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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