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Monday, April 30, 2018

Lean Roundup #107 – April, 2018

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of April, 2018.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Lean Lessons Learned: 10 Steps to Success – Paul Akers talks about what he would do differently if he had all the Lean knowledge and experience he has today.

Can Humility Lead to Excellence? -  Kay Kendall shares 10 characteristics of senior leaders commitment from companies provide exceptional long-term care.

Why Great Customer Service in a Lean Company Matters - Vincent Phamvan says applying Lean principles is key to a successful customer service experience.

Busy Bee Paradox Krakow Meetup - HÃ¥kan Forss talks about the truth of being busy vs being productive.

The Thinking Rat Race – Ron Pereira discusses his thoughts on the “respect for people” topic.

What's the Role of the Board of Directors in a business transformation? - Pascal Dennis talks about the role of the board of directors in a business transformation.

Lean Transformation is Not Difficult – Bob Emliani says Lean transformation is often said to be difficult but the difficulty clearly looks like a lack of understanding among managers and their unwillingness to change.

Why “Everybody, Everyday”? – Bruce Hamilton talks about Northeast Shingo Prize winner Mass Mutual.

The Manager’s Role in an Agile Transformation – Johanna Rothman explains the role culture changes plays in transformation and what management’s role is.

Fastcap’s 21 Principles – People and Things - Paul Akers discusses one of FastCap’s 21 principles called People and Things.

How to Go From Analytical Wonk to “Process Improvement” Coach - Mark Graban talks about baseball and parallels to Lean and being an effective change agent.

The Importance of Respect for People in Problem-Solving  - Kevin Meyer says embracing a diverse set of problem-solving behaviors while providing an environment where they can be safely expressed and explored is respect for people.

Where Do I Start with Lean? – Steve Kane talks about why starting with standards can dramatically improve your performance.

Lean Lessons from a Do-Nothing Scholar-Bureaucrat – Jon Miller offers a few Lean lessons from the story of Geng Sang Chu, a disciple of Lao Tzu.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Lean Quote: A Bias For Action

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.

"Have a bias toward action—let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away." — Indira Gandhi, Former Prime Minister of India

The phrase “bias for action” adapted from India’s former prime minister has become a mantra for many entrepreneurs and activists. It’s a reminder that it’s not the big idea, but the daily grind toward that idea that counts. Woody Allen said it this way, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” And Thomas Edison: “Genius is 99 percent perspiration, one percent inspiration.”

When you look at the life of anyone who’s accomplished anything important, that’s what you’ll find. Successful innovation is less about having ideas than about doing stuff, making it happen, showing up every day, plugging away.

That’s not the part you hear or read about or see in the biopic. But it’s what makes the biggest difference. What step will I check off by Friday? What will I have shipped (in Seth Godin’s words) by the 15th? If I’m not shipping something, I’m just thinking about it.

Says Scott Belsky in Making Ideas Happen:

A relentless bias for action pushes ideas forward. Most ideas come and go while the matter of follow-up is left to chance. Next steps are often lost amidst a mishmash of notes and sketches, and typical creative tools like plain blank notebooks only contribute to the problem. For each idea, you must capture and highlight your “Action Steps.”

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #123 (1846 - 1860)

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 #1846 – Get Proactive.
Being proactive means taking charge and working preventatively. This means you figure out what steps you need to take before something happens. Being reactive means you wait until something has happened and then you take action. Being proactive means you look for opportunity. Challenge your employees to take initiative and seek out solutions, new ideas, or cost savings. As a group, come up with creative solutions to the new challenges created by change.

Lean Tip #1847 – Be Part of the Change.
Adopt an attitude of anticipation and excitement. See change as an opportunity. Get involved in new committees and work teams. Be an influencer and driver of change. That way you will feel empowered and less fearful. See the positive the way forward.

Lean Tip #1848 – Help Employees Manage Fear.
Understand that some people do not like change, especially when it is not of their choosing. For people who may be experiencing a mental health issue, this can include severe worry or fear about their future. Discuss these fears and offer realistic reassurance to the employee. Consider approaches that could address these fears such as a temporary reduction in expectations, or additional skills training.

Lean Tip #1849 – Be Transparent About Business Challenges
Be transparent about potential challenges that may be experienced as a result of the changes and jointly look for solutions to address them. Do not pretend the challenges do not exist nor try to minimize them. By stating the challenges and concerns before the employees do, you are helping to show you understand their reality and are working to make it as positive as possible.

Lean Tip #1850 – Keep a Positive Attitude.
Your attitude as a manager or supervisor will be a major factor in determining what type of climate is exhibited by your employees. Your attitude is the one thing that keeps you in control. Change can be stressful and confusing. Try to remain upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic. Foster motivation in others. During times of transition and change, try to compensate your employees for their extra effort. Write a brief note of encouragement; leave an affirming message on their voice mail; take them aside and tell them what a great job they are doing; listen to their comments and suggestions. Last, try to instill organizational change as a personal challenge that everyone can meet…with success!

Lean Tip #1851 - Reward Excellent Teamwork
One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork.

If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the organization as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help others in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with business goals.

Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve.

Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a photo in the company’s internal newsletter with a description of the achievement.

Lean Tip #1852 - Don’t Micro-manage
If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team! In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required.

It’s important to specify goals, set deadlines and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micro manage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to do what’s required to please their direct manager.

Even if an employee is fully committed to the organization, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck.

As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.

Lean Tip #1853 - Facilitate Idea Sharing
Set up either physical or virtual work spaces to enable team members to get together to brainstorm, share ideas, or discuss progress on projects. An open-work environment is not always appropriate for team discussions, so you might need outdoor or remote spaces in the workplace to facilitate team meetings.

Lean Tip #1854 - Welcome Questions, Suggestions, and Comments
Encourage everyone on the team to put forward their ideas, suggestions, and feedback regarding the project to identify and correct issues and increase the effectiveness of the team in a timely manner. Remember that all great ideas and improvements come up through questions or by looking at a situation from a different perspective, so encourage all types of input from each team member.

Lean Tip #1855 - Provide Learning Opportunities
By offering training or providing learning opportunities on an ongoing basis, you can strengthen team members’ skills and capabilities for consistent growth and development. Also, you can assign mentors or hire an external professional coach to develop specific skills and competencies within the team as well as individuals.  By investing in their learning opportunities, you’ll also be grooming future leaders. These learning opportunities can come in the form of furthering their education.

Lean Tip #1856 - Think “Bottom Up”, Not “Top Down”
You don’t build a house starting from the roof and working downwards, do you? Well, the same goes for companies. After all, your people are the bedrock on which you are founded, and if you don’t know what it’s thinking, you’ll soon run into trouble. The more your team are asked their opinions, the more they will feel empowered, trusted and respected – and the more engaged they’ll be.

Lean Tip #1857 – Show Employees You Listen to Them
If a clear issue has been identified, then it should be acted upon. More importantly, it should be visibly addressed, particularly if you have discussed it with them. Knowing that one’s opinions are not only listened to but also contribute to change is another way to increase engagement. Use your internal notice boards to demonstrate what you’ve done in response to what your employees have said.

Lean Tip #1858 - Share Good Practices and Ideas Between Teams
There’s nothing better than seeing your ideas and work practices being praised, so ensure that your employees have the opportunity to share and display their very best work. Peer-to-peer learning is a great way to foster engagement and create or strengthen links between your employees.

Lean Tip #1859 – Earn Trust Every Day.
Trust provides the essential foundation for your effectiveness as a manager, whether we’re talking about engagement, innovation, or high performance. To build it, you need to reveal who you are as a person. Your title and accomplishments aren’t enough to build better team engagement.

Lean Tip #1860 - Stress Employee Ownership.

You can’t create an engaged team if your employees don’t have clear visions of personal success. Make sure they know that you’re available to provide guidance, remove barriers, and help them find fulfilling work. However, they are ultimately the ones responsible for their success.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Guest Post: 11 Ways to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

One of the most important and relevant skills one can possess is problem-solving. With the job market developing at such a fast pace, individuals must show their best qualities when applying for new positions. Problem-solving is an essential feature to have, since it shows wittiness, quickness, and cleverness.

But it’s not only about “what’s being displayed”– problem-solving is an important quality to have for many other reasons. Making smart life decisions will put you on the right track, structuring your thoughts will help you organize, and looking for different solutions will open your eyes to the wideness of the world.

We put up a list of tips on how to improve your problem-solving skills. Take a look, and give it a try!

Find the Right Definition

First, take time to define the problem. Ask yourself:
·       What is the real problem here?
·       Why am I referring to it as a problem?
·       Are there any erroneous assumptions that I could be making?
·       Is the problem commonly perceived, or am I the only one bothered by it?
·       Do I have to solve it immediately? If so, how?

Find the Cause, Not the Symptom

Now, find the cause of the problem, the “root of all evils.” Don’t be too concerned about the symptoms. Analyze the problem thoroughly, and be opened to new perspectives. Always ask yourself “why.”

For example, “Mediating the conflict between two of my co-workers is important.” Why? “Because conflicts within the workplace are not healthy for anybody in the firm.” Why? “Because it brings in tension, and makes us lose productivity.” Why is that bad? And keep going! Understanding the cause of the problem is critical.

Come Up with Ideas

Brainstorm ideas. Don’t choose the first solution the comes into your mind.  What if you could find a better one? Take time to consider everything carefully.
·       Be creative when brainstorming.

·       Think outside the box, go deeper than the surface!
·       Keep your decision-making process rational.
·       Remember that there’s always a way out. You just have to find it.

Know Your Limits

Know when to solve a problem, and when to let go of it. Know when to speak up, and when to stay quiet. Sometimes, even if a problem seems crucial to us, it might be trivial to others. Before categorizing something as a “problem,” come up with specific reasons and arguments to support your claim.

Gather Evidence

After you identify a problem, and find the cause of it, gather evidence and information. They will help you find the right solutions. Try to keep emotions out of it. Compare the solutions you found with your former outcomes, and choose an approach.

Make the Decision

Don’t waste too much time after finding the solution. The faster, the better. Avoid procrastination, act on the problem immediately after figuring out the response. If you are lost in the process, always remember why you started in the first place. That leads us to the next point.

Keep Yourself Accountable

Set deadlines and goals! Keep yourself accountable, and constantly remember yourself why you are doing this.
·       Why are you interested in solving the problem?
·       What will you get out of it?
·       How is that important in your life?
·       Why did you choose that specific goal?
·       How quickly do you plan on solving it and why?

Redefine Problem

There will be times when you’ll find no answers to the questions, and no solutions to the problems. Don’t freak out! We’ve all been through that. It’s part of the process too. Reanalyze your definition, and give it another try.

Write and Meditate

Composure is essential when presented with any problem. Instead of panicking and asking yourself “Am I ever going to get out of this?”, reflect on the issue and understand it thoroughly. Sometimes, we are distracted by the importance of the problem, so we fail to notice that the solution lays in front of our eyes. A good way of “letting your mind breathe” is through writing and meditating. Take at least 5 minutes per day to do it.

One of the coping mechanism that can be used is meditation. Making life-changing decisions and finding solutions brings in lots of tension. Meditation relieves so much of the pressure, and makes you think straight again.

Stay Healthy

You won’t be able to think properly unless you are healthy,both mentally and physically. Therefore:
·       Sleep well. Even one night of sleep loss can affect your productivity level.
·       Eat well. Give up on fast-foods! Eat clean. Avoid fats, sugars, and meat.

Get Rid of Emotions

Before solving a problem, it is essential to get rid of all personal emotions. Distance yourself from the matter, and look at things as objectively as you can.
·       Accept your past failures, don’t be concerned about making mistakes.
·       Don’t sugarcoat your desires. If you want something out of a specific situation, admit it.
·       Be honest with yourself. Know what you want, and what your fear. Confront your anxieties.


Solving problems is crucial. Make sure you go through all the above processes before making the right decision. Don’t dive into the issue unless you’ve spent some time reflecting on it. Be sure you identify the problem accurately, and always consider relevant external opinions.  

About the Author: Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor at EssayGeeks.co.uk. He loves to write, learn new things, and meet new outgoing people. Chris is also fond of traveling, sports, and playing the guitar. Follow him on Google+.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Lean Quote: Communication and Continuous Improvement

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.

"Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience." — Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group

Continuous improvement means exactly what it says: It’s a nonstop effort to provide better products and services at lower costs. It’s the only way to maintain a competitive edge over companies that are out to grab your customers for themselves.

There are two reasons why good communication has to be at the heart of any continuous improvement process.

To do their jobs well, people must know what’s expected of them. It’s up to their manager to make those expectations clear.

This next reason is not so obvious and is related to the continuous aspect of continuous improvement:

It’s easier to get people to improve their work for short while than to get them to sustain that improvement over long periods. To do that, you have to keep reminding them of why they should use new methods, since they are often less convenient than older methods.

But those reminders become ineffective if people have to repeat them again and again. To avoid boring your audience, you continually have to find new way to get your “old” message across.

The key to keeping your communication improvement program alive is to keep workers focused on the right methods, and on the reasons for using them. Otherwise, they inevitably will regard the program as just another management fad: something we talk about today, and then forget about tomorrow.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ten Tips for Improving Communication

Real communication opens the tap for unrestricted flow of information. It’s not an easy process. It must be gradual. It requires trust and courage. To maintain credibility, management must strictly follow its own message. Real communication is based on mutual trust.

Ten Tips for Improving Communication
  1. Manage by walking around. Interact with as many people as possible, at all levels. Walk around. Comment on company business, problems, opportunities, and plans. Communicate informally.
  2. Substitute one-on-one exchange for unproductive meetings. Learn by listening. Make your message clear. Achieve more in less time.
  3. Reduce layers and stretch the organization horizontally. Communication will be faster, more reliable.
  4. Make the organization flexible. Avoid rigid organization charts and restrictive job descriptions. Flexibility allows new situations to be met fast by rearranging the troops, by forming ad-hoc teams. Informality lifts barriers in communication.
  5. Make written communication short and clear. To the point. Easy to understand. Avoid excessive explanations and arguments.
  6. Learn to listen. It provides information to the president or the sales person. The talkative sales person cannot hear the customer. A good listener does not interrupt, but shows interest and tries to understand the other party – what makes him or her tick.
  7. Accept frank opinions from peers and employees. Criticism is communication too. Don’t shoot the messenger.
  8. Think before you communicate. Consider the other party, anticipate reactions. Don’t tell people only what they want to hear. Give bad news in a sensitive way.
  9. Stay well informed. Via networking; interacting with colleagues, clients, and suppliers; with others connected to the business. Their input is important.
  10. Other methods. Include information to new hires; periodical briefings; information on notice boards; a professionally edited newsletter, using appropriate language to boost team spirit and promote new ideas.

Among all forms of communication, nothing equals a face-to-face exchange. There is no substitute for body language. The tone, facial expressions, and gestures that go with the words cannot be expressed in writing or even over the phone.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Leadership Behaviors That Show You Care

Strong leadership is essential for the success of any organization. Research shows that direct leaders bear the greatest influence on their organizations. In 2014, a group of Harvard researchers conducted a study of 3,200 employees in seven industries. They found that employees who felt they worked in a caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork, had less absenteeism, and had better organizational results.

There is not an objective measure to show how much a person really cares. As a results, we all have learned to make educated guesses about how much a person cares, based on a set of observable behaviors.

These are the tops behaviors which best show that you care:

1.     Builds Trust
It is difficult for leaders to communicate that they care about others when there is a lack of trust. When trust is missing, everything that is said or done is subject to question.Trust is built over time. It’s the foundation for positive relationships. It is built through knowledge and expertise. It comes from consistent actions and decisions that predictable and build confidence.

2.     Respects Others
Most people know that disrespecting others communicates a lack of caring. Take time to look at your actions and ask yourself if they might appear disrespectful to others. It is critical for leaders to gather feedback from others, not only to show respect but also to understand if their actions are having the intended positive impact.

3.     Is Approachable and Friendly
Leaders can a do set the tone for their workplace. There is tremendous power in a smile and in setting a positive atmosphere.

4.     Is Fair
Employees keep score: when their peers receive something they don’t, they notice. Lack of fairness it one of the most significant negative triggers of caring that is associated with leadership.

5.     Encourage Input and Involvement
Encouraging input from every person on the staff and asking their involvement in important decisions communicates that the leader cares for and values them and their ideas.

6.     Builds Unity
Leaders who encourage cooperation and collaboration among employees and between groups in the organization are perceived as much more caring than those who compete internally for people, equipment, and resources. Leaders who have the ability to unify and collaborate send the message that everyone in the organization is important, not just their team.

7.     Give Honest Feedback
Delivering tough feedback is often difficult and it can strain relationships; nevertheless, giving honest feedback ultimately shows caring. A leader who truly cares will tell others the truth about their performance.

8.     Develops Others
It is hard to think of a much better gift than to help another person learn a new skill. When leaders work with employees and push them to develop new skills and abilities, they are truly showing their concern for those employees. One way an organization develops is when leaders create an learning environment ins which people are encourage to learn from their mistakes and to analyze their successes to understand what went well.

9.     Resolves Conflicts
Most people assume that others will help in a difficult situation and therefore rationalize their apathy. Leaders need to acknowledge conflicts and work to get them quickly resolved.

10.  Walks The Talk
Leaders who actions match their word are more likely to be perceived as concerned and caring. Leaders can be tough-minded in their views and strict about rules, as long as they consistently enforce those standards.

11.  Is Open to Feedback and Willing to Change
A forceful way to show that you care about others is to be willing to change your own behavior. Leaders who are open to feedback from their direct repots and are willing to work on personal improvements are perceived as caring individuals.

12.  Gives Recognition
Most accomplishments mean very little until other people notice; recognition by others increases the value of those accomplishments. Leaders will never be hurt by finding more opportunities to recognize and reward other for their contributions.

Being a leader requires many important skills, one of which is the ability to make your staff feel valued for their contribution. Everyday leaders need to create an environment of inclusion and support where every member of the team can succeed. Imagine how every member of a team can thrive when there is an environment of support and understanding. Show them you care!

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