires both an open company culture as well as a physical space that encourages collaboration and creativity. These are the elements of an environment that fosters discussion, idea-sharing and brainstorming among team members. Remind your employees that there are no stupid ideas. Establish trust and make sure they feel comfortable sharing ideas without judgment. In other words, provide the space to brainstorm in a way that embraces your team’s diversity, encourages teamwork and is open and non-judgmental.

Lean Tip #1909 – Reward Good Teamwork
Look for ways to acknowledge spirited teamwork on a regular basis. Reward your team for good teamwork by planning non-work related activities. These kinds of events are also great for helping build the team relationship outside the office. They help establish trust and make employees feel like they’re truly part of the team—or the family.

Lean Tip #1910 – Examine and Improve Teamwork Processes and Practices
The team should be able to discuss team norms and what is stopping them from moving forward and progressing as a business. The team’s progress should be reviewed regularly, possibly on a weekly basis, and issues and conflicts dealt with in a productive manner. If a resolution can’t be made, then ask your supervisor for advice and help. Constructive feedback should be given, and should be focused on ideas and behaviors, being positive, and providing suggestions for improving work processes. Everyone should also help each other in developing and using strategies to achieve their goals.

Lean Tip #1911 – Listen To Those Around You
An important trait of any business leader is the ability to listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand and you’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue. Communication is critical to the success of any company and if you as a leader take the time to promote open discourse, your employees will thrive and so will your business.

Lean Tip #1912 – Find Solutions Not Problems
Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team to do the same. In business, you will come across problems, hurdles and challenges (they are unavoidable) but it’s how you overcome those problems as a team that will define your business.

Lean Tip #1913 – Take Risks to Breed Culture of Continuous Improvement
Inspire change and innovation by taking calculated risks – it will demonstrate your commitment to a larger purpose and will breed a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. If those around you see you put your head above the parapet and be counted, they will be encouraged to do the same. This entrepreneurial mindset will catapult your business to new heights.

Lean Tip #1914 – Be Proactive and Persistent
Try, try and then try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team, rather your successes do. As a leader it is your duty to keep morale buoyant and encourage your team to keep plugging away towards the company’s end goals. Set an example for your team by handling challenges in a proactive and constructive way, and show employees through your words and actions that giving up isn’t the adequate response when faced with obstacles.

Lean Tip #1915 - Develop and Support Employees
Leaders are in a position to empower employees and help develop them professionally. By prioritizing opportunities for career development and advancement, leaders can demonstrate their commitment to the wellbeing of their employees.


Supporting employees in developing their soft and technical skills is an important leadership responsibility. Understanding your employees’ aspirations and encouraging them to be creative and take initiative can help them gain experience and take on more responsibilities in the future. Additionally, acknowledge and reward proactive participation to encourage continued progress among employees.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Lean Leaders Meeting at Legrand Wiremold

I wanted to share with everyone a recent article written by Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean Consortium, who visited my place of work recently.

The New England Lean Consortium is a dynamic, member-driven organization dedicated to advancing Lean in all sectors of our economy. Driven by members needs, the NELC can provide the philosophy, tools, and techniques to meet today's business challenges through members serving members, including but not limited to the following sectors: manufacturing, service/transaction, businesses, education, healthcare, and government.



The New England Lean Consortium held its June 2018 Lean Leaders Meeting at Legrand Wiremold in West Hartford, CT, on Thursday, June 28th. This was a Member only meeting as Legrand Wiremold, is not a member of the New England Lean Consortium. The NELC recognizes that not all the best practices in Lean and Operational Excellence reside in the member companies. Therefore, we visit non-member companies that are considered Centers of Excellence, or companies that are well down the road on their Lean Journey. Legrand Wiremold was prominently mentioned in the book, “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Dan Jones. At the time the company was Wiremold and since been purchased by Legrand of France.



Michael Kijak, Plant Manager, and Timothy McMahon, Lean Champion, provided an extensive tour of the facility, and answered numerous questions along the way. All throughout the plant there was evidence of a strong Lean culture, employee engagement, and the implementation of Lean tools, philosophies and principles.

The plant operates on the philosophy of making a little bit of everything every day. This requires a flexible workforce, short setup times and quick changeovers of equipment. It also requires cells, minimum WIP, good flow, an efficient kanban system, and the extensive use of heijunka boxes to schedule the plant.


Our first stop was at a typical assembly cell, where all the tools, parts, supplies and materials were stored at point of use. Each operator assembled a full unit, to a given TAKT time. The operators kept track of their daily progress with the use of an hour by hour board.
Assembly Cell with "Chase the Rabbit" Technique    

A stamping press with a changeover time of ten to fifteen minutes    


“Pizza slice” listing of PPE requirements in each work area

Collection of Andon lights outside die maintenance shop  

Employee engagement through submission of improving ideas

Kanban cards     


Michael Kijak explaining the cards in the heijunka box


Daily performance indicators with status  

Daily accountability board with tasks and due dates for corrective action

As a reward for allowing the NELC to tour the facility, we conducted a Plus/Delta session to conclude the meeting. The Pluses were all the things that the attendees saw and liked. The Deltas were the improving ideas that the attendees offered to the host company.



As a token of appreciation, Michael was given a copy of a recently published book, “The New Collar Workforce” by Sarah Boisvert.


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Friday, July 13, 2018

Lean Quote: Oh, the Places You'll Go!

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.


"And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed." — Dr. Seuss

Of course there are no 100% guarantees in life, but when you have a positive mindset like the one this quote instills you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting it right.

Success begins in the mind, and if you go in with a defeatist attitude you’ll surely come up short. Just think of what you could accomplish if you had the belief that you would succeed.

You don’t need to be completely assured of success, it’s good to have a bit of a possibility of failure or it wouldn’t be interesting. Just go into it with the confidence that there’s a high chance of success for you.

People just give up too easily. They’re robbing themselves of their more interesting ideas by giving up too soon. Perseverance is what allows creative geniuses to keep pressing on through failures and bad ideas in order to uncover truly valuable concepts. No matter what your endeavor may be: if you aren’t invested to make it through the work until the end, you don’t stand a chance at succeeding. Persistence matters.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seeing Beyond The Glass - The Lean Thinker's View


Nine years ago I posted the question Is the glass half full or half empty? Since that time I've seen many bloggers post about this very question. I wanted to revisit this again.

Is the glass half full of half empty? The optimists will likely say it is half full and the pessimists it is half empty. Maybe some will say it depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. The Lean Thinker says why is the glass is twice as large as it needs to be. 

The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation. A 'glass half full person' is an optimist, someone who always thinks that good things will happen. Meanwhile, as you might imagine, a 'glass half empty person' is a pessimist, someone who always thinks that bad things will happen.

The key word to describe the difference between them is ‘perspective’. Perspective is like a glass on the eyes. The things in reality remain the same but due to the glass being fitted on the eyes, one tends to see things differently.


Lean is about learning to “see” the wastes in front of us. It is a mindset of challenging status quo. A case of questioning the question you might say. It would be easy when presented with this example to say the glass is half full or half empty but if you observed the situation you might question how much water is needed. What does the customer want? If you understand the value from the customer’s point of view then you be in a position to eliminate everything else (the waste of the excess cup). This line of thinking is why the Lean Thinker questions why the glass is so large.

How do you answer the question "Is the glass half full of half empty"?

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