Friday, February 16, 2018

Lean Quote: Lead With Humility

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.


"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." — President Abraham Lincoln

Monday, is President’s Day, a federal holiday to honor past Presidents of the United States. President "Honest Abe" Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, is one of America's best known presidents, remembered, not just for the key events of his political life but for the arc of his remarkable life story that saw him rise from very humble origins to become President, only to have his life cut short by assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln's statement is simply profound. Are you a humble leader? Do you try to impress others by letting them know how smart you are? Many of us may do this without even realizing it.

Humility may not be a trait that immediately comes to mind when thinking about leadership strengths. Humility is even considered by some to be more of a weakness than a strength—“Leaders must have backbone! They have to be strong and confident, not meek and subservient!” I don’t think humility is a weakness, I think it is an essential quality of a strong leader. In fact, I think it takes strength to be humble!

It’s OK to share mistakes in order to let others know that we do not have all the answers, to be transparent in the corporate setting and to engage workgroups for the professional and personal growth of everyone involved. Humility nudges us to be inclusive—to be open to varied perspectives which leads to the empowerment of others and ultimately demonstrates courage, ability and confidence.

Humility also enriches our lives and the lives of those around us, making us mindful of our own limitations. It’s an indispensable ingredient to living an abundant life and an essential virtue that forces one to live counter to acceptable norms, requiring a daily decision to let go of one’s ego.
 
Leaders who embrace humility are able to welcome the input of others and understand that decisions should be made in the best interest of the team or organization. People want their work to be valued, and they also value those who are not dismissive and embrace their positive contributions. The leader who is able to leave their ego at the door, accepts the individual strengths of their team members to work for the overall good or is able to exhibit trust that benefits the entire team, ensuring they’ll be well respected. Any team member will be excitedly loyal and productive when they recognize and know that their leaders are not afraid to work arm in arm with them.


Be a change agent. Lead by example. No matter how much we try to distance ourselves, we are still in need of each other. Our true measure is based on the number of lives we touch and not by the number of things we collect.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #120 (1801-1815)

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 #1801 - Let Employees Learn Through Failure
You need to realize that an employee who is afraid to make mistakes will never take risks. You know what this means to your business: It won’t grow! When things go wrong, avoid coming down so hard on your employees that they get scared of thinking on their own. When you let employees learn to solve problems on their own, you’ll provide them with more knowledge and power for future tasks and also strengthen your own confidence in them.

Lean Tip #1802 - Show Employees You Trust Them
If you want to help employees develop, trust them to do their jobs by getting out of the way. Let them know what your expectations are by modeling the behavior you expect—show them you trust them. This not only lets employees know what they need to succeed and gives them greater ownership, but it also shows them that credibility and trust are important in your organization.

Lean Tip #1803 - Develop An Environment of Constant Learning
Encourage your employees to explore new techniques for achieving their individual objectives as well as those set by the company. As you allow them to make mistakes and learn from them, ensure that you also reward fresh and innovative ideas. Of course, it’s important to manage the amount of mistakes that are made so that the job is still getting done satisfactorily. The goal is to strike a balance that allows your employees to effectively get their job done while giving them the freedom to discover new methods that could lead to improvements. When you establish this type of atmosphere, you’ll find that your workplace will improve more rapidly because individuals are discovering their best systems and everyone is constantly contributing to the improvement of the company’s system.

Lean Tip #1804 - Challenge Your Employees to Move Out of Their Comfort Zone.
You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, give your employees challenging assignments. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Lean Tip #1805 - Set the Example for Employee Development
An employee will see the value of the development process when they see their current leadership continue to develop personally and professionally. By modeling this behavior, leaders build credibility and the trust necessary to encourage employees to participate in development-building activities. It shows employees that development is part of the organization’s culture. It sends the message that it’s important for, and expected from, everyone in the organization to be part of a continual improvement process that nurtures from within.

Lean Tip #1806 – Challenge Your Staff.
Employees may become bored and dissatisfied if they are performing the same tasks and projects each day. Give your staff new challenges that are within their abilities. Provide constructive feedback as they work on new projects. Learning and mastering new challenges will give your staff a sense of accomplishment. It shows that you have confidence in their skills and value them as part of the organization. There are many skill learning opportunities on line that can be worked on during working hours.

Lean Tip #1807 – Be Passionate About Your Work.
Leaders must demonstrate a commitment to the goals of the company. Show your staff how strongly you believe in the organizational goals and how much you value their contribution to this endeavor. If you want dedicated employees, be dedicated yourself. Don't hesitate to speak passionately about what you believe in.

Lean Tip #1808 – Encourage Creativity Amongst Your Team.
Let your team know you are open to their ideas. Empower them to take their ideas to the next level by giving positive feedback and constructive advice as warranted. The opportunity to present and try out ideas can lead employees to deeper commitment, enhanced problem-solving abilities and greater productivity. Reward creativity and recognize that these actions help your staff develop their full potential.

Lean Tip #1809 – Stamp Out ‘Them and Us’ Culture
In many organizations, employees feel distant from senior management. Leaders need to be aware of this and stamp it out in their organization. The message must be clear: we all work together, but leaders need to work hard to ensure this filters through to everyone in the organization.

Lean Tip #1810 – Allow Time for Innovation
It’s important to give staff time to innovate and come up with new ideas, different ways of doing things, and solutions to problems. However, be clear that a decision is expected; set a time limit and stick to it. Allow time but be mindful that a good pace is better for business energy.

Lean Tip #1811 – Be a Motivator
Human beings do things because we want to. Sometimes we want to because the consequences of not wanting to do something are unpleasant.

However, most of the time we want to do things because of what we get out of it.

It's no different at work; people do good work for the pay, or the prestige, or the recognition. They do bad work because they want to take it easy and still get paid. They work hard because they want to impress someone. To motivate your people better, figure out what they want and how you can give that to them for doing what you want them to do.

Lean Tip #1812 – Provide Rewards
Of course, team members need to know when they’ve made mistakes or when they need to make improvements. But if you only ever communicate with them when they’ve done something wrong, it can leave them disenfranchised when it comes to your business. To be a better leader, consider taking the time to recognize or reward their good work—it may improve the likelihood that they’ll be motivated and productive at work.

Lean Tip #1813 – Encourage People to Make Contributions
Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members are often referred to as democratic or participative leaders. While they retain the final say over all decisions, they encourage team members to take an active role in coming up with ideas and plans.

Research has shown that using a democratic leadership style leads to greater commitment, more creative problem-solving and improved productivity.

Lean Tip #1814 – Keep Trying New Things
Who says leadership is a one-way relationship? As you work toward developing some of these leadership qualities, don't forget to look to your followers for feedback and inspiration. Pay attention to the things that have been effective in the past and always be on the lookout for new ways to inspire, motivate and reward group members.

Lean Tip #1815 – Keep Learning

Great leaders constantly read in order to improve the thoughts and ideas that are produced in their mind. Reading helps to expand your mind and think quickly when forced to make tough decisions. You also will want to take any classes that can help you improve your individual performance and leadership capabilities. Once you stop learning, you not only fail yourself but you also fail your team.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Lean Culture: Do You Want Firemen or Farmers in Your Organization


The successful implementation of a Lean culture is dependent on management's willingness to fully involve and engage their workers in the process. So if Lean is about people the question is what type of people do we want leading the charge. Let’s look at two types: Firemen and Farmers.

The fireman works hard in short bursts. As problems fester they turn into a crisis and flare up. Firemen are need to swoop in a put out the flames. They never know what they are going to expect until they get to the fire. Firemen focus on quick actions. Firefighting derives from what seems like a reasonable set of rules--investigate all problems, for example, or assign the most difficult problems to your best troubleshooter. But firefighting consumes an organization's resources and damages productivity.

Firefighting is popular because it is exciting. Most of us deplore the firefighting style, yet many managers and organizations perpetuate it by rewarding firefighters for the miraculous things they do. If the fix works out, the fire fighter is a hero. If it doesn’t, the fire fighter can’t be blamed, because the situation was virtually hopeless to begin with. Notice that it is to the fire fighter’s advantage to actually let the problem become worse, because then there will be less blame if they fail or more praise if they succeed.

The farmer on the other hand works constantly from sun up to sun down.  Farmers in general take a more steady approach. The work is predictable and tied to a bigger plan. Farmers take the long view, and will work for long time to see it through to completion. 

Farmers are shepherds and develop long term relationships. Farmers are patient with others. The patience that it takes to watch a plant grow for five months is easily translated into patience with a coworker who wants to explain a problem or situation.

Farmers are cautious. Farming doesn’t often demand that a person face short-term danger. Farmers learn, instead, to face the more long-term dangers. They’re often better planners than they are fighters.


Implementing Lean Thinking is a cultural change that requires leadership…because in the end it’s all about people. What type of person do you want leading your change? Fireman or Farmer?

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Lean Quote: The Power of Small Wins

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.


"Hundreds or even thousands of little actions added up to some astounding results." — Jim Lancaster, The Work of Management

In 2011 Steven J. Kramer and Teresa Amabile wrote an illuminating piece for the Harvard Business School revealing the number one predictor for worker satisfaction. When over 12,000 worker entries were pored over, they found that employee motivation and engagement was based on whether they had achieved something worthwhile that day.

The efforts of tracking small achievements every day enhanced the workers motivation. Amabile explains that the practice of recording our progress helps us appreciate our small wins which in turn boosts our sense of confidence. We can then leverage that competence toward future, larger successes.

Small wins make habit-building a lot easier. Adjusting old habits and creating new ones is tough. Really tough. And they require a long amount of time in order to create automatically. But when you are starting small, with little, digestible steps it becomes a whole lot easier to bang out a whole bunch of days where you execute your mini-habit.

Small wins help you feel like you're accomplishing something.  If we focus too much on the bigger goals, we’ll feel like we will never get there.  That’s why smaller wins are so important.  They give us motivation to keep on going where it snowballs into the development of the bigger goals.

So, as a people manager make it a habit to help your employees experience small wins over the work day. You will see how powerful those small wins can be!


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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Benefits of Lean Manufacturing


Lean Manufacturing is a business improvement philosophy that has developed over many years (as well as a collection of lean manufacturing tools), it is a method to better focus your business on the true needs of the customer to help you prevent waste from being built into your system. When properly implemented, lean manufacturing provides many advantages, which include improving flow (material, people, information, and work) and eliminating waste.

I detail many of these benefits below:

Improved Quality – A lot of the activity in a lean environment is geared towards improving quality. As quality issues arise, problem solving techniques are used to root cause the problem. From there, mistake proofing is put in place to strengthen the process and prevent recurrence. As a result, the quality of your product will be improved.

Increased Productivity and Flexibility - In a lean business, employees move parts through the manufacturing process a single piece at a time instead of in batches. The single-piece flow increases productivity and improves the flexibility in production processes. Companies using lean manufacturing processes reduce the amount of time required to manufacture a product, which increases the ability to respond to customer orders.

Total Company Involvement – Lean is meant to involve the whole company. It is not intended to be put into action in only one area. It is a management philosophy which should include every part of your organization. This helps promote the concept that everyone in the company is part of the team.

Better Use of Employees – Lean cuts overproduction by adjusting production to meet customer demand, and it simplifies the product to eliminate extra processing. These activities help your company meet customer demand with fewer employees. Fortunately, this doesn’t require layoffs. As employees are given a chance to increase their skills and abilities, and to fully develop their talent, they will be more productive and effective.

Increased Efficiency – Line balancing will ensure each person in the process is working in the most efficient manner. Standardized work will ensure they are doing it correctly following the same method every time. This leads to repeatability and increased efficiencies.

Optimized Space – Lean principles help reduce excess inventory and eliminate overproducing products. When you are producing no more than what the customer requires and you are shipping all of your products quickly, there will be more physical space on the production floor. This environment is easier to organize and safer to work in. 

Safer Work Environment – Visual management and 5S will help identify when things are out of place. When unnecessary elements are removed from the operation, the workplace becomes much more organized. And an organized work environment is a safe work environment.

Improved Employee Morale – Lean manufacturing methods, when implemented successfully, empower employees to participate in improvements, which can improve worker morale Employee involvement and empowerment will make all members of your company feel like a contributing part of the team. And the reduction of uncertainty in the workplace, as a result of lean, will reduce stress in your team members and lead to improved employee morale.


Lean principles can provide substantial gains for organizations and their employees. By implementing Lean you will become a far more competitive and effective business enabling you to grow your business further.

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Monday, February 5, 2018

The Changing Role of Employees In a Lean Organization


We’ve all heard the saying, it takes a village. In a Lean organization this is absolutely true.  We all have roles in our organizations but it takes teamwork to be successful. Lean takes everyone working together.

Change must happen not to, but with employees. Management has to invest in the employees’ understanding of this new environment, create opportunities for employees to develop and run with ideas, and develop a trusting relationship.

Whether an employee is a material handler, a machine operator, an assembler, or an inspector, the plant experience changes as a result of the lean transformation.

The following abilities are essential for a worker to possess in Lean manufacturing environment:

Willingness to learn new skills. The ability to perform a variety of tasks is key to flexibility, which is critical in the Lean enterprise. Being willing to participate in cross training efforts, where workers learn and teach new skills, is the first step. In addition, accepting different types of responsibilities, which may have previously belonged to supervisors, may be required. Tasks such as machine and equipment troubleshooting and problem solving, data collection and analysis, and production scheduling are typical of the tasks workers may face. As workers learn more skills and accept more responsibilities, they will be less reliant on others and more valuable to the organization.

Offer ideas for improvement. We all recognize that management does not have all the answers and must frequently rely on the workers to find ways to make things better. Instead of just “the usual few” workers offering ideas, this type of effort is required of everyone. Whether it is an idea for eliminating waste in an operation, simplifying scheduling, combining operations to improve throughput time or an entirely different approach to making a part, every worker must recognize the importance of contributing something.

Share responsibility for implementing change. Management can no longer be the sole driver of change, and therefore, workers cannot sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. Once a consensus is achieved to change something, everyone must buy in and strive for success. Passive behavior and the “blame game” must be discouraged. Giving less than the best effort to ensure a successful transition is a missed opportunity that may not present itself again.


Transformation to a Lean workplace requires extensive collaboration from everyone for it to take hold. Adopting these abilities will lead to a successful Lean transition. It takes a village to transform an organization.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Lean Quote: Live as If You Were to Die Tomorrow—Learn as If You Were to Live Forever

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.


"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." — Mahatma Gandhi

This inspirational quote from Gandhi can change one’s life. The meaning behind this quote is to make the most of every day and to take advantage of the learning opportunities in your life.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow: Don't postpone life-enriching experiences, by making excuses like I can do that next year when I have more time - because without a sense of urgency you will probably end up not doing them at all. Live in the moment and be present in what you are doing.

Learn as if you were to live forever: Never say no to yourself. When you start learning something new it must be with the aim of eventual perfection, not for short-term gains. Learning should never stop; there is always more to be learn on a subject, if you dig deeper into it.

Knowledge is one of the many keys to leading a successful life. The more I know the more likely I am to succeed. I devote time to learn every day, to continue expanding my knowledge. Knowledge provides both a sense of ability and a pathway to success for the future. Learning does not occur in a single period of our lives, but continues throughout them. One could lead a better life by obtaining knowledge to its full potential.


Don’t postpone learning, do it today rather than tomorrow, for even the littlest of matters you learn adds to our collective knowledge. It may seem to you, at times, like no more than a tiny little drop—but then, even the great oceans are made of many tiny little drops, aren’t they?


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