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Friday, September 28, 2018

Lean Quote: Compounding is the Greatest Mathematical Discovery of All Time

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.

"Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time." — Albert Einstein

Continuous improvement is about small changes on a daily basis to make your job easier.  Small step-by-step improvements are more effective over time than occasional kaizen bursts, and have a significantly greater impact on the organization culture - creating an environment of involvement and improvement.

One of the most counter intuitive facts about small ideas is that they can actually provide a business with more sustainable competitive advantages than big ideas. The bigger the ideas, the more likely competitors will copy or counter them. If new ideas affect the company's products or services, they're directly visible and often widely advertised.  And even if they involve behind-the-scenes improvements--say, to a major system or process--they're often copied just as quickly. That's because big, internal initiatives typically require outside sources, such as suppliers, contractors, and consultants, who sell their products and services to other companies, too.  Small ideas, on the other hand, are much less likely to migrate to competitors--and even if they do, they're often too specific to be useful.  Because most small ideas remain proprietary, large numbers of them can accumulate into a big, competitive advantage that is sustainable. That edge often means the difference between success and failure.

The smallest ideas are likely to be the easiest to adopt and implement. Making one small change is both rewarding to the person making the change and if communicated to others can lead to a widespread adoption of the improvement and the possibility that someone will improve on what has already been improved. There's no telling what might occur if this were the everyday habit of all team members.

Small victories tap into motivation. Achievement is fueled by making small amounts of progress, such as accomplishing a task or solving a problem. Help employees break projects, goals, and work assignments into small victories. Help them jump into an achievement cycle. 

In a Lean enterprise a strategy of making small, incremental improvements every day, rather than trying to find a monumental improvement once or twice a year equates to a colossal competitive advantage over time and competitors cannot copy these compounded small improvements.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Have You Seen Tim Woods Today?

Employees want to do their best, sometimes the system or process does not position them to be successful. At times, it can be difficult for employees to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes they cannot see past the mounds of work at hand. This is why Lean Thinking shifts the viewpoint from a worker-centric vantage to the eyes of the customer. The customer’s perspective enables us to understand not only where we might be standing in the forest but also how to navigate through it.

Lean thinkers focus on waste, which we call muda. To make processes more efficient and move closer to the value stream (those steps that take us from beginning to end of a process and which add value), we use lean thinking approaches to remove muda from processes.

There is a handy acronym for knowing the 8 types of waste: “Tim Woods”

Transporting items or information that is not required to perform the process from one location to another. While the product is moving, no value is added to it.

Inventory and information queued-up between people and processes that are sitting idle not being processed.

Excess movement by people or equipment only consumes time and resources without producing value. People, information or equipment making unnecessary motion due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues or searching for misplaced items.

Idle time created when material, information, people, or equipment is not ready. No value is added while people wait for product to process or product waits for people or machines.

Performing any activity that is not necessary to produce a functioning product or service. Doing more than what is necessary to generate satisfactory value as defined by the customer.

Waste from producing product that is not currently needed or product that is not needed at all.

Products or services that are out of specification that require resources to correct. Defects are the result of executed processes that did not produce value.

The waste of underutilized intelligence and intellect commonly referred to as behavioral waste. When employees that are not effectively engaged in the process.

We encounter muda every day. It is all around us and present in everything we do. Lean thinkers strive to reach perfection—that state where all waste has been removed from a process and only value remains—but so far no one has achieved the desired state. It helps to remember, therefore, the eight types of muda and watch for them in what you do each day. You don’t have to engage in a kaizen event to get rid of all waste, you simply have to identify it and stop doing it.

Starting a Lean journey can be easy, but mastering Lean can take a lifetime. In a Lean world, the only thing worse than finding waste is not taking the steps to get rid of it.

Not seeing is not knowing. The following steps can help you see Tim Woods.

Step 1: Scan the forest from the mountaintop. View the entire workplace from a single standpoint.
Step 2: Observer the woods. Look at the entrance and exit points of each line or cell.
Step 3: Observe the groves. Study machines, people, and materials at each process.
Step 4: Observe the trees. Look at machine motions and people motions.

As you work through the day, ask yourself whether what you are doing fits into TIM WOODS. If it does, then ask yourself if there is way to avoid doing the wasteful step and if you can, eliminate that step. Have you seen Tim Woods today?

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Golden Rules for a Successful Kaizen

An essential element in Lean thinking is Kaizen.  Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement or change for the better. It’s a tool to make work easier, safer, and more productive by studying a process, identifying waste, and applying small incremental improvements that ensure the highest quality. As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.  Kaizen involves building on gains by continuing experimentation and innovation.

From my experience there are some golden rules to make your kaizen successful:

1. Kaizen starts with the three “Actual” Rule.
        Go to the actual place where the process is performed.
        Talk to the actual people involved in the process and get the real facts.
        Observe and chart the actual process.
        (Improvement is not made from a conference room.)
2. Ask why (5 times) to get to the root cause.
3. Base decisions on data not opinions.
4. Try-storming
        Don’t spend too much time talking about a solution, try it!!
        It’s okay to fail early on as long as you learn from your mistakes.
5. Value of the team.
        Listen to the operators, your team, and your customers.
6. Don’t seek perfection.  This will be obtained one step at a time.
7. Think of a new method that works. Throw out all your old fixed ideas on how to do things.
8. Creativity before capital. Don’t substitute money for thinking.
9. Think safety during the Kaizen, both for employee and process.
10. Assure a quality product will be consistently produced through standardization and process controls.

Not all techniques will work for everyone the same way. Acknowledge what you learn and use what is useful to you. Improvement is made from action.

All improvements must be maintained if we wish to secure consistent gains. Think of the smallest step you can take every day that would move you incrementally towards your goal.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Lean Quote: Innovation Distinguishes Between a Leader and a Follower

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.

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." — Steve Jobs

Leaders are accountable to assemble teams and lead them to optimal performance outcomes.  An effective leader recognizes the importance of embracing differences in people and knows how to connect the dots amongst employees to get the best outcomes from the team. This is what cultivates a workplace environment of continuous improvements, innovation and initiative.   Leaders must foster a commitment from the team to embrace an innovation mindset for the success of the organization.

Innovation requires a certain type of person:  they are passionate explorers in pursuit of endless possibilities.   These explorers are courageous enough to take that leap of faith and follow it through all the way to the end.  Opening our minds to innovation is critical to creating a workplace environment that allows people to thrive. 

Innovation and workplace transformation represent two-sides of the same coin. Enable employees to adopt an "entrepreneurial mindset" to showcase their ideas  and ideals and they become the foundation for organizational growth and sustainability. Allowing them to propel innovation  and show initiative is the key  to successful workplace revival and an opportunity to re-energize individual and organic organizational growth.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lean Tips Edition #129 (1931 - 1945)

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 #1931 – Ensure Clear Communication
Whether utilizing direct or indirect communication, confirm that everyone is on the same page and does not have any questions. Check to make sure the team received important emails and that each employee fully understands the intended message. Try to use email and indirect communication only when absolutely necessary, as tone and message frequently become muddled when not directly discussed.

Lean Tip #1932 – Don’t Ignore Struggling Employees
If you notice an employee is struggling to keep up or not contributing a fair amount of work to a project, set up a meeting to discuss how to resolve these issues. A team member may not be aware of subpar performance or may face personal issues that indirectly cause work to suffer. If problems persist, consider that the assigned job may not be a good fit for an employee’s talents.

Lean Tip #1933 – Pitch in and Help
The project seems to be falling behind schedule, but every team member is overwhelmed with the workload. If this is happening to your team, discuss how you can help. While you may be there as a manager, your job is to make sure the work gets done. Contributing to the work will help build respect for you as a manager. Conversely, pushing more work onto already full plates fosters anger and resentment at your disconnect from the project.

Lean Tip #1934 – Play to Individual Strengths
Each member brings different skills to the group. The secret to an effective team is discovering how these individual skills work together in the best way possible. Think of team members’ abilities as unique “cogs” in your team “machine”. When these cogs are positioned correctly, the machine runs smoothly. But when they grind together, the machine comes to a halt. As a manager, your goal is to build a well-oiled machine that does not break down. Do not be afraid to adjust individual roles as you go along.

Lean Tip #1935 – Commemorate Achievements Together
Celebrate as a whole when the team meets or exceeds goals and expectations. Be sure to reward good work from individuals and the entire team. Schedule a team party to commemorate a finished project. Showing you appreciate your team’s hard work and the effort put into a project adds an incentive to finish projects on time.

Lean Tip #1936 – Cut Down on Traditional Meetings
Meetings are the bane of productivity. They take everyone involved out of the workflow, and the issues can often be addressed in memos or other more brief communication methods.

Not every meeting results in a necessary dialogue, and meetings can put a stopper on breakthroughs and momentum.

When meetings are absolutely required, standing meetings are preferable. For sedentary workplaces, holding a brief standing meeting can get everyone into a different mindset compared to positioning everyone in seats in a less involved environment. In the end, as long as the same objectives are achieved, it’s best to take the most productive route to the same goal.

Lean Tip #1937 – Stop Trying to Multitask
Multitasking is actually far more counterproductive than you probably realize.

You actually do two or more tasks slower and less effectively than you could do one. While it may seem as if you’re saving yourself time and accomplishing more, trying to multitask has more downsides than positives.

If you focus 100% on one task, and ensure it’s done correctly, you reduce the time you need to spend checking over your work or correcting problems later on down the line. While you may feel that you can do two things at the same time, it’s best to complete one task fully before moving onto the next.

Lean Tip #1938 – Set Your Schedule For The Next Day The Night Before You Leave The Office.
Prioritize which tasks need to be completed. Even if you are interrupted by unexpected assignments or emergencies, you'll know exactly what needs to be done when you return to your desk. Not only will a schedule help keep you organized and focused, you'll get the satisfaction of crossing items off your "to do" list once you complete them.

Lean Tip #1939 – Keep Your Workspace Clean And Clear Of Clutter.
As the old saying goes, "A cluttered desk is a symptom of a cluttered mind." The time you spend looking for misplaced papers each day is extra time you could be using to complete your work. Likewise, there are apps to assist you in categorizing and electronically organizing your email inbox. Imagine the time you could save by no longer searching for hard-to-find emails!

Lean Tip #1940 – Prioritize Tasks To Focus On Important Ones
Work on one task at a time, starting a new one only once the previous one has been completed. Juggling tasks has been scientifically proven to “decrease the performance of workers, raising the chances of low output, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs”.

Having the resolve to stick with one task is actually not that simple, especially when people are pestering you to lend a hand with theirs. You have to know when to say no to colleagues and even your boss.

The Pareto principle (or the 80/20 rule) observes that most things in life aren’t distributed evenly. In business terms, this could mean that 80pc of your revenue comes from 20pc of your customers or that 80pc of your bonus depends on 20pc of your responsibilities.

Decide which tasks are most important to you and then focus the majority of your energy on them.

Lean Tip #1941 – Celebrate Failure
Remember, most employees are trying to do their best, most of the time. Show appreciation for the well-intentioned action, even if it led to a failure. Talk about what the employee did right, then explain the problem. Always focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

During your discussion, go over any processes and procedures necessary to get a procedural task done right the next time. If the failure was more complex, say a sales meeting didn’t go well, try role-playing to help your employee find their footing.

Lean Tip #1942 - Ignore, or Work Around, Minor Mistakes
Perfectionists take heed! Things don’t always have to be exactly, 100 percent perfect. Some people learn by experience and no amount of coaching or manual reading will change that, so be open to letting experiential learners make minor mistakes.

Of course, this advice does not apply when health and safety are at risk, for instance in a hospital setting. No one thinks it’s okay for a nurse to make a minor mistake in giving out medicine.

However, in an office setting, it is unlikely that someone will die if an email doesn’t get sent out by the end of the day. By giving employees room to fail in minor ways you convey that you trust them to get the job done right – eventually. Just don’t let this laissez faire attitude go too far or you will convey that you don’t care about quality.

Lean Tip #1943 - Listen and Empower.
Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. Managers must work with employees to build one-on-one relationships that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, and encourage them to share their opinions.

Lean Tip #1944 - Ask Good Questions.
Great questions lead to great answers, and great answers lead to great conversations. As a manager or leader, it is critical that you develop strong relationships with your employees. This will help you determine if your employees are curious, have the capacity to perform and improve, and have a positive attitude.

Lean Tip #1945 - Commit to Continuous Learning.
Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization.

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments and professional success.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Change Management: Advice on Managing Resistance to Change

ASQ's Influential Voices were asked in the recent roundtable topic about change management, specifically:

It’s often said that people don’t resist “change” so much as they resist “being changed.” So, the job of change management is clear: In a nutshell, you must explain why the affected people should want to change, and thereby cultivate readiness instead of resistance.

What are some recommended strategies or tactics to help achieve successful change management?

Lean is in its purest sense a change management initiative, for it involves changing from a current state to a better state. Just as all change attracts resistance, Lean improvements also attract resistance to change, which may manifest as employees ignoring new processes, disagreeing with the benefits, making stringent criticisms, and more. Success depends on how effectively the leadership rises to the occasion and manages resistance to change.

Managing resistance to change is challenging and it’s not possible to be aware of all sources of resistance to change. Expecting that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. It’s far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in initiating major company changes is to expect that everyone’s reaction will be even remotely like yours.

You can expect that the employees will experience the same range of emotions, thoughts, agreement, and disagreement that you experienced when the change was introduced to you or when you participated in creating the change. Never minimize an employee's response to even the most simple change. You can't know or experience the impact from an individual employee's point of view. Maybe the change seems insignificant to many employees, but the change will seriously impact another employee's favorite task. Hearing the employees out and letting them express their point of view in a non-judgmental environment will reduce resistance to change.

You'll want to consider these seven aspects of leading change if you want success:

Careful Planning
Careful planning saves time and money. Chances for success improve with a well-prepared disclosure and good communication; with careful weighing of potential resistance and its consequences; with a detailed timetable for execution.

Employee resistance is often self-defense, and fear of losing security, power, or status. To offset such fears discuss potential new career paths, the necessity and advantages of different positions, the reason for the change; and show appreciation for loyalty. Some employee lack self-confidence and consider and change a threat. Teaching, training, and full support are good remedies.

Good communication is vital. Reasons for the change must be explained beforehand. Clear communication is the best investment, since resistance id often due to mis-interpretation, half-information, and rumors that precede the change. Easy-to-understand written and verbal communication should reach all levels of the organization.

When employees get seriously involved, the situation becomes easier. It’s not “us” and “them” (management). The sooner people are involved in the plan, the more they become involved. Those on board early are supportive and spread the word. This prevents rumors and the build-up of resistance.

Credibility of management, based on past experience plays a key role. Where trust is lacking, problems multiply. The best remedy is honest information and better communication. These are stepping stones to future trust.

In spite of the best efforts, some resistance may remain. It's far better to anticipate objections than to spend your time putting out fires, and knowing how to overcome resistance to change is a vital part of any change management plan.

Once everything is prepared and in place, execution should be fast. A D-day must be set to introduce the new organization. Postponement is not recommended, even if there is a last-minute problem.

Regardless of the catalyst for the change, it will be your employees who determine whether it successfully achieves its desired outcome. Organizations don’t change – People do – or they don’t.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Lean Quote: Our Understanding is Correlative to Our Perception

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.

"Our understanding is correlative to our perception." — Robert Delaunay

Perception is the awareness of objects or other data through the senses; knowledge, etc. gained by perceiving, insight, and intuition.  Awareness is the foundation of effective communication.  The following principles may help you in understanding others.

1.  No two people see things the same way.
2.  Each person thinks, feels, and sees things based on their own past experience.
3.  A person does not see things the same way at different times.
4.  People learn to see things as they do.
5.  People often see things not as they are, but as they want to see them.
6.  People tend to complete, fill in the gaps, those things they do not understand.
7.  People tend to simplify those things, which they do not understand.
8.  A person's self-image will largerly determine what the person sees.
9.  The way a person perceives another person is determined largerly by what the person expects to see in the other person.
10. People's emotional reation to others and to themselves often is the barriers to effective communication.
11. A person gains new perceptions only through new experiences.
12. Perception accounts for individual differences.
13. One's perception is highly selective and highly subjective.

Perception is a process through which humans attend to, select, organize, interpret, and remember stimulating phenomena. Although all people are constantly involved in perception and aspects of the process are sometimes similar across individuals (especially among closely related members of families or cultural groups), each person perceives the world in unique ways that are open to a number of influences. It is difficult for us to know what and how each other perceives. Making our perceptions clear to others is an important part of effective communication and mutual understanding.

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