Friday, January 19, 2018

Lean Quote: Learn From Past

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.


"We can draw lessons from the past but we cannot live in it." — Unknown

Look back at the previous year. Assess what went well and what didn’t, and find takeaways from both, the mistakes and successes. Review your business plan and make updates. Were there big moves you wanted to make last year but didn’t? Take a hard look at where you’ve been, and perhaps where you wanted to go but didn’t, so you can better know where you should be heading.

Unless people reflect on what they learn, they run the risk of completing a string of disconnected activities.  Try these tips to enhance learning:

•Before an activity, tell them what you believe they can learn from the experience.
•Talk with them about what they are learning.
•Use effective, open-ended questions to help them fully realize what they learned from the experience.
•Discuss with them how they will translate what they learned into new situations and opportunities.

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. History, recent and otherwise, is filled with examples of successful business models and spectacular business failures. Think about what the people you admire do well, and consider what went wrong for those who end their careers mired in scandal or disgrace. Lessons can be found everywhere.

Great leaders -- indeed, great people -- are constantly learning and always trying to improve themselves. There’s always something that you can work on or a new skill to master. Be sure to keep your mind open to new ideas and possibilities.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Creating an Environment of Teamwork


Many departments do not operate as teams—that is, “practice teamwork.” Members may talk to each other at the printer or over lunch, and their work efforts may be designed to meet the overarching objectives of the department, but these employees’ work on a day-to-day basis is largely done as individuals, which is unfortunate, for many business experts now believe that teamwork is critical to organization productivity and profitability.

To get the most out of your employees, you have to create a work environment for teamwork. Try these 5 tips to make teamwork happen in your workplace:

1.     Set Realistic Expectations
When expectations are not clearly set, and the roles not clearly defined and understood, the team won’t be able to focus on the tasks and goals. The success of the team in many ways depends on realistic expectations.

To transform a group of strangers in a united team, you also need to allow the team to take part in forming and decision-making, and an opportunity to present their ideas and get support for the same.

2.     Build Strong Leadership
A failure or success at collaborating reflects the company's leadership. If the leaders and managers have an innovative approach to team building, demonstrate collaborative behavior, support creativity and social relationships, teams are focused and efficient, and they achieve results and perform well. Innovative leaders, who are supportive, flexible, and task- and relationship-oriented, lead the most productive teams.

3.     Create an Environment of Trust
Innovation and creativity thrive when people trust each other and have trust in their organization. To get your team communicate freely and easily, one needs to build an environment of trust. If employees don’t feel trusted and respected, they will not participate or share their ideas.

The fear of being ridiculed is a great threat to innovation and success. If you promote team’s autonomy, you are supporting your team to discover better ways of accomplishing goals. While autonomy can result in mistakes and misjudgment, it’s essential to have a team who is ready to learn from their mistakes and inefficiencies.

4.     Invest in your employees’ skills and expertise
The company that supports their employees through seminars, mentoring, coaching and participation in relevant conferences and events, empowers collaborative behavior, supports community and promotes the environment in which people know they can excel. Such company’s policy is especially important for teamwork. The most productive employees are those ready to learn and improve in their field of interest.

5.     Provide Team Resources
No matter how talented a company's individuals might be, teams cannot be successful without the proper resources. Teams need a designated and available place where they can regularly meet. Nothing much can be achieved in an over-crowded lunch room. All employees need to be given adequate time to devote to their team meetings, with no grief from supervisors. And make sure to supply your teams with an appropriate budget if required, and the permission--with guidance--to spend it as they see best for the company.


Employee teams are one of the best ways to get things done in any business. When you take a group of independently talented people and create a team in which they can merge their talents, not only will a remarkable amount of energy and creativity be released, but their performance, loyalty and engagement will be greatly improved.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Five Leadership Lesson From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left us with so many words and lessons that we can apply to evolve into a transformational leader.

1) Articulate a Powerful Vision

Leaders communicate a concrete vision of the future with a clear call to action to inspire others to get there. People want to follow someone who they know is going somewhere. People do not follow leaders who don't care about their values, their wants and needs, or the hopes and aspirations of those in the organization.

2) Challenge the Status Quo

Excellent leaders simply are not passive; they are active. They will challenge the status quo and not settle for business as usual. When there's a major challenge facing your organization, you must step forward to initiate new methods of getting things done to solve problems and ignite innovation.

3) Be Courageous

Being courageous does not mean you're not afraid. It just means you care more about something else greater than what you fear. Don't be reluctant to take on new initiatives even if they may not pan out. Those who raise their hands climb the ladder faster. Courageous leaders do what's right, not what's easiest, and focus on the good of the many over the good of one.

4) Walk the Talk

Actions speak louder than words. If your actions do not back up your messages, your lack of focus can become detrimental to your team and your career. People will respect and follow leaders who do what they advise others to do.

5) Demonstrate Faith in People

Wholeheartedly showing someone you believe in him is the simplest, most powerful thing you can do to bring out his best. Leaders have faith in not only in themselves but others. The authentic leader readily acknowledges the commitment and hard work of her followers. When times are tough, people need to know that their work matters. An excellent leader listens to the ideas of the followers and responds.

Excellence and leadership should be the signature traits of all of us, street sweeper or president. To be an authentic leader, you simply have to act — to "lead by example."

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Lean Quote: All Progress Is Precarious

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.


"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem." — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Indeed, I think that this great man was right about the notion of progress which culminating in a solution leads us to another problem. Thus, the progress is so ephemeral and therefore has no end.

Lean is a journey that never ends. There will always be a gap between where you are (current state) and where you would like to be (True North). Since there will always be a gap, there will always be an opportunity to improve. The road to continual improvement can be a rocky one with many ups and downs. 

Change requires taking risks by embarking into the unknown. Those risks can sometimes be simple, while other times taking risks can be extremely costly – as civil rights movement leaders like Dr. King.

Improvement won’t happen if we are refusing to change. Improvement necessitates change for the better – changing our expectations, changing our worldviews, changing the way we do things, changing our plans and priorities.

And change necessitates ideas, plans, investments/sacrifices, and the courage to move from what is currently deemed comfortable. Leaders of change are often ridiculed because of their courage to challenge the status quo, but that’s where historical legacies are forged.

Thank you, Dr. King, for having the courage to make the world a better place.


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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Strategic Planning Tool to Achieve Excellence


Traditional planning methodologies focus on steering an organization in the direction desired by top management. Often referred to as management by objective (MBO) since top management establish the objectives, targets, evaluate whether employees meet these targets. Unfortunately, as we know, you can’t achieve the desired results by just dictating individual targets.

Companies must determine ahead of time what the vision and direction will be. A proper strategy must assign clear responsibilities and show what resources are to be committed. Metrics and timelines must be defined. Management must decide what core elements are to be deployed and the order of deployment.

In Lean Thinking “Hoshin Kanri” is the process to select those annual objectives that will give the organization the greatest possible advantage. The word hoshin is formed from two Chinese characters: ho stands for “method,” shin means “shiny metal showing direction.” Kanri stands for “planning.” Together, hoshin kanri is used to communicate a “methodology for setting strategic direction,” in other words, a management “compass.”

Hoshin kanri translates the strategic intent into the required day-to-day behavior. It is not another attempt to improve MBO. While hoshin kanri and MBO both aim to deploy company goals and encourage employees to achieve them, there are several radical points of departure. Specifically,

  • Hoshin kanri deploys the voice of the customer, not just profit goals. More than the traditional MBO description of projected market share, profit goals, and revenues, hoshin kanri maps and controls the path to a new design based on customer priorities. It describes the behaviors needed to achieve the policies that support the strategic vision.
  • Hoshin kanri deploys breakthrough strategies. It concentrates resources on strategic priorities and chronic problems by going after root cause(s) of obstacles to achieve dramatic improvements in performance.
  • Hoshin kanri controls the means and methods, not just the results. It manages cause and effect linkage of supporting strategies, measures, and targets to ensure that employee efforts are realistic, synergistic, and add up to the total effort required to meet corporate objectives.
  • Hoshin kanri is a continuous improvement management process, not calendar-driven system. MBO typically establishes a set of quarterly and annual goals. In contrast, hoshin kanri identifies a few critical breakthrough objectives that require coordinated and focused effort over an extended period of three to five years. Annual objectives are established within the context of these longer term objectives.
  • Hoshin kanri emphasizes frequent reviews up and down the organization. In MBO, the performance review, often an annual event, does not capture or communicate valuable feedback to inform future rounds of planning. Hoshin kanri uses an explicit inter-level communication system to continually distill local lessons and channel them upward to the leaders of the organization. It routinely tracks performance, reviews the capability of the entire planning system, and modifies it accordingly.
  • Hoshin kanri is not tied to performance appraisals. Authentic hoshin kanri separates the evaluation of personnel from the evaluation of the strategy. It focuses not on personnel, but on the quality of the strategic assumptions and the discipline of the planning system.

Hoshin kanri is not a strategic planning tool, it is an execution tool. It is a system to deploy an existing strategic plan throughout the organization. In other words, hoshin management is an idea handler, not an idea generator. It depends on a preexisting statement of direction typically generated by an augmented strategic planning process.


The hoshin kanri process identifies and concentrates resources on the vital few stretch achievements that support the vision. It separates those performance issues that require dramatic improvement from the many incremental improvements that can achieved at the local level. All the changes that the leadership believes to be incremental are skimmed out of the strategic plan and addressed through quality in daily work. The remaining category of contribution – the vital few breakthrough achievements – becomes the core of the hoshin kanri process.

Hoshin Kanri is the system for setting management’s compass toward True North. It is a tool to align people, activities, and performance metrics with strategic priorities. It can be used to communicate direction, coordinate activity, and monitor progress. It enables members of the organization to work together in the most creative way to define and achieve the strategic intent.


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Monday, January 8, 2018

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team


I recently read a book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. Five Dysfunctions of a Team should be required reading for anyone who is part of a team, especially at the leadership level.

Lencioni’s central theory is that there are 5 key elements to a cohesive team. In order of importance they are:

Trust – they trust one another
Healthy conflict – they engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
Commitment – they commit to decisions and plans of action.
Accountability – they hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans
Results focus – they focus on the achievement of collective results

Trust is the foundation element because it is only with trust that team conflict can be possible. Teams become dysfunctional when they are unable to productively deal with conflict and all meaningful relationships require productive conflict for them to grow.

When teams engage in productive conflict they can confidently commit to decisions. This is where real commitment to team goals happens.

Without team commitment you cannot have accountability. If the team is to be accountable, everyone must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

When teams are not held accountable they tend to look out for their own interests, rather than the interests of the team. A healthy team places team results as the most important goal of all. When all team members place the team’s results first the team becomes results orientated.

Dysfunctional teams are common in business; however, if you believe you’re a member of a dysfunctional team, all is not lost. By understanding the key concepts of a dysfunctional team, you can start to work toward more functional behaviors, such as improving communication between team members, asking your manager for clear direction, holding yourself and other team members accountable when you make a mistake, etc. It may not be the most enjoyable process, but it will result in a more cohesive team—and that will result in better business results.



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Friday, January 5, 2018

Lean Quote: Start the New Year Off Right

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.


"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." — Bill Vaughn

The New Year is upon us and it’s the perfect time to make a change. Good intentions tend to fade out after a month or two, so let’s approach the New Year properly, with a manageable plan that’s focused, realistic and achievable. To start off the New Year on the right foot let’s review three ways to do it properly. 

1) Do a Yearly Review
Take stock of where you’ve been and appreciate all of the accomplishments you’ve made in the last year.  In a typical yearly review, you should answer these types of questions:

  • What went well for me last year?
  • What accomplishments did I have?
  • How did I improve my life?
  • How did I improve my relationships?
  • What did I remove from my life that is now making me happier?
  • What do I wish I had taken more time for?

Ask these types of questions about all the important areas of your life, such as family, relationships, financial, career, home, etc. These  questions will help you appreciate all you’ve accomplished in the previous year, and you can use this information to start the new year off right, and set better goals for the next year.

2) Finish What You Started
Which projects, errands, and general list of to-do items do you have left over from the previous year that you can complete in 2 hours or less? Do them now to clear your mind of the old items.

Keeping projects around like pets doesn’t do us any good—they just weigh on our minds, and people will spend hours thinking about something that will only take 10 minutes to take care of. Cross those things off your list and give yourself a fresh start.

3) Focus on What You Really Want
Dreaming is fabulous and highly recommended, but if you want to accomplish some improvements in your life, you need to be realistic. As much as you may want something, it’s very likely you don’t really believe you can have it. (If you did you would already have achieved it.) We have to turn a dream into something we can picture accomplishing before it can become a reality.

Take your dream and start breaking it down into milestones. Break those steps down further so you can create a game-plan and start working towards accomplishing that dream.

A new year inspires renewed energy and excitement for what could happen. It’s a fresh start and the perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future–to set goals and figure out how to meet them.


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